Taking the bull of Perception-War by its horn: ISI Vs Indian Govt

This article is the second part of a series, exposing ISI’s nefarious designs to subvert India, by weakening its defence forces, and by disrupting the electoral process of the biggest democracy in the world. You can read the first part here.

The perception war is coercive in nature, not a bullet is fired to bring down the enemy.  Countries like America have dedicated divisions like Special Activities Division (SAD) under the CIA, responsible for covert action and “special activities”. Through the control of media CIA ensures a public perception favorable to the US government; this is the plausible reason why Iran gets so much negative press in pro-US countries.

In India’s case, we have many enemies, with Lok Sabha elections-2019 on the horizon, is India ready to face the ten-headed monster created by the cohesion of internal and external enemies?

“A lie when repeated a thousand times becomes the truth”– Pakistani spy agency, ISI, uses this aphorism as its strategy to create illusions of truth, with which it plans to subvert India. ISI’s primary aim is to gain the upper hand by discrediting India, creating false images and perceptions, and to leverage public opinion in Pakistan army’s favor. Our western neighbor, Pakistan’s, economy might be on crutches, but that doesn’t prevent its defence budget from surging by 20% ; infact, its alleged that ISI  has been allotted Rs 4.5 billion for its “special assignment” in India.

Few days ago, Ajit Doval, the national security advisor of India, speaking on the occasion of Sardar Patel memorial lecture, warned the nation that false narratives are perilous for the smooth functioning of a democracy.  He was hinting at how Indian populace is being misguided by few, who purvey disinformation, for their own political and personal gains.

Creating the perceptions

One, to posit India as a country marred by internal struggle, and at the verge of dissolving like USSR. It is for this reason, Pakistan continues with its unbridled enthusiasm to use fake stamps and fake pictures of pellet gun victims, on the floor of UN general assembly, to accuse India of human rights violation. While Pakistan army’s media wing, ISPR, uses flaming tinders of rumors on social media to ignite a fire in India. Few weeks back, a picture doing rounds over the internet, of Indian army soldiers dragging a Pakistani terrorist’s dead body, earned the army, ire of many Indians, who were deceived into believing it was an injured Kashmiri.

Two, to gain popularity back home in Pakistan, and to create an image of itself as an agency omnipresent on its enemy’s soil. Many pawns of ISI have been downed in India, yet ISI uses its failed attempts in its favor to mislead Pakistani populace, surrounded by cobwebs of ignorance, into believing that Pakistan Army has an upper hand over Indian army.

The truth

Due to the paucity of conventional weapons in its store to win a war against India, Pakistan army depends on ISI to execute its sinister plan, to carry out covert operations within India, to cause communal disharmony, and to trap vulnerable officials and civilians, to leak information regarding Indian defence establishment’s capabilities. ISI, is Pakistan army’s most effective weapon against India.

It is the sterling work by Indian agencies like ATS and military intelligence units, that has flayed ISI’s operations. Their onerous efforts have led to arrests of many ISI moles within Indian govt establishments and also of civilians, who were on the enemy payroll.

The most recent ISI operations which were rendered ineffective by Indian agencies are:

Operation netting and fishing: This operation was intended at targeting Indian officials, and to keep a tab over functioning of Indian defence. ISI on its hitlist has some high profile Indian officials like– Uttar Pradesh IG-ATS, Asim Arun, and soft targets like– the officials working on uncovering ISI network, albeit having less or no personal security around them.

Operation Express: This was a clandestine operation carried to resuscitate Khalistani movement in Punjab, and also aimed at causing communal disharmony between Sikhs and Hindus. Pro-Khalistan movement, funded by ISI, was carried out in various parts of UK, Canada and US.

Operation Krishna India: Terrorist organizations, funded by ISI, were tasked to carry out spectacular attacks guised as sadhus, in the states of MP and UP. RSS and BJP leaders have always been on ISI’s crosshair, and operations such as this would have added fuel to fire in a Hindu majority country, and helped to internationalize the pseudo concept of saffronterror.

Cohesion of Internal and external enemy: ISI-Naxal-Kashmiri separatist dalliance

Its no secret that Naxalism, a movement which deviated from its path immediately after its inception, has now gravitated towards ISI. A symbiotic relation between the two, has fed and fattened the fledgling Naxalism, into a venomous snake which has produced snakelets, who have now found their way into the Indian metropolises. And thus urban naxals are born.

Since almost a decade now, ISI has been wooing naxals to make inroads into Indian security establishments; they have cunningly used Kashmiri separatists on their payroll to assist naxals. In 2007, this link was reified when it was found that naxals had gained supporters in Jammu University, and that separatists leaders like Masarat Alam had been using overground-naxal workers to prepare and distribute anti-India pamphlets to the Kashmiri students.

Another incident that brought to light ISI- naxal dalliance was the Dantewara massacreof 2010, in which 75 CRPF jawans were killed. The kid-glove treatment naxals received from Indian government finally stopped after this incident.

Since then, naxals have collaborated many times with ISI funded terrorist organizations including Dawood Ibrahim’s gang to carry out its operations in different parts of India; infact it was found that SIMI cadre was ordered to move to naxal inflicted areas, to facilitate the naxal movement whilst overground sympathizers of red ultras worked in tandem with ISI to supply arms and ammunitions to naxals. The connection has only deepened with time.

Now ISI uses urban naxals on social media as rabble rousers, and to purvey fake news. Many of the posts and tweets about Indian army and Indian government, which might appear innocuous on surface, are but an attempt to create false narratives. Indian thespian community, which has on many occasions been found hand in glove with ISI, in its own way has lead some of the smear campaigns against Indian government.

Countering the perception war

Recent moves by the Modi government does reflect its alacrity in implementing reforms as far the nation’s security is concerned. GoI’s intention at running National security council secretariat (NSCS) full throttle is worth praising but it’s a well-known fact that the Intelligence Bureau and R&AW, despite the presence of in-house talents, lacks resources and expertise, ergo it necessitates inclusion of talents from other operational forces like Military intel units and ATS, into NSCS.

In this epoch of information technology, an actual war may not be a possibility but a non-lethal war is waged on social media incessantly. This, by no means should be ignored as insignificant, for it does have the capability of splitting and slicing the Indian pie into several pieces. It is under such circumstances that India should consider reconstituting its Information warfare brigade. Many countries like America, Russia, China et cetera have prepared themselves to counter the perception war by creating Special Forces of social media warriors. Infact, British army has dedicated its 77th Brigade, based in Hermitage, Berkshire, that consists of 1500 personnel, to control the narrative of hybrid warfare.

Its about time India promoted avant-garde to prevent its citizens from being exploited on social media, by the enemy spy agencies. Any laggard attitude in this respect will come at the cost of deleterious effects on Indian democracy.

To conclude with, one is allowed to test their sense of discernment by these two headlines:-

Dec 10, 2017: Congress leaders like Hamid Ansari and Manmohan Singh held secret meeting with Pakistan envoy at Aiyar’s house.

October 27,2018: Sardar Patel and Hindus equally responsible for partition: Hamid Ansari


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