Indian Army needs free hand to counter Pakistani e-jihad in Kashmir
New Delhi, March 06: Pakistan has changed its strategy of proxy war in Kashmir and using Internet as a weapon to keep Kashmir burning.
Security forces operating in Kashmir have guns and bullets to counter a gun carrying terrorist but not have ways and means to tackle e-jihadis, who are present everywhere in terror-hit districts of Kashmir with a smartphone in their hands. They are more lethal and dangerous than terrorists.
Security agencies have informed the government time and again that there are WhatsApp groups in Kashmir which are not only being used to mobilise a stone-pelting mob at an encounter site but also to inform terrorists in advance about the movement of security forces.
Since the majority of Kashmiris have a smartphone and the ones who are accomplices of the terror network can easily broadcast a message whenever they see a movement of troops with precise details, like the number of troops and vehicles and in which direction they are headed.
These smartphones consume a heavy amount of Pakistani propaganda unleashed through fake Twitter handles, Facebook profiles, Instagram accounts, blogs, Vlogs, websites, and WhatsApp groups.
Defence experts tell One India that India needs to take this challenge very seriously as only killing terrorists is not going to solve the problem permanently.
A retired high ranking Indian Army official on the condition of anonymity told One India that Indian Army's Additional Directorate General of Public Information (ADGPI) is even not somewhere near to the Pakistan Army 's Inter-services Public Relation (ISPR) in information warfare.
"Uncontrolled Pakistani Army resorts to all kinds of propaganda to achieve its goals in Kashmir and India," says the retired army official, who served extensively in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to him, India is lacking in all aspects of Information warfare.
"Information warfare has multidimensional aspects: media, perception management, and cyber warfare, and India has not lived up to the expectations on these aspects. Indian national media is not independent in thought process because of foreign investment; many media brands are owned by business houses, which have political affiliations. The conduct of local Kashmiri media is highly suspicious and many local Kashmiri journalists are on the indirect payroll of Pakistan," says the army official.
He is of the opinion that at least the government should have control over media as far as the strategic reporting, like recent Indian airstrike in Pakistan, is concerned.
He added that perception management is a very important tool in nation building and strategic aspects.
The Army veteran shared an example of how incorrect media reporting can be counterproductive.
"A Jammu based reporter of a national daily suddenly started writing articles against security forces. When all the journalists were invited by the Northern Command for a discussion then this reporter was questioned: why are you writing against security forces? He replied: because security forces don't give us information, so whenever there is engagement with terrorists stringers supply us info gathered from the police or locals. Next day, that journalist published a story that he was called up by the Northern Command and threatened not to write against the security forces. That single story washed out all our social efforts in Jammu and Kashmir "
The population in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in Kashmir, can be divided into three categories: white, grey and black. The white population is with the government, the grey population is sitting on the fence that could be on either side, or black is involved in anti-India and terror activities.
Pakistani propaganda is targeting this grey Kashmiri population and finding locals for terror activities through the Internet and it is a challenge for India to beat its notorious neighbour.
"Right perception management is capable of converting grey population into white. The perception management has to be based according to the period of the year- the thrust has to be different in winters and summers. We have faulted on the perception level. We have not lived up to what perception management is ought to be," said the retired army official.
He maintained that the Pakistani cyber cell is very active and the PIO (Pakistan Intelligence Organisation) calls try to gain information of intelligence value from army units, duty clerks, and family members of the army by posing as Indian Army officers.
He shared an example how a PIO caller had tried to get information from his wife by posing as Major Nehra when he was posted in J&K. When his wife, who was aware of such PIO calls, asked counter questions then he disconnected the phone.
He summed by saying that the Indian government must equip the ADGPI with all the resources and powers so that it starts giving more information than anyone else.
Another Defence Expert, Col Jaibans Singh (Retd.) said that what a traditional war cannot achieve can be achieved through information warfare.
He says that India must learn lessons from British propaganda during the Second World War.
"We are not able to go up to the British model in the Second World War where despite being a democracy the government joined the army to have a very huge agenda of propaganda. It is to be understood how propaganda was used by the British. People say that Germans were very good at propaganda but ultimately it was the use of propaganda by the British that changed the fortunes of the Second World War. That was the power of propaganda in those days," said Col Jaibans.
He also admitted that the Indian Army has limitations in propaganda generation.
"The need is to understand the dynamics. Pakistan is a democracy but it is a democracy which is controlled by the army. The perception within the country or outside is decided by the army and not the civilian government. Pakistan ISI is responsible for perception battle and it is done through their ISPR, which is not controlled by the government. India is a democracy and army has to stay within the confines of the government, which also has to stay within the confines of the democratic establishment. So, there is a limitation to the kind of propaganda that the army can generate," said Col Jaibans.
The epitome is that Indian Army and security forces have been dealing within the democratic framework with Pakistan in Kashmir whose Army does not operate like of a democracy.
This strategy has not been successful in the last many decades. Till the Indian Army and security agencies get a free hand to start fierce information warfare in Kashmir, people from the grey population will continue to join the black population.
India must provide the power of keypad to the security forces ' weapons.