Hybrid Warfare Challenges for Pakistan
0 comments | by Ikram Sehgal
During their meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in 2009, then PM Yousuf Raza Gilani handed over a dossier of RAW’s involvement in terrorist activities to his counterpart, PM Manmohan Singh. The dossier highlighted just how India’s security and intelligence agencies had been using Afghanistan’s soil to train and fund terrorist activities in FATA and other parts of Pakistan. Far more than any other country on its periphery Pakistan is a prime hybrid warfare target for India, this offensive is led by Indian intelligence agency RAW.
Using the Hindi phrase 'kante se kanta nikalna', Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently inadvertently blurted out what has been a home truth for nearly five decades, India’s penchant for employing/outsourcing of terrorists to catch/kill terrorists for covert action against neighbours, “We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it?" India’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Duval attempted damage control by playing down Parrikar's comment as quote "it could mean having skills, equipment, tactics, it can have many meanings," unquote. This is pure and simple arrogance, the present architect of India’s “hybrid warfare” “seeking to inflict pain” (in his own words) on Pakistan, Ajit Duval well knows that Parrikar’s statement was a true reflection of how India perpetuates hegemony (or tries to) on the States on its periphery.
Pakistan’s breakup in 1971 was the successful execution of this type of warfare by India since the 1965 Indo-Pak War. On Jan 30, 1971 we fell for an India-staged hijacking of an Indian Airlines Fokker-27 named “Ganga “to Lahore, supposedly carried out by Kashmiri separatists, one of them was actually a RAW operative. Taken out of service by Indian Airlines a year before the “false flag operation”, the Fokker was brought back into operation solely for this flight, was it a coincidence that all the passengers were RAW, BSP, police, etc personnel and their families. Its blowing up at the Lahore Airport tarmac was then used a pretext to stop all over flights between East and West Pakistan just when our developing internal political crisis badly needed physical (and psychological) communications for a direct route to remain and signify unity.
The Pakistan Naval Station Mehran was attacked in May 2011 by heavily armed gunmen targeting the P-3C Orion aircraft hangars, two aircrafts were destroyed while another was damaged. Has anyone ever really questioned why the terrorists walked past dozens of far more modern and expensive warplanes on the tarmac to focus on the P3C-Orions more than 1000 meters away? What earthly motive would the terrorists have for destroying Pakistan’s naval eyes and ears capacity? Who other than India was the sole beneficiary in making our Navy temporarily blind and deaf? Outsourcing of terrorists for deadly purpose has become quite common.
The Chief of Afghan NDSI Nabil, incidentally educated in Pakistan as a refugee during the Soviet occupation, candidly justified in a New York Times interview using Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP) against Pakistan in line with Chanakhya’s tenet, “an enemy of an enemy is a friend”. Training and administering NDSI personnel, RAW has been running almost all their operations mostly against Pakistan. Consider the arrest of five NDSI operatives by the Afghans themselves on information provided by the ISI about their involvement in the Peshawar Army Public School (APS) atrocity. How and why was the chief perpetrator Mullah Fazlullah who also ordered the hit against Malala, allowed to operate for several years from Kunar Province till the US targeted and killed him.
Baluchistan has been the primary target of Indian ‘Hybrid Warfare’ for decades. RAW agent Lt Comd Kulbhushan Yadav, a serving Indian Navy officer, entered Chahbahar with a visa stamped on a fake passport and was arrested inside Baluchistan in Mashkel near the border region of Chaman on 3 March 2016 during a counterintelligence raid conducted by security forces. Operating from Iran since 2013 in his mission to destabilize Baluchistan and Pakistan. Yadav was financially supporting Baloch separatists and militants, fuelling sectarian violence in the province and the country. He also admitted his deep involvement in Karachi's unrest. On his pointation many spy and terrorist cells were eliminated.
The virulent anti-CPEC campaign unleashed by hostile elements, particularly India, aims to deprive Pakistan of its benefits by sowing doubts and creating controversies and mistrust, particularly among the local residents of Baluchistan. Propaganda alleges that Chinese military bases are planned in the coastal belt and Gwadar Port, and that Pakistan will become a Chinese colony being financially dependent because of heavy loans. The real danger is some of these myth scan be passed off as the truth, allowing the panic creation by motivated circles to succeed. Another “hybrid warfare” initiative was the stopping of the flow of information by stopping the hawkers from delivering the newspapers throughout Baluchistan province. The RAW-assisted move made the owners of the print media platforms understandably anxious while all sorts of rumours were floated in the information vacuum; this persisted till the delivery was restored after a couple of days.
Israel in close collaboration with India has been pursuing over the years a media and psychological war through internet-based disinformation about the vulnerability of nuclear assets of Pakistan falling into the hands of terrorists create a dichotomy among the general public. Israel’s extreme discomfort is understandable, they would not like our nuclear assets to be pressed to states inimical to its existence. On its part Pakistan has leaned over backwards to ensure that this does not happen. Israel must understand and accept our self-imposed restraint, and that patience has its limits. Our nuclear assets are in safe hands and exist as a positive deterrent to India’s, nothing else!
Of great concern to us should be the subversion of the print and electronic media by RAW. The power of money (and probably blackmailing, in one known case through a male "honey trap" is quite visible given some of them pursuing not anti-govt but anti-State agenda. This is an existential danger to the State and must be dealt with ruthlessly; we cannot apply "Marquess of Queensbury" rules here. Media houses and other journalists/columnists on the payroll of enemy interests becomes an extremely dangerous proposition. When you add TV anchors spreading calumny against the institutions of the State on a regular basis, their motivated agenda becomes a national security issue. Given how incidents can be falsely interpreted, particularly "false flag incidents" of attempted kidnapping or murder, one has to be careful here.
Last year, Indian hackers made an attempt to hack the Karachi International Airport as well as the Multan, Islamabad and Peshawar airports’ websites. They also infected government systems and locked the computer data making it inaccessible to recover. Indian cyber-attacks have aimed to dismantle high profile websites, disrupt indispensable services, steal confidential data from government websites and cripple the financial systems of the state. In this age of digitalisation of financial transactions TELCOS are a potent medium for conducting hybrid warfare, if they are not properly regulated and monitored. They are unfortunately all are foreign-owned and mostly seem to give only perfunctory lip-service to regulation to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). The power of advertising revenues keeps the rhetoric and print media in line. This has been further compounded by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) allowing TELCOS to have banks of their own. The grey area of regulation between SBP and PTA is thoroughly exploited to Pakistan's detriment. Money-laundering and injecting/withdrawing US dollars playing with the value of the Pakistan rupee is a known hybrid warfare technique to spread financial disquiet among the population. Can some of the TELCOS confirm they have not been indicted in other countries for money laundering? In effect TELCOS are the new version of the “East India Company” complete with compliant local executives on their payroll getting unheard of salaries and benefits paid. The nature and demands of their jobs makes some of them not intentionally unpatriotic but inadvertently so.
Pakistan is rife with historical, ethnic, religious, socio-economic, and geographic differences which could be manipulated in order to engineer violence and set a Hybrid War scenario in motion. The public awareness of how certain threads of national fabric can be used against Pakistan.
In a globalized world, nationalism with the idea of fixed borders and the understanding that my own nation is better than that of people and nations beyond one’s borders is outdated. Russian scholar Dmitry Likhachev says, “Nationalism is hatred of other peoples, while patriotism is love for your motherland.” In the Pakistani context, Pakistani nationalism could dangerously veer off or be hijacked. The other form of nationalism ends up provoking identity conflict, separatism, and even terrorism at its most extreme manifestations, and both are equally dangerous to Pakistan’s national security and fundamentally contradict its core geostrategic interests. That is why there is a need to substitute the nationalist idea with patriotism in our education and media.
When the nature of the game changes in fast and aggressive manner, what has to be done is to adapt to the new rules to avoid isolation, demoralization and eventual loss. Just as our military leadership has acknowledged the presence and impact of hybrid warfare on the country, it is important for not only for political and civilian leadership to step up to the challenge collectively but for both greater institutional and public awareness. Reliance on kinetic measures to intercept non-linear threats is no longer an option, modern statecraft requires alternate tools to tackle the emerging complex and unpredictable internal and external security landscape. Strong leadership and institutional harmony valid for substantially enhanced civil-military cooperation is needed today more than ever before (Extracts from a talk delivered at the National Defence University (NDU) recently by the defence and security analyst).
Ikram Sehgal is a senior journalist and is considered as one of the most credible defence and security analysts in the region. He is read world wide as he writes weekly columns in six countries and 15 newspapers and magazines.