National security objectives in the contemporary era are molded more by the war of words and narratives, than by the traditional means of weapon use and on-ground fighting techniques. The integration of communication technology has revolutionized the pursuance of national objectives and opened a new era of warfare i.e. the war of narratives.
Today India is not only propagating a deceitful picture against Pakistan but is doing it in culturally engaging ways. European Union, for instance, is interested in democracy and human rights; the negative strategic communications by India in Europe are focused on issues related to democracy and human rights. Indian hawkish National Security Advisor Ajit Doval back in 2014 stated that India should use a strategy like “defensive-offensive” insinuated against Pakistan. This assertion entails the arrangements encompassing the possible vulnerabilities of Pakistan; it could be domestic, economic, political, or be international isolation, in whatsoever way, disturbing the political stability and undermining the international image of the country.
The true face of India has been exposed. India, in its endeavor to discredit and malign Pakistan internationally, has been involved in a serious operation against Pakistan. The conspiracy of undermining Pakistan by developing fake news content has been put out internationally by the EU DisinfoLab report of 2020. The report has revealed the largest ever fake media and disinformation network against any country to date. As per the report, India has tried to malign Pakistan with the introduction of fake media outlets which worked in collaboration with each other, for spoiling Pakistan’s image across the world. The report titled “Indian Chronicles” has further exposed how India misrepresented the members of the European Parliament who support the minority rights and women-related issues, in order to serve the geopolitical interests and provide a platform to the influential, who want to attain such objectives.
According to the above-mentioned report, India has been involved in its malicious activity of defaming Pakistan, by developing over 750 fake websites, resurrecting the dead scholars, think-tanks, and NGOs, and propagating the news further to the international community. It has introduced malevolent content against Pakistan with the provision of a large network of fake media outlets. These include; fake press agencies, PR distribution, and online fake media posing as real local media. Several fake media outlets were used to bring together and republish the content against Pakistan, for voiding the country’s image. Moreover, they have worked to re-package and boost India’s positive image in the international arena. The report has unleashed the Indian propaganda, which is actively working for more than 15 years, spread across 119 countries, involving European Union and the United Nations as well.
The presence of Fake websites, news agencies, and NGOs has created smoke screens of organizations, with often an online presence only, which can cross-reference each other. Examples of the sites mentioned in the report include EP Today (.com; .eu; .org and their declination such as europeanparliamenttoday.com). Moreover, Indian nationals and organizations are playing a significant role in attaining the objectives of strategic communications and narrative building.
An example of this was given in “Indian Chronicles”, where the obscure Srivastava Group (SG) and its subsidiary Aglaya, a small New Delhi-based company have played a huge part. The EU DisinfoLab has revealed many cases in which Asian News International (ANI), the largest wire service of India, re-published counterfeit articles of the European Parliamentarians, which were originally published by the EU Chronicle, one of the subsidiaries of SG. These organizations are not only offering hacking/spy tools but also information warfare services. India principally operated to build the narrative against Pakistan at the International level and to influence UNHCR and European Parliament in its decision-making process.
Indian strategic communication and narrative building are not just based on creating a false narrative against Pakistan. India is also actively involved in terrorist and separatist activities, sabotaging CPEC, targeted killings of prominent important Pakistani citizens, and subverts Pakistan’s economic progress. In this regard, a particular cell for targeting CPEC has been active; according to Pakistan’s dossier of irrefutable evidence, which Pakistan has provided to UNSC.
For countering the Indian malicious acts, Pakistan needs to closely monitor the adversary, and should primarily focus on the use of soft power for countering the deceitful actions. The use of public diplomacy, moreover, could play an effective role in countering India’s game. Cyber diplomacy could also help in countering the real-time reaction to the relevant content since a timely response is the most effective response. Furthermore, Pakistani scholars should play a key role in disseminating against the malevolent and vindictive propaganda for securing Pakistan’s position from deceiving news.
Hence summarizing it, to achieve the national policy objectives, India is using proxies, terrorists, and extremist factions to create internal instability in Pakistan. Subsequently, these acts of instability are used to spread false information against Pakistan. This information is disseminated to targeted groups nationally and internationally through carefully chosen mediums, according to the interests of these groups. For instance, as exposed in the EU Disinfo Lab Report, firstly the fake news is taken up by the ANI then other fake organizations join in and take from ANI. Pakistan needs to formulate a grand strategy vis-à-vis Indian strategic communication to counter it on one hand and build a strong case, on the other hand, for issues like Kashmir, nuclear non-proliferation, arms race, and the Hindutva radical policies under the Modi led extremist government of BJP.
*Amber Afreen Abid, Research Associate, Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), Islamabad