by Zia Sarhadi (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 12, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1442)
That India and Pakistan are arch-rivals is no secret. Both try to highlight the negative aspects of the other to score points. This is common practice among most countries worldwide. But what should one make of India’s massive disinformation campaign against Pakistan in which brazen lies have been told and even dead entities used in an attempt to tarnish Pakistan’s reputation? India’s tactics have been both staggering in their breadth and dirty in the extreme.
In December 2020, the Brussels-based organisation EU DisinfoLab published an investigative report titled Indian Chronicles. Authored by Gary Machado, Alexandre Alaphilippe, Roman Adamczyk and Antoine Grégoire, the report highlights India’s criminal activities spanning decades.
The revelations were music to Islamabad’s ears and confirmed everything Pakistani officials have been saying for decades without evoking any response from much of the rest of the world, especially the West. The EU DisinfLab report revealed India’s massive network of misinformation and propaganda against Pakistan.
For years, Pakistani officials raised concerns at various international fora including the United Nations but found few receptive ears. This has to do largely with the fact that at the strategic level, the West wants to befriend India and use it against a rising China that is viewed as a rival. Further, it is assumed that India is a large market with which the West can do business to advance its economic interests. India’s economic progress, however, has evaporated, thanks to the pandemic.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is a Muslim majority country (Muslims are up to no good as far as the West is concerned) and it has close ties with China. Both are negative strikes against Pakistan.
The EU DisinfLab report revealed that India has been involved in operations that span a 15-year period and take in their sweep 116 countries. More than 500 fake media outlets and a dozen fake NGOs were used for this criminal enterprise. Even dead individuals were resurrected from the grave and their names used to push an anti-Pakistan agenda.
The late Professor Louis B. Sohn who died in 2006, miraculously appeared at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2007, thanks to India’s brilliant efforts. India’s favourite venues have been the European Union and the United Nations.
Following such revelations, would India give up on its nefarious activities? Perish the thought. For a while, it might lie low, allow the storm to pass over so that people will forget the whole thing but given its criminal nature, especially with Hindu Nazis in power in India, such activities will not be abandoned.
Pakistan has for years drawn attention to India’s destabilization campaign in its south western province of Balochistan. On March 3, 2016, it even arrested an Indian spy, Kulbushan Jadhav in Balochistan. A serving commander in India’s navy, he was inducted into the Indian spy agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in 2013. At first India claimed Jadhav had retired from service. If so, why was he travelling on a passport using an assumed name, Hossein Mubarak Patel? It was only after he was interrogated by Pakistani intelligence officers that Jadhav admitted to being a serving naval officer and working for RAW.
For decades India has been involved in a massive destabilization campaign in Balochistan. It has had such groups as the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Balochistan Students Association on its payroll. One of these “students”—Karima Baloch—was found dead in Toronto on December 20. She had been granted political asylum by Canada in 2016. Even though the Toronto police said there was “no foul play” involved, the anti-Pakistan groups indulged in a frenzy of allegations against Pakistan.
Yet “there are other accounts… claiming RAW’s role in Baloch’s death. These posts on social media claim that after EU Disinfo Lab published its report naming Karima Baloch as a ‘facilitator of RAW,’ she was bumped off. Once exposed, assets become liability; they have to be disposed.
Consider also the following. On November 24, 2020, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram had presented a dossier to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres detailing Indian government financing of terrorist outfits in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan. The dossier provided bank details as well as funds transferred from Indian entities to these terrorist outfits. The Pakistani envoy urged the UN chief to take action against such illegal Indian activities that run counter to the UN Charter as well as international law.
The EU DisinfoLab report corroborates the information provided in Pakistan’s dossier to the UN. The EU report also points to the Asian News International (ANI), an Indian news agency, acting as an echo chamber for disseminating fake news produced by the network. Given that almost all media outlets act as mouthpieces for Indian government propaganda, is ANI any different?
India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is on a record as saying that if Pakistan were to do another “Mumbai”, an allegation that Pakistan was behind the November 2008 blasts, it would lose Balochistan. This is clear admission by Delhi’s top spy chief that India is involved in backing, financing and coordinating terrorist activities in Balochistan against Pakistan. Doval even boasts that he spent seven years in Pakistan in disguise pretending to be a “Muslim” and spied on the country’s military!
Some of the key findings of EU DisinfoLab report are:
1: Several identity thefts, including the name of Martin Schulz, former president of the European Parliament or the photo of James Purnell, a former UK Government minister;
2: 750+ fake media outlets, covering 116 countries;
3: 550+ domain names registered.
4: The report’s investigation shows that the operation led by the Srivastava Group and amplified by ANI began in 2005 and is still ongoing at this date.
5: The operation’s mission is to discredit nations in conflict with India in Asia, in particular Pakistan but also China to a lesser extent. Its long-term objective is:
5:1: In India, to reinforce pro-Indian and anti-Pakistan (and anti-Chinese) feelings.
5:2: Internationally, to consolidate the power and improve the perception of India, to damage the reputation of other countries and ultimately benefit from more support from international institutions such as the EU and the UN.
To do so, the operation consists of:
a: Support to minority and human rights NGOs and think-tanks;
b: The use of Members of the European Parliament to create a mirage of institutional support from European institutions to these minority groups, in favour of Indian interests and against Pakistan (and China);
c:i: Side-events and demonstrations in support of minority rights;
c:ii: impersonation of extinguished UN-accredited NGOs or use speaking slots reserved to various NGOs whose original missions seem totally unrelated;
c:iii: The creation of fake media in Brussels, Geneva and across the world and/or the repackaging and dissemination via ANI and obscure local media networks – at least in 97 countries – to multiply the repetition of online negative content about countries in conflict with India, in particular Pakistan.
The case of the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace (CSOP) is quite revealing. This is what the EU DisinfoLab report says: “This US-based NGO – accredited to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – had become inactive in the late 1970s before being resurrected in 2005. Its identity had been hijacked by the same actors depicted in our first investigation. Shockingly, we discovered that the organisation had not only been revived. Its former Chairman and ‘grandfather of international law in the US’, Louis B. Sohn, who passed away in 2006, seemingly attended a UN Human Rights Council meeting in 2007 and participated in an event organised by ‘Friends of Gilgit-Baltistan’ in Washington D.C. in 2011.”
The EU DisinfoLab report “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.
“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. In Geneva, these think-tanks and NGOs are in charge of lobbying, organising demonstrations and speaking during press conferences and UN side-events. They were repeatedly given the floor at the UN on behalf of the accredited organisations.”