6 June 2020 04:53 PM



The "Zonkey" of Hybrid Warfare

Of the many pearls of wisdom aired by Manohar Parrikar as Defence Minister, one was that military’s respect had diminished “for one reason that for 40-50 years, we have not fought a war”. Obviously, he had no inkling of the hybrid war India is continuously fighting past several decades, intensifying now with the China-Pakistan anti-India nexus, and that all global powers are waging hybrid wars in furthering their national interests. But then for some, understanding of hybrid may perhaps be limited to the ‘zonkey’ – the cross between a zebra and a donkey.

Information operations (propaganda, disinformation, psychological operations, even cyber warfare) are vital to hybrid war’ for which the press, the electronic and social media are exploited. No one has probed the quantum of money entering India to shape perceptions albeit accolades by Pakistani politicians and radicals for specific Indian journos and media houses offers ample proof. The ‘paid’ media does exist.

While some journos take umbrage to the term ‘presstitutes’, John Swinton, Chief of Staff of New York Times addressed the New York Press Club in 1953, saying, "There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, as an independent press. … We are the tools and vassals of the rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes." Significantly, Swinton was hailed as the ‘Dean’ of his profession.

As we witness the spectacle between Chief Justice of India JS Khehar and Justice CS Karnan of Calcutta High Court (summons and counter summons for Contempt of Court), three recent Supreme Court rulings, whether by design or default, are clearly adverse to security forces functioning: one, continued AFSPA in Manipur “reflects poorly on our armed forces that they were unable to effectively tackle a war-like situation for the last almost six decades”; two, FIR to be lodged for every encounter by the army and police to investigate the same; three, use of pellet guns should be discontinued. Media also reports SC telling the government to take, what it described as, take two steps back and talk to separatists. So does the SC feel that armed forces are solely responsible to restore a failed state when the problem is socio-political?

One wonders if SC is aware AFSPA was not drafted by the army, but was debated and enacted by Parliament to ensure effective army functioning (without undue litigation) when deployed in regions covered under the ‘Disturbed Area Act’. An area is declared ‘disturbed’ when the state machinery is unable to function and calls in the army for support. There is no provision of FIR in AFSPA and giving a ruling for it amounts to diluting AFSPA, falling perhaps in the category of ‘Contempt of Parliament’. The Attorney General made a strong pitch for review of the curative jurisdiction but was dismissed by the SC bench. Does SC realize that police that is being asked to investigate every encounter is part of the same ‘failed’ state that asked for army deployment? Is the aim, therefore, to tie up the army in litigation to perpetually inhibit its functioning?

There is no denying corruption is all pervasive with no institution untouched though prevalence varies. In 2010, Shanti Bhushan, former law minister moved SC accusing eight CJIs (including then CJI SH Kapadia) of corruption, saying that unless level of corruption in judiciary is exposed and brought in public domain, institutions of governance cannot be activated to take effective measures to eliminate the evil. If a former law minister said so, it couldn’t be without basis. As expected contempt proceedings were filed against Shanti Bhushan, even as he assailed the 1991 SC decision in Justice Veeraswamy case restraining probe agencies from registering FIR against any judge without permission of CJI. Bhushan said this had resulted in total immunity to corrupt judges and caused judicial corruption to increase by leaps and bounds. If the CJI happens to be corrupt (eight pointed out by Shanti Bhusan), would permission be granted for any probe? Does the phrase ‘jab saiyan bhaye kotwal to dar kahe ka’ sound familiar?

In 2015, Markandey Katju, former SC judge, publicly stated that 50% of the higher judiciary consisting of SC and high court judges was corrupt. Later, he also contended that majority of the SC judges were “people of very low intellectual level”. This year Bar Council of India told the apex court that its ongoing drive found the number of genuine lawyers in the country to be just 55-60%. With this happening over decades, some would have been promoted. But the Khehar-Karnan spat itself indicates there is something seriously amiss. As per one report, all judges (past and present) in India come from 400 families. That is why stiff opposition to removal of collegiums system which allows only sitting judges to choose other judges. The report says list pending with SC for approval in superior court has 73 names of relatives of political leaders. Similarly, list submitted by Allahabad High Court has 50 names of sons and relatives of judges, lawyers close to power. Do we see dynastic consolidation in judiciary?

The 1993 NN Vohra Committee Report had virtually defined India’s ‘deep state’, pointing out among many things: use of money power to develop muscle-power; mafias virtually running parallel governments; with decline of values, attention required to assess impact of these linkages on institutions like electoral, political, economic, law and order and the administrative apparatus; mafias had developed extensive network of contacts with bureaucrats/government functionaries at the local levels, politicians, media persons and strategically located individuals in the non-State sector; and, some of these syndicates having international linkages, including with foreign intelligence agencies. Significantly, the Committee concluded that “Any leakage whatever about the linkages of crime syndicate with senior government functionaries or political leaders in the states or at the centre could have a destabilizing effect on the functioning of Government.”

Finally we must understand that ‘political warfare’ and ‘legal warfare’ too are essential ingredients of hybrid warfare, which our adversaries are adept in exploiting. Both these means are used to isolate, erode, manipulate, exhaust, down, attrite, and create conditions to wear down the target country through all possible institutions, including judiciary. Degrading, targeting the functioning and morale of the security forces is part of the campaign. Considering the Vohra Committee Report, corruption accusations and functioning of the judiciary, and the hybrid war being waged by the enemy, there is every possibility that there are compromised luminaries amongst us, especially when there is no fear of probes and prosecution, and when such rulings are coming due to cases filed by secessionist / those fuelling violence. This is one major reason the proxy war against us in increasing in intensity and content.

Given the gravity of the issue, the Prime Minister must step in. The judiciary needs to be firmly told that matters of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism impinging on national security should be the forte of the legislature, not the judiciary. Judiciary dealing with such cases can rule that the issue will be decided by the government of the day. There is precedence of SC so ruling in other cases, even if it were to curry favour with the then government.

(The views in this article are personal)

(Lt General P.C.Katoch is a veteran of the Special Forces of the Indian Army)