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The War of Narratives in South Asia: How should Pakistan fight it?

Pakistan doesn’t need to resort to counterfeit when it has so much genuine material to target its enemies.

South Asia has been marred by wars, conflicts, and rivalries. The theater has remained hostile due to the bitter acrimony between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, India and Pakistan.46 years to this date, the Indian Army ingressed into East Pakistan and after 25 days, Pakistan had split asunder when Bangladesh was created. India’s role in the dismemberment of Pakistan was not only confined to the actual combat in East and West Pakistan, but it dates back to the early 1950’s. However, despite evidence galore, Pakistan’s narrative regarding India’s nefarious intervention in the debacle has been brushed aside, much of that is owed to the country’s inept media management.

Regardless, the country’s narrative abroad and its security orientation changed after the ill-fated event of 1971. After almost five decades, both countries are still bitter rivals. However, the dynamics have changed but South Asia remains hostage to the ever-present danger of war that is likely to put exceeding pressures on the escalation ladder and conflict spectrum.

Despite having not fought for almost two decades, both countries are embroiled in conflict at the sub-conventional level. More importantly, Delhi and Islamabad are trying to edge out each in projecting their respective narratives.

Pakistan asserts that subversive forces are chiefly responsible for the spread of terrorism in the country. It also enunciates in no uncertain terms that India and Afghanistan are fomenting trouble. The nexus of Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and National Directorate of Security (NDS) are not only providing finance to terrorist outfits but are also providing support at the operational and tactical levels. The Pakistani narrative was corroborated by the confessions of an Indian spy, Kulbushan Jadhav. His confessions led to his trial and death sentence under the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952. Though the case has further strained ties between the two countries, it is an exoneration of Pakistan’s long-held views regarding India. Operationally, the revelations of Jadhav have helped the state agencies in directing their efforts to disrupt and destroy the nefarious web, especially in Balochistan.

The state narrative was further endorsed by a videotape of Ehsanullah Ehsan, the former spokesman of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The ex-head of the Taliban’s media wing surrendered to state forces and openly threw light on the fact that the R&AW/NDS alliance was the force behind the scourge of terrorism in Pakistan. Apart from lending credence to Pakistani claims, the acknowledgment by Ehsanullah is a huge setback for India’s credentials as a benign state in the comity of nations.

Pakistan is berated, blamed and questioned for being obsessed with India. These evidence from the men that were in the thick of things will give Pakistan adequate material to answer the oft-repeated question. Pakistani claims were often brushed aside and termed as mere concoctions and made out of sheer paranoia. By bringing such proofs to the fore, Pakistan will be able to forcefully rest home its point.

Moreover, internationally, Pakistan’s position on Kashmir has not been embraced or in other words, India’s viewpoint on the valley has been ratified by the US, who has designated Kashmiri leaders and organizations as terrorists and terrorist organizations, respectively.

How can Pakistan redress the balance in its favor? Certainly, robust diplomacy is one way to do it. Pakistan, by projecting its counterterrorism efforts. Much to its delight, many regional actors including China, Russia, and Iran have bought its viewpoint on regional issues.

Why has Pakistan been able to draw many towards its stance? Primarily, it is due to how those countries have seen all for themselves. Pakistan didn’t need to concoct hyperboles about its successes, for its campaign against terrorism has been unprecedented and highly successful.

In a bid to spread the country’s narrative, many use the power of social media as a veritable weapon in the new kind of war in the region.

However, the revelation that a premier Pakistani defense portal, defencepk circulated a fake picture led to a strong reaction, not only in India but also Pakistan. En-masse reporting led to the suspension of the account. Prior to the suspension, defencepk defended the use of the fake picture. They said that this was the only way India would have talked about Kashmir.

Regardless of dualism perpetrated by Twitter and the fact that India thrives on spreading fake news, many felt that when so much genuine material is available to counter nefarious propaganda, forging image damaged the country’s narrative and credibility as in the future, the credibility of the organization will be doubted. By extension, since it is widely believed that the account has something to do with the military, counterfeit can also negatively affect the image of the country.

The use of morphed images despite so much at the disposal to target the enemy is something inimical to the smart use of social media. Writing on the issue, independent media analyst, Aisha Saeed contended:”With a huge following comes the question of credibility. The more reliable the content, the more power it holds against the opposite narrative.In such a situation the best bet by the opposition is to spread the false narrative to such an extent that it replaces the truth. The smart use of social media is the ability to cross verify information in any form; importantly when it is being used to counter the enemy’s narrative.

It must be stressed that Pakistan has a plethora of evidence to flay India, provided it knows how to project it. Resorting to gimmickries and forgery will hurt the very narrative that the state is trying to spread. If anything, never give your enemy a sniff of your weakness.

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