Information operations

India: Army veteran Ata Hasnain’s remedy for Kashmir: Deploy 5,000 ‘information warriors’

Lt Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain says India has ‘poorest’ information outreach, but that’s what it needs to do in Kashmir, even in the part occupied by Pakistan.
Chandigarh: The need of the hour in Kashmir is an effective, long-term information outreach, Indian Army veteran Lt Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain (retd) said Sunday.

For this, there needs to be a young team of 5,000 “information warriors”, a research group well-versed in Kashmir affairs, a team of psychologists and Islamic scholars.

Hasnain was speaking to ThePrint on the sidelines of a session titled ‘Kashmir Quandary: Diagnosis and Remedy’ on the final day of the Military Literary Festival in Chandigarh, which he moderated. The three-day long festival comprised multiple sessions with expert panels on India’s military history and topics of strategic importance, and was organised by the Punjab government.

‘Poorest’ information outreach

Hasnain said India’s information outreach is the “poorest”, but that is what’s required in Kashmir, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, where the alienation against Pakistan is high.

“It’s not going to happen overnight. It may take two, three or five years,” he said.

“But we are not geared for it. In 2011, I tried it. We tried it on social media. On the third day, my people ran out of text, they didn’t know what to write. If you don’t have information in your head, if you don’t have knowledge in your head, how are you going to write?”

Hasnain said the United States has got ‘information warriors’, and these are not military men but civilians.

“These ‘warriors’ must be supervisory military staff who have the understanding of military aspects,” he said. “Under them, you need 22, 23, 24 of these nimble-fingered mobile operators.”

Hasnain said if he were to run the information campaign, he would deploy 5,000 people under the age of 25.

“Then, I will have a separate research group. I would need psychologists, Islamic scholars,” he said.

Hasnain’s comments come amid talk of a massive army restructuring plan that also involves upping its information warfare and social media propaganda.

Not a military problem

Hasnain said at present, India thinks the Kashmir issue can be solved militarily. Former R&AW chief A.S. Dulat agreed and said it wasn’t a military, law-and-order, or economic problem.

“It’s a political problem, an emotive problem and a psychological problem,” Dulat said, adding that the same mistakes are made again and again in Kashmir.

The panellists agreed that India at present lacks a national strategy and that adds to the problem.

Lt Gen. Satish Dua, former chief of Integrated Defence Staff, who has served in Kashmir, said Kashmir lacks young leaders, which is why the youth take to Zakir Musa and others as leaders. He said a good tourist season or a peaceful Amarnath yatra are mere “symptoms”, and are not indicative of peace in the region.

“We have to solve the problem. It has to be political. We have ceded space and it has to be filled up,” Dua said