Over 750 Indian backed websites spread across 119 countries have been operating to undermine Pakistan since the last 15 years within the European Union and the United Nations, an investigative research by EU DisinfoLab showed on Wednesday.
EU DisinfoLab's investigation, called the Indian Chronicles, revealed that the Srivastava Group launched and backed the operation while Indian new agency ANI boosted it.
The campaign started in 2005 and continues to operate.
New Delhi wants to use this network to discredit countries in conflict with it with a specific focus on Pakistan and to an extent on neighbouring China.
The report highlighted that the operation's long-term objectives was to promote content against Pakistan and China, and consolidate India’s power at international forums such as the EU and UN.
According to EU DisinfoLab the project supports minorities, human rights NGOs, and think-tanks. It added that the project also gives the impression that the minority groups in Pakistan and China have institutional support from European institutions.
At the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, the operation was used to arranges side-events and demonstrations in support of minority rights, impersonate extinguished UN-accredited NGOs and use speaking slots reserved to various NGOs whose original missions seem unrelated.
The investigation showed that fake news was created in Brussels, Geneva and across the world , repackaged and disseminated via ANI and obscure local media networks to at least in 97 countries leading to a multiplication in the online negative content about countries in conflict with India.
Deceased person attends UN sessions
The EU DisinfoLab took a closer look at the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace (CSOP) and found that it had become inactive in the late 1970s before it was revived in 2005.
The investigation revealed that CSOP had been "hijacked" and its former chairman Louis B Sohn, who had died in 2006, interestingly attended a UN Human Rights Council meeting in 2007.
Sohn had also participated in an event organised by “Friends of Gilgit-Baltistan” in Washington DC in 2011.
An entire network of coordinated UN-accredited NGOs that serve Indian interests and defame Pakistan "repeatedly" was found. At least 10 of these fake NGOs were linked directly to the Srivastava family, with several other dubious NGOs pushing the same messages.
The research noted that these NGOs were functioning in coordination with non-UN-accredited think tanks and minority rights NGOs in Brussels and Geneva.
The think tanks and NGOs spearhead demonstrations, lobbying and address press conferences at UN side-events — and are allowed to speak on the UN's floor on behalf of the accredited organisations.
But what was common in all of these 10 organisations?
These organisations were resurrected from the ashes of real NGOs and served the one agenda: discrediting Pakistan and promoting Indian interests at UN conferences and hearings.
As the EU DisinfoLab started digging, it found that these NGOs did not seem to pay much attention to their core issues – defending peace, protecting the environment, or even… promoting canned food.
Before it became defunct in 2007, the Canners International Permanent Committee's (CIPC) only aim was one — the canning industry. However, post-resurrection, it did not seem concerned with its primary aims and goals anymore.
"It mostly dispatches Geneva-based students to the UN to talk about Pakistan and even organised side events on human rights at the UN," the research read.
Visits of MEPs to Kashmir
In Brussels, these Srivastava Group-backed organisations arranged visits for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to Kashmir, Bangladesh, and the Maldives.
Some of these visits had led to institutional controversy as the delegation of lawmakers were often portrayed as official EU delegations — when they were not travelling on behalf of the Parliament.
"The actors orchestrating Indian Chronicles are directly tied — and again not at all transparently — to the creation of three informal groups in the European Parliament, namely the 'South Asia Peace Forum', the 'Baloch Forum' and 'Friends of Gilgit-Baltistan'," the research said.
These groups have arranged press conferences and events within the European Parliament.
Organisations like Women Economic and Social Think-Tank have written articles for fake EU magazines such as EP Today and drafted parliamentary questions to the European Commission.
"These served as a honeypot to attract a growing number of MEPs into a pro-India and anti-Pakistan discourse, often using causes such as minorities rights and women's rights as an entry point," the EU DisinfoLab said.
This is how the EU DisinfoLab had discovered the EU Chronicles — the new “EP Today”.
The EP Today — a new fake media outlet with "fake journalists" apparently reporting on European affairs — provides a platform for MEPs to sign articles that are in India's support.
In just a few months after its revival, 11 MEPs have written or endorsed op-eds at a "remarkably high pace" for EU Chronicles.
ANI's role in the operation
Highlight the ANI's role in promoting pro-Indian content, the EU DisinfoLab said that the EU Chronicle op-eds receive "immediate repackaging" by the publication.
The ANI quotes these op-eds as genuine articles from “independent media EU Chronicle”.
"ANI — which is considered as one of the biggest news agencies in India and the largest television agency of India — remains the only press agency [that] extensively cover[s] the activities of dubious NGOs in Geneva," the research said.
After uncovering ANI's reporting on these developments, the EU DisInfoLab discovered the Big News Network and the World News Network.