Hybrid warfare against Pakistan – challenges and response options

Pakistan needs to formulate a well-calibrated national response to tackle hybrid warfare challenges: experts

Experts in Islamabad held a discussion on the national security challenges posed by hybrid warfare and Pakistan’s response to the complex dynamics of hybrid war that are at play in South Asia.

Air Marshal M Ashfaque Arain (Retd), Director, Strategic Defence and Security at Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies (CASS), said that both the great powers and various middle powers are now engaging in hybrid warfare to destabilize, demoralize and disintegrate their core adversaries. 

At the international webinar on ‘Hybrid Warfare against Pakistan: Challenges and Response Options’, Sir Lawrence Freedman, Professor Emeritus, King’s College London, outlined that sabotage, propaganda and deception had always been part of war strategy and there was nothing new in hybrid warfare. However, the ability to absorb a surprise attack and responding effectively is linked to the winning strategy.

India’a hybrid war against Pakistan

Speaking on the subject of ‘India’s Hybrid Warfare against Pakistan’, former High Commissioner of  Pakistan to India Ambassador Abdul Basit observed that the ongoing 5th generation warfare was all about keeping Pakistan politically unstable, economically weak and regionally and internationally maligning the country; and its objectives ranged from Kashmir to Afghanistan. “But this warfare had become more dangerous since India’s Cold Start Doctrine was integral to it” he said.

Ambassador Basit also stressed that 5th generation warfare was a double-edged sword as false narratives could not be sustained for long as proved by the recent DisInfo Lab revelations. “To tackle such campaigns, states like Pakistan needed to formulate a well-calibrated national response backed by a well-defined foreign policy”, he recommended.

The fundamental target of hybrid warfare was the social contract between state and citizens in order to gradually incapacitate the target state, and eventually disenchanting its citizens to a point where this trust was broken, said Lt Gen (Retd) HI(M), former President of the National Defence University, Aamer Riaz.

Stakes were particularly high if the contest was between two nuclear-armed states because the possibility of hybrid crossing over into a major military conflict always remains, he said. 

President CASS, Air Chief Marshal (Retd) Kaleem Saadat emphasized that the Indian hybrid war against Pakistan was a well-conceived and deliberate plan to undermine the country. “Indian political and military leadership, as well as the mainstream media, are involved and supportive of this operation,” he warned.

During the interactive Q&A session, speakers warned that India, with the support of other global powers, would continue to create problems in Balochistan through Afghanistan.

Responding to a question, Prof Lawrence said that the reason why non-kinetic means of warfare had become important was because kinetic means were far too deadly, but while one could influence events by non-kinetic means, there were limits to what could be achieved.

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