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Who's afraid of Pakistan?

India's media insurgents are fighting the wrong fight, detrimental to the national interests they vociferously claim to serve.

 |  4-minute read |   24-09-2016
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The exchange of fire on the India-Pakistan border, followed by the terrorist strike in Uri - which claimed the lives of 18 Indian soldiers - has led to a rise in the jingoistic commentary fuelled by the media, especially news channels. Channel after channel, both English and Hindi, have filled their programmes with rabid anti-Pakistani rhetoric. Those who do not actually support an across-the-border attack, call for a cessation of contacts with Pakistani civil society.

Curiously, the Indian government has not sent any such signal: neither PM Modi, nor his ministers Rajnath Singh (MHA) and Manohar Parrikar (MoD) have issued an official statement on the issue. Even RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat, has not called for snapping ties with Pakistan, or heightening tensions on or across the border.

With both countries possessing nuclear weapons, such a policy could prove extremely dangerous. In any case, the great powers are watching. India can't automatically assume that the US, already caught up in a struggle with the Islamic State, and a virtually broken ceasefire in Syria and Iraq, would intervene in India-Pakistan conflicts.

The great powers have a history: when India moved to assist the Bangladeshi (earlier East Pakistan) freedom struggle in December 1971, the US sent its seventh Fleet to the Bay of Bengal to intimidate the India. They also moved to force a ceasefire via the UN Security Council, so that nearly one lakh Pakistani troops could be rescued from Bangladesh.

The Soviet Union vetoed all the US moves. Even in such a black-and-white situation, the US moved to support the Pakistani genocide, which had led to the massacre of three million Bangladeshis. So history warns us against being overwhelmingly optimistic about the US and the other great powers.

In any case, Pakistan is an important player in Afghanistan despite its on-off policy towards the Taliban. The US needs Pakistani forces there to counter the Taliban and the rising al Qaeda, not to speak of the expected infiltration by the IS. Under the circumstances, the US and the other great powers - with the exception of the Russians who might stay neutral - are very likely to oppose any so-called Indian counter-attack by India on Pakistan.

When watching ridiculously partisan and militaristic debates, one wonders if India's chauvinistic anchors have any idea about the cost of war and its terrible consequences. Strident words are paltry, but the cost of wars is horrendous.

Now, why is the political leadership so quiet? PM Modi has said nothing remotely similar to this chauvinistic clamour - neither has his close associate Amit Shah or any other BJP leader. Senior ex-servicemen and ministers like General VK Singh have not spoken out of turn this time - in fact every entity who matters in the power elite - including the opposition Congress and other regional parties, as well as the Left - has been remarkably composed. But who will bell the cat called media?

Fear-driven media hype is not the message a major regional power wants to send out to the world - and this hypernationalism is, in fact, hypochondria. The snarl and wail from anchors who don't have the faintest idea of dealing with terrorist threats - not to speak of an armed exchange, let alone war - continue to ratchet up emotions in the never-ending quest for TRPs.

There is a Press Council for the print media, which is more responsible but far from sober. Surely, there is a crying need for a watchdog to rein in the electronic media. A media which gives the clarion call "the Nation needs to know" first needs to know how to ensure a balanced and nuanced discourse, especially in difficult times. Anchors, who are prepared to instigate others to fight to the last soldier, are not true friends of either the nation or their own people. They are media insurgents fighting the wrong fight, detrimental to the national interests they vociferously claim to serve.

  • Beware of Pakistanis all,
  • Their civil society is a threat,
  • Contacts with them will cause a fall,
  • The worst India will get. 
  • The Pakistani touch is treason,
  • Look out for the worst,
  • It's genetic, no reason,
  • Though "patriots" say only Indians first.
  • Bewaring of Pakistani foes,
  • Indian masses must forgo cricket,
  • Though this loss leads to woes,
  • Imran Khan can't get a ticket.
  • No, no Indians are touch me nots,
  • Scared stiff of neighbourly interaction.
  • Our country is at stake,
  • Aloofness is the safest reaction.
  • But whom shall we play cricket now?
  • Will we give up Pakistan-India hockey?
  • Will artists be banned because of the row?
  • Seems the path of reason is too rocky.


Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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