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Hybrid warfare is a type of warfare that combines conventional military strategies with unconventional tactics such as propaganda, deception, sabotage, etc. to destabilise adversaries.
Implications of Hybrid warfare for India can be seen from:
1. External threats:
a. Coercive diplomatic tactics to create false narrative and international pressure.
E.g., acts of blocking entry of terrorists in UN sanctions list by China; internationalization of Kashmir issue by Pakistan.
b. Illegal border incursions and asymmetric/proxy warfare.
E.g., Chinese incursions on Indian side of LAC; use of militants/terrorists by Pakistan.
2. Societal impact:
a. Media Manipulation through fake news can have the effect of distorting the civil society.
E.g., opposing project for socio-economic development for foreign vested interests.
b. Using propaganda and radicalisation to polarise people on communal and ethnic lines.
E.g., propaganda to fuel secessionist tendencies (Khalistan in Punjab; NSCN in North- East).
3. Security challenges:
a. Financing and strengthening of network of over ground workers (OGW) to support organisation and individuals to carry out Lone- wolf- attacks.
b. Cyber espionage through honey trapping to collect sensitive information.
E.g., Recent DRDO Scientist trapped by Pakistani spy.
4. Economic destabilisation:
a) Economic tools like unilateral trade disruptions and dumping (as done by China) can be used to undermine our economic growth.
E.g., In 2019, China banned importing Indian pulses, citing food safety concerns.
b) Cyber-attacks on critical infrastructures.
E.g., Cyber-attack on Kudankulam nuclear plant, attack on AIIMS.
5. Electoral manipulation by means of profiling, misuse of personal data, and psychological manipulation of voters.
E.g., Cambridge Analytica scandal.
It is an imperative to build comprehensive counter measures against hybrid warfare in the following ways:
1. Strengthening Cyber security framework:
a. Strengthening legislative framework like personal data protection bill to safeguard sensitive data.
b. Equipping cyber security professionals in CERT-IN, NCIIPC to deal with emerging threats.
2. Digital awareness:
a. Promoting digital literacy; sensitization campaign about cyber hygiene etc. can check threats like honey trapping.
E.g., DRDO scientist honey trapped by external inimical agents.
b. Indigenisation of digital architecture.
E.g., ‘Maya OS’ (indigenized Operating System) for defence personnel.
c. Progressive regulation of social media.
E.g., IT Rules 2023 are a step in right direction.
3. International efforts:
a. Collaboration with likeminded countries for intelligence sharing and surveillance.
E.g., conference of global intelligence chiefs at Raisina Security Dialogue.
b. Using regional and international forum to reinforce collective efforts against terrorism.
4. Enhancing defence capabilities:
a. Defence modernisation to create deterrence capabilities.
E.g., induction of Rafael, S- 400.
b. Strengthening the border infrastructure through fast-tracking development of border infrastructure across sensitive borders.
E.g., CIBMS, Vibrant village programme.
5. Defensive-offence strategies can aid in safeguarding the country from external threats from adversaries by leveraging their internal contradictions.
E.g., Balakot air strike by India inside Pakistan’s sovereign territory.
6. Investing in R&D infrastructure to create domestic technologies to have strategic control over data.
E.g., Meity’s Indigenous Indian web browser development challenge.
Hybrid warfare is an ever-evolving domain. To strengthen domestic capabilities India must move away from ad-hoc efforts towards proactive implementation of a comprehensive multipronged strategy.

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