Amongst the uproar and commotion in India over the arrest of an Indian freelance journalist along with his two associates - a Nepali and a Chinese national, Chinese state media outlet Global Times soon came to express its stand against the arrest of freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma. In an article titled “Inappropriate for New Delhi to hype Rajeev Sharma’s ties with Global Times”, published on Sunday (September 20), the Global Times termed it as a “petty trick”.
As per the investigation agencies sources, a closer look at the articles, op-eds, and positions on issues over social media by Rajeev Sharma highlights the fact that he might be playing at Chinese hands to spread the propaganda, besides sharing secret information.
“Sharma has extensively written on domestic and foreign policy issues in Indian as well as international media platforms, including - around 300 articles written for The Diplomat, around 30 articles for Russian RT, around 150 articles for DailyO, besides sporadic pieces on other platforms. As far as Global Times is concerned, available evidence suggests that he has been writing for and being quoted since as early as 2013, or maybe earlier.” said an officer.
In a couple of stories, the Global Times has also mentioned Rajeev Sharma as ‘Global Times correspondent based in New Delhi’. Hence, besides authoring opinion pieces for the Chinese platform, he has been institutionally associated with the organisation and has been a part of it. In the most recent piece written for the Global Times on 9th July titled “A rapprochement road map for Beijing and New Delhi benefits both countries”, he argued that the armed standoff between India and China “could wreck their economy and many precious things if the situation isn’t amicably eased in double-quick time”.
However, his publications suggest that he might be favoring China’s position on numerous foreign policy vis a vis India. In several pieces written over time, he seems to criticise the Indian position on the Dalai Lama.
In a piece titled ‘The Dalai Lama Thorn?’ On The Diplomat on 27th November2011, Rajeev Sharma tried to project not Chinese expansionism, but The Dalai Lama as the central reason behind China’s aggression and indirectly vouched for his opinion against India’s position on the Dalai Lama. Seven years later, on 26th June 2018, he once again wrote a piece on ‘Why the Dalai Lama is becoming the biggest bone of contention between India and China’ published on the DailyO, he termed Dalai Lama a bigger issue that Masood Azhar designation at UN, India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), or the stapled visa issued to citizens of Arunachal Pradesh.
In lines of the above, he tried to create a war hysteria in India by projecting the Chinese dominance and threat over the visit of the Dalai Lama to Tawang monastery in his article titled What can China do about Dalai Lama’s Tawang visit? In his piece he apprehended that in case the Dalai Lama visits Tawang, China could resort to either of the four offensives - launch another big ticket incursion into India; launch "surgical strikes" in Arunachal Pradesh while the Dalai Lama visit is still on; launch a trade war
and imposes severe curbs on Indian imports; or turn the heat on India by announcing the next big strategic plans of cooperation with Pakistan.
His pro-China positions were also reflected in the Indo-Nepal bilateral relations. In an article titled ‘India must worry less about China's shadow in Nepal’ on 28th November 2015, he seemingly defended Chinese colonial designs and expansionist moves in Nepal. He wrote, “Beijing is not trying to capitalise on New Delhi's strained tensions with its Himalayan ally. Indian media is full of gloomy reports about India's bilateral relations with Nepal. That India has "lost" Nepal. That the Chinese shadows are lengthening menacingly in Nepal and that China is just about to nudge past India in terms of diplomatic and strategic influence” and asked the Indian folks to
With growing Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific and Chinese expansionist ambitions, the world is optimistically looking at the Quad alliance including India, Japan, the US, and Australia and arguing to convert into ‘Quad Plus’. However, Sharma had opined that Quad shall do more harm to India than good - a logic which the defence analysts have failed to decode. In this article written on 14th November 2017, he put forward five lame reasons why India should not join Quad and raised a number of questions on the functioning and nature of the alliance.
Going a step beyond, he authored an op-ed suggesting India to dig its own grave by accepting China’s BRI/OBOR project. In the piece titled Doklam standoff: Why India should reconsider its stand on OBOR, published on 19th July 2017, he asked India to accept the BRI and “give some kind of concession to Beijing”. He also opined, “India’s outright rejection of the OBOR has upset China to no end.”
Besides all of these, Rajeev Sharma has also authored a number of pieces projecting China on the noble side and creating a war hysteria by highlighting its military might. The number of such articles is in dozens. Nevertheless, opposition parties and a couple of individuals have been sharing the article authored by Sharma praising NSA Ajit Doval, publishedon Firstpost, subsequently, alleging his links with the current regime.
However, a closer look at his publications and social media posts highlights a contrary situation. In one of the recent Tweets made by him on September 14, he shared the link of his YouTube video and criticised Indian media and termed it as ‘lapdog of the government’. Similarly, on September 12 he termed ‘bhakts’ as ‘not normal’ and took a jibe at them.
Similarly, two days prior, he made a Tweet and termes Kangana Ranaut as BJP’s ‘big time investment’ to take on Priyanka Gandhi. Prominent individuals from Lutyens political circles believe that he has closely been associated with Priyanka Gandhi for a long time.
Rakesh Krishnan Godse, a former journalist working with Russia Beyond has claimed that Rajeev Sharma approached Russia Beyond and asked them for an opportunity to write by claiming, “I have inside connections. I know Sonia Gandhi personally. I know the defence secretary. I know the IAF chief. I can give you exclusives. Etc.”
Security agencies suspect that Chinese intelligence has penetrated into Indian media in multiple methods by direct transfer of money through Hawala , Payment through advertisement from Chinese companies, Payment for advertisement from dummy companies in third countries, Sponsoring of studies in China for potential talent who can push Chinese narrative in Indian media and Chinese embassy officials have been also trying to feed appropriate stories to media and as a quid pro quo money / gifts/ foreign trips was being routed through PR agencies hired by Chinese companies
These findings might just be the tip of the iceberg as the Indian agencies need to launch a comprehensive investigation to find out about every such proxy masquerading as journalists and working as foot soldiers of India's foes. Besides, the agencies have been arguing that Sharma has been in touch with Chinese espionage agencies for the past two-three years.
However, his Chinese connections date to a decade back. Hence, every such connection should be investigated, exposed, and prosecuted as there is an urgent need to take on China in the fifth generation warfare where Information warfare is the mightiest domain.