Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 10
A European NGO claims to have uncovered a disinformation campaign that was allegedly being fronted by a Delhi-based think-tank.
This Indian think-tank was also involved in transporting mostly right-wing Members of European Parliament (MEPs) for a tour of Kashmir.
In an extensive report, the NGO “EU DisinfoLab” pointed fingers at a website “The EU Chronicle”, “the newest iteration of an influence campaign run by an Indian organisation called the Srivastava Group”.
The website mainly drives Indian security interests mainly against Pakistan and China by publishing content against their activities. This is then often reused by an Indian news agency and hundreds of domains, some of which were identified as Sierra Leone Times and TajikistanNews.net. One Indian business magazine had reportedly published at least eight clips from the Indian agency that were lifted from “EU Chronicle”.
The website’s main target audience is not Europe but is a feeder for mainstream Indian publications. Some of the MEPs also denied having written op-eds published in their name on the website. These were published by unwary Indian publications as feed from the Indian news agency. But some MEPs said they stood by their “op-eds” on the website. Three of them had travelled to Kashmir and appreciated the situation there.
The Srivastava Group had once played a similar role in highlighting India’s leadership of the non-aligned group in the 80s and the 90s. It still brings out an e-paper that highlights news from the developing world. Its founder Govind Narain Srivastava died young at 49.
“What we learned in this investigation is that it is possible to turn EU Institutions into unwitting actors of a 15-year influence operation. With lobbying and fake media,” said the EU NGO’s MD Gary Machado.
In addition, the Srivastava Group coordinates with groups such as Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT), the South Asia Democracy Forum and Friends of Gilgit-Baltistan, alleges the report.
Interestingly, WEST T is led by Madi Sharma who runs the outfit with two apparent full-timers with no specialists on South Asia. Her website sports a prominent “Om” at the top and she has been photographed with PM Modi and some EU Parliamentarians who made the Kashmir trip.
Machado explained how the website works to distort content. A pro-Indian comment spoken in a personal capacity by a single MEP is modified to sound like the official voice of the whole Parliament. As a result dozens of Indian media outlets wrote that “EU backs India’s surgical strikes” though this was the position of just one MP.