Countering raw’s hybrid warfare By Ikram Sehgal

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India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is supposedly dedicated to foreign intelligence gathering, actually it carries out all covert and subversive activities on both foreign and domestic soil (where it is not supposed to). Its “false flag” operations to blame others for such activities, mainly Pakistan but others as well require domestic intervention causing deaths, injuries and other collateral damage among India’s own citizens. Muslim Kashmiris being mainly considered non-citizens are fair game as collateral damage. Originally, both domestic and foreign intelligence had been the purview of the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB), a colonial inheritance. Created by the British in 1885 with the prime task to monitor the situation in Afghanistan and Russian activities, it was later tasked to monitor the activities of Indian revolutionaries and the anti-colonial movement. Operating in close connection with MI5 and Scotland Yard, it was renamed IB after independence from UK in 1947 and operated under the Ministry of Home Affairs. The intelligence failures of the Sino-Indian War of 1962 followed by the 1965 Indo-Pak War persuaded the Government of India to create in 1968 a specialised, independent agency for that purpose.
The Indian Congress government never accepted partition of the subcontinent, their political aim was to undo the break-up and restore ‘Akhand Bharat’. Ever since the low-key war between India and Pakistan started in 1947, IB was primarily tasked with the break-up of Pakistan. The intelligence failure of 1962 was caused by the Indian fixation upon Pakistan to the detriment of other developments in the region. The Indian Intelligence missed out the expanse of “Operation Gibraltar” in 1965 as well, they were expecting much smaller border incursions. However, the lack of training, logistics and preparation of the target areas badly scuttled what was essentially a brilliant plan, as Col SG Mehdi, then SSG Commander, expressed it, “A plan too early too soon!” Having missed the opportunity of overwhelming East Pakistan in 1965, India decided upon a “Final Solution” to the “Pakistan problem”. In such circumstance RAW was created in 1968. It was left to IB’s successor agency to carry out all subversive foreign activities after its creation.

From the very beginning India has handled propaganda and self-projection much better than Pakistan, a new nation state that had not yet asserted itself ideologically, economically and politically. As part of their effort to (mis)inform the world that the partition in 1947 has created a rogue state in the shape of Pakistan, IB (and later RAW) have continued to play a substantial role aiding the efforts of the Indian diplomatic staff in the capitals of the world and in Pakistan. Spying on expat Indian communities, especially Sikhs and Kashmiris, additionally became a RAW trade. The successes of Indian intelligence operations as much as their failures are quite numerable.

Nowadays RAW is waging a hybrid warfare in the world with spreading (dis)information and intelligence gathering, manipulating and disseminating falsehood through all media being a centre piece of it

When RAW took over from IB in 1968, its main project was physically separating East from West Pakistan. This sustained effort took several years. From 1966 onwards Indian Intelligence tried to instigate the leaders of the Awami League (AL), a political party in East Pakistan aiming at more autonomy, strive for secession while promising political, material and military support for it. The meetings between the two groups that took place in Agartala, a border town in Tripura state, were detected by Pakistani intelligence and went into history books as the Agartala Conspiracy. The next, more successful operation was the Ganga high-jacking incident that took place on 30 January 1971 when an Indian passenger airliner named Ganga was hijacked by two RAW agents posing as Kashmiri separatists and made a forced landing in Lahore. Blaming the high-jacking on Pakistan India cancelled overflight rights of Pakistani aircrafts over their territory this severely hobbling the Pakistani Army attempting to put down the East Pakistani autonomy movement of the Awami League which became a full-fledged revolt in March 1971. Since then RAW has been active in Pakistan; the latest large catch by Pakistani security forces was RAW agent Kulbhushan Jadav.

However, RAW has been active in many places around the world as well. That becomes visible only when some of their agents are caught and indicted. Two places where that has happened are Germany and Canada. In November 2019 an Indian couple went on trial in Frankfurt, Germany being charged with spying on the Sikh community in opposition to India and on the Kashmir diaspora and passing on the information to India’s external intelligence agency RAW’s. Manmohan Singh and his wife were charged with intelligence gathering starting from 2015. In return for their service, the couple reportedly received a total of €7,200 ($7,974) from RAW. They were convicted just a month later; during the trial, the two eventually confessed to regular meetings with a RAW handling officer to hand over information. Now a second trial of another RAW agent charged with similar offences is going to take place, incidentally in the same court which tried the earlier Indian spies, in Frankfurt later in August this year.

Also, in December 2019, it emerged that a global network of pro-India fake websites and think-tanks was established by RAW across Europe aimed at influencing decision-making in Europe in favour of India and to oppose Pakistan. The co-ordinated network of 265 sites operates across 65 countries, according to a report by EU Disinfo Lab, a Brussels-based NGO. The network was also found to involve groups responsible for anti-Pakistan lobbying events in Europe. “More than the fake media outlets alone, it is their combination with the fake NGOs that’s really worrying because it provides a mirage of online and grassroots support to a cause. That’s exactly where the disinformation lies,” Alexandre Alaphilippe, executive director of EU Disinfo Lab, said.

Another case came up in Ottawa, Canada where “Life Prediction Technologies Inc.”, an aerospace company owned by an Indian origin man Ashok Koul that was contracted by the Canadian military as recently as 2018, was barred from national security work after his multiple contacts with Indian intelligence became known. The government also revoked security clearances from the company’s president, Ashok Koul, and his wife. Details of the government action, and its link to Indian intelligence activities in Canada, were disclosed in documents filed in the Federal Court of Ottawa.

India also used money and disinformation to secretly influence Canadian politicians into supporting its interests overseas, according to a report published by the news arm of Canadian broadcaster Global Television Network. Federal court proceedings detailed how Canadian authorities discovered India’s premier intelligence agencies – running an underground operation since 2009, allegedly to influence Canada’s politicians. The downside for RAW was that while doing this dirty job over the years, a good number of disgruntled RAW operatives disappeared without a trace to settle in countries like United States, United Kingdom, etc.

Bringing such information together is important for understanding that nowadays RAW is waging a hybrid warfare in the world with spreading (dis)information and intelligence gathering, manipulating and disseminating falsehood through all media being a centre piece of it. Pakistan needs to arm its information and propaganda department seriously to be able to keep pace. The information quoted here has been published in trustworthy publications like Deutsche Welle and others and is accessible to everybody. However, if it had been widely publicised it would expose India as a net exporter of terror. Not everybody who needs to know about India’s calumny finds such information from among a massive amount of news we are bombarded with every day. It is in the best national interest of Pakistan if Pakistan’s Information Ministry would avail of the opportunity and disseminate such information that exposes Indian smear campaigns against Pakistan and Indian expats. They should publicize it in not only the countries where such matters have been exposed but elsewhere in other countries, particularly the US, UK and EU.

Obviously, spying on people and intelligence gathering is unlawful given that it has been indicted and convicted in German and Canadian courts; may be in other countries as well. Spreading such information could undo some of the damage that RAW and Indian diplomats have been causing over the years to Pakistan and bring some hard facts into the rather idealistic picture about India that prevails in the minds of many Europeans and Americans. Pakistan not only lost the 1971 war militarily but also the propaganda war during and after 1971. India has been caught red-handed in multiple cases, we should not let go such opportunities to expose their perfidy. We must effectively counter India’s hybrid war.

The writer is a defence and security analyst