The term hybrid warfare has been the buzzword in the warfare domain for the past few years, but countries, especially India, have launched a new non-kinetic mean of warfare. A shift in the warfare means would require a robust and comprehensive response.
Pakistan has been a frontline non-NATO ally, the only developing country to partner with the United States in the War on Terror (WOT). This alliance made Pakistan – attributable to its geography – the nucleus of international counter-terrorism effort. While the perks and geopolitical relevance of the alliance cannot be disregarded, it had heavier cost than benefits, irrespective of the domains. Nevertheless, ipso facto, our intelligence and military became robust and adaptive to counter a wide array of threat spectrum. The success of operations has brought normalization back to the Pakistani society, including the return of international cricket to Pakistan.
Pakistan, since the 2008 Sri Lankan cricket attack in Lahore, had been hosting international teams in the United Arab Emirates. Driven by multinational participation in Pakistan Super League, international cricket started returning to Pakistan from 2014. Teams like Zimbabwe, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa and World XI have visited Pakistan lately. While the security situation has improved to a level where Pakistan is safer than India, which is entwined with domestic turbulence, uprisings and mushrooming extremists' threats, but sturdy diplomacy by India is guarding against sabotage to international events, as it did by holding Indian Premier League (IPL) at the height of the worst COVID crisis amid the second wave.
Bangladesh team narrowly escaped the terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, yet their remainder schedule remained undisturbed. Ashes series was held in England a few days after London bombings as per schedule. England played in India to complete its cricket series two months after the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan cricket team was the first one to visit New Zealand to facilitate Jacinda Arden's effort to nib Islamophobia in the bud after Christchurch terrorism incident that embarrassed the entire country. It has more to do with the negative image-building and perception crafted by our adversaries and spoilers of peace than the security and safety index of Pakistan that is steadily improving and is tangible in nature.
Unilateral withdrawal of New Zealand cricket team on the day of the first ODI in Rawalpindi days after practicing in Pakistan, marked the formal beginning of an epoch where strategic goals would be achieved not by military might but through calibrated non-kinetic aggression, a notch higher than diplomatic coercion. Who knew New Zealand (wheedled by India) will be the pioneer to circulate the new currency, one that accentuates coercive strategic spending but saves military lives, destruction and overt expeditions. Alas, Sparta would have better pinned Athens, if they knew that there could be an escape from the Thucydides Trap by this novel application of subjugation tools. For them to have known this modern era’s non-kinetic means would have meant saving Greece and the world from a series of Peloponnesian wars and the physical destruction thereof.
As shameful an act it was and insult to the host notwithstanding, the security reason was a sham. Viewing the event from a higher pedestal, it is a benchmark for study, marking a paradigm shift.
Disclaimer up front, considering the frustration of country X, rival of country Y, infuriatingly observing that despite all kinetic efforts, stimulating proxies, flaming sub-nationalist seeds in the society, nifty protracted media campaigns exposed by EU DisinfoLab for perception management and strenuous diplomatic isolationist pursuits, country Y has not only successfully subdued the internal disorder, but also turned the perception index fairly enough. Why would not country then X adopt an innovative approach this time, a measure beyond targeting country Z on country Y's soil (which has been the traditional measure) to impact semblance of normalization in the country Y? How low budget and signatureless it can be to invest in or create or tip off a bogey threat for country Z? An even foolproof plan to sabotage the event would be to invest in the common security advisor of the country Z, A & B — the other two countries scheduled to tour country Y in the near future.
If this hypothesis has a microscopic chance of actualization, the looming danger needs to be studied for a pre-emptive strategy.
David Galula presciently wrote in the mid-1960s alarming the world that they are heading towards an era where insurgency will gain wide currency, embrace of which can humble even the superpowers. The reactive military adoption of counterinsurgency strategies learned the hard way by many countries alike, speaks of the planners’ shortsightedness and executers’ discomfort to move on from the prevailing methods of warfare, conventional military drills and conservative statecraft.
The world observed Gerasimov Doctrine in retrospect and called it grey zone or Hybrid Warfare. Pakistan has been subjected to its application at the hands of its adversary which has been longing for Chanakya's theory application. Gerasimov Doctrine has been abetted by another doctrine which entails soft power omni-directional strangulation. It is such strategies that we first have to grasp and strategize against, instead of running short to catch up again, rather reactively. This stratagem hits way more than the military partaking campaign.
Insurgency and terrorism in Pakistan succumbed, although not immediately, to the institutional strength of military. Considerable success has been achieved and it has been established that insurgencies don't survive without outside sponsors. A victory against the sponsored proxies was a hardcore kinetic exercise and the spillover was tackled by intelligence agencies. Pakistan had to bear the brunt of transitory period between the time when the threat emerged in early 2000s until it was rooted out. The transitory period was full of ambiguity, chaos, and split societal support for military vis-a-vis jihadists.
The transformation on the larger canvas from force application to subjugation without fighting, termed by Sun Tzu as the most superior form of war, has at least established a few important facts. One, the whole kinetic response milieu may be least preferred or subjected as a fixing maneuver. Two, even the conventional military response may be restricted to the non-contact warfare only. For Pakistan, the vested investors (transparently obvious now) have shifted their focus from the almost defeated TTP to a thus far managed fissure, i.e., the Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and Baloch National Army (BNA).
Beaten and frustrated, the string pullers of proxies have adopted a novel coercive mechanism. Disadvantageous to Pakistan, this requires a response and rescue effort in many domains, less military. The sponsors have the choice to tie the strings to those flanks of the subject country where it is vulnerable. A country can coax another country in its bilateral undertaking with the third country and the subjected country won't even see it coming. It's similar to turning a weak hand into a strong suit by engaging in the field, less the one in which you can be fended off. Easier said than done, this response transition amounts to a shift from kinetic campaigns to absolute non-kinetic, non-interventionist, indirect, cost effective, diplomatic-savvy and unobvious maneuvers. This hinges upon deliberate protracted pursuance for enhancing diplomatic clout, shaping favorable perception, untiring media campaigns, pacifying the hard-core societal image internationally, cultivating pro international academia, investing in anti and more so in neutral intelligentsia, creating conducive environment and infrastructure for tourism, pursuing geoeconomics to behold transnational economic stakes in domestic projects, and repulse polarization for multipolar relevance.
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