Tackling hybrid warfare and coercive diplomacy: Challenges for Pakistan
Hybrid warfare means neutralizing the enemy without physically fighting on the battleground. Though hybrid warfare is much old phenomenon but now a day it has become a new buzzword echoed ubiquitously and being dubbed as 4th and 5th generation warfare. In this modern era of digital revolution, a country uses unconventional military means in hybrid warfare, such as cyber-attacks, economic sanctions, disinformation and propaganda and supporting local insurgent groups to interfere in other country’s affairs in order to destabilise it. The sole aim of the 4th and 5th generation hybrid warfare is to create chaos in the country and weaken the very social fabric of the society. Hybrid war has now become an instrument of violence which is being used as a tool to attack every single structure which represents the state, be it the governance structures of the state, the leadership (including civil and military) or armed forces.
Hybrid warfare is not just confined to military, but it’s very political and diplomatic in nature, as defined by Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general and military theorist, that ‘war is the continuation of politics by other means’. One of the most important and dangerous tools of the hybrid war is information exploitation, which can really play a vital role to disrupt the societies, where right use of information is imperative for right decisions. Role of social media in this scenario has enhanced, where disinformation, propaganda and fake news are being disseminated to achieve ulterior political motives.
Another critical tool and strategy of hybrid warfare is coercive diplomacy of international powers through economic means. The powerful countries impose economic sanctions, trade restrictions and enforce critical economic conditions through International Monitory Fund (IMF) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on a targeted country in order to subdue their economic integrity to achieve their malicious intents.
Challenges and way forward for Pakistan
Though Pakistan has achieved many millstones in countering extremism and terrorism in the country, but the country is confronting with the growing challenge of hybrid warfare. Our enemies through various mean finance activities that weaken the very social fabric of the society by pitching various communities against each other on ethnical and religious grounds. Moreover, our conventional rival India is also spending huge sums on building its military might to continue with its cold start war doctrine against Pakistan. The probability of conventional conflict between two rival countries has been declined, whereas, hybrid warfare is gaining prominence, as Pakistan has already exposed India in Kulbhushan Jadhav and Pulwama episode.
Currently, Pakistan is facing serious economic coercions in the shape of IMF and FATF conditions, which is undermining country’s economic sovereignty and posing serious threat to our national security. Pakistan needs to understand such coercions and to prepare itself for it.
Pakistan can counter such coercions of hybrid warfare by strengthening its relations and lobby efforts at the United Nations, and other regional economic blocks, initiatives and organizations like Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to get political and economic support from them. This will help Pakistan to fight hybrid war at international front.
In Pakistan two third of population is below 30 years. The total teledensity in Pakistan is reportedly more than 70 per cent, where 63 million are using the smart phones and majority of them belong to young strata of the society who are active on social media. It is observed that the whole hybrid warfare is being fought on the social media, which shows the scale of threat of hybrid war, as there are huge potential listener, consumers and readers of information propaganda. This is the biggest challenge for us where such a huge population with smart phones can be exploited and manipulated through disinformation and fake news. In this era of information and communication, it is crucial for our young generation to differentiate between right or wrong, correct or incorrect and lack of authenticity of the information.
To counter the disinformation, there is dire need of promoting the culture of healthy debates and discussions. If we wanted to save our young generation from the dire consequences of hybrid warfare, there is need to promote the culture of truth and facts among our young generation. It is now the responsibility of every individual and especially the thinking community to help develop the culture of information analysis.
Most importantly, one of the dangerous hybrid warfare tools is fake news. Reportedly, around 60 per cent news on social media in the world is fake, which is negatively influencing and shaping the minds of our young generation. It is also unfortunate fact that a substantial number of our journalists do rely on the information provided on such social networking platforms, which are mostly fake or fabricated. To counter and avoid this information exploitation, there has to be deterrent available in the country through legislative means.
The media is the major agency which is image constructor of the world, which creates perception about individuals and countries among the general public. This perception could be positive or negative as desired to achieve political objectives. It is imperative to promote effective media policy to provide credible information to the public at national and international level.
We should embrace the new technology and use it intelligently and positively. Mostly the websites of the different governmental departments are out dated and there is least presence on social media. The government departments need to upgrade their websites to catch up with the society.
There is a need to engage people on the dynamics of coercive diplomacy and grey hybrid war so that people of Pakistan can understand the war doctrine, methodologies and tactics of the enemies. We have to open up debates on the subject. We have to rethink whether or not our foreign, economic and domestic policies are aligned to realize the gravity of the situation. Lastly but not the least, it is about time that all political parties shows unity and foster good relationships between government and opposition in the parliament to ensure political stability to counter the grave threat of hybrid warfare.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.