World, Asia - Pacific

Massive pro-India disinformation campaign busted

Disinformation campaign was targeting EU and UN with sham NGOs, fake media outlets, tell-all expose reveals

Riyaz Ul Khaliq   | 10.12.2020
Massive pro-India disinformation campaign busted

ANKARA

A 15-year-long campaign to “denigrate” Pakistan and Kashmir at international forums has been busted by a Europe-based disinformation watchdog.

The EU DisinfoLab exposed a disinformation campaign that targeted the European Union and UN with over 750 fake local media outlets and more than 10 sham non-governmental organizations.

“To do so, they resurrected dead NGOs at the UN. They impersonated the EU. They laundered content produced by fake media to real media -- and reached millions in South-Asia and across the world,” the watchdog said.

The fake NGOs were traced back to the New Delhi-based Srivastava Group.

Last December, the watchdog busted 265 pro-India websites operating across 65 countries. They were "found to be responsible for anti-Pakistan lobbying events in Europe."

The EU DisinfoLab’s investigative report, titled “Indian Chronicles,” narrated how the name of Martin Schulz, former president of the European Parliament, was misused.

"It seemed he was now heading Canners International, an NGO dedicated to the promotion of…food in cans.

“We soon found that the NGO he was supposedly leading officially ceased to exist in 2007 and was now regularly speaking at the UN Human Rights Council [UNHRC] to slam Pakistan,” the watchdog said.

The disinformation network worked on a two-pronged strategy.

In Geneva, it used think-tanks and NGOs for lobbying, protesting and taking the floor at the UNHRC on behalf of “accredited” organizations.

In Brussels, the focus was on Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who were taken on international trips and solicited to write op-eds for fake outlets like EU Chronicle.

The write-ups would then be amplified by Asian News International (ANI) -- India’s largest wire service and video news agency.

The disinformation network was spread across 116 countries with fake editors and journalists working with 10 UN-recognized NGOs.

The watchdog avoided naming any intelligence agency but vaguely referred to India.

"The obscure Srivastava-owned company Aglaya and its potential ties with Indian intelligence services; ANI’s ambiguous relationship with the Indian State; the threats against a speaker at the UN by a member of the Srivastava group and the alleged interrogation of the supposed victim by Indian security services," it said.

The report revealed how these fake NGOs organized trips for the MEPs to Indian-administered Kashmir, Bangladesh and the Maldives.

“Some of these trips led to much institutional controversy, as the delegations of the MEPs were often presented as official EU delegations when they were in fact not travelling on behalf of the Parliament,” it said.

Dead professor

A dead professor was at the heart of the investigation.

The network “resurrected” Louis Sohn, who is known as the “grandfather of international human rights law.”

Sohn died in 2006, but the Indian Chronicles listed him as a UNHRC participant in 2007 and as an attendee of an event in Washington, D.C. in 2011.

Pakistan jubilant

Jubilant over the massive expose, Pakistan is maximizing its efforts to win the confidence of the European community, which was affected due to the disinformation campaign.

Pakistan's President Arif Alvi tweeted: “Dead Professor & the vast pro-India, anti-Pakistan, fake news & disinformation set up. Exists since 2005. Despite exposure last year, it has grown vast with 750 fake media outlets. All done thru front companies. Real news is bad, so India banks on fake news.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan also strongly reacted to the massive expose on India’s global propaganda network, saying it has “vindicated Pakistan’s position.”

“Pakistan has consistently drawn attention of international community to India's subversive activities to undermine democracies in the region; and export/fund extremism through structures of fake news orgs and ‘think tanks’,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

“The revelations by @DisinfoEU on the widespread Indian network of subversive activities vindicates Pakistan's position and exposes its detractors. The international community needs to take notice of a rogue Indian regime that now threatens the stability of the global system.”

Khan said his government recently released a “dossier” on “India's state terrorism in Pakistan” and presented it to the UN 

The PTI-led federal government in Islamabad recently released pictorials and video material, calling it “irrefutable claims” and blaming India for “sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan.”

The country's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said there was “no surprise” in the expose as “India sits atop the world’s largest disinformation network.”

Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan’s national security adviser, linked India’s alleged disinformation network with “state-sponsored terrorism inside Pakistan.”

The “dossier” that Pakistan recently released and submitted to the UN and other multilateral bodies claims India was behind hundreds of terrorist incidents in the country.

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