The cyber division of the Chinese army

New Delhi: Defence, strategic experts and intelligence agencies have called for the establishment of a specialised body to take offensive and defensive steps in the field of information warfare that is being carried out by intelligence agencies of inimical countries, especially China, which is working in close coordination with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

The objective of this warfare, which is carried out silently and over a period of time, is to weaken the country from within by propagating content and narrative to the domestic audience that sows and spreads dissatisfaction in society by preying on the fissures that are already there due to diversity of caste, religion, culture and economic differences.

According to an official with an intelligence agency, this process, which is being executed without any hype by dedicated verticals operating on the orders of these inimical countries, are functioning not just from China and Pakistan, but from other countries, including India. These are operated by individuals, who in many cases, are not aware that the content that they are getting and which they are sharing online, is part of the information warfare being carried out against India by these inimical entities.

The impact of this information warfare was seen during the recent India-China clash when content that had the impact of demoralizing Indians, including the armed forces, was made viral.

The same content was also used by political entities to question Government of India’s handling of the entire event. “Some of the material that was used by Opposition parties to criticise the GoI was authentic. The Opposition parties, too, were doing their duty as part of a functioning vibrant democracy to criticise the government, but one important thing that was missed by everyone during this political noise was how such information was being made accessible to the Indian audience and by whom and with what objectives,” the official stated.

As of now, no such federal body exists in India to counter this information warfare by taking retributory action of the same nature and causing similar damage to the perpetrators in order to deter them from repeating similar offensive exercises.

Lieutenant General Podali Shankar Rajeshwar (Retired), who has led Andaman & Nicobar Command (CINCAN) in the past and is considered to be among the most well informed individuals on the topic, told The Sunday Guardian that India has done nothing to counter this information warfare that has been unleashed by the China-Pakistan duo.

“India has not done anything significant about countering the information operations by China and Pakistan, because of which we remain highly vulnerable to such warfare. We need to choose a good minister of information and broadcasting and thereafter task and empower him/her to carry out information operations,” he said.

According to General Rajeshwar, India has the resources, but not the will. “We have a solid base in the ministry. We are not exploring it. The wherewithal exists, the consciousness and will do not. India needs its narrative to be told. We are simply not doing it. If our vaccination narrative can be told well along with the PM’s photo, why can we not propagate the Indian strategic narrative?” he asked.

Lt. Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd), former Commander, Srinagar-based 15 Corps and Chancellor, Central University of Kashmir, too, in a recent commentary on this topic, said that the time has come for GoI to explore establishing a body to handle this information warfare. “If the handling of the security-related information domain is perceived as saddling the I&B ministry with too many tasks, perhaps it’s time we look at a National Strategic Communication Authority, an organisation with multi-disciplinary presence that is then tasked to evaluate information-based threats and evolve India’s strategy on that front,” Hasnain wrote.