Paul Joseph Goebbels, perhaps the most renowned propagandist in contemporary history said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Today in the era of narratives vs counter narratives, propaganda is the ultimate perception management tool used to blind fold and sway public opinion towards a desired direction. Fake news and information disorder is the primary offensive tool to wage fifth generation warfare used by both state as well as non-state actors. A most relatable example which fits in the propagandist shoes would be our next door neighbour, India.

Despite the vociferous celebrations of electoral victory a year earlier, 2020 did not start well for India and its fascist ruling party. Reverberations from the previous year’s embarrassment due to a failed military adventure against Pakistan, faltering economy, separatist movements all across the country and ravaging state sponsored communal divide continued to haunt BJP government. The icing on top of prevalent miseries is the clutch of Covid-19 over India that has led Indian GDP contracting by 23.9% in last fiscal quarter and worst economic recession amongst G8 countries. On the external front, Indian foreign policy failure owing to its illegal annexation of disputed Kashmir, isolation due to its anti-minority policies as well as belligerent attitudes against all of its neighbours has compounded BHARAT MATA’s nightmares. Within these is the self-inflicting challenge which BJP Government has carved out for itself over LAC in Ladakh which simply adds to its list of failures. 

Having lost territory to China without a single shot being fired, Modi and his cronies are desperate to divert public attention from their epitomic failures. Like a skilful Bollywood director, BJP has embarked on a make believe script with fictitious victories and fake bravado on its engagements with the Chinese military. A most recent scripted number, Post-Galwan clash is the Indian claims of quietly deploying Indian Navy warship in South China Sea. The sheer motive behind such propaganda of India audaciously challenging China in its own backyard i.e. South China Sea, is nothing but to divert the attention of Covid-19 struck Indian masses from the humiliation India continues to face in Ladakh.

Like most low budget Bollywood movies, here too the script remains marred with glaring fallacies. One of the concocted delusions is that Indian Navy quietly dispatched warship to South China Sea which is devoid of the basic facts of today’s digitally driven world and its application in military functions. China, an economic as well as a military power, has numerous military satellites well capable to monitor every movement within its area of interest. The claim that Chinese remained unaware of Indian warship deployment is inane. Just to compare and give a reality check to Indian claim, during the post-Balakot standoff in 2019, Pakistan Navy which has far fewer resources at its disposal, compared to its iron brother China, not only managed to track the entire Indian fleet, including its ridiculously vaunted aircraft carrier while one of its warship remained bottled up in Oman fearing  reprisals by Pakistan Navy, but also successfully detected and deterred an Indian submarine from infiltrating territorial waters on 4 March 2019.

Another flop scene in the story is that the ‘frontline’ warship remains unnamed. Furthermore, the objection by Chinese authorities seems to be overblown, even if indeed it did happen. The South China Sea is an area claimed by China which takes a dim view of the presence of any foreign military vessel in the area and has enormous military capability to assert its control in the area. The Indian implied propaganda information that presence of a single warship in SCS was a major irritant to the Chinese is nothing but a useless exercise in doctoring public sentiment.

Warships are actually instrument of coercion and power projection. They are overtly deployed in adversary areas in order to display the resolve by openly announcing one’s presence in hostile waters. This type of silent deployment as claimed by the Indians actually beats the entire purpose of sending the message of ‘defiance’ due to its secretive nature and point towards an Indian High Command that appears more fearful than being defiant.

India is well known for fabricating fake and symbolic victories in order to cover up its shortcomings. After Pulwama scenario, it has made up the stories of 350 to 400 dead militants in Balakot as well as the downing of a F16 at the hands of a MiG 21 in order to cover losses of two jet fighters shot down by Pakistan as well as the deaths of several Indian personnel due to fratricide, another exhibition of military incompetence. It boasted of attaining naval superiority in the Arabian Sea though failed to detect even one of the Pakistani submarines. Yet, the Indian government through the pliant media often quoted as ‘Godi Media,’ has been unable to sell this narrative to its own people let alone the world.

This tradition of fictitious victories trails from the creation of modern day India which has used its larger media industry to bolster claims like the fabled Battle of Longelwala in 1971 which has been denied by Indian veterans of ever having taken place. In 2004, the confession of Major Surinder Singh of the 5 Gurkha Rifles Regiment of making fake videos blew the lid on ‘tadka,’ an internal Indian military practice of falsifying enemy casualties for promotions and medals. The truth of the matter is that the recent claim is a mere addition in the history of Indian real politik that emphasises more on glorification rather than building capability. This tradition stems more from Indian social culture rather than domestic politics, which has made it a common feature of Indian diplomacy. 

– Jawad Falak is a student of MPhil at National Defence University, Islamabad and a resident research associate at Maritime Study Forum.