Could India’s alleged disinformation campaign against Pakistan and Islamabad’s dossier accusing New Delhi of sponsoring terrorism could trigger a ‘fifth-generation war’ between the two nations? A former Indian diplomat believes Pakistan has been engaged in such activities for years.
Fifth-generation warfare denotes an information battle to manipulate perceptions of the masses by using propaganda and fake news, something which assumes significance in the digital era.
The Brussels-based non-profit EU DisinfoLab has recently published a report titled ‘Indian Chronicles’, claiming that India has been running a “misinformation and propaganda” operation against Pakistan since 2005.
A network of more than 10 UN Human Rights Council accredited NGOs, and over 700 fake media outlets in 119 countries pushed “a pro-India and anti-Pakistan narrative in the European Union and the United Nations”, the report alleged.
It also claimed an Indian news agency had propelled fake news and a New-Delhi based group ran a vast network of fake websites and NGOs. The report doesn’t say that the Indian state has any role in this network.
REVEALED: Indian Chronicles – how a massive 15-year influence operation successfully targeted the EU & UN with 750+ fake local media and 10+ zombie-NGOs.
— EU DisinfoLab (@DisinfoEU) December 9, 2020
An article by Ahsan I Butt, an associate professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, in Al Jazeera, states Pakistan is being ignorant in not accepting the security threats while gleefully hailing the report.
Butt says “there is little doubt that such a vast enterprise could and would exist only with the government’s knowledge”. He underlines the emerging argument of Pakistan facing a “new type of holistic war” but at the same time, speculates if this could lead to a fifth-generation war between the two neighbors.
India’s ministry of external affairs has already refuted the allegations made by the EU report. In response to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s charge of India peddling fake news, Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for MEA, said: “As a responsible democracy, India does not practice disinformation campaigns”.
“In fact, you are looking at disinformation, the best example is the country next door which is circulating fictional and fabricated dossiers and purveys a regular stream of fake news,” he said.
Pakistan Releases Dossier
While India has shrugged off such claims, Pakistan itself has been leading the “war of narratives” from its side. In November 2020, Pakistan made public a dossier containing “proofs” of the “India-sponsored” terrorism in Pakistan.
Foreign Minister Qureshi, accompanied by military spokesman Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, backed the allegation of India aiding and abetting terrorism for destabilizing the region with specific evidence of financing, training, harboring, and weapons supply in the shape of copies of correspondence, bank transactions, and communication intercepts.
We have provided irrefutable evidence of India's state sponsored terrorism inside Pak. Details of financial & material support & Indian state's direct involvement in terrorism have been given to the world which, in the face of this evidence, cannot remain indifferent or silent.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) November 14, 2020
This one sided narrative ends today. For too long India has gotten away with state sponsored terrorism & cultivating seeds of hatred across the border. Today we presented irrefutable evidence to the world on Indian state’s insatiable appetite for terrorism, violence & instability
— Shah Mahmood Qureshi (@SMQureshiPTI) November 14, 2020
Hassan Aslam Shad, a practicing international lawyer, writing in an article for The Diplomat also speculates these developments between India and Pakistan mark “a new war of narratives” between the two nuclear powers.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, ever since he has come to power in 2018, has played an important role in leading a campaign against India on the Kashmir issue on international platforms.
However, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan G. Parthasarathy told The EurAsian Times that information warfare has always existed and Pakistan has always come out with such reports for more than 30 years and there is nothing new in this.
“They have been doing even before I served in Pakistan as High Commissioner,” he says.
While states see the use of disinformation and perception management as “normal” politics and diplomacy and not disinformation and perception management, Butt writes that with this, the states risk exaggerating the severity of the threats they face.
The US and the erstwhile Soviet Union were prime examples as they carried out sponsored propaganda and misinformation during the Cold War years and it definitely did not stop with the end of the Cold War.