A quick take.
Cyber analysts like me have been this envisioning this scenario since a decade: how the South Asian flashpoint would manifest itself in the cyber-enabled information battlespace.
If there’s one inter-services directorate that is as lethal as the Inter-Services Intelligence, it’s the Inter-Services Public Relations. I know, I know — most of you would balk at my comparison. Hear me out:
People like me have been studying the pivotal role played by the ISPR in massive, counter-Cold Start mobilisations like Azm-e-Nau (and other Pakistani exercises unknown to the public).
The ISPR’s manoeuvring in the post-Pulwama escalation has been sharp and very efficient. While most of what it’s doing is textbook infowar (denial, deception, etc.) — benignly called perception management — what really unnerves me is the inherent asymmetric advantage which ISPR has. Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, its incumbent DG, is a big proponent of 5th-generation warfare (I am in the process of profiling this amusing character for an opinion piece).
Chat with the captured IAF pilot over a cup of tea. Thankful to Pak army for saving him from the mob and treating with respect pic.twitter.com/mUrLk4Q73j
— Azhar Abbas (@AzharAbbas3) February 27, 2019
Unfortunately, the political establishment in Pakistan is a dud: the escalatory and de-escalatory ladders oddly and scarily fall fully under the military. Pakistan’s geopolitical imperatives from an international security context get undermined by this fact. On the other hand, international relations have been the overarching backbone of India’s response to Pulwama. And rightfully so, it’s the Ministry of External Affairs that has been tasked with communications. That’s where the natural asymmetry arises from.
Thankfully, we have seen little or no action in the information battlespace. But due to the said advantage, the ISPR could easily weaponise its mandate to wage a full-frontal cyber-enabled information offensive. This is something the Indian national security principals may need to be wary of. Our domestic environment is ripe for exploitation.
1. I’m surprised by the little use of event-based cyber operations.
2. The ISPR Dte. is on a full-scale perception management battle. It has always been a strategic facet of Pak’s response. & its latent potential could easily be weaponised for disinformation
— Pukhraj Singh (@RungRage) February 27, 2019
Asif Ghafoor is emerging as the Valery Gerasimov of South Asia. Of all the agencies involved, it’s the ISPR which clearly bags the trophy. His speeches are amazing, too. If Azm-e-Nau produced Naseer Khan Janjua, then we’ve another Pakistani strategist in the making in Ghafoor. https://t.co/qpt22MGmwc
— Pukhraj Singh (@RungRage) March 5, 2019