Pakistan’s frustration is that abrogation of Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir will expose its terrorists fuelling the proxy war in the valley, out of the umbrella of local political patronage. The separatists will be exposed and its terror industry in Kashmir over the decades will start crumbling.
Pakistan Army, ISI and political class have enjoyed power domestically, on their narrative of efforts of Kashmir’s liberation so far; hence Indian action has disturbed their plans. China’s disgruntlement stems from the fact that Ladakh becoming a Union Territory weakens their false, incremental claims in that region, besides weakening Pakistan’s proxy to keep Indians engaged on their behalf.
Pakistan has been waging hybrid war with a large number of terrorists, along with separatists instigating violence, coupled with conventional ceasefire violations at LoC. Its efforts to re-ignite hybrid war post abrogation of Article 370 have not met much success because of heavy deployment of forces and alertness of Indian security forces and restrictions on mobile and internet.
Pakistan’s irrational actions like degrading diplomatic relations with India, scrapping trade ties, stopping rail communication and blocking air routes have been to its disadvantage. Pakistan and China went through a diplomatic offensive by approaching UNSC for an informal meeting, which also yielded no results as the world community did not find it worthwhile to even issue any joint statement.
On sidelines of G7 Summit, Prime Minister Modi while talking to US President Donald Trump ruled out any mediation efforts by any other country, which Pakistan was vehemently trying. This has put to rest all diplomatic efforts by Pakistan seeking mediation of Kashmir Issue.
Enhanced military deployment along the LoC is part of escalating the hybrid war. Attempts to infiltrate terrorists is to create fear psychosis among people of Kashmir.
China seems to be signalling moral and material support to Pakistan through MoUs for defence capacity building and cooperation during the visit of Deputy Chairman of its Central Military Commission, which seems to be more of optics as China already accounts for more than 70 per cent of import of military hardware to Pakistan. After UNSC embarrassment China has been relatively quiet on propaganda or rhetoric.
Pakistan has enhanced the dimension of warfare by graduating to all-out ‘Information Warfare’ (IW), which encompasses propaganda, fake news, threatening statements, rhetoric and invisible cyberwar. Their first narrative is to give religious colour to propaganda campaign, and restrictions on internet and mobile (which is the lifeline of its terror networking, propaganda campaign) as atrocities on Kashmiris. The aim is to garner support on the global platform. Unfortunately for them, except for members of their terror industry and their sympathisers, not very many have bought this narrative.
The second narrative is posing threat from India, posing helplessness, repeatedly threatening the world of its nuclear status and it’s irrationality to get into nuclear exchange, blackmailing world community to intervene and save the situation. The third narrative is to blackmail the US for its need to quit Afghanistan and blackmail China for protecting its economic interests and workers in the country. However, Imran Khan’s acceptance of approximately 40,000 terrorists operating in Pakistan and the threat of Pulwama type attacks do not deter India.
Pakistan’s targets for information warfare are different for each type of narrative. For religious agenda, it is targeting people of Kashmir valley, Muslim diaspora (like planned processions in UK), Khalistan terrorists and sympathisers.
It is also targeting some disgruntled elements in India including political opponents trying to fish in troubled water by following a narrative against the national mandate to score some petty political gains. The methodologies adopted for IW ranges from running psychological operations, electronic warfare, misinformation campaigns, information attacks and manipulating public perception through social media. Mobile, internet and radio transmissions are fast modes of connectivity being used. Structured television programmes are also being made by Pakistan.
Fake and old videos are being played up as the current situation in Kashmir, which are getting identified to be of different incidents globally on investigations. Pakistan has also influenced some international news agencies to carry fake news on their behalf.
Information war by Pakistan cannot be taken lightly and needs to be combated professionally. One of the best methods of combating it is to flood the global environment with hard facts to counter fake news and propaganda. India had anticipated the security challenges arising out of such decision and has done its best to quarantine the potential problem creators and flash spots with tight restrictions.
Kashmir valley has been quite peaceful after India strengthened the security force level in the valley and imposed restrictions on the use of mobile and internet there to ensure the safety of citizens. India’s priority is to save the lives of innocent people.
With Pakistan openly trying everything possible to re-ignite Kashmir valley through its terrorists, Indian administrators and security forces will have to strike a fine balance by relaxing restrictions with an option to re-clamp the same again if problem creators pose threat to prevailing peace.
The criticism of the government for imposing restrictions by those who abused power when Article 370 is natural, but if it can save lives of innocent people then it can be endured.
The recent attempt of Pakistani PM Imran Khan trying to portray himself as the poster boy for Kashmiris must be rebutted with his continued silence over atrocities in Balochistan and Xinjiang. Indian secular fabric is strong enough to not fall prey to religious fundamentalism, but counter-propaganda speeches may well be the need of the hour to quarantine the thought process of innocents from radicalised sleeper cells.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)