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    Fake news, fictional spy and false propaganda


    Fake news, fictional spy and false propaganda

    Sushant Sareen

    Considering their close relationship with the Pakistanis for decades, it is a little surprising that the Americans have woken up to the phenomenon of fake news only in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential elections. The Pakistanis are past masters in generating fake news and have been doing it for decades. Even as their forces were getting all set to surrender in Dhaka, the Pakistani newspapers, guided by the skills of the ISPR, were declaring victory. In a country where the so-called ‘independent media' takes its cue from majors and colonels of the Pakistan army, news is what the army says it is. Once the army gives the background briefing or, as the case may be, editorial advice, the Pakistani media unquestioningly starts the drumbeating. The noise generated is taken for truth, internalised and then an entire narrative (which is based on fiction or at best, half-truths) is woven. Unfortunately, even though the Pakistani public laps up the nonsense dished out by the embedded journalists, the community treats much of this fake news as garbage. At that stage, the Pakistanis start breast-beating about how callous, unconcerned and uncaring the international community is because it is not buying the nonsense they are serving.

    This is precisely the sort of trajectory that has been followed by desperate and needless to say extremely clumsy, if not clownish, Pakistani attempts to portray as a nuclear proliferator. To this end, the Pakistani establishment flaunts ‘analysts' who conjure up bizarre stories of how India has sold nuclear to, among others, Iran, in the hope that someone will bite the bait, but to no avail. Something similar has happened on the issue of Pakistani allegations that India has been sponsoring terrorism – hold your breath – through the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Islamic State (if you believe the Pakistanis, the Indian NSA is in direct contact with even Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi a.k.a Caliph Ibrahim!), the Baloch freedom fighters and other sundry terror groups. Initially, the Pakistani propaganda was that India was running some 18 ‘consulates' in Afghanistan. The number then kept rising until it reached close to 40. When the ridiculousness of the Pakistani military establishment and their media underlings became unbearably stupid, some saner elements in Pakistan were forced to point out that India had only four consulates and one embassy in Afghanistan. But even now, once in a while, someone will come on Pakistani TV and blame the dozens of Indian consulates for terrorism in Pakistan. Sometimes by way of evidence, the Pakistanis keep parroting a twisted version of some obscure remark by an American general or politician as evidence of Indian involvement. As for hard evidence, there's been nothing, that is until they caught hold of a former naval officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav.

    For nine months since his ‘arrest' – it is still not clear if he was kidnapped, or lured or entrapped because the circumstances in which he was caught remain shrouded in mystery, not just because the story which the Pakistanis have peddled has kept changing but also because a former German ambassador revealed that Jadhav was kidnapped by the Taliban and sold to the ISI – the Pakistanis have been going ballistic in virtually every forum of the world, every international conference, every press conference or press release, every TV show related to India or terrorism and what have you to present him as evidence of India's involvement in terrorism and separatism inside Pakistan. But lies have a shelf life and cannot be sustained forever. They also have a nasty habit of biting back. So it has been in the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif quite wisely refrained from ever publicly mentioning Jadhav in his meetings with his international interlocutors. This was however held against him by his detractors who used his reticence against him and cast aspersions that it was because of his desire to befriend Modi and India that he never mentioned Jadhav. The possibility that Nawaz Sharif kept quiet because the Pakistanis had no solid evidence linking Jadhav with all that he was being accused of was never even considered.

    Perhaps if all the Pakistani journalists, TV anchors and commentators (most of them vetted and cleared by the military), politicians who have waxed eloquent on Jadhav ever bothered about the reality of much-vaunted ‘dossier' containing details of India's ‘nefarious activities' in Pakistan, they would have been more circumspect about the tall claims being made about Jadhav being the ‘mastermind' and the lynchpin of India's ‘covert war' against Pakistan. Since mid-2015, the Pakistanis used to wave these ‘dossiers' with so much glee and confidence that it appeared they had managed to build a cast iron case against India. This feeling got further strengthened when with much fan-fare, the Pakistan PM and NSA handed these ‘dossiers' to the UN Secretary General and top US officials. And then, silence. There was virtually no cognisance taken of these ‘dossiers' by anyone in the international community.

    In November 2015, the Advisor on Foreign Affairs to Pakistan's PM, Sartaj Aziz, admitted before a Senate Committee that the ‘dossiers' “contained no material evidence” and only had “pattern and narrative” of Indian involvement. In other words, the ‘dossier' was a work of fiction and contained the lies that were conjured up by one of the ace conspiracy theorists in the ISI or ISPR. That was last year. This year again the same Sartaj Aziz had to eat crow and tell the Senate Committee that they haven't managed to finalise a ‘dossier' on Jadhav because of “insufficient evidence”. He also said that the Pakistan foreign office had only received “mere statements” which clearly make Pakistanis a laughing stock if ever presented to the international community as ‘evidence of Indian involvement'.

    That the entire Jadhav episode is a fake story is quite clear. If indeed he was a spy, or worse a saboteur, the first thing any government would have done is disavow him. The fact that India has been issuing one note verbale after another seeking consular access to Jadhav put a lie to the Pakistani claims about the man. And the admittance by Sartaj Aziz that they have ‘insufficient evidence' only buttresses the Indian position that Jadhav has been wrongly accused and is being used as a pawn in Pakistan's dirty game to somehow or the other project India as trouble-maker in Pakistan, and in the process draw some sort of moral equivalence with India which accuses Pakistan of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy against it.

    In this entire sordid game, the important point is that an Indian citizen is under illegal and unjustified captivity of Pakistan. And it is this point that must be agitated by India at all levels, bilateral as well as multilateral. If anything, his release should be made one of the pre-conditions for any possible engagement with Pakistan. Meanwhile, it is imperative that India go on the offensive to expose the fake news and false propaganda that Pakistan is engaging in against India.

    The author is Senior Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation. Views expressed are personal.

    The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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