Combating Information Warfare post abrogation of Article 370 - GulfToday

Combating Information Warfare post abrogation of Article 370

India-Srinagar

A security personnel stands guard on a deserted road in Srinagar after the Indian government scrapped the special constitutional status of Kashmir. Reuters

Major General S.B. Asthana, IANS

Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) became history after August 6, when the Bill was passed by more than two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament, through the laid down democratic process in consultation with Sadr-e-Riyasat vested in the Governor of the erstwhile state. The Bill reorganises the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two separate Union Territories (UTs), J&K being one (to get statehood when there is peace) and Ladakh being another UT.

The sight of only the Tricolour on the Secretariat building in Srinagar symbolises complete integration as ‘One Nation, One Constitution and One Flag’, which represents national will and resolve. With no change in International border/LAC/LoC/AGPL, this administrative reorganisation is an internal matter of India, which was essential for inclusive growth of the erstwhile state.

This reform was long overdue, as it was seen that Articles 370 and 35A were hurting India and common people of J&K since inclusion. These provisions were being misused by few local politicians, separatists, elite businessmen, terrorists and their supporters, at the cost of brewing inequality, depriving legal benefits, voting rights, welfare related rights to common people of Kashmir including safai karmacharis, and daughters marrying outside and their children.

No investments were possible to create jobs, hence terror industry bloomed. Needless to say that the people enjoying such abuse of power will continue to cry foul, along with some more trying to gain political mileage out of it but the fact is that this decision was backed by thumping mandate of the country through laid down democratic process.

What are Indian adversaries trying? Pakistan’s frustration is that declaration of J&K as UT will expose its terrorists fuelling proxy war in Kashmir, out of the umbrella of local political patronage. The separatists will be exposed to central security forces and laws, and its terror industry/infrastructure built in Kashmir over 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 the Indian action has disturbed their plans. China’s disgruntlement stems from the fact that Ladakh becoming a UT 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 already infiltrated, along with separatists instigating violence, coupled with conventional fire at LoC in the last few decades, resulting in more than 42,000 deaths. Its efforts to re-ignite hybrid war post abrogation of Article 370 have not met much success because of heavy deployment and alertness of Indian security forces and restrictions on mobile and internet.

Pakistan’s irrational actions like lowering of diplomatic relations with India, scrapping trade ties, stopping rail communication and blocking air routes have been to its disadvantage. Pakistan and China went through diplomatic offensive by approaching UNSC for informal meeting, which also yielded no results as the world community did not find it a worthwhile to even issue any joint statement.

Information Warfare by Pakistan: Pakistan has enhanced the dimension of warfare by graduating to all out ‘Information Warfare’ (IW), which encompasses propaganda, fake news, threatening statements, rhetoric, manipulating social media and invisible cyber warfare. To combat this warfare it is necessary to understand the strategy of Pakistan regarding application of IW. Their first narrative is to give religious colour to propaganda campaign, falsely projecting it as Hindu encroachment on Muslim rights, and restrictions on internet and mobile, (which is lifeline of its terror networking, propaganda campaign and terror strikes) as atrocities on Muslims. The aim being to garner support of Muslims globally including Indian Muslims to stand up for supporting terror in the garb of Jihad to prevent falsely claimed atrocities on Muslims.

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 fake Indian threat from India (Although India has no intention of any war with Pakistan, except that it intends respond offensively to any threat posed by Pakistan, including terror attacks), posing helplessness, repeatedly threatening the world of its nuclear status and its irrationality to get into nuclear exchange, blackmailing the world community to intervene and save the situation.

The third narrative is to remind US, China and India of its terror potential, blackmail US for its need to quit Afghanistan in exchange of leverage on Taliban (if any?) and blackmail China for protecting its economic interests and workers in the country and doing the dirty job of containing Indian forces on their behalf. Imran Khan’s acceptance of approximately 40,000 terrorists on his soil and threat to unleash his strategic assets (terrorists) for Pulwama type actions does not deter India, which anticipated such actions in its strategic calculation.

The information war by adversary 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 countering 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 as never before in last so many years, after India strengthened the security force level in the terrorist threat prone areas, and restricted use of mobile and internet there to ensure safety of citizens.

India’s priority is to save lives of innocent people; hence it is carefully lifting restrictions in graduated manner, resulting in delay in risky areas causing some inconvenience to some people there. With Pakistan openly trying everything possible to re-ignite Kashmir valley through its terrorists, Indian administrators and security forces/agencies will have to strike a fine balance between relaxing restrictions or continuing it to save lives, on daily basis, with an option to re-clamp some restrictions, if problem creators manage to pose threat to prevailing peace.

The Indian secular fabric is strong not to fall prey to religious fundamentalism, but counter propaganda speeches in various forums may well be the need of the hour to quarantine the thought process of innocents from radicalised sleeper cells. The education system in madrassas in Kashmir will need monitoring to check anti-national agenda of terrorists. Besides IW, India needs to be ready for the next round of hybrid war, because the terrorists and sleeper cells will be active again, whenever the restrictions are lifted and a temporary dogfight period is likely till the situation is controlled again. These actions need to be backed by inclusive growth plan rolled out simultaneously so that people of Kashmir can visualise their bright future in comparison to the life of people in POK and Gilgit-Baltistan.