India: Master architect of State-sponsored disinformation

Even prestigious Indian newspapers sometimes publish reports or articles that smack of being pieces of state-sponsored disinformation. Harvard’s criteria for detecting fake news could be applied to disinformation bloomers. Harvard suggests `everyone should vet a publisher’s credibility first and then check all the sources and citations’. James Carson’s offers tips in his article `Fake news: What exactly is it – and how can you spot it‘? (Telegraph January 31, 2019)

Disinformation camouflaged in Op-Eds is hard to detect as they do not usually quote their sources of information. A case in point is Shishir Gupta’s article `In Imran Khan’s 18-point Kashmir plan for Aug 5, outreach to Turkey, Malaysia and China’, published in Hindustan Times dated July 28, 2020.

Shishir writes, `With Pakistan Army expected to take the back seat, Imran Khan may go to occupied Kashmir [Azad Kashmir] to rake up anti-India sentiment in his assembly address to mark one year of India nullifying Article 370’ (How does he know the contents of the address when it is yet to be delivered).` Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan who counts the campaign against India over Jammu and Kashmir as his government’s key achievement has roped in the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, in its 18-point plan to commemorate the Aug 5 anniversary of India scrapping Article 370 that extended special status to the valley, people familiar with the development said. The ISI is Pakistan’s notorious spy agency accused of nurturing terror groups, mostly directed at India and Afghanistan’ (How did he know of the ISI’s connexion?).` Before he reaches Muzaffarabad, Khan’s government intends a field trip for foreign journalists to the occupied territory. Like in the past, the terror training camps funded by the ISI would be off-limits for the journalists’ (Looks like he is well aware of the location of the training camps being there himself?). So on.

Gupta’s credibility: Be it noted that Gupta is `Winner of the 2011 Ben-Gurion Award for journalism’. His affinity for Israel and abhorrence to Pakistan is conspicuous. He was also a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, London. The ISS. London published the Pakistan-bashing paper `Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A.Q. Khan and the Rise of Proliferation Networks (A Net Assessment) (An IISS Strategic Dossier) Paperback – January 1, 2007′.

RAW’s strategy: Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, RAW has concluded that the only way it could weaken Pakistan is to sour Pakistan-USA amity. To achieve this objective, RAW is burning midnight oils to exploit USA’s sensitivity about certain ticklish subjects like Hawala transactions for funneling funds to “terrorists’, nuclear proliferation, use of missiles to hit aircraft, nuclear weapons and delivery systems and development of chemical biological weapons. India even conducted mock exercises against the CBW attack ( ). A Press Trust of India report stated `Meanwhile, the police has seized a rare pencil pistol and 25 “chemical” cartridges from a militant hideout in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district, leading to suspicion that militants might be switching over to chemical or biological weapons from conventional arms. The pistol and cartridges, marked “neroxin” were seized from the house of Bashir Khan at Krishipora-Nagrimalpora village, the Sub-District Police Officer, Handwara, the Altaf Khan, said today. Khan said during the inspection of the ammunition, one of the police officers suffered giddiness and had to be referred to Army hospital for treatment, leading to the suspicion that the cartridges might be carrying chemical or biological agents’.

RAW’s disinformation campaign is well reflected by innocuous-looking news that appears, from time to time, in Indian media. Examples of such news, attributed usually to foreign sources, are: (1) Pakistan aids Saudi Arabia’s nuclear programme. Yet, it bugged royal visitors’ conversations during their stay in Pakistan, (3) Kashmiri Mujahideen are in possession of stinger missiles, (3) Bangladesh and ISI hand in glove to foment secessionist movements in India’s north-eastern region (4) Pak ISI is not only training Kashmiri Mujahideen but also imparting training to ‘disgruntled Muslims to wage a proxy war…The recruits are given basic military training…computer training, and training in bomb-making and electronic circuit making (India Today dated September 29, 2003). Interestingly, the magazine portrayed even Tableeghi Jama’at (a pacifist organisation) as a militant organisation! Disinformation reports in India also allege that Taliban are still Pakistan’s protégé. Al-Qaeda members are hiding in the Pakistan-controlled frontier region.

The queer case of Dawood Ibrahim: A figment of RAW’s imagination is to link Mumbai blasts to Dawood Ibrahim. And, with a further stretch, to link Dawood with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). To back up the allegation, RAW-sponsored stories flooded Indian media ( ‘Get Dawood’ of India Today dated November 3, 2003, ‘Fact Sheet’ of Dawood’s properties and passports in Frontline dated February 02, 2002, and link-up of Mumbai blasts of August 25, 2003 with Dawood Ibrahim in the cover story ‘Family of Terror’ in India Today dated September 22, 2003).

Despite gnawing hiatuses in the disinformation stories, the RAW’s feat was that it managed to convince the USA that it would be in the USA’s interest to declare Dawood a ‘global terrorist’. The USA honoured Indian wish though there is scanty evidence against Dawood about his association with the ISI.

The truth: The real story is that Dawood is one of the numerous dons in Mumbai’s underworld. Dr C. K. Gandhirajan (a police officer), in his book ‘Organised Crime,’ points out that Dawood’s gang was a secular gang. In appendix 1 (pages 201 to 479), the inter alia documented organisation, activities, patrons and other aspects of the organised gangs in Mumbai. The appendix does not include Dawood Ibrahim or Chota Rajan.

The critics point out that Dawood was deliberately missed out as there was no tangible evidence against him. As for Rajan, he was excluded as RAW is utilising him for terrorist activities against Pakistan. It is said that RAW tried to woo Dawood, too, into anti-Pakistan terrorism. But, he refused as the matter lay outside his professional interests.

The weakest link in the Mumbai-blasts investigation (page 36, India Today dated September 22, 2003 is that there is no evidence, except hearsay, to corroborate the link between the Syed family, accused of triggering the blasts, and Dawood. The criminologists and human-rights activists confronted India Today with the reality that the magazine had convicted innocent ordinary people without trial even before the police could determine their motive.

The magazine could not answer the question of why the accused Syeds made no attempt to flee to Pakistan or Seth Dawood, alleged to be in Pakistan. Significantly, the magazine had itself earlier reported (India Today dated September 15, 2003, page 64), ‘But, there are some holes in the police theory. For one Ansari and Hanif’s family went about their routine life in Mumbai after executing such a major bomb attack. Normally the perpetrators try and flee from the city to avoid arrest. The motive too is unclear’. On page 63, the magazine states, ‘within a week of the blasts, Mumbai Police arrested four people. But two prime suspects are still at large and nobody knows who the mastermind was…Perhaps that is why Mumbai police commissioner…chose to remain subdued’.

The Mili Gazette, dated December 10, 2003 severely criticised Indian government for being enamoured of Chota Rajan, while being hostile to Dawood. S Ubaidur Rahman, in his comment titled ‘Chota Rajan a nationalist?’, says, “If you are an underworld don, a petty extortionist or a killer for Supari [contract killing], you are the right person and our intelligence agencies are searching for you. No, it is not for arresting you and letting you die a slow death in a four-foot small prison cell. You are mistaken if you think so. The intelligence agencies are searching for you to collaborate with them in order to fight the menace of the ISI and Dawood Ibrahim in the country. And this is common news now that our topnotch intelligence agencies worked with Chota Rajan. And if it can be he, why not you? The don who sustained severe injuries in Bangkok on 15 September is being highlighted as a great warrior, saviour of the country and a patriot. Several news channels that include the government’s very own Doordarshan, have deputed their correspondents to cover this ‘great’ news from the Thai capital. Big pictures of the don are flashed on TV screens before and after every newscast just as they adorn the front pages of the mainstream print media. …The media is bent on projecting and portraying him as one who is fighting the holy war for the country… works for hand in gloves with our security agencies including the high profile RAW (our CIA) and the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation). These prestigious and frontline intelligence agencies are banking on this petty drug trafficker and extortionist to fight the menace of the ISI that has supposedly spread all over the country.

The lesson from the chapter on ‘Communal Violence’ in Vinod Sharma’s book Human Rights Violations in India is that Srikrishna’s commission was disbanded by the Indian government with malafide intentions. The govt. reportedly tasked the Commission to ferret out Dawood Ibrahim’s hand in Mumbai blasts. The Commission could not see Dawood’s hand in the blasts. So, it was dissolved.

Gandhirajan’s in his afore-quoted book (Organised Crime) treats both Rajan and Dawood as dons. But, had there been adequate evidence against Dawood, India’s CBI would not have gone to Afghanistan to get evidence about the drug trafficking activities of Dawood from ex Taliban minister Muttawakil. For one thing, Muttawakil’s allegations, obtained without letters rogatory are not tenable in a court of law.

Gandhirajan does not include Dawood’s or Rajan’s profiles in appendix 1 of his book. But, following excerpts from pages 39 and 40 of his book reflect that, unlike India’s deputy prime minister Advani, he does not regard Rajan as an angel:

‘Dawood Ibrahim. Dawood Ibrahim, …started his career as a petty criminal and then acted as a mercenary representing other criminal gangs. He used to help the smugglers to recover money from those who failed to keep up their words. ..A rough estimate shows that his gang consists of 4000 to 5000 men. Among them, 50 percent are from Mumbai City, 25 percent from Uttar Pradesh and rest from the neighbouring districts. After the demolition of Babri Masjid and the serial blasts in Mumbai till 1993 his gang was secular. Most of the Hindu gangsters parted his gang and formed separate gang, Chota Rajan is one among them and found to be number one rival to his gang. He is now the most powerful, charismatic and dynamic Mumbai gangster having a national and international level network. He is involved in transnational crimes mainly narcotics drugs and smuggling arms both to the criminals and terrorists, extortion and contract killing. Chota Rajan Gang. Chota Rajan started his criminal career in Dawood’s gang. After the clash of interest and split in Dawood’s gang, he came out and organized a separate gang. His gang is big as Dawood’s gang and involves in criminal activities like a contract killing, drug trafficking and smuggling. In association with other criminal gangs like Arun Gawli he killed many Dawood’s men and also suffered in retaliatory action’.

EU’s expose: In a startling disclosure, EU-based non-governmental organisation EU DisinfoLab revealed an India-sponsored dis-informational network of 265 fake media outlets in 65 countries, including the US, Canada, Brussels, and Geneva. The network was being run by the Srivastava Group of India. It listed New Delhi Times as one of its assets, and also ran a think tank called International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies.

The Institute paid for the travel and accommodation of an unofficial far-right delegation of 23 European Union parliamentarians to Srinagar on October 30, 2013. The trip was arranged by Indian –intelligence surrogate Madi Sharma who posed as a self-styled “international business broker”. The delegation’s shikara (boat) ride in Kashmir Lake (dal) pictured Kashmir as heaven in serene peace. Some members however smelt a rat and abandoned the free joy ride.

After connecting the dots, the disinformation watchdog found that The Times of Geneva Online, EP (European parliament) Today and “4newsagency.com” had shady links to a large network of think tanks, Non-Governmental Organisations, and fake news websites in over 65 countries. The network worked day in and day to create a `mirage’ of anti-Pakistan perceptions by influencing the world’s political leaders, international institutions, as well as gullible ordinary folk alike.

Conclusion: It appears India has meticulously implemented Hitler’s propaganda theorems: `The bigger the lie, the better the results. The success of any propaganda campaign ultimately depends on the propagandist’s down-to-earth understanding of the “primitive sentiments of the popular masses”. Mein Kampf (pp. 179-180).

India’s Strategic Policy Group, idle since Manmohan Singh’s second term, has been revived (to create troubles in Sindh, Balochistan, and KPK).

‘Disinformation’ (Russian deziinformatzia) is a concept that finds mention in Sun Tzu’s Ping Fa (Principles of War). Even before Sun Tzu, Kautilya in Arthashastra supported disinformation as a civil and military warfare tool within his concept of koota yuddha (unprincipled warfare as distinguished from dharma yuddha, righteous warfare).

Tzu’s and Kautliya’s principles were used not only in World War II but also in the Cold War period (to hoodwink own and foreign people). Richard Deacon says, ‘Truth twisting…unless it is conducted with caution and great attention to detail, it will inevitably fail, if practiced too often… It is not the deliberate lie which we have to fear (something propaganda), but the half-truth, the embellished truth and the truth dressed up to appear a something quite different’ (The Truth Twisters, London, Macdonald & Company (Publishers) Limited, 1986/1987, p. 8). He gives several examples of disinformation including subliminal disinformation by which the truth can be twisted so that the distortion is unconsciously absorbed something which both television and radio commentators have subtly perfected’ (Ibid., p. 9). In the USA, the Creel Committee, through false anti-German propaganda turned pacifist Americans against Germans.

Disinformation influenced even independent-minded Americans who laid down a constitution, beginning with words `we the people’. Yet Chomsky says the American masses are like a “bewildered herd” who have stopped thinking (Noam Chomsky, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, p.16). He asserts that in a “properly functioning democracy”, there is a “small percentage of the people”, a “specialised class of citizens” who … analyse, execute, make decisions and run things in the political, economic, and ideological systems”. Chomsky reminds, ‘Woodrow Wilson was elected President in 1916 on the platform “Peace without Victory”, right in the middle of the World War I. The American population was extremely pacifistic and saw no reason to become involved in a European War. The Wilson administration established a government propaganda commission, called the Creel Commission [Committee], which succeeded, within six months, in Chomsky reminds, ‘Woodrow Wilson was elected President in 1916 on the platform “Peace without Victory”, right in the middle of the World War I. The American population was extremely pacifistic and saw no reason to become involved in a European War. The Wilson administration established government propaganda commission, called the Creel Commission, which [through fake news, films, etc.] succeeded, within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical, war-mongering population which wanted to destroy everything German, tear the Germans limb from limb, go to war and save the world…. After the war, the same techniques were used to whip up a hysterical Red Square…’ (ibid.page 12).

Fifth-generation war is believed to be a vague term. George Orwell (Politics and the English Language) suggested that that trying to find a clear-cut definition of fifth-generation or hybrid war would reveal exactly that kind of vagueness, with the use of important-sounding, pseudo-technological words to impress readers and convince them that this war is being fought at a level the layperson cannot comprehend. However, India has proved that it understands the dimensions of the fifth generation war or fake news. It knows how to apply its techniques to achieve its objectives. It is time for Pakistan to wake up.