Psychological Operations (PSYOPs): A Conceptual Overview

Lt Col Sunil Narula was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • January 2004

    The psychological dimension of a conflict is as important as its physical dimension and psychological Operations (PSYOPs) have become even more relevant in this age of information, especially for a nation-state where the threat in the socio-psychological domain is more pronounced. While combating the menace of terrorism, the psychological dimension assumes great significance, as terrorists use violence as a psychological weapon by terrorising the multitude, rather than physically affect a few, and in this sense, they fight a psychological war also. The relevance of psychological operations is much greater than the successful conduct of tactical operations. This article is an attempt to conceptualise the term PSYOPs in the Indian context.

    The changed dynamics of international relations following the end of the Cold War and changes in the South Asian strategic landscape, post- September 11, have made PSYOPs more relevant for the region. It is also important to know that differences between various related concepts like Propaganda, Information Warfare, and Perception Management are waferthin, and may lead to contested perceptions amongst various agencies working under the overall ambit of national security, if not viewed in the current perspective.

    Therefore, clarity of the concept will set the stage for an effective implementation of policies and help in setting up of a policy structure in India (which does exist today in loosely knit shape) for national level coordination of PSYOPs. Alongside the need for a disciplined, trained, and well-equipped manpower to combat national security challenges, it is also essential to have a comprehensive and effective machinery to conduct psychological operations. Such a machinery must then cover the entire spectrum of the socio-psychological threat in all its varied forms without losing sight of the emerging global trends.

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