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In Kashmir, veracity takes a back seat to virality. Army must lead the information war

By The Print

The latest Israel-Palestine conflict ended in a ceasefire last month after 11 days of fighting, but not before 255 people had died. Back home in India, it provided another opportunity for terrorists and separatists to link Palestine and Kashmir on social media, in an attempt to internationalise the Kashmir issue.

This weaponisation of social media in the Valley calls for a strategy that responds by understanding the tact applied by terrorist organisations and separatist sympathisers to mobilise public opinion.

It would be prudent to harmonise the efforts being made by all stakeholders. The Army can be nominated as the lead agency to coordinate the strengths of all organs of the government. This is information warfare, and the Army is the only organisation that has a warfare mentality and an operational mindset. That is perhaps why most big powers have cyber warfare as a military function. Coordination of the whole information campaign should be done with professional advice and the strategic communication be created in conjunction with actions on ground.

We need to learn from what others are doing — even from those the Indian State has to deal with — using social media and media far more skillfully than we are currently. Separatist sympathisers have an advantage of not having to go through the friction of bureaucracy. There is an urgent need to fill the online spaces with a national narrative. It has to be done proactively, not reactively. And the narrative has to be credible, based on truth, for which genuine efforts are needed.

It is not that nothing is being done. Different organs of the government are working, but in silos. Most of it is reactive and involves monitoring objectionable content and reporting it to the tech platforms, who may take it down after their internal processing. By then, the damage is done.

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