It isn’t easy for an ordinary observer to quickly grasp the underlying dynamics of India-Pakistan relations, although he or she is actually an important stake-holder despite being half-educated on the issues, and is able to generate a certain pressure on national leadership, especially in this era of social media, interactive news websites, satellite TV, etc.
So, they, especially the urban semi-well-off to affluent, do tend to influence the media and the decision-makers to a considerable degree.
It’s also the responsibility of the experts, the drivers of the media, and leadership to do the reverse in a positive and educating way. Unfortunately, some of the well-known media figures are no better than their viewers, readers, or listeners. This is being played out in both Pakistan and India in the wake of the Uri attack and India’s limited surgical strike just across Kashmir line of control.
The expectation of sanity from Pakistan, however, is comparatively much lesser given the long regression of their society for various internal and external reasons. It has already become a monolithic Muslim country and, if further deterioration isn’t prevented, it is very much on its way to becoming a similarly Sunni one.
Roguery and madness abound in Pakistani society and in state apparatus. Many of its societal elements cause severe injury to society and the state and still they find a way to keep co-existing due to little or no corrective action.
India, on the other hand, has maintained a much better internal atmosphere with more openness in public debates, resulting in better rationality in state and societal behaviour. However, cracks can be seen nowadays with saffron bigots and opportunistic and reactionary media houses increasingly taking over more space in public discourse and subscribing to the right-wing clout.
It seems that India’s liberal resolve is giving in to the saffron jingoism plunging the nation in the path of its hostile neighbour.
Interestingly, this time around, across the western border of India, there seems to be a bit less show of false pride and hollow rhetoric, especially in the internationally visible media.
Perhaps their “under-achievement” after so many proud conceited statements of the past and resultant ridicule over the years has brought them back closer to reality.
But that’s just the overt veneer of that society -- inside, there is no dearth of madness. The presence of numerous non-state jihadi actors and their sponsoring by state intelligence reassert this fact.
Pakistani media and intelligentsia’s defensive posture is also due to the changed international scenario which is now unfavourable for any form of militancy. So is the case in Indian Kashmir.
No country, other than Pakistan is interested in delving into whether an attack on a counter-insurgency security force camp in a troubled area by politically motivated insurgents constitutes an act of terror or not.
Almost everyone around the world who has made statements on the incident has flatly deemed it to be a terrorist attack. Hardly anyone is asking any difficult questions to celebrity Indian media anchors and security experts.
Only Hamid Mir of Pakistan’s Geo TV was heard shouting to an Indian commentator: “If Bhagat Singh is a freedom fighter, then why not Burhan Wani?” In the current atmosphere, no one outside of Pakistan is paying any heed to such exclamations.
One thing worth noticing is that, this time around, Pakistani security commentators have the opportunity to justify, in their way, their country’s possession of nukes as deterrent, notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan doesn’t abide by the “no first use” option like other nuclear states, including their arch adversary. But none in the Pakistani media or security community is talking about aggression first and teaching India a lesson by beating them in a war. It’s clear that they have learned their lesson.
India’s media has been fraught with the aspirational chauvinism of the expanding urban middle class. They have no strategic insight or any desire for fact checking; they have clearly been intoxicated by cheap media hyperbole
Also interesting is the phenomenon of the Pakistani media and politicians across the ideological camp getting behind the Pakistani military despite their recent past distaste for the latter, who every now and then, undermine the political class, civil society, and even the judiciary. The Pakistan Army clearly dictates security issues and foreign relations, undercutting the authority of the elected civilian government.
A politically weakened Nawaz Sharif seemingly has accepted this strange and humiliating arrangement. Therefore, the news of him calling General Raheel Sharif before making the UN General Assembly speech came as no surprise.
India’s media has been fraught with the aspirational chauvinism of the expanding urban middle class. They have no strategic insight or any desire for fact checking; they have clearly been intoxicated by cheap media hyperbole. Their ill-informed gibberish betrays the already super-power mind set.
Sadly, the reality is quite different altogether. International media though, is doing a great disservice to the ambition of this new middle class, putting India’s hollow battle-cry after Syria and the American presidential campaign.
Much more severe military conflicts and fatalities are happening in the world now -- in the Middle East, the Pak-Afghan border region, in under-reported Africa, and Latin America.
Indians seemed completely consumed by this one-off incident. It’s not the Pakistanis, rather Indian over-reaction, which is internationalising the Kashmir issue again.
In this politico-military scenario, some of the Indian intellectuals and media’s focus on India’s size , population, economic might, etc, vis-à-vis comparative military capability and preparedness is noticeable.
However, the real experts and the reliable media houses, for example, the Indian Express, held their ground of objectivity in analysis and predictions. They have prescribed for broader restraint by India, pointing out its proven long-term diplomatic benefits.
They, the sane, will be proven right, in the end. That’s perhaps the only silver lining in the cloud of media and internet warfare threatening to escalate it to a real one. λ