Pakistan Army needs one more coup or mutiny. This time for its reforms

by Major General Amarjit Singh (Retd)

The Pakistan Army has been at war since its birth. It has been involved in warfare with India, Russia, Afghanistan and is, reportedly, now meddling in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict. Pakistan, with its experience in warfare, has evolved its concepts and philosophy of war.

The evolution of warfare is generally studied from the perspective of changes in weapons systems, technology, and strategy employed. The first generation warfare saw a duel, involving physical endurance and numbers; the second generation witnessed the amassing of firepower; in the third generation, manoeuvre was the dominant strategy. In the fourth generation, lines were blurred between war and politics, soldier and civilian, peace and conflict, and boundaries vanished — the goal was to challenge a superior force through long-term covert and proxy operations, which has exemplified the conflict between cultural and religious ideologies, haves and have-nots, capitalists and socialists, and the emergence of non-State actors. The belief that economic power was imperative to sustain a long war has been disproved by Pakistan — small groups and small nations have been holding large, economically strong nations to ransom through the use of unconventional warfare and terrorism. Pakistan is now studying fifth and sixth generation warfare.

Fourth-Generation Warfare Is Pakistan’s Forte

Pakistan has, from the very start, understood the fourth-generation warfare. It studied the art of asymmetric warfare well. The mobilisation of raiders from the local population, under a deniable military leadership to invade a disputed territory, was typically fourth-generation warfare. Phase I of the 1965 war (Operation Gibraltar) was the second such example. Kargil was the third occasion when it deployed the fourth-generation strategy.

Pakistan’s war in Afghanistan, with the active support of the Americans, against the Russians has given them enough experience to become leaders in the art of executing offensive and expansionist proxy wars through well-trained and motivated jihadis. They are already inside Azerbaijan, fighting the Armenians. Media reports from Pakistan indicate that there is a concerted effort to understand and prepare the army to indulge in new warfare. The non-State groups existing in Pakistan have gained strength on the basis that they have to fight the ‘holy war’ (Jihad) in accordance with the demands of their religion.

Psychological Attack

The next generation of warfare moves away from the customary objectives of territory, destruction of war-waging capability, and capturing prisoners. The overarching goal of overpowering the will of the enemy will still be the ultimate objective, but the method adopted will aim to impact the mind of the populace with the use of a number of psychological means to alter its core cultural values and beliefs. Western civilisation lays importance to life and wealth whereas a radicalised civilisation values ‘faith’ over life and the way it is lived.

This psychological attack has two forms. The first involves producing suicidal mercenaries as the new munitions of war — the strategy is to terrorise the enemy population to subjugation. Second is a more covert and subtle approach that aims to create a narrative before unleashing psychological instruments to alter the thinking and cultural values, so that they willingly offer themselves to subjugation. It involves the subjugation of the minds of the people and their leaders. The ends of warfare have shifted from a territorial concept of physical domination to the domination of minds of the population. The Arab Spring is an example of a well-orchestrated psychological campaign. The domination of the mind is by terror, coercion or through psychological bribery. The weapons and strategy of this kind of war are totally new and the country that can deploy these at the earliest will be the future power of the world. Hard weapons have been replaced by weapons of the mind and information. The narrative of the war itself will be the most lethal weapon.

Military analysts have already started writing about the sixth generation of warfare. The demonstration of this war by Pakistan can be seen by the number of minds it controls in Kashmir and how it is capturing the minds of radical Muslims in other parts of India. The de-militarisation of Siachen demonstrates the neighbour’s capacity to influence the leadership and the intellectuals of India. Pakistan is now fighting the ‘war’ in India’s hinterland and making use of the fault lines that exist within the country to de-stabilise it internally, so that in the end, India becomes incapable of responding to an invasion from within for the capture of Kashmir.

Few countries have understood the emergence of this new warfare. The US understood it after burning its fingers in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia has been studying this concept for the last 15 years and has demonstrated its prowess in Crimea and Chechnya, and through the purported meddling in the last US elections. The Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov had said in 2013 that “The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of weapons in their effectiveness”. Russia’s forethought and strategic culture of being a great power is reflected in its recent victories in the new war of information and irregularity. Russia is now the third pole in the hybrid war that the US is fighting against the radicals in the Middle East and Afghanistan. China, very strategically, has unveiled its prowess in this new type of warfare and is engaged with the US in a new Cold War where it is not the threat of nuclear weapons that is paramount, but the economy.

Strategy of Reflexive Control And Soft Power

According to Timothy Thomas, “Reflexive control is defined as a means of conveying to a partner or an opponent specially prepared information to incline him to voluntarily make the predetermined decision desired by the initiator of the action”. Russians apply this concept to cause a stronger adversary to voluntarily choose the actions most advantageous to Russian objectives by decisively shaping the adversary’s perceptions of the situation. Russia’s modern information warfare adapts reflexive control to the contemporary geopolitical context so as to compel the enemy to act according to a desired plan and incline them to voluntarily make predetermined decisions. This actually means that a nation can be defeated without it even knowing of its defeat.

A large number of Indians have voluntarily given up their core values and beliefs to the temptations of the Western systems of cultural conversions. Soft power of nations that have the overwhelming capability to convince will be the major element of comprehensive national power. The new war is moving away from hard power towards soft and smart power that attacks the minds of the enemy. Pakistan, too, has structures to fight such a war — ISI, ISPR and two defence universities for research are some organisations in the country.

India And The Next Generation Warfare

The question that we Indians have to confront is this – are we under attack? Is the next generation war at our doorstep or has it already infiltrated? Irrespective of the answer, we have to remain vigilant and continuously study the battlefield indicators. Our assessment of the situation is only as good as our knowledge of the subject.

In Pakistan, we have an adversary that has had the experience of fighting an offensive hybrid war in Afghanistan and winning it. From recent events in Kashmir, it is apparent that the intensity and tempo of the proxy war in Kashmir can be controlled by Pakistan. Pakistan has an intelligence agency, which is one of the most powerful organisations in the world. The ISI has the privilege of being created, trained and patronised by the CIA. Pakistan’s Army believes in the ‘Quranic concepts of War’, an interpretation of jihad written by Brigadier SK Malik, which clearly advocated the use of terror in warfighting and induced sacrifices in the name of religion (we can interpret it as Fedayeen). Putting two and two together, Pakistan has an inherent capability of fighting a covert and asymmetric war against a powerful nation. This, coupled with the power of the information war of China, our other adversary, calls for a serious review of the situation for India.

Pakistan Hurting Itself

The kind of war Pakistan is planning for the future is fraught with dangers. It is a double-edged sword and if not handled properly, it will cut the hand that wields it. There are already indications that some of the strategic assets that Pakistan has developed are turning against them. Pakistan is facing terrorism from the same groups that it has created. Hillary Clinton’s famous statement of “keeping snakes in your background and expecting them to only bite the neighbours” is coming true. Continued suppression of its populace by the army will induce internal violence.

Even as Pakistan struggles for its existence, its Army is preparing for a new war against India. Most analysts portray Pakistan as a failed State, a malign supporter of radical Islamic causes, and the epicentre of global terrorism. “Failed,” “flawed,” and “unravelling” are adjectives that are now widely used to describe Pakistan. Many Western States see the country as so close to failure that they believe that assistance is essential because of its weakness, and not because of its strength.

Pakistan will become more fractious, isolated and dependent on international financial assistance if it continues to be a security-seeking State and persists on challenging India for parity. The country has had many experiences with coups and insubordination in its army. There will be many in the army itself who seek the well-being of Pakistan. The only road to prosperity for Pakistan is to break their animosity against India and look inwards. This can be done if the shackles of the army are broken and the people of Pakistan resolve to develop themselves into a peaceful and prosperous State. The expenditure of seeking security is bleeding the average Pakistani but is making the army strong, which is detrimental to the people. The forces of reform have to come from within the army itself in the form of a coup or a mutiny. Or the balkanisation of Pakistan as ethnic groups seek their right to self-determination.

Pakistan happens to be the land of my forefathers — proud farmers of the Indus Valley. Although the people of Pakistan are been blessed geopolitically and demographically, they have given up their choice to be happy and prosperous by taking the route of fundamentalism and meddling with the prosperity of their neighbours. I hope democratic ideals take root again and we see a prosperous and friendly Pakistan.