AN extensive investigation by a European group has come up with startling findings about an Indian network aggressively promoting disinformation. According to the EU DisinfoLab, the mission of this network is to discredit nations in conflict with India in Asia — especially Pakistan (but also China).

Its long-term objective gives credence to the term ‘fifth-generation warfare’, as the campaign aims to reinforce pro-India sentiment while pushing anti-Pakistan sentiment across the world by manipulating the media. With a dual goal to consolidate India’s power and image in the world and damage the reputation of other countries, the Indian network has worked diligently since 2005 to get favourable support from international institutions such as the EU and UN.

In order to achieve this, the network created NGOs, think tanks and ‘fake’ news media outlets to influence the European Parliament and create the impression that pro-India, anti-Pakistan interests have support in European institutions. The network even repackages and disseminates news through Indian wire agency ANI, as well as little known media networks in 97 countries, to amplify anti-Pakistan content. Shockingly, the network resurrected a dead professor by using his identity and used 750 fake media outlets to push its propaganda.

The sheer volume of information revealed about this network is astounding. Although the European group has cautioned against attributing the network and its activities to Indian intelligence agencies definitively, there is a big question mark hanging over the Indian government which must explain who is behind this campaign. After all, its pro-India, anti-Pakistan stance, as well as its carefully constructed fake-news machinery, is benefiting the Indian government and its aspirations of a ‘dominant India’ narrative.

The international community must raise its voice and demand an explanation from New Delhi about this group, which continues to operate despite being exposed for the first time last year. Such propaganda is dangerous and has far-reaching consequences.

The network’s attempts to create a negative impression of Pakistan through fake news betrays a sinister campaign which is beginning to define the conflict of our times. The EU DisinfoLab’s evidence-based analysis is led by the belief that citizens should be well-informed about the source of information and that they understand the context. This principle is key to preventing people from being manipulated, especially on social media.

Their stellar investigation should serve as a wake-up call for India to punish such actors who intentionally engage in disinformation and abuse international institutions.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2020

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