By Imtiaz Gul, Weekly Pulse, August 19, 2013
Back to square one; the execution of Indian soldiers in Kashmir’s Poonch sector in mysterious circumstances early this month has brought all tracks i.e. track 1.5, track 11 as well as Back-Channel to a grinding halt amid deafening noises and protests against Pakistan. And participation in three live debates on two mainstream Indian TV channels to the context of the tragic execution of five Indian soldiers in Kashmir left me in little doubt that if left to the media and the opposition members of LokSabha, they would have so far declared war on Pakistan.
Most Indian MPs and retired officials projected unconfirmed /unprobed reports as facts by insisting that the Pakistan Army or ISI orchestrated the execution of Indian soldiers. Without the khaki support, they implied, such attacks were not possible at all. These assertions were flying from all over, particularly when the Indian defense ministry and the army itself differed over the composition and the identity of the attackers. No investigation had taken place until then. Statements on the floor of the House in Delhi lacked clarity and still the entire intelligentsia, commentators and media persons were condemning Pakistan for this atrocity.
In a direct indictment of the Pakistani government and the army, the majority called for punitive measures against “the rogue country.” And strangely, the panelists time and again spoke of the army’s involvement, while attempting to drive home the point that the attackers came from the Pakistani side of the border, overlooking the possibility of terrorists from within the Indian part of Kashmir having committed the heinous act.
Nobody answered my question as to whether the Indian Kashmir was meanwhile a peaceful haven, free of militants? If so, when will India be pulling out the bulk of its security forces from the embattled valley?
Precluding the possibility of Kashmiri insurgents’ involvement in the soldiers’ execution sounds pretty naïve, one-way and runs contrary to the needs of a logical dissection of events as delicate as termination missions.
A number of panelists and anchors kept coming back to me with the question as to why should India talk to Pakistan? I told them this was up to the Indian government to decide whether it wants to teach Pakistan a lesson by declaring a war on it, or instead continue seeking solutions by engaging Islamabad instead of isolating and pushing it to the brink.
These panelists kept referring to the “attackers dressed in Pakistan Army fatigues,” to underline the army’s direct involvement and abetment of this heinous crime, totally that was committed by intruders from the other side.
All I want to underscore herewith is the propensity in India to blame everything that goes wrong there on Pakistan, the ISI to be specific. And almost everybody goes up in arms to break off all ties with the country which is supporting and sheltering terrorists.
There is no need to deny that LashkareTaiba or Jaishe Mohammad exist in Pakistan. Their leaders, Hafiz Saeed particularly, and people like HameedGul, do keep ranting against India. They do preach hate-India and condemn all those who want peace with New Delhi. These charlatans consider it their divine right to adjudicate Pakistan’s policy towards India, Afghanistan and the USA. They essentially represent in Pakistan what Rashtria Sevak Sangh in India stands for i.e. blatant incitement to violence and abominable hate speech.
Now, do these mavericks power peddlers warrant the kind of attention that the media accords on them. Also, do the two states conduct their diplomacy based on what they say, or must they be guided by dispassionate assessments and an unflinching resolve in peaceful dispute resolution through dialogue? Must media provide precious time and platform to lunatics who are at best war-mongers and are driven by their own incestuous narrow narratives?
Another important phenomenon that come through the live debates on the Indian private TV is the poor intellectual debate – not different from what we witness on the Pakistani TV channels; blame-games, knit-picking, and dangerously hypothetical questioning by anchors. Unfortunately, panelists go for the bait and venture responses to such questions which at times border on insanity and are carry the potential of destroying bilateral, or multi-lateral trust, or even triggering diplomatic rows.
This is what we witnessed between the United States and Pakistan until a year ago before better sense prevailed and the US establishment stopped conducting diplomacy through blatant media leaks. This has worked wonders and has helped the bilateral relationship ride over the past bickering.
Both India and Pakistan, too, need to adopt this model and must resolve not to feed the beast i.e. the electronic media in particular with anything that can destroy the process. Greater responsibility probably rests with the Indian media; anything that goes on air is potentially pregnant with the potential of inflaming sentiments of tens of millions and pushing nations to the brink of war.
Fortunately, on August 11, NDTV anchor Ravish Kumar attempted to moderate the narrative that was sweeping India since the execution of Indian soldiers in the Poonchsector. In his show “HUM LOG”, Kumar exclusively focused on the theme of jingoism and militant reactions by mainstream Indian media and political parties. That certainly reflected a positive change in an environment filled with accusations and demands for conclusive action against Pakistan. Kumar provoked representatives of the Congress by reminding them they too had begun parroting the militaristic right-wing BJP and other parties. Shouldn’t we try to dispassionately analyze events before formulating responses and hurling allegations against others, was how Kumar summed up his program.