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Countering RAW’s hybrid warfare

SAM SPECIAL-ENG-15-02-2020
RAW headquarters in New Delhi

India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is supposedly dedicated to foreign intelligence gathering, but actually it carries out all covert and subversive activities on both foreign and domestic soil (where it is not supposed to do that).

Its “false flag” operations to blame others, mainly Pakistan, for nefarious activities, require domestic intervention causing deaths, injuries and other collateral damage to India’s own citizens. Muslims Kashmiris, being considered non-citizens, are fair game. 

Earlier, both domestic and foreign intelligence had been the purview of the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB), a colonial inheritance. Created by the British in 1885 with the prime task of monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and Russian activities, it was later tasked to monitor the activities of Indian revolutionaries and the anti-colonial movement. 

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Operating in close connection with MI5 and Scotland Yard, it was renamed IB after independence from Britain in 1947. It operated under the Ministry of Home Affairs. The intelligence failures of the Sino-Indian War of 1962 followed by the 1965 Indo-Pak War persuaded the Government of India to create in 1968 a specialised, independent agency for foreign intelligence. 

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The Indian Congress government never accepted the partition of the subcontinent. Their political aim was to undo the break-up and restore ‘Akhand Bharat’ (Undivided India). Ever since the low-key war between India and Pakistan started in 1947, IB had been primarily tasked with the project to the break-up Pakistan. The intelligence failure of 1962 was because of the Indian fixation with Pakistan to the detriment of other developments in the region. The Indian Intelligence missed out the expanse of “Operation Gibraltar” in 1965. It was expecting much smaller border incursions. 

However lack of training, logistics and preparation of the target areas badly scuttled what was essentially a brilliant plan, as Col SG Mehdi, the then SSG Commander, said, “A plan too early too soon!” Having missed the opportunity of overwhelming East Pakistan in 1965, India decided upon a “Final Solution” to the “Pakistan problem”. 

It was in such a circumstance that RAW was created in 1968. It was left to IB’s successor agency to carry out all subversive foreign activities after its creation.

From the very beginning, India has handled propaganda and self-projection much better than Pakistan, a new nation state that had not yet asserted itself ideologically, economically and politically. As part of their effort to (mis)inform the world that the partition in 1947 has created a rogue state in the shape of Pakistan, IB (and later RAW) have continued to play a substantial role aiding the efforts of the Indian diplomatic staff in the capitals of the world and in Pakistan. Spying on expat Indian communities, especially Sikhs and Kashmiris, became a RAW task. 

The successes of Indian intelligence operations as much as their failures are quite numerous. When RAW took over from IB in 1968, its main project was physically separating East from West Pakistan. This sustained effort took several years to see fruition.

The next, more successful operation was the Ganga high-jacking incident that took place on 30 January 1971 when an Indian passenger airliner named Ganga was hijacked by two RAW agents posing as Kashmiri separatists. The aircraft made a forced landing in Lahore. Blaming the high-jacking on Pakistan, India cancelled overflight rights of Pakistani aircraft over Indian territory. This severely disabled the Pakistani Army’s attempts to put down the East Pakistani autonomy movement led by the Awami League. This became a full-fledged revolt in March 1971. Thereafter, RAW has been active in Pakistan; the latest catch by Pakistani security forces was RAW agent Kulbhushan Jadav.

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However RAW has been active in many places around the world as well. That becomes visible only when some of their agents are caught and indicted. Two places where that has happened are Germany and Canada. In November 2019 an Indian couple went on trial in Frankfurt, Germany being charged with spying on the Sikh community in opposition to India and on the Kashmir diaspora and passing on the information to India's external intelligence agency RAW’s. Manmohan Singh and his wife were charged with intelligence gathering starting from 2015. In return for their services, the couple reportedly received a total of €7,200 ($7,974) from RAW. They were convicted a month later. During the trial, the two eventually confessed to regular meetings with a RAW handling officer. 

Also in December 2019, it emerged that a global network of pro-India fake websites and think-tanks were established by RAW across Europe aimed at influencing decision-making in Europe in favour of India and in opposition to Pakistan. The co-ordinated network of 265 sites operates across 65 countries, according to a report by EU Disinfo Lab, a Brussels-based NGO. The network was also found to involve groups responsible for anti-Pakistan lobbying events in Europe. 

“More than the fake media outlets, it is their combination with the fake NGOs that’s really worrying because it provides a mirage of online and grassroots support to a cause. That’s exactly where the disinformation lies,” Alexandre Alaphilippe, executive director of EU Disinfo Lab, said.

Another case came up in Ottawa, Canada. “Life Prediction Technologies Inc.” an aerospace company, owned by an Indian origin man Ashok Koul was barred from national security work after his contact with Indian intelligence came to be known. The government also revoked security clearances from the company’s president, Ashok Koul, and his wife. Details of the government action, and its link to Indian intelligence activities in Canada, were disclosed in documents filed in the Federal Court of Ottawa.

India also used money and disinformation to secretly influence Canadian politicians into supporting its interests overseas, according to a report published by the news arm of Canadian broadcaster Global Television Network. Federal court proceedings detailed how Canadian authorities discovered India's premier intelligence agencies – running an underground operation since 2009, allegedly to influence Canada's politicians. 

But the downside for RAW was that while doing this dirty job over the years, a good number of disgruntled RAW operatives disappeared without a trace to settle in countries like United States, United Kingdom, etc. 

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Bringing such information together is important for understanding that nowadays RAW is waging hybrid warfare in the world by spreading (dis)information and intelligence gathering, manipulating and disseminating falsehood through all media. Pakistan needs to arm its information and propaganda department seriously to be able to keep pace with RAW. The information quoted here has been published in trustworthy publications like Deutsche Welle and others and is accessible to everybody. 

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However if it had been widely publicised it would have exposed India as a net exporter of terror. Not everybody who needs to know about India’s calumny finds such information from among a massive amount of news we are bombarded with every day. It is in the best national interest of Pakistan if Pakistan’s Information Ministry would avail of the opportunity and disseminate such information that exposes Indian smear campaigns against Pakistan and Indian expats. They should publicize it in not only the countries where such matters have been exposed but elsewhere in other countries, particularly the US, UK and EU. 

Obviously, spying on people and intelligence gathering is unlawful given that operatives have been indicted and convicted in German and Canadian courts and may be in other countries as well. Spreading such information could undo some of the damage that RAW and Indian diplomats have been causing over the years to Pakistan and bring some hard facts into the rather idealistic picture about India that prevails in the minds of many Europeans and Americans. 

Pakistan not only lost the 1971 war militarily but also the propaganda war during and after 1971. But India has been caught red-handed in multiple cases. Pakistan should not let go such opportunities to expose their perfidy. It must effectively counter India’s hybrid war.


(The writer is a defence and security analyst).