In recent years, Indian hybrid war tactics against Pakistan have intensified in its bid to isolate Pakistan regionally as well as internationally. Doval Doctrines 2014 particularly focuses on destabilizing Pakistan and damage its society, which is evident from the arrest of Kalbushan Jhadav – an Indian Spy. As if deteriorating law and order situation of Karachi and Balochistan was not enough, Indian lobbying in Financial Action Task Force (FATF) resulted in Pakistan’s grey-listing, not to mention prevalent black market and money laundering practices in India. According to the US Department of Treasury’s FinCEN, “India has been involved in financial support to terrorism.”
In the latest episode, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Brussels exposed 15-year long Indian attempt to target Pakistan through the proliferation of fake new and disinformation. DisinfoLab in its report titled “Indian Chronicles: Deep Dive into a 15-year Operation Targeting the European Union (EU) and United Nations to Serve Indian Interests,” regard it the “largest network” in order to “discredit Pakistan internationally.” According to the report, “750+ Indian supported websites scattered across 119 countries have been working within the European Union and the United Nations for the past 15 years to destabilize Pakistan.”
The report argued that the disinformation campaign led by Srivastava Group mainly focused to influence the decisions of European Parliament and United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). What is most disturbing about the group is that it “resurrected dead NGOs” for running fake media campaigns. The resurrected NGOs also impersonated the EU to reach and influence South Asian and international audience. As per the report, Asian News International (ANI) also played a key role for this fake news campaign. It is important to mention here that ANI is major video news agency of India as well as a partner of Reuters new agency.
In 2019, DisinfoLab also unearthed 265 websites, which were working towards similar end. According to the researchers at DisinfoLab, they had “uncovered an entire network of coordinated UN-accredited NGOs promoting Indian interests and criticizing Pakistan repeatedly. We could tie at least 10 of them directly to the Srivastava family, with several other dubious NGOs pushing the same messages.” It further added that “these UN-accredited NGOs work in coordination with non-accredited think-tanks and minority-rights NGOs in Brussels and Geneva. Several of them – like the European Organization for Pakistani Minorities (EOPM), Baluchistan House and the South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF) – were directly but opaquely created by the Srivastava group.”
Overall, think tanks and NGOs led by Srivastava group and ANI lobbied and organized seminars and visits for disenfranchised groups of Kashmir, Maldives and Bangladesh in order to brain-wash them against Pakistan. According to the political editor of The Caravan magazine, “ever since we heard the visit of the European parliamentarians who came to Kashmir, we knew that there were attempts being made in Europe to organise some form of support for the [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi government, which was not natural but instigated some way or the other.”
Though Pakistan has known for-long known Indian hybrid war tactics against its national security interests, the recent revelation provided it with the required evidence to uncover Indian campaign in front of international community. Responding to the report, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan said that Pakistan has long-been drawing the attention of international community towards Indian “subversive activities to undermine democracies in the region and export/fund extremism through structures of fake news organisations and bogus think tanks”.
It may be inferred from the above-mentioned discussion that time has become for putting an end to India’s rogue behaviour. International community should strictly take notice of Indian violations of international norms and the threat it poses to global system. In this regard, international community must demand answers from India as such dangerous hybrid warfare agendas have far-reaching implications. The report should also ring alarm bells for Pakistan in order to take stringent measure to spread awareness campaign for preventing itself and its citizens to get manipulated domestically as well as internationally. Lastly, an example needs to be set to cure the age of information from the menace of disinformation.
*Adeel Mukhtar Mirza, Research Associate, Islamabad Policy Research Institute