Rupturing the plug the coming non-kinetic war in Gilgit-Baltistan

Rupturing the plug1

By Saleem Akhtar Malik

The breakdown of our critical systems, particularly in the theatre of war such as Gilgit-Baltistan, will cease all governmental and economic functions in the CPEC, shutting it off till we capitulate to India. Our national electricity and gas grids passing through the CPEC will be paralyzed because these are also computer-controlled. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), being developed with Chinese financial and technical assistance, may be likened to an overland Suez Canal. Running about 2395 kilometers from Gwadar to Kashgar, it will link Gwadar port with China’s Xingjian region via a network of highways, railways, and oil and gas pipelines.  The Corridor will open trade routes in western China and provide China direct access to the Gulf via the Arabian Sea, bypassing longer logistical routes. For Pakistan, it will bring hundreds of thousands of jobs and economic opportunities for the people, particularly those belonging to the backward province of Baluchistan. During the first Kashmir war, the Indian Army fought essentially against a ragtag force of tribesmen, locals, and retired/serving army personnel on leave. Pakistan Army entered the fray only when the Indian Army was threatening to advance beyond line Uri- Poonch-Naushera. Indians captured two-thirds of the disputed state but failed to get the mountain barrier, constituting Azad Jammu &Kashmir, vacated from the raiders/Pakistan Army. It also could not dislodge the freedom fighters from Gilgit and Baltistan a huge plug that blocks the future Indian advance towards Afghanistan and ingress into Central Asia.

Understanding the matter better

India has not given up its claim on the areas it lost to Pakistan and China during the First Kashmir War (1947-49) and the Sino-India War (1962). To achieve its geopolitical objectives, India is raising a mountain strike corps to capture Aksai Chin, Gilgit, and Baltistan in a future two-front war against Pakistan and China. The likely objectives against Pakistan will be Skardu, Gilgit, and the under-construction Bhasha Dam. The military operation will be preceded by building upon the already simmering unrest in Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. This will bring Iran into the matrix of confrontation. Also, in her designs to sabotage CPEC, India enjoys full support from the US. Why will it not be possible for India to capture Gilgit-Baltistan in a kinetic war with Pakistan?  An Indian offensive against GB may unfold with the Indian Army advancing with a division each along the river valleys to capture Gilgit and Skardu with the third division in reserve. The quantum of forces employed by the Indian Army, however, is subject to discussion. Due to terrain friction, advancing large forces along the river valleys may not be possible. The only practical way an offensive across the Karakorams may materialize is through infiltration like the one Pakistan Army attempted during the Kargil war. But it was also a slow-moving operation that took more than a month to infiltrate a maximum of two brigades up to 11 km across the LoC.

And it failed, among other reasons, because of logistics failure

Most likely, there will be an operation where the Indian Army captures Skarduairfield in a surprise attack by airborne troops and follows it up with a massive airlift of troops to rapidly build up a force of the size of a reinforced infantry division. This appears more practicable. The same holds for an operation to capture Gilgit. Any attempt by India to capture Gilgit and Baltistan through an airborne operation will be immediately countered by the Pakistan Army holding the likely landing zones. Even if the response is late, the attacker will be eventually embroiled in fierce ground battles with the defender. Establishing a firm base inside the Pakistani territory will face stiff resistance. The point here is, that it will not be a walkover.  The actual battle will start soon after the attacker’s boots are on the ground. While the landing of troops is in progress, the defender will retaliate by engaging the enemy aircraft, airfields, landing grounds, and heliports with air, air defense artillery, field artillery, and SSMs. So, the Indian Army, due to the factors like nuclear deterrence, terrain friction, lack of kinetic war capability, and the likelihood of Chinese intervention will not be able to hack off Gilgit- Baltistan in kinetic war with Pakistan.  It will, therefore, resort to non-kinetic means fuelling sectarian tension, leaning on the US support, superior use of the electromagnetic spectrum, cyberspace, and outer space. A webinar, attended by a former Indian general and academicians, was held onMay 29, 2020, to ponder upon non-military strategic methods to wrest back AJKand GB from Pakistan.

Addressing the webinar, General Ata Hasnain (Retired) stressed

The reason behind India’s moves over GB to date has been a lack of strategic culture among Indians. Arguing about the need of developing a long-term strategy amid geopolitical developments taking place in the Covid era, he said, “Nothing works overnight. GB is not something that is like to be taken as a low lying issue, rather it is a challenge! A lot of things are changing and panning out during the pandemic and Ladakh is currently going through a rapid development phase. The action of the Chinese is to send us and the world a message. It also reflects the fact that actually, Pak is too worried.”

Hasnain further said:

“The generational integration is going to take place in GB and India must ensure that GB should not integrate into Pakistani society. “We also must explore the Shia connect. We have a Shia connection with Turtuk, Kargil, and 25 million Shias across India. We need to integrate the Shia identity from Lucknow to Kargil. Social media shall indeed be a part of it. Looking at the diaspora, they have a huge GB, Mirpuri, and PoK diaspora. We must look for exclusive meetings with those diasporas whenever our leaders visit foreign countries.”

The Electromagnetic Dimension

Pakistan is an urbanized country and its population relies on national networks vulnerable to disruption and manipulation. Anon-kinetic war, relying on the electromagnetic spectrum (radio waves, microwaves, infra-red radiation, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, X rays, and Gama rays) will break down our critical systems, eliminating critical nodes within our electricity, communications, transportation, military, and industrial systems. These will also result in the breakup of all the national services dependent on satellite communication. The breakdown of our critical systems, particularly in the theatre of war such as Gilgit-Baltistan, will cease all governmental and economic functions in the CPEC, shutting it off till we capitulate to India.  Our national electricity and gas grids passing through the CPEC will be paralyzed because these are also computer-controlled. Military operating systems based on the electromagnetic spectrum will rely more heavily on conventional backup systems. Simultaneously, India and the US will arm and actively support sectarian dissensions to turn sections of the CPEC into autonomous zones. The war will end before it even starts.

How to counter the threat of a Non-Kinetic War?

We must keep in mind that Pakistan will not be alone in countering the Indian threat. China, the other stakeholder in the CPEC, possesses capabilities in the utilization of electromagnetic spectrum, cyberspace, and outer space which are superior to those possessed by India. China is even more advanced in 5G technology than both the US and India.  The only weak link in Pakistan’s ability to fight the non-kinetic war is the human factor. Half a century earlier, India, supported by the USSR and the US, was successful in breaking up Pakistan by waging a massive propaganda campaign in East Pakistan. It was the defeat on the psychological front that paved the way for defeat in the kinetic war. Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology.

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