The West’s muted response to India’s anti-Pakistan disinformation campaign 

The West’s muted response to India’s anti-Pakistan disinformation campaign 

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The latest report published by the independent watchdog EU DisinfoLab with the title ‘Indian Chronicles’ has laid bare the disinformation campaign launched through fake news outlets, defunct organizations and dead personalities to serve Indian interests worldwide and in particular to undermine Pakistan. 

Yet the question remains about whether Pakistan- the main target of this malicious propaganda program- can really discredit India and its media infrastructure on the world stage, and particularly in European capitals?

The scale and associated aspects of this coordinated campaign are truly staggering, and enough to put a question mark on the news and analysis coming out of Indian media organizations, particularly concerning Pakistan. 

It is truly astonishing that for more than 15 years, more than 750 dead and non-existent media outlets were used to push forward anti-Pakistan discourses and specifically targeted powerful political institutions like the European Parliament and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR). These news outlets echoed the voice and work of more than 10 UN Human Rights Council accredited Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). These organizations were resuscitated to further help with this advocacy work within European capitals and mainly in Geneva and Brussels to target anti-India actors-- mainly Pakistan but also China.

The most extravagant feature of this whole discursive regulation campaign came when the watchdog analyzed the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace (CSOP) also accredited to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). 

As Pakistan moves away from the western block and into the Chinese sphere of influence, and as the Chinese relationship with western powers deteriorates, there remains an even lesser appetite within the western hemisphere to sanction India on its anti-Pakistan campaigns.

Umar Karim

Originally founded in the United States during the second World War to promote global peace, the organization became defunct in the 1970’s. Yet somehow, its former chairman and a huge name in the American legal fraternity, Louis B. Sohn, who passed away in 2006, was able to attend a UNHRC meeting in 2007 while also participating in an event convened by “Friends of Gilgit-Baltistan” in Washington DC in 2011. 

The latest of such fake news outlets staffed with fake journalists has been the ‘EU Chronicle’ that has tried to attract Members of European Parliament (MEPs) to write anti-Pakistan articles and criticize the country particularly on the state of minority and women’s rights. The content on the EU Chronicle has been received with extraordinary excitement by an Indian News Agency, Asian News International (ANI). ANI remains one of largest news agencies in India and the only real news outlet that has given full coverage to the content produced on EU Chronicle, thus becoming the bridge between the world of fake news outlets to real ones.

EU DisinfoLab has tracked all these operations back to a Delhi-based holding company, the Srivastava Group (SG). The operations of SG have led to the creation of fake media outlets, the hacking or re-birth of long dysfunctional think tanks/ research institutions, and providing financial assistance MEPs while also facilitating their trips to India, Bangladesh and the Maldives. The focus of this mega-campaign always was to malign Pakistan on the world stage and particularly in the European Parliament and the UNHCR.

The rather shocking aspect of this report has been the impunity enjoyed by the workings of these entities created by the SG and a lack of strict response from concerned European and UN institutions. Even when this disinformation was unraveled last year by EU DisinfoLab, SG was able to create the EU Chronicle-- a new fake news outlet without fear of any legal action. Perhaps the real reason why organizations like SG and its subsidiaries have walked away, scot free over the past 15 years is rooted in their Indian identity. 

As Gary Machado, managing director of EU DisinfoLab has put it, the reaction would have been much stronger and louder if the actors involved had been of Russian or Chinese origin. Since in this case the culprits involved are Indian and the country targeted is Pakistan, the reaction is rather muted.

This is clearly a point of concern for the Pakistani government and its decision makers. If the western world and its institutions are not really perturbed by the manipulation and usage of their institutions by Indian entities to launch anti-Pakistan disinformation operations, then what should they expect from Western powers and International Institutions when India uses its hard power resources directly against Pakistan?

This problem links up also with Pakistan’s increased dependence on China in the political, economic and security domains and the greater geo-political proximity between India and western world. 

As Pakistan moves away from the western block and into the Chinese sphere of influence, and as the Chinese relationship with western powers deteriorates, there remains an even lesser appetite within the western hemisphere to sanction India on its anti-Pakistan campaigns. 

Furthermore, India’s increased strategic relevance for western nations to contain China in Asia means Pakistan’s discourse to challenge India’s nefarious activities will find very few ears in the US and Europe.

*Umar Karim is a doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham. His research focuses on the evolution of Saudi Arabia’s strategic outlook, the Saudi-Iran tussle, conflict in Syria, and the geopolitics of Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. Twitter: @UmarKarim89

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