Article first published in The Nation on 14-Dec-2021. Article being published on https://aswidevision.com/ with the consent of writer.
The 21st century global order has resulted in decentralising the power to regional complexes. In the emerging situation, the role of great powers and regional power is very significant in maintaining the security of their respective regions. South Asia is an important region in Asia. It carries great economic, social and political significance for the world. But due to existing tensions between India and Pakistan and the Indian quest for hegemony, the situation in South Asia remains precarious. Global and regional peace is the outcome of shared interests and inter-state harmony. However, Indian designs of reliance on propaganda, lie and deceit is a big hurdle for a peaceful co-existence in the region. Pakistan has repeatedly drawn the attention of the world and presented a dossier to UN which contains irrevocable evidence to prove Indian involvement in sabotage activities inside Pakistan. It fueled various terrorist outfits which was a major factor for the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. The US began peace talks with the Taliban almost two years before they started the withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021. During the process, India made all its efforts to de-track the talks by provoking and supporting major opponent groups of the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, India did not succeed in its efforts and talks carried through to success in the end and the US managed to withdraw from the region. Nevertheless, post-US withdrawal situation is also not acceptable to India and it continues its efforts, in the same line, to bring instability in Afghanistan.
EUD DisInfo Lab, an independent fact check organisation of EU, unearthed Indian propaganda networks in 2020 that were involved in spreading lies, deceit and misinformation. The revelations were startling exposure of India’s nefarious designs to defame nations across the globe. The Indian network of fake websites, fake NGOs, fake media houses and fake lobbying firms has been working since last 15 years without being noticed. It is not only harming Pakistan’s image but the entire globe’s. There is no precedence in the past for such a horrific off the book organisation, sponsored by a state to manipulate the human minds. The Indian propaganda indeed warrants a global response and strict action.
More terrifying was the Indian intent to misguide the world, the weaponisation of human rights, sabotage of western democratic values, exporting hate and extremism, manipulating the public mind through fake news. The Indian political leadership has been misguiding their own citizens about various issues just to seek win in domestic elections already. Had Indian leadership not divulged into telling lies on Pulwama, Uri and the Mombay attacks, the situation would have been different in South Asia.
Indian hegemonic designs have never been hidden. To fulfil her desire to have dominance in the region, India has been wearing all sorts of ill-fittings to mold global opinion in its favour. EU DisInfo Lab’s disclosure is eye opening for the world. To spread hate and fake news, India was using 500 domains. The operation was named the ‘Indian Chronicle’. There are dozens of other domains which were being used to glorify terrorism, create confusion and chaos in US operations in Afghanistan. These websites were also facilitating terrorist outfits to proliferate their narrative against the US and Pakistan. Indian propaganda machine was seeking to provoke identity conflicts in Balochistan and KPK through a strategic interplay of NGOs and information outlets. Most of propaganda content was aimed to pollute the public opinion about Balochistan and Kashmir. As many as 11 NGOs, fake think tanks, lobbying firms and media houses would create events which were covered by fake media. However, a known India wire service ANI was being used for content laundering. The same content was being published not only by fake websites but major media outlets.
Srivastav business entity, a hoax group was leading the entire propaganda network. A famous Indian wire service stated ‘Srivastava Group has Little Public Presence. The group lists a host of companies as part of its business, but most of the firms conducts no real business. The group was identified as a hoax when the international institute of non-aligned studies, an unknown think tank arranged a visit of law makers from the European union to Kashmir and visit was funded by Srivastav group.h
An Islamabad based think tank in its report published that China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the prime target of Indian propaganda. Beside fake media outlets and websites, India had also established special intelligence cell by spending huge sum to sabotage CPEC. The Indian Chronicle is a 15-year influence operation was spread over to 116 countries. The propaganda operation began in 2005 and is still ongoing. India did not rely on fake news only rather extended its operation to staging protests, demonstrations, events, seminars, debates and lobbying.
EU DisInfo Lab also unearthed a clear pattern, between 2006-2008, of hosting side events and cultivating speakers for annual UNHCR sessions. Indian campaign changed its narrative in 2012 and instead of targeting Pakistan, they starting blaming the army to isolate it from society. Allegations of Baloch genocide erupted on multiple fake websites and meanwhile protests through sponsored NGOs were staged in-front of the UN HQ, Geneva and seminars were held in various European capitals.
Information operations also exploited anti-blasphemous protest held in Europe time to time following the Charlie Hebdo incident. After BJP victory in elections Indian propaganda increased with more vigour. Indian chronicles also made attempts through fake websites to play up tensions following revocation of Article 370. In the coming months, the propaganda intensified further and specifically targeted key state institutions and personnel and also multiple campaigns were held to highlight Pakistan’s silence on Uyghurs in China.
The latest misinformation campaign surfaced in the last quarter of 2021 when the US withdrawal started from Afghanistan. It was an intense information operation which is reflective of Indian frustrations of their defeat in Afghanistan. An Islamabad based think tank analysed 537 million tweets initiated by India accounts. 45% of the tweets were seen by bots.
Cricket diplomacy and false flag operations are two frequently used propaganda techniques by Indians. In 2001, Indian false flag operation of the prliament attack resulted into escalation from sides and continued for a year or so. The Uri attack and the Samjhota express attack are few prominent false flag operations which resulted in intense relations between both countries. India has spoiled the most popular game in the sub-continent and put the lives of millions of people at stake due to its extremist, hawkish and propaganda driven policies.
Atique Ur Rehman
The writer has a PhD in International Relations from QAU, Islamabad. He can be reached at email@example.com.