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New Delhi: A Ukrainian government body set up to combat ‘misinformation’ has accused three Indian nationals, including the former chair of the government’s National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), of promoting “Russian propaganda”.
At the time of its launch last year, the head of the Centre stated that her job was to act as a “reliable shield” against information threats from both inside and outside Ukraine, “aimed at loosening state institutions and manipulating public opinion”.
Since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, the Centre has published several articles analysing different information trends related to the war.
The list, entitled ‘Speakers promoting narratives consonant with Russian propaganda’, has over 75 entries from all over the world, ranging from US lawmakers and European politicians to Chinese academicians, and appears to have been drawn from the list of actual or proposed speakers at a April 2022 conference organised by the ‘Schiller Institute’, a German think-tank associated with the late US-based political figure Lyndon LaRouche.
Among the well-known names are French far-right politician and presidential candidate Marie Le Pen; former US democrat congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard; and Republican senator Rand Paul. Online British magazine, UnHerd. reported the list on Monday, along with responses from three people on the list – political scientist John Mearsheimer, geopolitical analyst Edward Luttwak and journalist Glenn Greenwald.
Also on the list are the names of three Indian commentators. The first is former head of India’s NSAB, P.S. Raghavan, a retired foreign service officer who had also served as Indian ambassador to Russia. The other two are veteran journalist Saeed Naqvi and Sam Pitroda, former advisor to Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh.
The “pro-Russian narrative” that Raghavan has been accused of promoting is that “Ukraine against Russia is like NATO against Russia”, a likely reference to Moscow’s stance that Kyiv’s administration is doing the bidding of Western military powers
Pitroda’s offensive position, catalogued by the Ukrainian government agency, is that the “world should negotiate with Putin”.
Naqvi, meanwhile, was accused of disseminating two points; that the Ukraine army’s “success” was an “illusion”, and that the West was “waging a propaganda campaign” against the Russian President.
When contacted, Raghavan said that he had not been aware of the existence of the list till now. “I have no comments to offer on the exercise, other than mystification at my inclusion in this list,” he told The Wire.
In a column for the Ananta Centre in June, Raghavan analysed the changes towards a “maximalist” position of NATO to strive towards a strategic defeat of Russia in Ukraine. He criticised the move in Western capitals to remove Russians from the cultural and sports sphere.
“A government’s unacceptable actions do not justify repudiation of an entire nation, its people, history and culture,” he had said.
Speaking to The Wire, Pitroda also observed that he was “puzzled and surprised” by his inclusion in the list. He suspects that he may have attracted attention due to his speaking event at the Schiller Institute in June.
The Schiller institute had figured in a weekly dispatch by the CPD in May this year for having organised a seminar which concluded that “confrontation with Russia is detrimental to Germany and the EU”. The head of the institute, German-born Helga Zepp-LaRouche, also appears in the July 14 list.
The Indian-American entrepreneur told The Wire that in recent public speaking engagements for his latest book, Redesign the World – A Global Call to Action, he had proposed that the current ‘command and control’ global architecture that emerged after World War II had become obsolete in a networked world.
Pitroda stated that he had advocated for both sides to talk, rather than wage a war of this magnitude. “Why can’t we sit around the table and sort it out?” he said.
Columnist Naqvi had also not been aware of the list or his inclusion. “They are entitled. Ukraine is paying a very heavy price for a western misadventure, and they are entitled to their reactions in their desperation,” he responded to The Wire.
He said that his position had always been that the Ukraine story did not begin in 2022, but in 1998, when the US Senate ratified the NATO expansion eastward. “It was loud and clear of the work of the finest minds on Russian history that there will be a reaction. This carried on till the (NATO) Bucharest summit and the coup of 2014… It is a long story,” he said.
Russia has publicly described the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych after anti-government protests in February, 2014 as a “coup”. Following his ouster by Parliament, Yanukovych appealed for Russia’s military intervention. By early March, Crimea was under Russia’s complete control.
He asserted that Ukraine was the “last cast of the die” by the West to weaken Russia and challenge the emerging world order.
Since the start of the conflict, India’s official position has been to call for a complete cessation of hostilities and direct talks between Russia and Ukraine. It has not publicly condemned Moscow for the invasion but has expressed concern over civilian killings at Bucha and other places, without taking names.
But as India’s external affairs minister, S. Jaishankar, had noted, the tensions over Ukraine had a complex and long history, including NATO’s actions.
“The situation in Ukraine is the result of a complex chain of circumstances over the last 30 years,” he had said in Paris on February 23. “In the case of Ukraine, a lot of it derives from the post-Soviet politics, the expansion of NATO, the dynamics between Russia and Europe, and Russia and the West broadly”.