Resurrection of Non-State Actors Can Help India Win the Information Warfare Battle
Information warfare has become an important aspect in the present world. Both the state and non-state actors have been drawn towards the distinct form of conflict. Information superiority is achieved either by affecting the adversary information, information systems, and computer-based networks while defending one’s information, systems, or networks.
Developed countries like the US, Russia, China, etc. have called information warfare the future warfare domain. The theory could have a huge strategic, operational, political, and legal impact on militaries around the world. Developing countries like India are the most prone on the battlefield of information war. The adversary-sponsored disinformation campaigns, lack of cyber awareness, and heavy penetration of the internet and digital devices have made the situations complex.
Pakistan-propelled information warfare resulted in months of Islamophobia campaigns in India. Such an act prompted wide criticisms from the Middle Eastern countries and influenced India’s foreign relations with Islamic nations. The impact was also visible in the domestic issues – Kashmir and Delhi riots that were aggravated by the disinformation campaigns running on social media sites.
To counter the adversaries’ waging war tactics, India activated its Defence Cyber Agency in 2019. Moreover, it also started taking help from the non-state actors to strengthen its offensive cyber front. India’s 15-year information warfare operation, uncovered by the EU DisinfoLab is one example. Initiated in 2005, the campaign with its 750 fake media outlets, reporting in 119 states aimed at internationally maligning Pakistan.
More than 550 domain names were registered under the operation to create a web of platforms that propagated pro-India news throughout the world. ANI, one of the Indian news platforms, played an important role in the operation termed as ‘Indian Chronicles’. Moreover, the EU DisinfoLab revealed that an Indian firm – Srivastava Group (SG) backed the entire operation promoting content against Pakistan and China and consolidating power for India at the EU and UN.
To make the information warfare look real, minorities, think tanks, human rights NGOs were supported throughout by the networks. At least 10 of the coordinated UN-accredited NGOs that served the Indian interests and defamed Pakistan were directly linked to the SG. Amid the growing state of adversaries’ influence operations in cyberspace, if India had not made use of the private actors to respond to the deceptive headlines, it would have tarnished its global reputation. Hence, SG became an important factor in combating digital-age misinformation.
A recent report by DisinfoLab titled “The Unending War: From Proxy War to Info-War” suggested that Pakistan and Turkey have collaborated to launch information warfare against India. The aim is to combine the anti-India forces and create political instability within the country. The anti-India propaganda is led by Pieter Friedrich, who runs a provocative organisation by the name of Organisation for Indian Minorities (OFIM). As per the report, Friedrich has been working on the K-2 (Kashmir-Khalistan) plan of the Pakistani Intelligence Agency – ISI.
The science of warfare is certainly evolving with the technological evolution and information revolution in the IT industry throughout the world. The Khalistanis, Pakistanis, and the Turks have together waged a war against India in cyberspace. Today, the country needs non-state actors to win the surging internet-based espionage battle.