Weaponized Narratives: A Threat to National Security

But unfortunately, Pakistan has turned the cricket ground into an invisible battleground with the intent to play a much more sinister game.

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By: Raja Muneeb
Updated: September 8, 2022 16:06
Cricketer Arshdeep Singh was targetted by Pakistan's hatemongers trying to foment a religious divide in India

When it comes to riling the collective emotions of the nation, the game of cricket provides the perfect adrenaline that triggers an emotional rush among the masses. More so, if India loses the game against its arch-rival Pakistan. Ideally, a game should be taken in its spirit and the debate around it should end thereafter. But unfortunately, Pakistan has turned the cricket ground into an invisible battleground with the intent to play a much more sinister game. And that is of exploiting and weaponizing the narrative it builds around the Indian players’ performances, especially if they belong to the minority community, by labelling them as anti-Indian in one way or another.

That’s exactly what happened when last Sunday India lost the match to Pakistan in the ongoing Asia Cup. Almost instantly, there were a series of tweets blaming Arshdeep Singh for dropping the catch at a crucial moment, which led to the loss. Seizing the opportunity, a flurry of tweets were unleashed in real time by many anonymous and pseudo-Twitter accounts from Pakistan wherein Arshdeep Singh was labelled as a Khalistani. That triggered an intense Twitter debate, with many associating it with the growing intolerance in the country and blaming it on majoritarian politics prevailing in the country.

Last year, in a similar fashion, Mohammad Shami was targeted and labelled as an anti-Indian on social media platforms for performing poorly during a previous India-Pakistan game. In both instances, the players’ religious identity became the target of hate. The intent behind such tweets was to ferment a division between the Indian minorities and its majority population, with the objective of creating an open conflict between the communities.


For the past four decades, Pakistan has unleashed a covert war on India through its proxies, first in Punjab and then in Kashmir, as it looks to spread its battlefield to the rest of India as well. Besides terrorist actions and sabotage operations, Pakistan has remained focused on the socio-cognitive domain to influence cultural, political, social and historical features as well as individual interpretations and understanding.

The strategy of making India bleed through a thousand cuts is a part of its intrinsic policy, and to achieve that it uses weaponized narrative (a component of information warfare) as a lethal weapon to further its cause of exploiting the fault lines within the country. As India being a diverse nation and a thousand-year-old civilization, it is bound to endure several fault lines throughout its history.

The modus operandi of carrying out narrative warfare against India is being carried out as a multipronged approach known as the BDS approach (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions approach). Pakistan, through its proxies, has set up fake NGOs and other so-called rights organisations in India and abroad which are primarily tasked to carry out anti-India activities through a variety of means. Chief among them is to globally portray human right abuse of the minorities within India thus calling out to boycott Indian goods in international markets thereby targeting the Indian economy.


Apart from that, Pakistan has extensively hired and funded firms and individuals for lobbying with politicians in the US, UK and other European and Arab countries to create anti-India smear campaigns with an attempt to divest India of strong diplomatic relations abroad. Pakistan has also employed narrative peddlers globally who customise the propaganda in the modern lexicon to make it palatable for larger audiences globally who are unaware of these canny mechanizations through a number of media outlets, publications and social media. The aim is to get India sanctioned for its poor human rights record.

It’s a classic textbook strategy used in unleashing information warfare overall. The objective is to create a socio-religious divide within and further exploit the widening of the fault lines by covertly fanning an internal conflict, thus weakening the overall image of India as a democracy globally. This narrative-building exercise against India has been in the works for the last five decades. It has adapted itself through many changes ranging from technological advances to aligning itself to geo-political changes throughout the world.

The social media explosion around the world rejuvenated information warfare as it provided the reach and networking that was impossible to envisage before. In today’s technological age, social media platforms are the best carriers of spreading the narrative in real-time and trigger an instant response thereof.

The most glaring example of this narrative warfare is of Indians being increasingly blamed globally for being Islamophobic when in reality it’s home to one of the largest numbers of Muslims in Asia.

Weaponized narratives can leverage partisanship and perceived miscarriages of justice to create divisions. Underlining the point, as Sun Tzu enjoins, “If his forces are united, separate them,” which is also interpreted by some as: “If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them.” If a weaponized narrative widens divisions, those divisions could both create and shape open conflict.

This entails the fact that Pakistan’s covert war on India is far from over as it dangerously proceeds ahead to weaken India from within by making an Indian stand up against an Indian. As Pakistan threatens the national security of India with its sinister plan, India needs to set up a slew of majors to fight this narrative warfare. It needs to set up a robust counter-narrative centre mechanism to debunk such weaponized narratives and engage its citizens effectively in bridging the fault lines on a large scale to effectively counter the narrative and ultimately turn the narrative on its head.

Raja Muneeb is a freelance columnist
Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author’s own


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