The Indian government is allegedly engaging in covert campaigns to silence opposition abroad, according to new reports from The Intercept and the Washington Post. The reports suggest that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is attempting to crack down on Sikh separatists in North America and deploying a sophisticated social media network to discredit his critics abroad.
India is reportedly concerned about its global image, particularly in North America, where the Modi government believes that Sikh separatist groups are undermining the country’s interests by pushing “anti-India propaganda” on Western governments, The Intercept reports. Despite warming relations between the U.S. and India, tensions remain over Washington’s refusal to crack down on Sikh separatists who India describes as “terrorists.” According to a secret memo distributed to several Indian consulates in the U.S. and Canada and obtained by The Intercept, the Modi government wants Indian authorities in the West to work with local law enforcement l to keep an eye on Sikh activists. The memo also suggests recruiting members of the Indian diaspora, especially moderate Sikhs, to counter the separatist campaign.
An Indian intelligence officer is reportedly running a disinformation lab to discredit foreign critics of the Modi government by publishing reports that are widely circulated on social media by Hindu nationalists and right-wing Indians, the Washington Post reports. Though researchers have previously revealed large online networks that promote Modi’s nationalist agenda to foreign audiences, The Disinfo Lab is regarded as one of the most “sophisticated players,” the Post reports. Undermining foreign governments is “routine” work for intelligence agencies, an expert in Indian diplomacy told the Post, but if Indian intelligence is “besmirching American critics and civil society organization, it would be crossing a line reminiscent of KGB tactics during the Cold War,” he said.