Hybrid Warfare and its Nuances:

A Case-Study from South Asia
Dr. Farah Naz* & Dr Zia ul Haque Shamsi**
In a hypothetical sense, hybrid war, in its all nuances, may prove
extremely damaging for Pakistan due to certain evident fault lines
in country’s security infrastructure and body politic. India and its
closest allies did try to find several avenues, which could be
exploited with their location within Pakistan’s political, religious,
cultural, and psychological domains. Pakistan’s response to
India’s Hybrid War, as exposed recently by the European
Watchdog through the ‘Indian Chronicles’, has been of great
significance and worth investigating. Pakistan was able to sail
through the troubling times, unleashed by this Hybrid War
imposed by India. It retrospectively offers a formative case study
in this context. This paper aims to explore how and what kind of a
Hybrid War was imposed on Pakistan, which could rather prove a

  • Dr Farah Naz has a doctorate in Government and International Relations from
    the University of Sydney and is serving as an Assistant Professor at the
    Department of Government and Public Policy, NUST. She is author of
    ‘COVID-19 Challenges for Pakistan’, and ‘Pakistan under Hybrid War.’
    **Dr Zia Ul Haque Shamsi is PhD in Strategic Studies from NDU, Islamabad. He
    has authored books: ‘Nuclear Deterrence and Conflict Management between
    India and Pakistan’ and ‘South Asia needs Hybrid Peace’ published by Peter
    Lang, New York, USA. He also translated into Urdu, Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of
    War’. He is presently serving as Director at the Centre for Aerospace and
    Security Studies, Islamabad.

@2022 by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute.
IPRI Journal XXII (1): 25-43
Dr Farah Naz & Dr Zia ul Haque Shamsi
26 IPRI JOURNAL  2022
recurrent security threat. In addition, an effort has been made to
determine pathways and methodologies adopted by the hostile
neighbour to achieve its defined objectives by undertaking diverse
insidious pathways.
Keywords: Hybrid War, Economic Security, India, Pakistan,
Psychological Warfare, Informational Warfare
Hybrid Warfare and its Nuances: A Case-Study from South Asia
IPRI JOURNAL  2022 27
n the global strategic and security community, Hybrid War is meant
for gaining interest along with influencing strategic thinking by
engineering demoralization at several levels. The concept of Hybrid
War is as old as the warfare itself, but its canvass has expanded beyond
conventional techniques to other means and ways, including propaganda
campaigns.1 The nature and character of Hybrid War have transformed
into an extremely damaging instrument due to its execution and the
resultant impact on the people of the targeted country.2
Pakistan has been under the cloud of Hybrid War for the last two decades
by India and its Western allies particularly, since the overt nuclearization
of the Sub-continent in 1998.3 The concept became even more strenuously
popularized after the Russia-Ukraine conflict in 2014.4
It combines
multiple complex avenues simultaneously, mainly purported to achieve
the desired goals and thus has become an integral part of modern warfare.
Apart from employing a wide range of methods, strategies and
technologies, a wide variety of terminologies are also being used by
experts to explain Hybrid War phenomenon. Scholars belonging to
diverse regions and specialisms, define the concept according to their
regional situations and respective imperatives. Some scholars also include
state’s coercion, conventional and non-traditional threats, grey-zone
conflict, financial sanctions, coercive diplomacy, cyber-attacks, irregular
criminality, and international pressure within an ever-expansive paradigm

1 Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud & Patrick Cullen, “What is Hybrid War?” (2016),
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, https://core.ac.uk/download/
pdf/52131503.pdf, accessed May 2, 2021.
Jack Brown, “An Alternative War: The Development, Impact, and Legality of
Hybrid Warfare Conducted by the Nation State,” (2018), The Journal of Global
Fault lines, Vol. 5, Nos. 1-2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.13169/
jglobfaul.5.12.0058#metadata_info_tab_contents, accessed 13 May 2021.
3 Munir Akram,”Hybrid Warfare”, Dawn, December 9, 2018 vide
https://www.dawn.com/news/1450346, accessed May 18, 2021.
James K. Whiter, Making Sense of Hybrid Warfare, 2016, Connections, Vol.
15, no. 2, https://www.jstor.org/stable/26326441?seq=1#metadata_info_tab
_contents, accessed May 17, 2021.
Dr Farah Naz & Dr Zia ul Haque Shamsi
28 IPRI JOURNAL  2022
of Hybrid War.5 However, differences withstanding, distinguished
academics have mostly defined hybrid conflict trajectories as a
combination of conventional and unconventional tools for pursuing
In this paper, Hybrid War is defined as the process and employment of
multiple avenues to hurt the enemy with all the available kinetic and nonkinetic means of warfare making into a parallel or even complementary
pursuit of achieving the goals “by other means.”
Hybrid War has been the subject of intense debate in Pakistan over the
recent past because the country found itself under the spotlight by India
and a motley of its numerous supporters pursuing their own unilateral
agendas and interests. As per our premise in this paper, the concept of
Hybrid War is not new and dates back to the inception of the warfare
India has often successfully employed all the available means at its
discretion to hurt its rival Pakistan militarily, economically,
psychologically, internationally, and domestically.8 The Indian Hybrid
Warfare strategy is/was to exploit the existing fault lines in Pakistan’s
political system, which is highly polarized and vulnerable to exploitation.9
From urban terrorism to sectarian killings, manipulation in stock

5 Viktant Deshpande, Hybrid Warfare: The Changing Character of Conflict, 2018,
Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, https://idsa.in/system/files/book/
book-hybrid-warfare-vdeshpande.pdf, accessed May 10, 2021.
6 Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud & Patrick Cullen, “What is Hybrid Warfare?,” 2016,
https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/52131503.pdf, accessed May 3, 2021.
7 Patrick J. Cullen, MCDC Countering Hybrid Warfare Project: Understanding
Hybrid Warfare, A multinational Capability Development Campaign Project,
2017, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. https://assets.publishing.
6/dar_mcdc_hybrid_warfare.pdf, accessed on May 11, 2021.
8 Muhammad Nadeem Mirza, Summar Iqbal Babar. The Indian Hybrid Warfare
Strategy: Implications for Pakistan. Progressive Research Journal of Arts and
Humanities (PRJAH), Progressive Research Journal of Arts and Humanities
(PRJAH), https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-03013546/document,
accessed May 12, 2021.
Hybrid Warfare and its Nuances: A Case-Study from South Asia
IPRI JOURNAL  2022 29
exchanges to kidnappings for ransom, bomb blasts in shopping malls to
suicidal attacks on military convoys, instigation for political uprisings to
separatist movements in Balochistan, and the country has several
defenseless areas. In addition, India has consistently mount everything
possible to hurt Pakistan’s image in the international system. However,
what India could not achieve was its ultimate objective: weaken the
resolve of the Pakistani nation and turn them against its armed forces.
In response to the involvement of the Indian security agencies purported
to destabilize Pakistan, Pakistani armed forces successfully blunted the
Indian efforts, arrested its operator Kulbushan Jadhav10 near the Iranian
border, and exposed him to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Pakistan also presented a dossier of India’s nefarious activities at the
United Nations,11 and its stance was vindicated once the European
Union’s DisInfoLab released its report on the Indian subversive activities
against Pakistan over the last fifteen years. This study discusses the nature
and character of this Hybrid War unleashed against Pakistan; highlights its
target type and approaches; discusses the issues and challenges associated
with the phenomenon of the Hybrid War in the country and provides some
recommendations along with drawing some pertinent conclusions.
The Concept of Hybrid Warfare:
Terms including hybrid conflict, hybrid threat, hybrid approaches, hybrid
efforts, manipulative cyber techniques, propaganda onslaughts and such
others are applied to define Hybrid Warfare positing it as a multi-pronged
trajectory.12 The term encompasses all other praxis to explain the nature of

10 Kulbushan Jadhav, an Indian Navy serving officer was found guilty of spying
and terrorism charges after he was caught near the Iranian border.
11 Anwar Iqbal and Naveed Siddiqui, “Pakistan shares dossier on India’s ‘terror
campaign’ with UN Secretary General,” Dawn, November 25, 2020.
https://www.dawn.com/news/1592313, accessed May 25, 2021.
12 The Conversation, June 17, 2019, Explainer: What is ‘hybrid warfare’ and what
is meant by the ‘grey zone’? https://theconversation.com/explainer-what-ishybrid-warfare-and-what-is-meant-by-the-grey-zone-118841, accessed May 10,

  1. Dr Farah Naz & Dr Zia ul Haque Shamsi
    30 IPRI JOURNAL  2022
    war in this age.13 It is a catchall expression to denote various
    characteristics of war by using all available means of power that involve
    both political and military strength, tactics, strategies, operational means
    and latest technologies. The term ‘hybrid’ was initially applied in the field
    of biology with a Latin etymology that means, producing different breeds,
    varieties and species of both animals and plants through human
    manipulation. However, in this context, the term hybrid is new to the
    lexicon of conflict and war. If we reflect on the traditional meaning of
    war, all wars were hybrid but with the changing nature of the world and
    the rise of technology and media, the characteristics of war also changed.
    Predominantly with the blend of various means of war, Hybrid War has
    emerged as an important tool for showcasing the state’s power design and
    strategic moves without engaging in the actual conventional war itself.
    In the emerging and ever-changing world of strategy and geopolitics,
    states use four triads of Hybrid Warfare: statecraft, technological,
    coercive, and conventional.14 The states harness economic pressure, legal
    hairsplitting, diplomatic means, information, and technological spaces,
    cyber threats and attacks, actual surgical strikes, military, and intelligence
    operations; and, air, sea, and land as tools to weaken their enemy. They
    create an environment that may disable the smooth functioning of their
    targeted enemy just making its structures almost dysfunctional. These
    mentioned measures, among others, allow states to resort to the overt use
    of armed forces and mix other means such as coercive economic, political,
    and diplomatic pressures against another country to achieve their desired
    objectives. In an emphatic way, the flow and reception of information and
    its subtle manipulation turn into an important tool lodging itself at the
    heart of any successful operation against a targeted enemy.

13 Sean Monaghan, Countering Hybrid Warfare So What for the Future Joint
Force?, 2018, https://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/prism/prism_8-
2/PRISM_8-2_Monaghan.pdf, accessed on May 17, 2021.
14 Ehsan Mehmood Khan, Hybrid Warfare: A Conceptual Perspective,
https://www.hilal.gov.pk/eng-article/hybrid-warfare:-a-conceptualperspective/MjYz.html, accessed May 7, 2021.
Hybrid Warfare and its Nuances: A Case-Study from South Asia
IPRI JOURNAL  2022 31
Nature and Character of Hybrid War
Since the objective of every war and escalation is to win over the
argument–whether on the battlefield or on the negotiating table as per the
Chinese philosopher and strategist Sun Tzu who pronounced it some 2500
years ago—triumph remains the ultimate focal point. Sun Tzu insisted that
the ‘acme of the skill is not to defeat the enemy on the battlefield but to
win a war without fighting.’15 However, history is replete with violent
physical engagements over territorial and such conflicts without
deterrence in place, making them into unilateral walk-overs.
The history of world’s warfare so far indicates that all the wars are
inherently political because the stakeholders often aim to subdue each
other by utilizing all available means to achieve their objectives.16
Warfare by its very nature reflects physical destruction, deaths,
devastation, and chaos in the country on the receiving end.17 However, the
character of modern wars is changing at a rapid pace, perhaps because the
wars have become more expensive than ever before and there are more
avenues and optional stratagems available to subjugate the enemy at a
lesser cost. Interestingly, neither the concept of Hybrid War is new nor the
objectives of the perpetrators, however, the scope of execution has
expanded beyond the usual due to the technological developments,
nations’ capacity to absorb shock, and resistance to foreign interventions.
No matter how big the enemy is, even the small and weak states can go to
any length in defending their territorial integrity and sovereignty. In the
process, states may suffer beyond economic recovery, but people are
willing to take on the aggressors making it into a more drawn and
multidimensional pursuit.

15 Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” (ed.) James Clavell (Lahore: Combine Printers
Ltd., 1983).
16 Jordan Lindell, Clausewitz: War, Peace and Politics, 2009, https://www.eir.info/2009/11/26/clausewitz-war-peace-and-politics/, accessed May 11, 2021.
17 Claude Berrebi and Jordan Ostwald, “Exploiting the Chaos: Terrorist Target
Choice Following Natural Disasters,” 2013, Southern Economic Journal, Vol.
79, No. 4, https://www.jstor.org/stable/23809493?seq=1#metadata_info_
tab_contents, accessed May 21, 2021.
Dr Farah Naz & Dr Zia ul Haque Shamsi
32 IPRI JOURNAL  2022
Afghanistan is an example of people’s resistance and pride in their land,
culture, and Islamic values. The country may be in ruins today, but, to
some persuasive extent, its people have defeated at least two superpowers
in the last 40 years.18 Historically speaking, Afghanistan was used both as
a buffer and a battlefield between the British and the Russians during the
19th century due to its unique location.19 The Russians, in their quest to
secure their expanded southern borders and to obtain “access to warm
waters,” pursued a forward policy whereas the British incessantly strove
for extending their Sub-continental outreach to the northwest.20 However,
soon these two contemporary global imperial powers realized that the
hardships due to the mountainous terrain and the unreliability of the local
support, would permit them just about to keep Afghanistan as a buffer
state between them.21 Therefore, through “the Anglo-Russian Convention
of 1907, Russia promised to consider Afghanistan as outside her sphere of
influence and agreed to conduct relations with Afghanistan through the
British. Britain, in return, promised not to occupy or annex any Afghan
territory or to interfere in the country’s internal affairs.”22 Now, after over
a century, Afghanistan, following a type of reenactment of that experience
is in the process of restarting afresh following the withdrawal of the USled NATO troops in August 2021.

18 Mujib Mashal, “How the Taliban Outlasted a Superpower: Tenacity and
Carnage,” 2020, The New York Times,
accessed on May 10, 2021.
19 William Byrd, Lessons from Afghanistan’s History for the Current Transition
and Beyond, 2012, United States Institute for Peace,
https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR314.pdf, accessed May 20, 2021.
20 William C. Green, “The Historic Russian Drive for a Warm Water Port:
Anatomy of a Geopolitical Myth,” 1993, Naval War College, Vol. 46, No. 2.
accessed May 12, 2021.
21 Thomas T. Hammond, “Red Flag Over Afghanistan: The Communist Coup, the
Soviet Invasion, and the Consequences,” (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press,
1984), 6.
22 Louis Dupree, Afghanistan, (Oxford University Press, 1973), 433.
Hybrid Warfare and its Nuances: A Case-Study from South Asia
IPRI JOURNAL  2022 33
On the other hand, traditionally, India has made use of all elements of the
Hybrid War to weaken Pakistan from within to make it a pliant state so
that it can resolve all its disputes including Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) on
its own terms. While India applied its regular military force across the
LoC aiming at the military and civilian targets, it concurrently harnessed
Special Forces for a covert instigation of Baloch nationalists to raise
alarms in the Western capitals. The same has been highlighted in the
report of EU DisinfoLab that India spent 15 years spreading anti-Pakistan
sentiments through some 750 fake media outlets all over the world.23
Simultaneously, India used its diplomatic leverage effectively to hurt
Pakistan’s economy and stature by implicating it in money laundering and
terror financing.
Hybrid War and its Perceptions in Pakistan:
Hybrid War, though not new to warfare, is far more effective than violent
and direct military engagements between known adversaries.24
Conventional wars are more expensive due to advanced technology
weapons but remain short-lived, whereas Hybrid War acts as a slow
poison on the target state and delivers a deeper impact. It aims at
disrupting the daily lives of the people on the receiving end by affecting
their psychology and emotions due to its inherently propagandist nature.
Moreover, “Hybrid Warfare uses coordinated military, political,
economic, civilian and informational (MPECI) instruments of power that
extend far beyond the military realm.”25 That is why the challenges to deal
with the Hybrid War like situations are far more complex and need a
carefully crafted strategy to deny success to the enemy.

23 Alaphilippe et al. Indian Chronicles, 2020, https://www.disinfo.eu/publications/
indian-chronicles-deep-dive-into-a-15-year-operation-targeting-the-eu-and-unto-serve-indian-interests/, accessed May 13, 2021.
24 James K. Wither, “Making Sense of Hybrid Warfare,” 2016, Connections, Vol.
15, No.2, https://www.jstor.org/stable/26326441?seq=1#metadata_info_
tab_contents, accessed May 2, 2021.
25 MCDC Countering

Reference Link:- https://journal.ipripak.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Article-2-IPRI-Journal-XXII-I-Dr.-Farah-Naz-Dr-Zia-ul-Haque-Shamsi.pdf

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