The emergence of the internet and the digital age has brought about a paradigm shift in communication, information accessibility, and social interaction. With cyberspace becoming a pivotal platform for individuals and nations to share their ideas, connect with people worldwide, and influence public discourse, its significance cannot be overstated. India, with its burgeoning economy and sizable population, has adeptly harnessed the power of cyberspace to disseminate its narrative on a global scale. In contrast, Pakistan has lagged behind in terms of digital capabilities, resulting in a less effective and slower spread of its message.
India’s demographic advantage, with a population of over 1.3 billion and more than 600 million internet users, presents an enormous opportunity for digital content creators and services. This tech-savvy audience is highly engaged on social media and other digital platforms, providing Indian users with the opportunity to amplify their voices and attain global reach. Examples of this effectiveness include campaigns such as #BoycottPakistan and #SayNoToPakistaniArtists, which targeted Pakistani products and artists.
India’s government has backed the digital economy via Digital India and National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN), boosting internet access. Investment in broadband networks and digital payment systems has helped bring the internet to many and disseminate India’s message globally. Additionally, India’s civil society, comprising NGOs, think tanks, and other organizations shaping public discourse, has contributed to the promotion of India’s perspective in cyberspace around the world.
In contrast, Pakistan’s limited user base of just over 100 million internet users out of a population of approximately 220 million has hampered the reach of its narrative compared to India’s larger audience. Consequently, Pakistan’s digital capabilities have not been as effective as India’s in promoting its narrative globally.
The Indian narrative currently holds sway over the digital realm, creating a risk of biased depictions of events and further entrenching existing power structures. This dominance is most evident in critical areas such as the Kashmir issue, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan’s relations with other countries, Pakistan’s nuclear programme, and strategic alignment.
India’s narrative on the Kashmir issue misrepresents the Kashmiri struggle for self-determination as terrorism and separatism, shaping global perceptions of the issue and gaining international support for India’s stance. Similarly, India’s portrayal of the CPEC as a debt trap and a security threat to India could undermine Pakistan’s strategic interests in the region.
By adopting a comprehensive digital strategy, Pakistan can effectively challenge the prevailing Indian narrative in cyberspace and promote a more balanced and accurate understanding of the region and its conflicts. This can help to foster greater regional stability, promote economic development, and enhance Pakistan’s global standing.
Furthermore, India’s narrative in cyberspace shapes the international view of Pakistan’s relations with other countries, portraying Pakistan’s close alliance with China as a threat to India’s sovereignty and security, which has led to tensions between India and China. This portrayal could also weaken Pakistan’s strategic importance in the region. India’s narrative on Pakistan’s nuclear programme presents it as a danger to regional stability and a source of global terrorism, influencing the global perception of the issue and gaining international support for India’s stance.
Additionally, India’s strategic alignment with other major powers to counter China’s growing influence in the region is reflected in its narrative in cyberspace, which portrays Pakistan as a pawn of China and a threat to regional stability, potentially further marginalizing Pakistan and undermining its strategic importance.
To effectively address the challenges posed by the prevailing Indian narrative in cyberspace, Pakistan must adopt a comprehensive digital strategy that includes the following policy options:
Develop a Strategic Narrative: Pakistan should create a strategic narrative that counters negative stereotypes propagated by India and highlights Pakistan’s contributions to regional peace and stability. By leveraging its diverse population, vibrant arts scene, and rich cultural heritage, Pakistan can generate a compelling narrative that resonates globally.
Utilize Digital Diplomacy: Pakistan should utilize digital diplomacy to engage with audiences worldwide and project its narrative on critical issues. This includes developing a comprehensive social media strategy, engaging with influential voices in cyberspace, and utilizing digital tools to amplify Pakistan’s message.
Engage Youth: Pakistan’s youth population is proficient in using digital technologies and can be harnessed to promote a national narrative that challenges the Indian narrative in cyberspace. By engaging youth in promoting this narrative, Pakistan can foster a positive global image and provide a balanced portrayal of the region and its conflicts.
Promote National Narrative: A strong national narrative that unifies all Pakistanis around shared goals and values is essential in promoting Pakistan’s interests and values globally. This includes showcasing Pakistan’s cultural heritage, contributions to regional peace and stability, and commitment to an inclusive and equitable global order.
Hence, by adopting a comprehensive digital strategy, Pakistan can effectively challenge the prevailing Indian narrative in cyberspace and promote a more balanced and accurate understanding of the region and its conflicts. This can help to foster greater regional stability, promote economic development, and enhance Pakistan’s global standing.