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Connecting the Dots : Lessons in Info Ops from China and Pakistan

Anurag Dwivedi writes: Noisy democracies like India are particularly vulnerable to such systematic Info Op campaigns backed by half truths. The Indian state can ill afford to fail in connecting the dots.

News reports in June carried a candid yet alarming confession made by Shri Deldan Namgyal, MLA from Nubra constituency in Ladakh – the MLA reportedly stated in J&K State Assembly that he “felt ashamed” on seeing the development both on the Chinese and Pakistani side. The MLA further pointed out “The irony is that the Chinese Army keeps suggesting to the sarpanch in Demchok to join China rather than sitting with India. What could be more humiliating than this?”1 The strategically important district shares its borders with both China and Pakistan and while the MLA deserves kudos for highlighting the glaring disparity – that is not the point.

More recently, news reports surfaced that Chinese Media has highlighted the reasons why it thinks India fails at Olympics. Reasons cited were lack of infrastructure, poor health, poverty, girls not being allowed to participate in sports, boys being coaxed into becoming doctors and engineers, the popularity of cricket over other sports, India’s fading hockey glory and lack of information about the Olympics in rural areas.2 Once again the reasons stated are half-truths giving the report some semblance of credibility. Again, this media report is not the point – the Chinese mouthpieces regularly dish out articles that try to show other nations in poor light.

However, connecting the above two events – a Chinese Army officer suggesting to the sarpanch of Demchok that he should join China which offers far better prospects, and the Chinese media which misuses a sporting event to wrongly portray the Indian state as inadequate – the ominous contours of a cleverly crafted and sustained Psy Op campaign begin to emerge. The fact that infrastructure has been purposefully showcased opposite a strategic border outpost is part of the stratagem.

Similarly, let’s also connect the torrent of half-truths emanating from Pakistani media (and on Internet) after the killing of so called “Facebook terrorist” Burhan Wani. The full force of Pakistani agents on ground was concurrently unleashed to stoke an uprising and unleash a nasty surprise on the Indian state. The immense political pressure forced the J&K Chief Minister Ms Mehbooba Mufti to hint that security forces could have spared Burhan Wani.3 This has likely shaken the morale of Security Forces fighting a tough and prolonged proxy war, thus temporarily fulfilling the Pakistani stratagem.

These seemingly standalone yet covertly interconnected events are clear pointers to an extremely well orchestrated and sustained Info Op campaign by the Chinese and Pakistani states in support of their grand strategy. The close synergy achieved between the elements running the Cyber / Media / Psy Op campaign and the elements / agents on ground must also be noted.

Noisy democracies like India are particularly vulnerable to such systematic Info Op campaigns backed by half truths. The Indian state can ill afford to fail in connecting the dots.

Endnotes.

  1. A worrying scenario at Ladakh border – The Asian Age, 19 June 2016
  2. Why India fails at Olympics? Chinese media thinks it has the answer – Hindustan Times, 12 August 2016
  3. Mehbooba Mufti asked policemen to apologise to Kashmir youths for killing Burhan Wani? – Zee News, 04 August 2016

 

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