Army Chief General Bipin Rawat delivered a talk at a Think Tank in New Delhi on November 28. Salient points of his talk, as covered in the media reports are:
• India should first resolve problems in J&K through integrated approach to tackle a hybrid war unleashed from across the border, instead of harbouring any immediate notions of reclaiming POK, where Islamabad has cleverly changed demographics to erode Kashmir identity. We are not sure as to who is an actual Kashmiri or a Punjabi who has come and occupied the area.
• India should not lose sight of POK in the long run, but we should first take control of our own part of Kashmir by synergizing efforts of all security and government agencies as well as effectively propogating our superior narrative of being a liberal democracy to counter prevailing narrative of falsehoods, indoctrination and radicalization fuelled by Pakistan.
• India has been a victim of hybrid warfare, which is well-sequenced, organizes and employs regular and irregular means to target adversary’s population and infrastructure instead of military capabilities since Independence. India will not use offensive hybrid warfare to create unrest in Pakistan in retaliation. Instead, India must defend itself by proactive “offensive-defence” strategy.
• Militarily, India does have the capability to hit across the border as was witnessed during the ‘surgical strikes’ in September 2016, but needs to carefully prepare ‘an escalation matrix’ since such actions can lead to bigger events. We have the capability of punitive deterrence against Pakistan. If we have to take such a call, we can take it.
• Kartarpur Corridor initiative with Pakistan “should be seen in isolation, without being linked to anything else” and stressed the Indian government’s stance that “terror and talks can’t go together”.
The Chief perforce must follow what the government policy is. But what the Chief has stated has been India’s policy (or politico-bureaucratic jargon) over past several decades, bit about Kartarpur Corridor being the new edition. He has mentioned the type of hybrid war that Pakistan has been waging “since Independence”. But the fact is that successive Indian governments have ‘failed’ to adequately respond to Pakistan’s hybrid warfare. Instead, governments have resorted to semantics to cover their inadequacies, including sloganeering that we must sort out our own house first – 71 years and counting? A former Service Chief before demitting office even went to the extent of saying we should first resolve our internal instability before going in for a Chief of Defence Staff – talk of humour in uniform! The fact also is there is nothing like ‘defensive’ hybrid warfare. And, pro-active “offensive-defence” strategy is inadequate to counter hybrid warfare, especially given that our pro-active “offensive-defence” has boiled down to operations like ‘surgical strikes’ and fire assaults on Pakistani brigade headquarters across the LoC, which Pakistan retaliates to similarly. Time we realize, hybrid warfare is the flavor of 21st century, not conventional action by itself.
Concept of hybrid warfare can be described as “involvement, employment, pursuit and blending, at operational level of kinetic and non-kinetic tactics, regular and irregular combatants, state and non-state actors, physical, psychological, low-tech and high-tech means aimed at generating advantage relative to the adversary with a view to achieve surprise, seize and maintain initiative, generate deception and ambiguity, maximizing deniability, subduing the adversary and advancing own national interests. It is distinct from conventional war. One of the three battlefields in which hybrid warfare is fought simultaneously, is the ‘indigenous population of the conflict zone’, the other two being the conventional battlefield and the international community.
Keeping POK in long-term sights is fine, but rather than improving the situation in J&K over past 71 years, it has deteriorated over the years, whether we acknowledge it or not. Political parties indulging in blame game don’t improve the situation. The current political impasse in J&K may be temporary but youth joining terrorist organization have gone up – from 88 in 2016 to 140 till mid November 2018. This includes well educated youth and police deserters. Terrorist organizations are presently scouting educational institutions for recruitment into their ranks. Of the approximate 300 terrorists in J&K, 70 reportedly are foreigners. Our security forces are doing a good job, as always, with number of terrorist killed almost daily but Pakistan has an endless supply and radicalization in the Valley is increasing. We are losing security personnel (71 killed during Jan-Sep 2018 alone) compared to Pakistan’s cheap option terrorists. Recent incidents of slitting of throats, abduction of locals (also from security forces) and killing of schoolboys indicates not only LeT, JeM and HuM are changing tactics, but radical jihad of the Islamic State variety is taking root.
Pakistan is aware she cannot wrest J&K from India but she has borrowed one of the pillars from China’s ‘Unrestricted Warfare’; whose aim is not to destroy the nation and its military or government or necessarily those of any other state but rather to weaken them and prevent their ability to restrict the aggressor’s activity. The goal is to keep the level of provocation below that threshold (unless necessary) where the targeted state might lash out to destroy the network in her country. This is what our policymakers have failed to grasp. How Pakistan has changed the demography in POK is well known – not very different from China’s demographic invasion in Tibet with seven million Han Chinese overwhelming six million Tibetans. In POK, the Shia population has already been reduced from 70% to 50% and efforts are on to reduce it further. It is not material who is whom in POK because there is plenty dissent in POK, as also in Balochistan, Sindh, FATA and due to plenty other issues. Dissent is what creates the fault-lines, which in turn are enablers of hybrid warfare.
Pakistan has changed the demography of not only POK but also of J&K; through ethnic cleansing of thousands of Kashmiri Pundits, with active support from J&K politicians. Despite the type of majority support our present government enjoys, we have not been able to rehabilitate even part of the some 62,000 registered Kashmiri Pundit and Sikh refugees back because the situation in J&K has been deteriorating, notwithstanding the propaganda even by some military veterans of the ‘three-bags full club’. We have been talking of repatriating Rohingyas and Bangladeshis, who are in thousands, back to their countries. Even the Army Chief recently stressed on it, but we don’t even have the guts to even relocate the Rohingyas from Jammu to elsewhere within India despite our intelligence agencies confirming their involvement with terrorists, including in the terrorist attack on Sunjwan Army Camp in Jammu in February 2018. Surprisingly, even the Army has not asked for relocation of Rohingyas out of Jammu. Social media posts say it is not easy because of the media, NGO’s and politics involved, but do we expect this to ever change? We don’t even have a refugee repatriation agreement with Bangladesh. Besides, hundreds or maybe thousands of these illegal immigrants have already acquired India identity, replete with Aadhaar Cards, Ration Cards etc courtesy politicians, police, NGOs and criminal mafias.
Late Maloy K Dhar, former Joint Director, Intelligence Bureau, had written in his book ‘Open Secrets: India’s Intelligence Unveiled’, “I continued to advocate for an aggressive and proactive counter and forward intelligence thrust against Pakistan. My voice was rarely heard and mostly ignored. The Pakistani establishment is a geopolitical bully. The best response to blunt such a bully is to take the war inside his home. India has allowed itself to be blackmailed by Pakistan even before it went nuclear. The sabre rattling of “coercive diplomacy”, which is nothing but sterile military power, cannot convince the Islamist Pakistani Establishment that India can take the border skirmishes inside their homes and hit at the very roots of the jaundiced islamist groups.” Here Dhar was not proposing ‘surgical strikes’ few hundred metres across the LoC or fire assaults. Taking the war “deep inside his home” implied hybrid warfare, not just intelligence operation; hitting terrorists and the Islamist army-ISI in their homes.
We are literally fooling ourselves by saying Kartarpur Corridor initiative with Pakistan “should be seen in isolation, without being linked to anything else”. Pakistan has deftly linked it to the Kartarpur Convention 2019 by the ‘Sikhs For Justice’ (SFJ), ‘Referendum 2020’ and reviving militancy in Punjab through a well thought out plan. For years, Pakistan’s ISI has been working with Sikh separatists abroad in UK, Canada and Germany, herself harbouring, training and arming Sikh militants. Imran Khan washed his hands off during foundation stone laying ceremony of the Kartarpur Corridor by saying that Sikh religious places in Pakistan are controlled and run by Sikhs in Pakistan and his government has “nothing to do” with it. But his army, ISI, radicals, terrorists and Sikh separatists were present at the ceremony, some even sharing the dais with him. So while Pakistan, in conjunction UK and Canada is going full steam to destabilize India, do we continue praying for a strong Pakistan and hide under the so-called proactive “offensive-defence” strategy which cannot counter Pakistan’s hybrid warfare? Where is ‘our’ hybrid warfare strategy?
Imran Khan made Navjot Singh Sidhu feel like a gas-filled balloon by joking India-Pakistan talks may happen when Sidhu becomes Prime Minister of India. Sidhu rubs shoulders with Sikh separatists in Pakistan, even Hafiz Saeed’s aide as if this is just another comedy show. He sermonizes religion should be kept separate from politics and terrorism, knowing religious terrorism-cum-politics have been practiced by Pakistan right from its birth. The Bible of Pakistani military is the book ‘The Quranic Concept of War’ published in 1979, authored by Brigadier SK Malik of Pakistan army. The preface of the book is written by Allah Bukhsh K Brohi, the former Pakistani ambassador to India, and Zia-Ul-Haq, former President of Pakistan and Pakistani Army Chief of Staff, opens the book by focusing on the concept of jihad within Islam and explaining it is not simply the domain of the military. Most significantly, it justifies terrorism, which amounts to distorting the teachings of Quran. The teachings of Quran have been debated in multiple international forums including in Iraq and Afghanistan between Muslim scholars and clerics, with the latter stating that it is the distorted interpretation of the Quran which is causing the violence. Using his own interpretation of the Quran, Zia-ul-Haq institutionalized radicalization of Pakistan, assiduously preparing the whole population, particularly youth, for holy jihad.
While India is busy with mandir-masjid, caste, creed, reservations and quotas, the most significant factor should have been INDIA, not BJP, Congress, SP, BSP or another political party. Unfortunately, it is not so despite customary political slogans of ‘India First’ by the power hungry. Why India is in such a mess has been summarized by an erudite scholar, who is also former intelligence officer, on social media recently as under:
• “All our systems of governance are dominated by IAS, IPS officers. Since they work in close proximity of political leaders, they have been able to control the apparatus of governance from district level to the PMO. There is no lateral entry of domain experts in governance like in US except in Space and Nuclear administration and that is the reason both have been able to deliver performance comparable to the best in the world. Nowhere in the world the external intelligence is headed by police officers and nowhere in the world is NSA a police officer. It has resulted in narrow vision, incompetence and fiefdoms;
• The Henderson Brook Report on Chinese war of 62, Vohra Committee Report on nexus between politicians-criminals-bureaucrats, and Kargil Committee Report are all thrown in dustbins biting dust. Now this chorus of fiefdom and incompetence has been joined by judiciary as well. We are unlikely to see any changes unless there is some political gains in a move. IAS, IPS, judges, political leaders are busy in playing their little games and national security or development can be damned;
• The development which we witnessed in PV Narsimha Rao regime was not with intent to develop per se but was out of compulsion because of the precarious financial situation. The development which has taken place is not because of political leaders/bureaucrats but despite them. They are as surprised as we are. I am sure we are in for few more surprises in times to come sprung by Pakistan, China and UK”.
From the looks of it, there doesn’t appear any indication much will change in India in the foreseeable future. Without a strategy for hybrid warfare and more importantly the will to execute it in order to respond adequately to Pakistan’s hybrid warfare, we appear resigned to Pakistan’s 1000 cuts policy as fait accompli.