by Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd)

It is common knowledge that between two nuclear powers, which India and Pakistan are, When Pakistan is using low cost hybrid war against India with Jihadists as its fighting arm since 1988 in the shadow of its nuclear umbrella, such wars cannot be won by conventional methods adopted by India. Even US had to use Hybrid Warfare to free Afghanistan of Russian occupation in late seventies. However Indian political masters just fail to understand this point despite losing 6,000 Army and security persons martyred and 74,000 civilians killed in Kashmir since 1988.

On 26 Feb 2019, India launched an Air Strike, 80 km deep In Balakot deep inside Pakistan and Muzaffarabad and Chakoti in POK, causing considerable damage at these terror camps. All these three places were training camps of Jihadi organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad, sponsored and pampered by Pakistani Army and responsible for the suicide attack on CRPF convoy on 14 Feb 2019 martyring 42 CRPF constables. This Air Strike was a conventional operation but a unique one because first time in the history of the world a nuclear power had struck another nuclear power so deep and in its own area as Balakot is. Pakistan tried to retaliate the very next day by its own air strike to target Indian military installations in Bhimber and Nariana in J&K but this air strike failed and Pakistani aircraft were chased off. However, it is a fact that India will not be able to repeat this feat again for some time, because now Pakistan is alert.

Looking back into recent history, it is most unfortunate that we had a Prime Minster of Gatbandhan in 1998, by the name IK Gujral, who originally belonged to Pakistan. This fellow did the biggest damage to India's covert operation capability of India because of his love for Pakistan by closing down this deep state covert hybrid war operation initiated with patient planing and inserting valuable intelligence assets by secret service agency RAW. At that time inside Pakistan RAW was running two covert operations, CIT-X and CIT-J. They were both terminated. Thereafter, AB Vajpayee also refused resumption of these operations in 1999 despite Kargil. This is what happens when politicians in India interfere in matters military. The same state of affairs carries on even today while Indian political masters and their Babu advisers as National Security Advisers keep on bumbling along while security forces and Armed Forces keep on losing their trained professional manpower, while Pakistanis lose their Jihadists in search of 72 hours in Jannat in bulk, but this loss does not matter to Pakistani Army, the main perpetrator of these activities. For Pakistani Army loss of Jihadists is good riddance as they are nothing else but cannon fodder.

This asymmetrical Hybrid war imposed on us by Pakistani Army is carrying on for last 30 years which is very low-cost option for Pakistan. We will never be able to win this war with conventional methods despite we having superiority over Pakistan because of Pakistan being nuclear capable. We can only win this war when we raise the cost for Pakistan and do to them what they are doing to us. If we also had Pakistan based covert actors, they would have been ideal agents to target non-state actors of J-e-M and L-e-T inside Pakistan. At the very least they would have paid back Pakistan in the same coin. Pakistan has used this hybrid covert war against us in three out of four wars they have fought against us during 1947-48, 1965 and 1999.Pakistan also used this hybrid covert war against us in Afghanistan where it used Haqqani Network, again sponsored and pampered by Pakistani Army, to launch suicide attacks on our interests during 2008-2010 period in Afghanistan. A suicide bomber attacked our Indian embassy in Kabul killing 58 people including our military attaché during this period. 

It is not that we are not experienced in this hybrid covert war. During Bangladesh operations of 1971 we had trained 100000 nationals of then East Pakistan calling them Mukti Bahini which played a major role tying down Pakistani Army Garrisons. however, using hybrid covert warfare to retaliate is a difficult and long drawn affair which can not be activated at the drop of a hat. However, 30 years is a very long time for us to make up our minds. Pakistan read Pakistani Army will never be our friends and by now we should clear on this issue in our minds. for a very long-time vested interests told us that a stable and united Pakistan is in our interests. The truth is just the opposite, an imbalanced and divided Pakistan is in our interests. In Pakistan Baluchistan and Sind are today low hanging fruits. All that we have to do to break Pakistan is provide monitory, political and covert help to Baluch and Sindhi insurgents. What stops us from doing it? When Pakistan a bankrupt country can do this is Kashmir what stops us a huge 3 trillion-dollar economy standing fifth in the world to do it? We in India must understand that if we want to win this proxy war against Pakistan then we will have to raise the cost of war for Pakistan as well and pay back with its own coin as this is the only option available. The War must be symmetrical from both sides. Besides America, China and Russia they are all using it so why not India?

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same