Today, wars are not only fought on the battlefield; they are also fought on social media and cyberspace. These days, war doesn’t require conventional arms and ammunition. All you need is a well-coordinated push for a narrative or propaganda that would have a destructive impact on the society and overall morals of the enemy state. This form of warfare is called information warfare.
In a layman’s language Information warfare is the manipulation of information trusted by a target without the target’s awareness so that the target will make decisions against their interest but in the interest of the one conducting information warfare.
Information warfare may involve the collection of tactical information, spreading of propaganda or disinformation to demoralize or manipulate the enemy and the public, undermining the quality of the opposing force’s information, and denial of information-collection opportunities to opposing forces. The lethality of modern military hardware has made less relevant the total war or full-scale conventional wars between nations as an instrument of state policy to settle disputes. However, military force remains a useful tool for deterrence rather than compellence and punishment between the nuclear-armed states. This philosophical hypothesis has given impetus to employ sub-conventional conflicts and information warfare as a means to bleed the adversary from within, especially the nuclear-armed country like India.
Pakistan’s being repeatedly decimated by Indian armed forces on battlefields clearly understands that the scoop of defeating India in a head-on war is impossible considering repeated failures on the battlefield and the economic and military disparity between the two nations. Therefore, to further their lifelong policy of “bleeding India with a thousand cuts” Pakistan used a non-traditional mode of warfare, fighting asymmetrically across the digital world, cyberspace, and social media. The biggest advantage Pakistan has in this mode of warfare is that the bar of a conflict remains low and doesn’t escalate into a full-fledged conflict, plus they achieve their objective of destabilizing India.
Recently, India witnessed several attempts by Pakistan to destabilize India through information warfare by peddling disinformation through social media with the aim of igniting widespread distrust and protest against the state and widening faultlines in society.
How Did Pakistan Fuel The Agnipath Protest?
So what is the Agnipath scheme controversy all about?
- In a nutshell, under this scheme initially, around 46000 soldiers (will be called ‘Agniveers’) will be recruited annually (for a short period, and most will leave the service in just four years. Of the total annual recruits, only 25 percent will be allowed to continue under permanent commission.
- Recruits will get starting salary of Rs 30,000, along with additional benefits which will go up to Rs 40,000 by the end of the four-year service.
- During this period, 30 percent of their salary will be set aside under a Seva Nidhi program, and the government will contribute an equal amount every month, and it will also accrue interest. At the end of the four-year period, each soldier will get Rs 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount, which will be tax-free. To Know More About Agnipath Scheme, CLICK HERE
- This scheme led to protests in different parts of the country. Protesters have opined that under the new scheme, their future is insecure. They want to work on a Permanent Basis as per the existing system because it guarantees higher salaries and chances to get promoted to senior level with pensionary benefits. Protestors also feel that there will be no employment guarantee post the four years of Service.
- To address the grievances of the protesters the government made a few changes to the scheme –
- The government increased the upper age limit for recruitment of soldiers under the Agneepath scheme to 23 years from 21 years for the first year.
- The 10 percent reservation will be implemented in the Indian Coast Guard and defence civilian posts, and all the 16 Defence Public Sector Undertakings for Agniveers.
- The MHA announced a three-year age relaxation beyond the prescribed upper age limit for Agniveers for recruitment in CAPF and Assam Rifles.
- The 10% reservation will be given to Agniveers for recruitment in CAPFs and Assam Rifles.
Also Read, Agnipath Scheme – A Boon or a Bane?
As such, we could see India as a mature democracy that listened to its aggrieved citizens and made amendments to its scheme to address the grievances of the protesters. But Pakistan tried to exploit this issue to ignite violence in the country through disinformation campaigns. Several Pakistani social media handles launched a coordinated campaign to spread fake rumors about this scheme to incite violence.
Some social media handles involved in this propaganda were – @Foxia7sky @iamkamranhaider @MK_PK 4 @SajjadAMallick @SyedUmarSHAh1.
- Although hundreds of media profiles of Pakistan were doing this work, the five profiles given above were the most vocal and active. By going to their profile, it will be known that they were spewing venom against India and inciting fire. Pakistan systematically ran several anti-India hashtags through hundreds of Twitter handles. A research report on the activities of hundreds of social media profiles shows how fake handles were created in the names of many countries around the world whose GPS location is visible only to Pakistan.
- This disinformation campaign aimed to discredit India’s armed forces and instill distrust in the Indian public toward the Indian Army. But this isn’t the first attempt to malign the Indian armed forces. Pakistan has time and again tried to hamper the Indian Army and the reputation it has among citizens. The Pakistan ISI recently peddled a doctored fake clip through a bot account claiming that the Indian government is planning to remove Sikhs from the Indian army. However, ISI’s propaganda fell flat on its face and was debunked by Indian agencies.
- This utter desire of Pakistan to malign the Indian Army and harm Indian society at large reflects Pakistan’s frustration and silent acceptance that it is no match for the Indian armed forces on a battlefield and thus had to engage in such cheap practices, which they may have learned from their Chinese masters.
In the end, we still have a lot to catch up on in the field of information warfare. The Indian government should adopt a proactive doctrine to counter any disinformation campaign launched against India. This could include –
- Building a cyber warfare army working as an arm of the Indian armed forces.
- Keeping a check on social media and directing the managing staff of these media platforms to block or ban any account trying to destabilize social order.
- Frequently launching public campaigns to educate citizens about the dangers of falling for disinformation and propaganda against India.
- Fund media outlets such as TRT News in Turkey, Al-Jazeera in Qatar, and the BBC in the United Kingdom to tell India’s story to the rest of the world.