Tuesday, January 19, 2021

RAW’s journey from subtle disinformation to stark lies

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When European Disinfo Lab exposed India’s disinformation network, India apologized. But, the portents are that India continues to spread disinformation, nay stark lies against Pakistan. India’s usual modus operandi was to employ dubious thinktanks and journalists of doubtful credentials to tarnish Pakistan’s image. For instance, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a registered Canadian charity, published a Pakistan-bashing report ‘Khalistan—A project of Pakistan’ which found mention in almost all leading Indian newspapers.

Now, the Indian government has told its Supreme Court that farmers’ protests in India are pro-Pakistan and pro-Khalistan elements. The SC has called upon the Indian government to submit an affidavit about its allegation along with corroborative evidence.

Another pro-India “thinktank”, spouting venom against Pakistan is the ‘International Terrorism Observatory’, chaired by Roland Jacquard. A prestigious French newspaper Le Monde (The World) pointed out in 2015; he is the only member “without publications, without a website, without postal address, and without any legal existence.” He runs a bookstore stacked with books on ‘networks of Islamic terrorism’.

Read more: Indian Chronicles exposé causes a stir amongst freedom right supporters

According to journalists Didier Bigo, Laurent Bonelli, and Thomas Deltombe, Roland Jacquard’s claim of being a media expert is questionable. The Indian sponsored think tank International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies run by Srivastava Group of India shot into the limelight when it paid for the travel and accommodation of an unofficial far-right delegation of 23 European Union parliamentarians to Srinagar on October 30, 2013. The trip was arranged by Indian intelligence surrogate, Madi Sharma, who posed as a self-styled “international business broker”.

India’s metamorphosis from disinformation to stark lies

It appears India has now realized that its disinformation is losing clout. So, instead of banking on dubious journalists and think tanks, it has begun to churn out lies against Pakistan through its own agencies, including the prestigious India Today.

Almost all media outlets and TV channels disseminated the false report of an ex-diplomat has admitted that India did actually kill 300 men in the Balakot airstrike on February 26, 2019. Some channels have retracted the false report while others are staying mum.

The statement falsely attributed to diplomat Agha Hilaly was carried by several news organizations, including India Today, and was based on input by news agency ANI. The Newsagency ANI quoted Pakistani diplomat Agha Hilaly as saying, “India crossed the international border and did an act of war in which at least 300 were reported dead. Our target was different from theirs. We targeted their high command. That was our legitimate target because they are men of the military. We subconsciously accepted that a surgical strike—a limited action—did not result in any casualty. Now we have subconsciously told them that, whatever they will do, we’ll do only that much and won’t escalate.”

Read more: Op-ed: India has been exposed yet again the world remains silent

The truth; what Hilaly actually said

The video was misattributed and the quote was actually a snippet of a larger quote made by former diplomat Zafar Hilaly in a television debate. The full quote by Zafar Hilaly is as follows: “What India did was an act of war. By crossing the international boundary India committed an act of war in which they intended to kill at least 300 people. Coincidentally, they [Pakistani people] did not die and India bombed a football field.”

Hilaly has also said that the viral video is edited and does not represent his full quote. He also shared the full video on his Twitter account. A fact-check by ‘Alt News’ found that the comments were misreported and the ex-diplomat who made the comments was ‘Zafar Hilaly’. In the debate posted on YouTube by HUM news as part of a program called ‘Agenda Pakistan’, Hilaly had said, “What you did, India, was an act of war. India ne jo kiya, international boundary ko cross karke ek act of war. Jisme kam se kam 300 logo ko unhone marna tha. (What India did was an act of war. By crossing the international boundary India committed an act of war in which they intended to kill at least 300 people).”

Read more: Resurrected NGOs’, a dead Chairman, fake EU parliamentary statements: 15 year saga of Indian misinformation operations

Zafar Hilaly also tweeted a video saying his statement was spliced and edited. Alt News said a version of the video posted on Twitter had an abrupt cut “around 0:7-0:9 seconds” and the word “marna (to kill)” sounds as if Hilaly said “mara (killed)”. The news has since been removed by websites.

‘The bigger the lie the more it will be believed’

A basic principle of disinformation is ‘never lose sight of truth’.  A half-truth or even.005 % to 5% untruth, a twisted truth, or sometimes a truth concealed may appeal more to readers or viewers than a stark lie. Goebels is not alive to tell that he never said ‘the bigger the lie the more it will be believed’. Pathological lying is not the art of disinformation. Psychologists would tell that, even under stress, a mature person would suppress the truth rather than tell a lie.

Richard Deacon says,  ‘Truth twisting…unless it is conducted with caution and great attention to detail, it will inevitably fail, if practiced too often… It is not the deliberate lie which we have to fear (something propaganda), but the half-truth, the embellished truth and the truth dressed up to appear a something quite different’ (The Truth Twisters, London 1986/1987).

He gives several examples of disinformation including subliminal disinformation by which the truth can be twisted so that ‘the distortion is unconsciously absorbed, something which both television and radio commentators have subtly perfected’ (Ibid. p. 9).

Read more: Misinformation: a threat to Pakistan’s national security

The role of India’s foremost intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), in conducting disinformation campaigns has, by and large, remained hidden from the media watch. It is now being exposed. RAW is burning midnight oils to exploit the USA’s sensitivity about certain ticklish subjects like Hawala transactions for funneling funds to ‘terrorists’, nuclear proliferation, use of missiles to hit aircraft, and development of chemical biological and nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

The RAW’s disinformation campaign, often bordering on lying, is well reflected by innocuous-looking news (unsupported by reference to information sources) that appear, from time to time, in Indian media. Hilaly’s debacle is a case in point.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been writing free-lance for over five decades. He has served federal and provincial governments of Pakistan for 39 years. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies and magazines at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of eight e-books including The Myth of Accession. He knows many languages including French and Arabic. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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