Uncovered: India's 15-year information warfare operation to internationally malign Pakistan

EU DisinfoLab, which campaigns against fake news, has busted a 15-year-long international operation to spread lies about Pakistan

Web Desk

  • EU DisinfoLab investigates the Indian Chronicles — a 15 year-long operation run by India starting in 2005 to spread lies about Pakistan
  • Primary objective of the operation was to undermine Pakistan internationally through more than 750 fake media outlets, reporting in 119 states
  • More than 550 domain names were registered under the operation to create a web of platforms that propagated fake news 
  • Indian news platform ANI played a key role in spreading the fake news created through this operation in India and around the world

More than 750 Indian backed websites covering over 119 countries have been operational for about 15 years with the sole purpose of undermining Pakistan within the European Union and United Nations, a report on investigative research conducted by the EU DisinfoLab revealed on Wednesday.

The operation has been given a name — the Indian Chronicles. 

EU DisinfoLab's investigation reveals that the Srivastava Group backed the operation, while a leading Indian news agency — Asian News International (commonly known as ANI) — was used to boost it.

This campaign started in 2005 and is still functional.

India's aim? To discredit countries in conflict with it, with a focus on Pakistan and to some extent, China.

The EU DisinfoLab highlighted the operation's long-term objectives, which included promoting content against Pakistan and China and to consolidate power for India at international forums such as the EU and UN.

To pursue their objective, the operation appeared to support minorities, human rights NGOs, and think-tanks. It also created an illusion of institutional support from European institutions to these minority groups against Pakistan and China.

At the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, the operation was used to arrange side-events and demonstrations in support of minority rights, impersonate extinguished UN-accredited NGOs and use speaking slots reserved to various NGOs whose original missions seem unrelated.

Fake media was created in Brussels, Geneva and across the world and  then repackaged and disseminated via ANI and obscure local media networks — at least in 97 countries — to multiply the repetition of online negative content about countries in conflict with India.

Dead person attends UN sessions

The EU DisinfoLab took a closer look at the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace (CSOP) and found that it had become inactive in the late 1970s before it was revived in 2005.

The NGO revealed that it had been "hijacked" and its former chairman Louis B Sohn, who had died in 2006, interestingly attended a UN Human Rights Council meeting in 2007.

The same person had participated in an event organised by “Friends of Gilgit-Baltistan” in Washington DC in 2011.

An entire network of coordinated UN-accredited NGOs that serve Indian interests and defame Pakistan "repeatedly" was found.

At least 10 of these fake NGOs were linked directly to the Srivastava family, with several other dubious NGOs pushing the same messages.

The research noted that these NGOs were functioning in coordination with non-UN-accredited think tanks and minority rights NGOs in Brussels and Geneva.

What's common in these organisations?

The think tanks and NGOs spearhead demonstrations, lobbying and address press conferences at UN side-events — and are allowed to speak on the UN's floor on behalf of the accredited organisations.

But what was common in all of these 10 organisations? 

All were resurrected from the ashes of real NGOs and served the same agenda: discrediting Pakistan and promoting Indian interests at UN conferences and hearings.

As the EU DisinfoLab started digging, it found that these NGOs did not seem to pay much attention to their core issues — defending peace, protecting the environment, or even, surprisingly, promoting canned food.

Before it became defunct in 2007, the Canners International Permanent Committee's (CIPC) only aim was one — the canning industry.

However, post-resurrection, it did not seem concerned with its primary aims and goals anymore.

"It mostly dispatches Geneva-based students to the UN to talk about Pakistan and has even organised side events on human rights at the UN," the research report read.

Visits of MEPs to Kashmir

In Brussels, these Srivastava Group-backed organisations arranged visits for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to Kashmir, Bangladesh, and the Maldives.

Some of these visits had led to institutional controversy as the delegation of lawmakers were often portrayed as official EU delegations — when they were not travelling on behalf of the Parliament.

"The actors orchestrating Indian Chronicles are directly tied — and again not at all transparently — to the creation of three informal groups in the European Parliament, namely the 'South Asia Peace Forum', the 'Baloch Forum' and 'Friends of Gilgit-Baltistan'," the research said.

These groups have arranged press conferences and events within the European Parliament.

Organisations like Women Economic and Social Think-Tank have written articles for fake EU magazines such as EP Today and drafted parliamentary questions to the European Commission.

"These served as a honeypot to attract a growing number of MEPs into a pro-India and anti-Pakistan discourse, often using causes such as minorities rights and women's rights as an entry point," the EU DisinfoLab said.

This is how the EU DisinfoLab had discovered the EU Chronicles — the new “EP Today”.

The EP Today — a new fake media outlet with "fake journalists" apparently reporting on European affairs — provides a platform for MEPs to sign articles that are in India's support.

In just a few months after its revival, 11 MEPs have written or endorsed op-eds at a "remarkably high pace" for EU Chronicles.

ANI's role in the operation

Highlight the ANI's role in promoting pro-Indian content, the EU DisinfoLab said that the EU Chronicle op-eds receive "immediate repackaging" by the publication.

The ANI quotes these op-eds as genuine articles from “independent media EU Chronicle”.

"ANI — which is considered as one of the biggest news agencies in India and the largest television agency of India — remains the only press agency [that] extensively cover[s] the activities of dubious NGOs in Geneva," the research said.

After uncovering ANI's reporting on these developments, the EU DisInfoLab discovered the Big News Network and the World News Network.