NEW YORK, Mar 02 (APP):American print and electronic media gave wide coverage to the handover of the captive Indian fighter pilot, praising Pakistan’s “peace gesture” and its efforts to de-escalate the dangerous situation between the two South Asian neighbours.
“Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments on the escalating crisis along the border in disputed Kashmir were in stark contrast to Pakistani leader Imran Khan, who called for dialogue between the two sides,” CNN said in a dispatch giving details of the dramatic scenes at the Wagah border.
Speaking with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said that the release of the pilot should be seen as an expression of his country’s willingness to de-escalate.
But, The Wall Street Journal noted that India has rebuffed the offer of talks by PM Imran Khan.
The New York Times dispatch said that the release of Wing Cmdr. Abhinandan Varthaman, whose war plane was shot down by Pakistani jets on Wednesday, “capped a humiliating episode for India and a surreal week for him.”
“If you are a big power out to teach a lesson to an upstart, and it’s a draw — especially a messy draw of this kind, then the upstart has won,” Ajai Shukla, a retired Indian army colonel, was quoted as saying in a “Financial Times” report. “We’ve actually achieved the near impossible feat of making Pakistan look statesmanlike. Imran Khan comes out smelling of roses.”
Ahmed Rashid, author of several books on Pakistan and South Asia, was quoted as saying he believes PM Khan is genuinely keen to improve relations with India and is “sympathetic” to the need to crack down on extremists. “
But he said Modi’s “unflinchingly hard line” and refusal to engage with PM Khan will make progress difficult. “There is now room for a change of policy here, but it has to be reciprocated, and I don’t see that,” Rashid added. Indians and many observers are sceptical of the chances of a genuine crackdown.
American papers also deplored the war hysteria created by Indian news media.
Under the headlined, “India’s Media Is War-Crazy; Journalism is taking a back seat to jingoism,” Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar, wrote in the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine:
“Especially alarming has been the way in which Indian news media, especially television, contributed to that pressure, trading journalistic responsibility for tabloid hysterics. High-profile journalists ditched any pretense of objectivity, tweeting
their support of India’s retaliatory strike. One TV news anchor, Gaurav Sawant, tweeted that India should ‘Strike again & again.’
“Meanwhile, independent fact-checking groups have struggled to keep pace with the spate of fake videos and images doing the rounds. (This is not the first time Indian television news has behaved irresponsibly—during the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, channels live broadcast commandos in action, endangering the operation.)
“The high media drama has been equaled only by the depressing dearth of reliable information. India’s retaliatory attack was first communicated in a briefing by a senior official who shared few details and took no questions. Yet unconfirmed details, presumably leaked by so-called highly placed sources, poured out all day from the networks and even newspapers, including casualty numbers that varied anywhere from 300 to 600. A Reuters report from the ground in Pakistan now suggests the Indian attack on Balakot did not do much damage. As one media commentator noted, journalists were too willing to ‘reproduce unverified, contradictory and speculative information’ that suited the government. Anchors and pundits seemed too excited by the conflict to question the establishment.
“Here are some of the questions that much of the Indian media failed to ask in the past fortnight: Where are the pictures of the strike on Balakot? Who exactly was taken out? Was Pakistan prepared for the airstrike, as some reports have suggested? What is the retaliatory strategy at work? Was it appropriate for the prime minister to address a campaign rally the day after the strike? And how did over 40 soldiers die in the Feb. 14 suicide bombing: Was there a failure of intelligence or communication?
“Cheering for war, the Indian media left the important questions to a young soldier’s widow.”