OPED: While tensions between India and China continue to mount and the disengagement process light-years away, Indian media reports claim that China could be using proxies in Pakistan to wage cyber propaganda against India.
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An Indian private cybersecurity firm based in Kochi named Technisanct has found more than 500 twitter accounts regularly retweeting Chinese propaganda material, which can be traced back to Pakistan.
Many of these accounts had been Pakistani accounts tweeting in Urdu but now they are only spreading misinformation about the developments happening at the LAC. Most of these accounts have tried hard to gain authenticity, using mandarin names, and using images of Chinese people and soldiers on their profile pictures.
These accounts have purportedly used a loophole in Twitter that allows for repeated changing of twitter handles and usernames, along with profile pictures. Such accounts became active mainly after the Galwan Valley clashes. For instance, one such account “xiuying637” tweeting Chinese propaganda was earlier operated with the handle “hinaarbi2” [now deactivated].
Many such accounts have been followed even by Chinese diplomats. Technisanct’s CEO, Nandkishore Harikumar stated “As India-China tensions started rising, we observed a huge growth in retweeting of pro-Chinese tweets. We identified multiple Pakistan operated handles that started to change their names and translate tweets into Chinese. Most of the accounts have a Pakistani flag and Chinese flag in their handles and a bio to create a feeling that Pakistan is highly backed by China”.
The analyses of the geographical locations showed most such tweets were being done from Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir, gathering a sizeable amount of retweets and likes. As twitter is banned alongside several other social media sites following Xinjiang riots under its internet censorship policy since 2009, it could be understandable for China to outsource its propaganda material to Pakistan.
The Technisanct CEO also suspected that these accounts are backed by ISI and ISPR. Adding, he said “Pakistan has been maintaining multiple digital war fronts and teams for the last many years. They have a dedicated political misinformation network that actively works against India. There has been a surge in this activity in the last few months. The digital warfare has peaked since India’s abrogation of Article 370”.
Experts talking to the EurAsian Times stated that the reason why China needs to outsource its cyber propaganda to Pakistan is because a majority of people in China have no or very limited grasp over English language and if Beijing was to influence public opinions, globally, it would need propagandist who can write compelling communications.
The recent tensions with Nepal over a new map have also sparked a new row of anti-India tweets from Nepali citizens, many of which have also been traced back to Pakistan. Some of such tweets are:
We need to mobilize Nepali military quickly on India Nepal border.
China, Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka will stand with us.
Long live Nepal Army 🇳🇵 pic.twitter.com/nVM35Ney0V
— डा। सपना 🇳🇵 (@DrSapanaGurung1) August 2, 2020
We stand with China shoulder to shoulder, China, Pakistan, Nepal is a nightmare for india pic.twitter.com/HQ0jBpTVvg
— Sami ullah Khan 🇵🇰❤🇨🇳❤🇦🇿❤🇹🇷 (@Samiull23206772) June 17, 2020
China’s “THREE WARFARES” strategy
The PLA is the Communist Party of China’s military wing, and most of the experts make this mistake of viewing it as China’s army defending its integrity – as in most other countries. However, such apprehensions about the PLA show a clear disregard for political warfare and its distance from other conventional norms.
Creation and securing the CPC’s political supremacy over the world as a dominant force has always been the aim of the PLA. The “Three Warfares”, which describe the Psychological Warfare approach can be described under a larger umbrella term of Political Warfare. This strategy was put to action in PLA, based on the 2003 and 2010 Political Work Regulations.
The first of the Three Warfares (a.k.a. ‘3W’) strategy is the public opinion warfare, which is done by controlling media and spreading propaganda. This also includes the weakening of enemy morale and strengthening of the internal resolve of Chinese people.
The second is to influence foreign decision-makers on their policy towards China. This can either be achieved through threats or using economic might by strengthening trade ties. The third Warfare strategy is to achieve legal security for the actions of CPC to legitimize its approach and justification by changes in domestic laws.
Such a philosophy of Political Warfare has been applied by CPC at impeccable levels and to a great success, which can be seen by analyses of its approach towards the South China Sea dispute and the Doklam standoff.
The trends in the current info-war against India can also be seen in how CPC’s propaganda backfired when it tried to change the recently developed “anti-China” sentiment owing to the COVID-19 crises, for which it has been held responsible for the breakthrough of the pandemic.
Penned By Ayush Jain. Views Personal