Pakistan and India have been confronting each other as arch rivals since 1947 at many fronts. These confrontations have been on conventional warfare grounds. Both countries have been at the verge of nuclear war on a few occasions. However, there is an unconventional domain of conflict which though having existed for the past couple of decades, recently gained more traction as a point of contention among the two countries, in the world of cyber. Both countries have a significant number of ‘tech freaks’ who keep on pushing their skills to their limits, consistently trying to breach each other’s cyber boundaries. Part of the grander cyber realm, is the social media domain where a lot of the recent conflict was focused.

If we look into the recent confrontation between the two competitors, there was one level of contest at the military scale and another at the cyber scale, encompassing social media in which the general public was involved with full zeal and zest. Through social media, the locals of both sides took part in the conflict. The competition on was not merely a result of the recent confrontations but has been the norm among ardent social media users on both sides.

According to the Global Digital report prepared by We Are Social and Hootsuite, Pakistan’s internet penetration stood at 22 % (44.6 million users).

Since the advent of internet, the interaction among the population of the world has become far-reaching and information, authentic or fake is readily accessible through social media. According to Statista, India is among the top internet users of the world comprising about 326 million users. A UN report stated that Pakistan ranked among the top 10 economies of the world in terms of internet usage between 2012 and 2015 in which India sat atop while Pakistan took the ninth spot. According to the Global Digital report prepared by We Are Social and Hootsuite, Pakistan’s internet penetration stood at 22 % (44.6 million users).

Taking these reports into account, India’s digital population is more than the total population of Pakistan. However, in recent tensions, as was the case in military engagement between Pakistan and India, Pakistan has been able to forge a way clear of India as well. Allegations from India were met with factual appropriateness. Henceforth, Pakistan’s response to allegations gained as much traction as Indian accusations did on social media.

It is a common held belief that India has been taking advantage of electronic media in previous confrontations with Pakistan including the war of 1971 and Kargil in 1999. With the help of a large amount of media channels, India was able to gain leverage over Pakistan on international grounds and hence was able to propagate and promote its narrative better. This was due to the fact the India had access to improved technology way before Pakistan started to expand its arsenal accordingly. In recent years however, Pakistan has expanded its technological horizons considerably.

Mushrooming of private media channels and advancement of internet in Pakistan started to transform news dissemination. Although media in Pakistan was immature in age and experience as it started out, it only improved with time. In more recent times the picture has completely changed. Pakistan has been able to defend itself on international grounds in the battle of narratives quite intelligently, efficiently using rebuttals for accusations, the realities on ground, mirroring the reporting of events in real time.

With the help of a large amount of media channels, India was able to gain leverage over Pakistan on international grounds and hence was able to propagate and promote its narrative better.

When India was promoting anti-Pakistani slogans, Pakistan’s digital space was responding with pro-peace hashtags. India tried to convince its population through social media that the brutalities in Kashmir are a lawfully appropriate response, however, Pakistan through its own media prowess was able to prove the Indian authorities wrong and present the correct picture about what actually had been happening on ground. Pakistani media’s stance was complemented by government officials who filled in the gaps left by Indian media reporting. With the help of social media, Pakistan has been able to grasp the attention of the Indian population and convince them that war mongers are actually power greedy politicians who work for their own interest.

Pakistan and India have been fighting a cold war on cyber grounds through the hacking and breaching of each other’s boundaries in the virtual world. However, growing access to social media has changed political dynamics altogether and now democratic proceedings are not just in the hands of politicians. The spread of social media has proved that the desire of peace can be fulfilled if we speak more prominently about bringing peace among these two bitter arch rivals.

With the help of a large amount of media channels, India was able to gain leverage over Pakistan on international grounds and hence was able to propagate and promote its narrative better.

The power of social media can be understood by its role in the recent elections on both sides being won through the smart use of social media. There is a theory going around that claims Imran Khan has already defeated Modi in his upcoming elections by significantly denting his vote bank by just sitting in Pakistan. This has only been possible through the creation of awareness on social media by both politicians and the public.

Looking at this aspect through the defense and security lens, the platform of social media has been and surely can be used to control the psychological makeup of the population in other countries. That is one reason why a country like China has not given open access of Western social media platforms to its people; in an attempt to protect their core ideology. Levels of social media use have exceeded literacy levels pertinent to technological exposure bringing onto the fore, the notion of fake news. Henceforth, it is important for the states to regulate their cyber space by holding major corporations accountable for their methods of news dissemination.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the organisation.

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