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Tuesday November 29, 2022

Indian general credits ISPR on doing excellent work for Pakistan

He said that for the India-Pakistan relations Pervez Musharraf's period of 2004-2008 was the best as it looked like that borders will become irrelevant and the issues will be resolved but then it became apparent that Musharraf’s formula didn’t have acceptance within the Pakistan Army.

March 30, 2019

LONDON: Retired senior Indian military commander Lt General (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain has praised the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) for doing a phenomenal job in disseminating information, connecting with the masses and setting the correct narrative beyond just Pakistani sphere.

The former General Officer Commanding 15 Corps (HQs Srinagar), Indian Army, was speaking at a seminar organised by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) on the subject of “Civil Society in Jammu & Kashmir: democracy vs terrorism”.

Rahul Roy-Chaudhry, Senior Fellow for South Asia IISS chaired the seminar and other speakers included Dr Shabir Chaudhry, President Foreign Affairs Committee of United Kashmir People's National Party (UKPNP) and Nitin A. Gokhale, Chief Executive Officer and Editor-in-Chief, Bharat Shakti, India.

One of India’s most decorated military officers, General Ata spoke about the ISPR in his opening remarks and then returned to discuss it various times during the question and answer session. He retired in June 2013 as the Military Secretary, after 40 years of service in the Indian armed forces. In occupied Jammu and Kashmir, he served as the GOC 15 Corps, with headquarters in Srinagar, from 2010 to 2012.

“I give full marks to Pakistan for the manner in which it has played out the information strategy. The ISPR has done an outstanding work for Pakistan,” he said in his speech claiming that India started losing narrative in Held Kashmir in the 90s and has not been able to wrest control.

He said that in India “everyone knows what the ISI is but nobody what the ISPR is” and only military professionals know about the ISPR. General Ata Hasnain said that the aspect of hybrid warfare has not been understood in India and authorities in India have failed to grasp that “the hybrid can only be countered by hybrid and not by conventional means”. He gave the examples of Iraq and Afghanistan where the Americans have spent billions of dollars but failed to achieve the desired results. “Hybrid in Iraq and Afghanistan should have been fought by hybrid but hybrid was fought by going conventional.”

He advised India to take a leaf out of Pakistan’s strategy and use information strategy, counter radicalisation to connect with Kashmiris if it was serious to address the causes of alienation.

He said that for the India-Pakistan relations Pervez Musharraf's period of 2004-2008 was the best as it looked like that borders will become irrelevant and the issues will be resolved but then it became apparent that Musharraf’s formula didn’t have acceptance within the Pakistan Army.

General Ata said India has made many mistakes in its military approach but one of the biggest ones has been about “the Military-Civic Action (MCA)”. He added: “The MCA is not soft power. It’s not psychological. In 30 years, India has made many mistakes as far its strategy is concerned but one of the major mistakes is to think that the MCA is a psychological operation, it’s information operation. It’s not.

“If anyone has taught us how to play information operation, it’s the ISPR of Pakistan who have done it marvellously, I would like to give it back to them, always. Credit to them.”

He claimed that India and Pakistan have been engaged in hybrid war in Kashmir where sometime India had upper hand and sometime Pakistan but “from 2012 onwards Pakistan got upper hand and the change of the generation and social media made all the difference. We didn’t know how to carry the information side of things but Pakistan has done it extremely well”.

He said that India has been thwarted in Kashmir by the rise of social media from 2010 onwards. He said the new generation of Kashmir used social media to promote “Azaadi” narrative and that has gone against India. He said that the character of Kashmir has changed locally from once being home to Sufiism and shrines to the radicalisation of these mosques and tremendous amount of passion at funeral of Kashmiris killed by Indian forces and religious affiliation.

He defended the use of hard power in Kashmir but agreed that it has not worked but said that in the end India will come to give up the muscular power and come to the soft power.

Nitin Gokhale defended the use of power by India against Kashmiris. He said that India tried all other options but failed and then decided to use the harshest methods, including choking finances of the pro-independence leadership. He justified that India was right to use all kinds of methods.

Rahul Roy-Chaudhry told this scribe: “In view of the Pulwama suicide bombing attack that led to India and Pakistan almost coming to the brink of war, this session focused on key issues of governance, radicalisation, separatism, terrorism and the media in Kashmir, amidst looming parliamentary elections. It provided an opportunity to ‘look forward’, not ‘backwards’, towards political and regional stability.”

Dr Shabir Chaudhry condemned the illegal detention of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Yasin Malik and other Kashmiris. He criticised the Indian government for banning the JKLF last week. He said that use of hard power by India – such as pellet guns, torture and killings -- had played a big part in the alienation of Kashmiris.

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