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Peace Vs. Propaganda: South Asia’s Achilles Heel – OpEd


Any profession becomes propaganda when it is inspired by an ideology it champions. Propaganda is considered the shameless advocacy of an objective. The disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in South Asia has been behind the propaganda curtain since seven decades. The hot propaganda subject in South Asia these days is Goswami Leaks, linked to J&K again. Mr. Arnab Goswami is an Indian Journalist and a popular warmonger who develops controversies to create hype. He is also regarded as being among the ardent supporters of the the ruling Bhartia Janata Party BJP of India. In advancing the BJP government’s agenda in the information sphere, he plays a leading role. Last year, Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, imposed a $27,103 (€22,200) fine on the license holder of pro-government Indian news channel, Republic TV, for breaching its broadcasting code. The licensee of Republic TV has also been banned from airing the show in the UK again. The show was run by Mr. Goswami which contained constructed hate speech and the highly offensive content, breaching British Government Rules. 

Likewise, on January 15, 2021, the Mumbai police of India released 500+ pages of WhatsApp chat from February 2019 between Mr. Goswami and Partho Dasgupta, Ex CEO Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), India. The leaked discussion between Mr. Goswami and Mr. Dasgupta indicates that Mr. Goswami knew about BJP government’s plan to stage a military strike in Pakistan days before the February 26, 2019 event occurred. After the Pulwama attack on February 14, 2019, in which 40 Indian soldiers were killed, Goswami allegedly wrote to Dasgupta acknowledging how the attack had helped his channel as “[an] attack we won like crazy.” Dasgupta is alleged to have claimed that “it’s good for big man in this season.” The discussion makes one believe in the hypothesis that the Pulwama attack might have been a false flag attack in order to justify the Balakot Air Strikes and it was planned and executed to ensure Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory while internationally maligning Pakistan and Kashmiri Freedom Fighters. Leaks are testament of the speculations that there could also be fake terror groups operating in Kashmir. The Balakot Air Strikes also proved that Mr. Modi put regional and global security at risk as the strikes brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a major war and made both states the first nuclear-armed countries ever in history to bomb each other. 

During an interview in 2019, India’s acclaimed writer Arundhati Roy opening up about the Pulwama attack had hinted at it being a ‘false flag’ while also calling it a major intelligence failure. She stated, “Pulwama is a really big question mark, which we need to understand what actually happened. Because in Kashmir, historically, there have been many, many false flag attacks.” The leaked chat shows that Mr. Goswami also claimed in discussion with Dasgupta that something big (political) was coming for Kashmir and that a Governor will rule Kashmir forever. It shows the Colonial mindset of Indian establishment, which was displayed in August 2019, when Indian administered Kashmir was shut down through false alarm of impending terror attacks.

Mr. Goswami’s subsequent messages confirm that he had inside information about what would come next. In Goswami’s own words, “Something major will be done this time”, which prompted Dasgupta to predict that it will ultimately be to Modi’s electoral advantage. Goswami then added that it’ll be “bigger than a normal strike”, “And also at the same time something major on Kashmir. 

In December 2020, Brussels-based EU DisinfoLab in an investigation titled, The Indian Chronicles, exposed an Indian disinformation network operating since 2005 that aims to reinforce pro-Indian and anti-Pakistan (and anti-Chinese) feelings in India. The network is working internationally to consolidate the power and improve the image of India and damage reputation of rival countries so that ultimately India may benefit from more support from international institutions such as the European Union and the United Nations (UN). To do so, the network used fake personas of a dead human rights activist and journalists, and also tried to impersonate regular media and press agencies such as the EU Observer, the Economist and Voice of America.

The network also used letterhead of the European Parliament, registered websites under avatars with fake phone numbers, provided fake addresses to the United Nations and created publishing companies to print books of the think tanks they owned. An entire network of over 500 fake local media outlets in 95 countries helped reproduce negative iterations about Pakistan (or China). The operation has covered 116 countries and nine regions. The revelations came a year after the same group uncovered a network of obscure NGOs and think tanks that assist over 200 ‘fake’ news outlets managed by an Indian network to influence the EU and UN with content critical of Pakistan.

The EU DisinfoLab report and Goswami leaks confirm that India has become an epicenter of disinformation. The leaked WhatsApp conversations prove that the BJP government used the Balakot incident for electoral gains, a point Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had already revealed to the world in the 2019 UN General Assembly session. A strong nexus between BJP government and hyper-nationalist media is a dangerous portent for regional peace and stability. Pakistan has, time and again, offered India as well as international community to resolve lingering disputes through dialogues. Now, Indian media itself has revealed the dirty nexus that is pushing nuclearized region of South Asia to the brink of a conflict it cannot afford. This should be enough reason for everybody to sit up and pay attention. The time has come to find a new path of peace through dialogues and cooperation for greater regional benefits. 

*Gulshan Rafiq, the writer is an Islamabad based researcher. 

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