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Friday Mar 29 2019

Pakistan's ISPR taught us how to play information operation: ex-Indian general

LONDON: Retired senior Indian military commander Lieutenant General (retired) Syed Ata Hasnain has praised Pakistani military's public relations wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), for doing a phenomenal job in disseminating information, connecting with the masses and setting the correct narrative beyond just Pakistani sphere.

The former General Officer Commanding of Indian Army's 15 Corps (HQs Srinagar) was speaking at a seminar organised by International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) on the subject of “Civil Society in Jammu & Kashmir: democracy vs terrorism”. Rahul Roy-Chaudhry, Senior Fellow for South Asia, IISS, chaired the seminar, which included speakers Dr Shabir Choudhry, President Foreign Affairs Committee of United Kashmir Peoples National Party (UKPNP) and Nitin A Gokhale, Chief Executive Officer and Editor-in-Chief, Bharat Shakti, India.

Lt Gen (retd) Ata, one of India’s most decorated military officers, spoke about the ISPR in his opening remarks and then returned to discuss it various times during the questions and answers session. He retired in June 2013 as the military secretary, after 40 years of service in the Indian armed forces. In occupied Jammu and Kashmir, he served as the GOC 15 Corps, headquartered in Srinagar, from 2010 to 2012.

“I give full marks to Pakistan for the manner in which it has played out the information strategy. The ISPR has done an outstanding work for Pakistan,” he said in his speech, claiming that India started losing narrative in occupied Kashmir in the 90s and has not been able to wrest control.

The former Indian general said that in India “everyone knows what the ISI is but nobody knows what the ISPR is” and only military professionals know about the ISPR.

Ata said the aspect of hybrid warfare has not been understood in India and authorities in India have failed to grasp that “the hybrid can only be countered by hybrid and not by conventional means”.

He gave examples of Iraq and Afghanistan where the Americans have spent billions of dollars but failed to achieve the desired results. “Hybrid in Iraq and Afghanistan should have been fought by hybrid, but hybrid was fought by going conventional.”

The ex-general advised New Delhi to take a leaf out of Pakistan’s strategy and use information strategy.

He said India has made many mistakes in its military approach but one of the biggest ones has been about the “the Military-Civic Action (MCA)”.

“The MCA is not soft power. It’s not psychological. In 30 years, Indian has made many mistakes as far as its strategy is concerned but one of the major mistakes is to think that the MCA is a psychological operation, it’s information operation. It’s not,” Ata said.

“If anyone has taught us how to play information operation it’s the ISPR of Pakistan who have done it marvellously, I would like to give it back to them, always. Credit to them.”

Speaking about occupied Kashmir, he said, “From 2012 onwards Pakistan got upper hand and the change of the generation and social media made all the difference. We didn’t know how to carry the information side of things but Pakistan has done it extremely well.”

The former Indian general said that India has been thwarted in IoK by the rise of social media from 2010 onwards, adding that the new generation of Kashmiris used social media to promote “Azaadi” narrative and that has gone against India.

He agreed that the use of hard power had not worked in occupied Kashmir, adding that India would eventually come to give up the muscular power there.

Rahul Roy-Chaudhry told this scribe: “In view of the Pulwama suicide bombing attack that led to India and Pakistan almost coming to the brink of war, this session focused on key issues of governance, calls for independence, and the media in Kashmir, amidst looming parliamentary elections. It provided an opportunity to look forward, not backwards, towards political and regional stability.”

Dr Shabbir Chaudhry condemned illegal detention of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik and other Kashmiris. He criticised the Indian government for imposing a ban on the JKLF last week.

Chaudhry said the use of hard power by India — such as pellet guns, torture and killings — had played a big part in the alienation of Kashmiris.