Nobody should have been surprised when Russian Ambassador to India Nikolai Kudashev declared in late August that his country’s views are “exactly the same” as India’s when it came to the latter’s de-facto annexation of Kashmir earlier that month, nor was it unexpected that Russia’s publicly financed international media would toe a pro-Indian editorial line on this topic afterwards, but it’s the height of hypocrisy that its new op-ed contributor Ashish Shukla claimed that the critics of his country’s policy are “liberals” who are waging a “perception war” against it when it’s he who’s applying the liberal tactic of weaponizing labels in order to discredit others as part of that very same “perception war” that he’s supposedly against.
A search for Shukla’s name on the RT website indicates that he’s been contributing to the platform since the beginning of October, thus far only writing about issues of relevance to India and from a pro-government standpoint. His latest piece, “Perception war has begun: EU observers in Kashmir, Indian liberals cry foul”, is no different, except this time he goes on the offensive in an attempt to tar and feather his opponents as “liberals” because he believes that doing so will discredit their criticisms.
Indian contributor to manipulate the perceptions of its audience by misleading them into thinking that criticizing India’s occupation of Kashmir is akin to criticizing Presidents Putin and Xi themselves by indirectly supporting their “liberal” opponents.
Before exposing his modus operandi, it’s important to talk a little bit about the topic that he chose to write about. A little less than two dozen mostly right-wing EU parliamentarians visited Indian-Occupied Jammu & Kashmir in a personal capacity for a tour of the UNSC-recognized disputed region as part of the Modi government’s attempt to defend itself from Pakistani Prime Minister Khan’s claims at the UN General Assembly in September that a massive humanitarian crisis is unfolding there in the aftermath of its de-facto annexation and subsequent lockdown, one which could dangerously reach ethnic cleansing and even genocidal proportions if it’s not promptly addressed by the international community.
Many of the parliamentarians that were picked to go on the government-guided tour are known for their outspoken criticism of those Muslim immigrants to the EU who refuse to assimilate and integrate into society, so the state clearly believed that they were “fellow travelers” who would be sympathetic to its policy of unprecedented crackdown on the Muslim-majority disputed region in order to supposedly reduce “terrorism”.
The unspoken quid pro quo is that these “like-minded” individuals would return to the EU and then disseminate their one-sided “findings” within its parliamentary body in order to counteract rising criticism from within it against India’s de-facto annexation of Kashmir. In other words, it was a perception management operation through and through, one that was likely approved by India’s intelligence agencies as a desperate attempt to decelerate their country’s soft power demise in the West over the past three months.
Coming back to the article, Shukla cherry-picked criticisms from his countrymen that he then deliberately misportrayed as representative of the critics of India’s Kashmir policy more broadly, specifically pointing out how one domestic outlet reminded its readers that a member of that delegation had also supported Crimea’s reunification with Russia in 2014 as if there’s somehow a parallel between that unique event that India’s de-facto annexation of a UNSC-recognized disputed territory.
The purpose in doing so was to craftily connect the critics of India’s policy towards Kashmir with those who also criticize Russia’s towards Crimea, drawing a false equivalence that he and RT’s editors who approved the publication of his article expect to resonate with their target audience. About that same audience, they’ve been exposed to RT’s editorial line of the past few years highlighting the excesses of liberalism, so they’re already preconditioned to dislike anything with that label.
Before exposing his modus operandi, it’s important to talk a little bit about the topic that he chose to write about.
Shukla, despite railing against “liberals”, ironically applies the tactic of one of the most notorious ones in recent memory, Saul Alinsky, by following one of the guidelines in his infamous “Rules for Radicals” to “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it”, which is exactly what he’s doing by framing those who criticize India’s de-facto annexation of Kashmir as “liberals”.
On the other hand and to emphasize the black-and-white dichotomy that he’s falsely manufacturing, he lumped the mostly right-wing EU parliamentarians who partook in this perception management mission with “Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi and even Donald Trump”, all of whose rises he claims were “brought…on to the center-stage” by “nationalist and populist forces” like those less than two dozen dignitaries.
His intent in drawing yet another false comparison is meant to deflect any criticism of those EU parliamentarians as being against those four-mentioned world leaders too. In one broad brushstroke, Shukla attempted to delegitimize criticism of this perception management mission from those in RT”s audience who support any of those political figures, which is wide enough to encompass its entire base.
The innuendo is that it’s only “liberals” who support the EU’s “Liberal Order” — which he describes as “a narrative of the ‘elites’ which waged wars, created corporate empires, and sucked the developing world dry of its land, labor and resources” and for whom “profit over people became the maxim” — that criticize either of those world leaders and/or India’s de-facto annexation of Kashmir.
Not only does the weaponized “liberal” label at the core of his narrative perfectly apply one of Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”, but it’s also extremely disingenuous because it conveniently ignores that unquestionably anti-liberal Turkish President Erdogan has been so outspoken against this move that India cut off its defense exports to his country in protest.
Kashmir with those who also criticize Russia’s towards Crimea, drawing a false equivalence that he and RT’s editors who approved the publication of his article expect to resonate with their target audience.
There’s no doubt that there’s a “perception war” raging over Kashmir, but it’s always been one of the Kashmiris and their supporters abroad being on the defensive for decades against the incessant barrage of weaponized narratives being employed by India to justify its illegal occupation of a UNSC-recognized disputed territory, with the latest development in this information warfare offensive being RT’s passive facilitation of India’s new tactic to smear anyone who criticizes the recent de-facto annexation of Kashmir as a “liberal” that’s also grouped by heavy innuendo into the category of those who made unsubstantiated criticisms against the Russian and Chinese leaders in the past.
This is nothing more than a devious effort to silence criticism of India’s blatant violation of international law and pressure those who raise legitimate concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Kashmir into curtailing their activist campaigns less they be seen as “anti-Russian”.
Russia has self-interested geostrategic reasons (mostly having to do with the billions of dollars of military-technical trade that it conducts with India each year) for supporting the de-facto annexation of Kashmir, which is the sovereign choice that its government made, so it’s natural that its publicly financed international media flagship would follow suit in its own way as well.
That said, there are more “tactful” ways to go about doing so than allowing an Indian contributor to manipulate the perceptions of its audience by misleading them into thinking that criticizing India’s occupation of Kashmir is akin to criticizing Presidents Putin and Xi themselves by indirectly supporting their “liberal” opponents. That said, if there’s any “silver lining” to this scandal, it’s that Shukla and those he represents have discredited themselves and proven just how desperate they are to deflect any criticism, which confirms that they’re losing the “perception war” on all fronts, especially in Alt-Media.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.
Andrew Korybko is a political analyst, radio host, and regular contributor to several online outlets. He specializes in Russian affairs and geopolitics, specifically the US strategy in Eurasia. His other areas of focus include tactics of regime change, color revolutions and unconventional warfare used across the world. His book, “Hybrid Wars: The Indirect Adaptive Approach To Regime Change”, extensively analyzes the situations in Syria and Ukraine and claims to prove that they represent a new model of strategic warfare being waged by the US.