To capture the enemy's entire army is better than to destroy it; to take intact a regiment, a company, or a squad is better than to destroy them. For to win, one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the supreme of excellence; To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence
— Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Though using terms of PSYOP or Psy-War as strategies gained currency in the post World-War era through the Ametican strategic experts—denoting all psychological methods with the aim of evoking a planned psychological reaction in the enemy camp or people—it is an old technique discussed by ancient thinkers like Kautilya in Bharat and Sun Zu in China. Kautilya’s Arthashastra also categorises wars between prakashayuddha or ‘open fight’ where the place and time indicated; kutayuddha or ‘concealed fighting’ involves the use of tactics in the battlefield; and tusnimyuddha or ‘silent fight’ implies the use of secret agents. Though the modern tools of information dissemination and technological revolution have changed the techniques significantly, the basic principles remain the same, based on generating credible information and content to influence the perception and behaviour of the others. Many are talking about the Psy-War tried by Pakistan in the last few weeks that needs to be contested.
Pakistan tried to use the Psy-war strategy after Pulwama terror attack and the decisive response by the Bharatiya Air-force to strike the Balakot based Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp. Firstly, Pakistan tried to create the narrative that it has nothing to do with the Pulwama attack and the Balakot strike could not damage much beyond what it called the ‘ecological terrorism’, hitting some trees in the forest. Both the lies were exposed by the interviews of the important leaders in Pakistan and the response given by the Army, the real fountainhead of terror. Many leaders used the same language and intent, the Pulwama attacker used and the Jaish videos accepting the devastation of the terror camp, subsequently supported by the strong imagery proofs in Bharat completely thrashed the Pakistani argument.
The second game started with the dog fight that took place when Pakistani F-16 Jet Fighters tried to enter the Bharatiya airspace and one of the F-16s was shot down by our brave Air Force officers. The Wing Commander Abhinandan episode was used to score brownie points, forgetting the fact that he was protected by the Geneva Convention and already isolated Pakistan could not have afford to do another misadventure. The lies that were peddled till the time of his release, including the edited video of the brave soldier, were not just unwarranted but shameful. The fact that Pakistan could not own and honour the fighter pilot of the Pakistan Air-Force who was unfortunately killed by their own people further exposed the narrow mindset of the nation that emerged out of negativism and Bharat-hatred.
The eyewash of action against the terror outfits and their social arms is the next level of optics that Pakistan is trying to play, not just for Bharat but also for their own people and the international community. The series of denial and acceptance of the existence of such elements on the Pak soil and then bringing 68 out of them under scanner is outrageous and shameful. This detention looks more protection for the likes of Jaish leaders rather than prevention or elimination of the same.
The psy-operations are meant to shape the emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behaviour of foreign audiences, sometimes even own people, to realise the national objective. They are supportive to the main action and meant to avoid loss of lives in the actual war. Establishing the credibility of source and content is considered as the key in such operations. Pakistan tried to play the Psy-war game with Bharat but failed miserably as it is trying to cover the proxy-war through lie-war. Some peddlers of Pak narrative on the Bharatiya soil are also playing their PSYOP for the petty political gains, undermining the precision and capabilities of our armed forces. Ironically, like Pakistan, they are also missing the fact that lack of credibility cannot influence the minds of people and it is very difficult to match the standing of a clean leadership and courageous armed forces.