In an earlier post after the Uri terrorist attack – I had expressed that Information Warfare used in conjunction with overt and covert secondary options was a viable long term strategy to deter Pakistan vis-a-vis other options being considered.1
The Surgical Strikes took not just Pakistan but even most on the Indian side by surprise. Long term implications of this shift in military strategy and foreign policy are not yet fully evident; however, what is most revealing is that the tactical action was quickly subsumed into a larger “Information War” waged by both India and Pakistan. India hailed the surgical strikes as a paradigm shift while Pakistan described these as a myth. The truth is out there to be discovered, but what is undeniable is that a solid battle indeed took place to establish “Information Superiority”.
Also reinforced was the old adage by Clausewitz that “War is merely a continuation of politics by other means”. Consequently, the tactical action was also quickly subsumed into a larger “Political War” on domestic as well as international front by both countries. The close nexus between conventional, information and political warfare cannot be missed.
War over the past few decades has become a complex hybrid of Conventional, Asymmetric, Information, Political and Economic Warfare. Various names have been given by scholars to this method of war fighting and the more common ones are “Hybrid Warfare”, “Full Spectrum Conflict” or “Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW)”.
Such Hybrid Warfare takes place on three distinct battlefields – the conventional battlefield, the indigenous population of the conflict zone, and the international community.2 As has been shown in Kashmir as well as NATO experience in Afghanistan and Iraq – a hybrid war cannot be decisively won by conventional third generation warfare (3GW) employing firepower and maneuver. It is thus good that India has now decided to fight Pakistan’s asymmetric “war by proxy” using techniques of hybrid warfare.
Lastly, what needs highlighting is that a Hybrid War cannot be won by Armed Forces alone and requires a synergistic convergence of effort from the diplomatic corps, the civil administration and intelligence agencies, as well as participation from the larger civil society including intellectuals and business enterprises. Role of political leadership as the driving and integrating force therefore assumes great importance.
Whether Indian political leadership has the vision and acumen to orchestrate the synergy required for waging Hybrid Warfare will decide the outcome of our new strategy. Considering past history of protectionist mindsets it may also require coercion.
1. Pakistan Conundrum: Information Warfare is the Way Ahead, https://usiblog.in/2016/09/pakistan-conundrum-information-warfare-is-the-way-ahead/
2. Hybrid Warfare, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_warfare