Pakistan’s info-war post-Article 370 revocation: Here’s what experts say on information operations as a form of warfare

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Updated: September 2, 2019 3:22:41 PM

Maj Gen Ajay Das (Retd) says that there is nothing right or wrong about Information Warfare. Like any other form of warfare, this too is an accepted form of warfare. Ancient treatises by Sun Tzu or Clausewitz (Carl von Clausewitz) have referred to this as an essential component of waging war.

Pakistan, info war, Article 370, Article 370 revocation, defence news, warfare, india, kashmirObjectives of this form of warfare are to selectively inform, misinform and deceive target audiences. Audiences could be public, opinion makers, leaders & decision-makers, or more directly, the soldiers of warring armies. (IE)

Post revocation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan waged information warfare against India. Information operations, unlike conventional wars have no definite start or finish points, they start well before operations and need to be continually pursued during and after operations, experts opine.

Following Balakot strikes by the Indian Air Force (IAF), Pakistan had started a major disinformation campaign against the Indian forces and to deal with this, Ministry of Defence (MoD) gave approval for setting up of a new Information Warfare branch in the army. Set up in March, the main task of this branch is to fight against misinformation and false propaganda which is being spread by the enemies using social media for adverse psychological impact.

What do experts say?

Maj Gen Ajay Das (Retd) says that there is nothing right or wrong about Information Warfare. Like any other form of warfare, this too is an accepted form of warfare. Ancient treatises by Sun Tzu or Clausewitz (Carl von Clausewitz) have referred to this as an essential component of waging war.

Objectives of this form of warfare are to selectively inform, misinform and deceive target audiences. Audiences could be public, opinion makers, leaders & decision-makers, or more directly, the soldiers of warring armies. It’s first recorded successful use, referred then as “whispering campaign”, was by Mao during the Long March. With the emergence of novel means of communications, it gained more legitimacy and effectiveness and has grown since in scope and practice, says Das.

Referred later as Propaganda Warfare till late 20th century, when the term Information Warfare was adopted by Western Armies. With dawn of the Information Age and explosion of Information technology-enabled services, the scope, complexity and it’s media domains has enormously expanded forcing most modern armed forces and governments to near continuously reviewing and refining Information Warfare doctrines.

On account of growing complexity, the US Armed Forces have done away with the term, “information warfare” from its formal military lexicon as early as 2006. Their new doctrine refers to it as “Information Operations” though many departments in the US government still continue to use the old term. It no longer remains exclusive to military domain nor is it practised only during military call conflicts.

In a competitive geopolitical world, it continues with different intensities during peacetime too and permeate all of the key national endeavors, the former Army general explains. It has become a complex and holistic discipline encompassing multiple initiatives to include ‘public relations (PR)’; ‘mass media engagement operations (MMEO)”; “public diplomacy (PD) including military support to public diplomacy (MSPD)”; “electronic warfare (EW); “psychological operations (Psyop)”; “operational security (Opsec)”; “cyber operations (Cyberop)”; and “computer network operations (CNO)”, he adds.

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Advanced countries and their armed forces are mostly unanimous of the concept & doctrine yet are finding it difficult to deal with its complexity and on how to synergize multiple initiatives in a dynamically evolving information and technology domains. Having become a key ingredient of the pursuit of national interests, there doesn’t exist an option of ridiculing it and abandoning it, especially in the existing and rapidly evolving information age. Even when one chooses not to pursue this form if warfare, its own populace and key government endeavours and entities surely would not be spared by its adversaries.

Sharing his view, Brig SK Chatterji (retd) says, “Without popular acceptance, winning a war with kinetic weapons mostly leads to bigger challenges taking shape. Over the years, if a single factor has attained immense importance, it’s the attitude of the populace of the targeted country or area. Should it be possible to germinate a streak of acceptance in the populace of the area where a State has launched its operations, it will pay tremendous dividends.”

“The terminologies Psychological Warfare, Information Warfare and Information Operations have been in circulation for some time. However, Psychological and Information Warfare are no longer used by a host of armed forces. Information Operations is mostly in currency, now. The objective is really to manage perceptions of the populace or its leadership, both military and civil, by customised information flow. The entire available media spectrum is used for propagation. Essentially, such operations are based on truth, since the credibility of the source remains a very sensitive issue,” he opines.

According to him, mass media provides a huge means of propagating the information that is planned to be disseminated. However, like most media means it’s available to all the players in the area. Denial of communication to the adversary also imposes similar constraints on the State authorities. Though of great value at crucial stages of operations, media wars need to be fought by using media, mostly. Long term denial of communications to a populace allows for scepticism creeping in the minds of the larger national and global audience and dilutes their faith in the State.

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