In all probability Bangladesh war 1971 is the last regional war having clear cut winners and losers. Pakistan firmly believes that direct engagement with India always leads to its shameful defeat having tasted in last three direct engagements specially 1971 war in which it last about half land mass and unconditionally surrendered with 94000 POWs. Pakistans’ strategy since then is to have sporadic engagements skirmishes or limited short time conflicts mostly employing non state actors like organized terrorists and purchased local support. Re -enforcing and expanding the local support base is the main objective of adversaries and enemies. Countering and defeating adversaries’ objectives is the main plank for battles. It is best achieved initially by winning battle of perception and the most effective tool is social media. More the proxy wars, and skirmishes, more the dependence on war of perception and its main tool social media. Smart phone and internet are the best weapon in the hands of social media. Victor is the one who wins the war of perception.
India is endowed abundantly the best weapons for war of perception:
About 2.25 billion internet users. World population is about 8.55 billion. That is more than quarter of world population.
About 10 or more types of active social medias. Face book, many e mails, Twitter, WhatsApp, Kindle, Pocket, Linked, Reddit, digg, Pinterest, tumblr and more.
Facebook users are about 1500 million elevating FB to proud position of top most media in the world.
Smart phone, the common mode of communication provides communication, information, internet facility, data storage, micro phone for voice recording, video, photography. Summing up it is mini world in ones’ hand. About 567 million smart phone owners in India account for second largest smart phone community of the world at 32. 4%.
Like all technologies right from invention of fire and sharp tool have their origin in noble and humble intentions of social welfare and comfort. With passage of time negative elements misuse and abuse new invention since times immemorial against the very society that gave birth and nurtured them. It is no different in present times in case of explosive inventions in cyber, space and biological spheres. Misuse and abuse of cyber technology by general public is mostly published and known. Hacking of data, heinous fraudulent withdrawal of heavy cash from ATMs and directly from bank accounts are rapidly increasing common events. Hacking of vital data of governments and corporate bodies, introducing malware by China and Pakistan is frequently reported. More misuse and abuse is in store and yet to reveal. Recent going on explosion of Carona virus and Covid 19 are severely affecting globally in social and economic ways needs no proof or explanation. Research of Carona virus and Covid 19 and its testing purported samples is suspect of misuse in biological sphere.
Internet and Smart phone emerged as the main tools for social media and mass communication. Abuse and misuse of smart phone came to public knowledge with stealth and clandestine photo shootings of private life of public in general and public figures in particular. It led to further deterioration of decency, degradation of values like blackmailing, honey combing to detriment of national security and honor and many social evils. Other abuses are instantaneous grouping for vandalism, protests, agitations, mass disobedience and the likes. Eliminating misuse by adversary is a major challenge for india.
Critical nature of engineering perception was realized in Arab spring. Suicide of a common man was the stimulus. Anti-incumbency lead to violent spread widely like forest fire to many mid-east and Arab countries and coerced to change governments. The first Revolt gathering of about 70000 protesters at Taheer square in Cairo was engineered only by Maktoot and Mazzika which are Egyptian version of Face book. The revolt was often referred as ‘Facebook revolution’
War of perception was visible in year 2006 for the first-time during Israel – Lebanon war. Israel could not impact right perception. Correcting the errors and amending structural changes in 2012 conflict with Hamas, right global perception could be impacted by Israel. 2008 Russia- Georgia War and 2012 Russia- Ukraine war massive use of smart phones took place. Photos mailed by of Russian soldiers at disputed areas conveyed wrong perception. It is classic example of self-goal by misuse. At the same time powerfully, engineered media creates effective public perception. Pakistan s’ ISPR the central cell for ISI public medias’ good presentation along with video of air duel after successful Indiias’ Balakot operations was received well by Pakistan and international community.
Imbroglio in Kashmir
Recent events in the wake of NPR, CAA, NRC are evidence of extensive use of social media tools. Participants are mostly young, grew in the midst of media tools and adept to use them effectively. Powerful media presentations about developments in Kashmir is sure to win war of perception More recent events at Shanbagh is clear proof as to how handful of instigators can mobilize lakhs of people at flick of the finger and disrupt public life, deny access to public utilities, for that matter mater bring public life to stand still. The Misguided Fanatic Miscreants (MFMs) are increasing rapidly supported and supplemented by finances by enemies and adversaries. Government agencies have their own social media cells ably guided and supported by central agency. They need to be reinforced to counter the menace at the earliest.
Armed forces world over realized the importance and vital nature of social media. Indian army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force have their own social media cells. Monitoring and totally neutralizing undesired, anti-national media projections is inevitable requirement for security of the Nation. The requirement can be best addressed by centralized cell, to ensure elimination of slip ups in communications coordination between all agencies in the long run. Centralized cell is better placed to develop common standards, and effectively integrating specific standards to each cell where required.
Social media is no longer source only for decimating information. It is most powerful tool in war of perception, which is now prerequisite in global context. Denying media tools to enemy and adversaries is certainly defensive way but counterproductive in the long run. Defensive measures provide protection, only offensive measures wins. Winning war of perception is vital element in winning wars.