Indian media outlet Republic TV wrongly reported that Russia will back New Delhi’s effort to have Masood Azhar declared a “global terrorist” by the UNSC because Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov who was quoted never actually said such a thing and instead only repeated predictable platitudes about his country’s willingness to support its partner’s efforts against terrorism, though the company’s amplification of this misattributed statement might play into the hands of India’s second infowar against Russia ahead of the upcoming Wuzhen meeting.
India’s First Infowar Against Russia
Indian media appears to be back at it again spreading “wishful thinking” falsehoods about Russia, which the country officially regards as a “brother” per the still-popular Old Cold War-era declaration of “Rusi-Hindu Bhai Bhai” (“Russians and Indians are brothers”). Two and a half years ago the author wrote about how “India’s First-Ever Infowar Against Russia Was A Failure” after CNN-News18 spread fake news that Russia had supposedly called off its first-ever joint anti-terrorist drills with Pakistan in the aftermath of the Uri incident, an infowar narrative that the author suspected might have been planted by the country’s RAW intelligence agency (India’s version of Mossad) in order to pressure Russia into committing to such an action after falsely getting Indians’ hopes up that this had already happened. Suffice to say, that operation miserably failed to achieve its desired results and Russian-Pakistani relations are now proceeding along a strategic trajectory as both Great Powers enjoy their best-ever ties in history.
Misattributing A Statement To Manturov
Nowadays, however, another effort seems to have been made to preemptively pressure Russia into taking a policy position that it had yet to officially articulate, though this time it’s more likely that Indian media’s obsession with “exaggerating the facts” and “seeing what they want to see” is behind this, even though the affair could still play into RAW’s infowar hands. Republic TV reported that Russia will back New Delhi’s efforts to have Masood Azhar declared a “global terrorist” by the UNSC in an article titled “Russia To Support India To Declare Masood Azhar As A Global Terrorist In UNSC”, attributing this declaration to Russian Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov who was in Bangalore for the Aero India Show 2019. The outlet even included video footage of the Minister, though what he said and what they reported he did are actually two different things, proving that a “wishful thinking misinterpretation” might be to blame.
Debunked By Their Own Footage
Responding to a question that wasn’t included in the clip, he said that “We want to convey the condolences about the terrorist attack, what happened, in India. Of course, Russia supported, supporting, and will support India in question of (unclear, “avoiding?”) the terrorists and the terrorism in India as well globally around the world.” Nowhere in the embedded video did he say anything about Russia backing India’s efforts to declare Masood Azhar a “global terrorist” at the UNSC, even if that might have been the question originally posed to him off camera. Minister Manturov isn’t even involved in political affairs but economic ones, and his very generic statement appears to have been made because he understands his role as a formal Russian representative abroad and simply reiterated the most basic uncontestable facts about the political aspects of the Russian-Indian partnership that first came to mind.
Why Ask A Trade Minister About Terrorism?
Frankly, he shouldn’t have even been asked about such a topic since it’s not within his realm of responsibility, but the fact that he was speaks both to some Indian media outlets’ irresponsibility in posing such a question for soundbite’s sake to an official who isn’t in a position to shed any relevant light on it and specifically to Republic TV’s unprofessionalism in misattributing words to him that he never even said as proven by the very video that they embedded in their dramatically titled article. That isn’t to say that Russia might not ultimately make such a move in India’s favor at the UNSC (not that it would matter anyhow considering that China has been blocking its approval for a few years already), but just that there’s evidently an eagerness among some sectors of Indian society to see Russia commit to this course of action beforehand, likely in advance of next week’s meeting with India and China in Wuzhen.
RAW’s Hands Are Tied This Time
It’s because of the larger international context that Republic TV’s false reporting about Manturov’s statement takes on a larger infowar significance, even if it wasn’t intended to do so. Bearing in mind RAW’s suspected efforts to shape Russian policy two and a half years ago ahead of the country’s first-ever joint anti-terrorist military drills with Pakistan, it’s possible that Indian intelligence might seek to exploit Republic TV’s professional gaffe for similar purposes such as pressuring Russia to commit to its stance on Masood Azhar ahead of the Wuzhen trilateral between it, India, and China. That said, RAW has much less policy-influencing flexibility this time around than the last time that it waged an infowar against Russia because Manturov is caught on tape never saying what’s attributed to him, whereas last time CNN-News18 started its scandal with a tweet that didn’t specifically name any source.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
To their credit, some Indian media are behaving much more responsibly by not sharing Republic TV’s false report, unlikely what many did two and a half years ago with CNN-News18’s. The Times Of India (TOI) wrote in an article titled “Sushma to talk tough on Azhar with China, Russia at RIC meet” that “Although China has been blamed in India for stopping the UN Security Council from declaring Azhar as a global terrorist, the role of Russia remains unclear. Russia, which also is a permanent member of the UNSC, has not come out openly in favour of India’s campaign against Azhar because of its close relationship with Beijing.” It’s noteworthy that TOI’s piece came out hours after Republic TV’s was released on the same day, suggesting an editorial decision not to even comment upon the latter’s report, possibly out of fear of destroying their reputation for the short-sighted sake of generating a flurry of clicks on a slow news day.
As was argued throughout the article, all of this makes it much more difficult for India’s second infowar against Russia to succeed, suggesting that it’ll fail just like the first one did. Back then many Indian outlets shared CNN-News18’s fake news about Russia supposedly calling off its first-ever joint anti-terrorist drills with Pakistan, whereas this time around Republic TV’s false report seems to be deliberately ignored, most likely because the outlet’s own embedded video proves that the Russian Minister of Trade and Industry never said the words attributed to him. Rather, they appear to have been the outlet’s interpretation of his platitudes, though unethically reported as a factual political position unambiguously revealed throughout the course of his brief comments. RAW might still encourage Indian diplomats to use this “opportunity” to breach the topic of Masood Azhar with their Russian counterparts ahead of next week’s trilateral meeting with China, but it probably won’t result in anything significant.
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.