The EU DisinfoLab in its report, deep dive into a 15-year operation targeting the EU and United Nations to serve Indian interests, termed this as the “largest network” of disinformation they have exposed so far.
Investigation revealed a dead professor and numerous defunct organisations were resurrected and used alongside at least 750 fake media outlets in a vast 15-year global disinformation, lies, hate mongering, and chaos by Indian government to serve Indian interests in the region.
In a nutshell, reports exposed:
A 15 year-long operation by Indian officials running since 2005;
10+ UN Human Rights Council accredited NGOs, mostly resurrected;
The resurrection of Prof. Louis B. Sohn, a prominent figure in human rights, deceased in 2006;
Several identity thefts, including the name of Martin Schulz, former president of the European Parliament or James Purnell, a former UK Government minister;
750+ fake media outlets, covering 119 countries;
550+ domain names registered.
The man whose identity was stolen was regarded as one of the founding fathers of international human rights law, who died aged 92 in 2006. “It is the largest network we have exposed,” said Alexandre Alaphilippe, executive director of EU DisinfoLab, which undertook the investigation and published an extensive report. The network was designed primarily to “discredit Pakistan internationally” and influence decision-making at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and European Parliament, EU DisinfoLab said. DisinfoLab says EU official had partially exposed the network last year but now says the operation is much larger and more resilient than it first was suspected.
The propaganda network relies heavily on amplifying content produced on fake media outlets with the help of Asian News International (ANI). Asian News I India’s largest wire service and a key focus of the investigation.
The EU DisinfoLab researchers, who are based in Brussels, believe the network’s purpose is to disseminate propaganda against India’s neighbours and rival Pakistan. Both countries have long sought to control the narrative against the other but India went way to far in lies and deception.
One of the most important findings of the open-source investigation was establishing direct links between the Srivastava Group (SG) and at least 10 UN-accredited NGOs, along with several others, which were used to promote Indian interests and criticise Pakistan internationally.
“In Geneva, these think tanks and NGOs are in charge of lobbying, of organising demonstrations, speaking during press conferences and UN side-events, and they were often given the floor at the UN on behalf of the accredited organisations,” the report says.
The investigation shows there were several hundred pro-Indian interventions by the non-accredited NGOs, which were repeatedly given the floor at the UNHRC on behalf of the accredited organisations, pursuing the same agenda of maligning Pakistan. The operation’s mission is to discredit nations in conflict with India in Asia, in particular Pakistan but also China. Its long-term objective are:
In India, to reinforce pro-Indian, anti-Pakistan and anti-Chinese feelings.
Internationally, to consolidate the power and improve the perception of India, to damage the reputation of other countries and ultimately benefit from more support from international institutions such as the EU and the UN.
The support to minority and human rights NGOs and think-tanks to earn their support in return.
The use of Members of the European Parliament to create a mirage of institutional support from European institutions to these minority groups, in favour of Indian interests and against any nation that disapprove Indian policies.
An active presence in Geneva and the United Nations’ Human Rights Council through:
side-events and demonstrations in support of minority rights to earn their trust.
impersonation of extinguished UN-accredited NGOs or use speaking slots reserved to various NGOs whose original missions seem totally unrelated.
The creation of fake media in Brussels, Geneva and across the world and/or the repackaging and dissemination 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.
Lobbying in Brussels: Using Members of the European Parliament through an online EU affairs honeypot.
The organisations created by the Srivastava Group in Brussels organised trips for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to Kashmir, Bangladesh and the Maldives. Some of these trips led to much institutional controversy, as the delegations of MEPs were often presented as official EU delegations when they were in fact not travelling on behalf of the Parliament.
The authors of Indian Chronicles say their findings “should serve as a call to action for decision-makers to put in place a relevant framework to sanction actors abusing international institutions”.
Mr Alaphilippe said following the 2019 investigation there had been “no official communication, no sanction, nothing. This passivity gave a message to Indian Chronicles: you’ve been exposed, but no consequences”.
“We think there should be consequences to disinformation and we expect actions to be taken. The biggest failure from institutions would be if another report is released next year on the same actors with the same techniques,” he told the BBC.
“This would mean that EU institutions are ok with foreign interference.”