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Fifth generation war between India and Pakistan: Reality or propaganda?

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Recently I came across an article by Ahsan I Butt in Al-Jazeera, titled “Has a ‘fifth-generation war’ started between India and Pakistan?”. It was surprising to read such a piece in Al-Jazeera, but anyhow let us discuss the argument or case built in the article. The article started with an argument over the semantics of 5th generation warfare and ended up discrediting the EU Dis-InfoLab report.

Starting with the 5th Generation warfare, it itself is not a type of warfare but refers to a particular generation in which different types of warfare are involved including information warfare having disinformation and propaganda as its key elements. Generations refer to different eras and the changing composition of warfare in these eras. It describes how over time methods of waging a war evolved.

Thus, transforming the tools and elements involved in warfare i.e., media, army. Interestingly, William S. Lind defined different generations of war by building on the work produced by Clausewitz (the theorist who is mentioned as a reference in the article).

Similarly, the argument that the term “5th generation war” does not appear in international relations journals in the last five years is not valid. Just like wars, the advancement in the field of social science paved the way for the creation of new fields like Defense & Strategic studies, Peace and Conflict, and Security studies.

It would be better if we try to search the term in the journals of fields relevant to the term. Moreover, many war colleges have specially designed courses on these concepts, even NATO school offers a course on “Hybrid Warfare”.

Another argument in the article is about the role of propaganda and disinformation in the 5th Generation warfare. Yes, propaganda and disinformation were used in the 20th century but they were not part of the state’s security policy but were more about politics and diplomacy.

This is not the case here, the integration of information warfare (Dis-info) in the overall security policy redefines the concept. Particularly in the 5th Generation warfare, when dealing with non-physical elements – in the non-kinetic warfare, it is not just the media or info warfare but also includes cyber, economy, and other fields. “India’s private mainstream media is in many ways an arm of the Indian state”.

So, when one is admitting it is an arm of the state, the questions arise what are reasons for this. Moreover, when it is an arm of the state that means it is being used to achieve certain goals and follow Indian state security policy as well. FATF is a prime example of how propaganda influence different actors and this has direct implication not just for the economy but for the security as well.

Yes, it’s a fact that one needs to find ‘fertile ground’ to run all these operations. But is this the case with Balochistan? For instance, USSR exploiting racism in the US did not mean that it never existed. The whole point is about the intensity or the level at which it exists.  The problems in Balochistan started soon after the partition.

Exaggeration about events and figures is meant to further fuel the fire (conflict). The idea behind the exploitation of these fault lines is not diplomacy rather than a way to legitimize security operations against the adversaries. Indian NSA Ajit Doval openly admitting that India is using non-state actors, the arrest of Kulbhushan Yadav is enough for a common Pakistani to understand that it is not natural but has something to do with 5th Generation warfare.

Lastly, instead of arguing about Modi’s ultra-nationalist ambitions to disturb the peace in the region, the whole argument was built to blame the ‘victim’. Clausewitz emphasized on “Rationality of the state” but the exploitation of ethnic and sectarian fault lines through the media to pave the way for non-state actors to create anarchy and chaos is not a rational approach. It is aimed at creating a conflict, not at ending one.