Indian Chronicles exposes Srivastava Group’s pro-India Campaigns
In the process of unearthing increasing social disinformation campaigns doing the rounds, EU DisinfoLab, a non-profit organisation designed to track and reveal covert activities, has yet again highlighted the Srivastava Group (SG) of India in a recently-published report. ‘Indian Chronicles’ dove deep into a vast 15-year global operation, where several pro-India disinformation campaigns, launched by firms like Srivastava Group, targeted the European Union, the United Nations and resurrected dead media, dead individuals, think-tanks and NGOs.
The Indian Chronicles’ authors reportedly uncovered nearly 750 fake media outlets that were working to serve the Indian State’s interests, although the report failed to establish the network’s link with the Indian government.
Ankit Srivastava, SG’s vice-chairman, was found to be at the centre of the entire global operation that was uncovered. As per the allegations, more than 400 domain names were brought through Srivastava’s private email id. Another SG-owned tech firm, Aglaya, which remains inaccessible since February, has also questioned the firm’s working. Aglaya’s marketing brochure mentioned the ability to “hamper country level reputations” and described some of its services as “Cyber Nukes”.
The Indian Chronicles also revealed the Asian News International’s (ANI) role in the campaign. As India’s leading news wire agency, ANI re-published from fake media and promoted anti-Pakistan and anti-China sentiments. The report marked at least 13 instances, where ANI published the news from the EU Chronicle, a fake news site linked to the SG. EU Chronicles was born in May after EP Today, a site flagged in the previous disinformation report.
It was in November 2019, when the researchers at the EU DisinfoLab first brought the Srivastava Group into limelight. The report uncovered 265 pro-Indian sites that were operating across 65 countries and were somehow traced back to the Indian company. Times of Geneva and four News agencies were two fake media that propagated contents that was later spread globally by ANI.
The researchers concluded that the purpose of the pro-Indian network was to spread propaganda against Pakistan, since both the countries have long sought to control the narrative against each other. However, no strict action was taken. The 2019 report also disclosed that the Indian firm sponsored 27 Members of European Parliament’s (MEP) visit to Kashmir in November to showcase large-scale support for the abrogation of Article 370 and peace in the Valley.
The authors of Indian Chronicles revealed that the Commission to Study the Organisation of Peace, accredited to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), that became inactive in the late 1970s, was resurrected and hijacked by the SG. Moreover, its former Chairman, Professor Louis B. Sohn, who died in 2006, was listed as a CSOP participant at the UNHRC session in 2007 and at a separate event in Washington DC in 2011.
This revelation further led to a deeper investigation into the matter, wherein an entire network of UN-accredited NGOs serving the Indian interests was unearthed under the latest report. This network worked with the minority rights NGOs and non-accredited think tanks in Brussels and Geneva.
In Geneva, the NGOs and think tanks were in charge of lobbying, organising demonstrations, and were often given the floor at the UN on behalf of the accredited organisations. In Brussels, the MEPs, who were taken to international trips and asked to write exclusive works for EU Chronicle, were focussed upon. Thierry Mariani, a French MEP, who was also a part of the MEP’s visit to Indian-administered Kashmir in 2019, wrote two op-eds for the fake outlet.
Mariani remained indifferent to the entire scenario. He said, “If the Indian government is behind the newspaper [EU Chronicle], it is not my problem. I sign what I want and I feel, it is my opinion.”
Meanwhile, the authors of Indian Chronicles said their findings “should serve as a call to action for decision-makers to put in place a relevant framework to sanction actors abusing international institutions”. Alexandre Alaphilippe, Executive Director, EU DisinfoLab, called it the largest network the organisation had exposed till date. He stated that the researchers had never encountered such co-ordination between different stakeholders to spread disinformation.