Indo-Pak monitoring, part II

BY shubha singh| IN Media Monitoring | 05/09/2004
While the major part of the coverage was positive, there was also an element that indicated the mistrust between the two countries.
 

The second in a series in the Hoot on how newspapers in India and Pakistan report on each other’s countries--- A Panos-Hoot monitoring project.   The first period covers reporting from  March 17 to April 17 in the Times of India, the Hindu, Dainik Bhaskar, and  Dainik Jagran, and  reports in Pakistan newspapers covered by the POT service.  

 

Indian and Pakistani newspapers display a keen interest in developments in each other`s countries. They carry a regular stream of news reports, articles and commentaries relating to each other, almost every day. The newspapers depend on national and international news agencies for the news reports; the reports are then analysed and commented upon by staff writers, columnists and occasional contributors on their impact and implications on the other country. They even reproduce the articles of well known columnists from across the border.

During the four weeks spanning mid March to mid April 2004, cricket and the SAF games dominated the press coverage but there were several political issues that also attracted attention. Among the political stories from Pakistan that appeared in Indian newspapers, an important issue was the Pakistani security forces operation launched in the northwest tribal agency area to flush out Taliban and Al Qaida elements. The American decision to grant major non-Nato ally status to Pakistan created a stir in the subcontinent, especially as the announcement caught the Indian government unawares. The reaction to the announcement dominated the commentaries during this period, dealing with India-Pakistan and US relations. Since the period was also the pre-election time in India, India-Pakistan relations was also featured in the election campaign stories.

The stories of people-to-people contact between the two countries were generally glowing with warmth and friendliness. While many of the commentaries supported the two governments` thrust for dialogue of peace, there was some scepticism as well. A report by Chidanand Rajghatta, the Washington correspondent of the Times of India had a headline: ‘US to Pakistan: Take arms, give us Osama.’ It said that the Bush administration had struck a Faustian deal with Pakistan to forgive its nuclear proliferation and enhance its ally status in exchange for help in the war on terrorism, according to US analysts. The analysts said that the timing of the announcement of major non-Nato ally status made during Secretary of State, Collin Powell’s visit to Islamabad suggested an urgent barter.

The Hindu newswpaper`s Islamabad correspondent, B Murlidhar Reddy reported regularly on the operation in the tribal areas. Pakistani troops faced stiff resistance and were engaged in fierce battles with foreign militants who were protecting high value targets in Waziristan Tribal Agency.

On April 6, Dainik Bhaksar reported on an interview by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri on CCTV, the Chinese government channel. Kasuri said that supersonic speed in dealing with trade matters while moving at zero speed on the Kashmir issue would not work. "If the speed in trade area is 100 km and 60 km on Kashmir, it will still do. But zero will not do," he said. Dialogue should take place on all the issues with an open heart and mind. Pakistan had shown a flexible attitude for progress on all issues and was hoping for the same from India, the Foreign Minister said.

A news report in the Dainik Jagran of April 11 quoted President Pervez Musharraf saying that Pakistan had made an honest beginning towards meaningful talks with India for the solution of all controversial issues. But, he added that it would not make any kind of compromise in national interest with regard to Kashmir and its nuclear assets. Addressing the passing out parade at the Pakistani Military Academy in Kakul, the Pakistani President said that the main reason for the South Asian region’s backwardness were the unsolved issues related to India and Pakistan for past five decades. While referring to the challenges before world and Pakistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks in America, he said that he was committed to free Pakistan’s society from fanaticism, hypocrisy, and intolerance.

An article by Dr Ayesha Siddiqa in the Friday Times discussed the issue of fishermen detained by India and Pakistan. She wrote: "How do fishermen get caught? The fish do not recognise any boundaries. Fishermen follow the same practice and in trying to get a good catch, sometimes stray into `enemy` waters where they get caught. Once they are arrested, there is no mechanism for their immediate release or even for their families to know what happened to them. The bureaucratic process in both countries is so rigorous and painful that their release takes months if not years."

In an article in Dawn newspaper by Irfan Husain compared economic development in both countries and their spending power in both economic, strategic and military terms. In conclusion, he said: "We cannot allow Kashmir to hold us hostage forever. Both internally

And externally, this single dispute has damaged our core interests more than anything else has these last 55 years. We must accept the reality and tackle the real issues of poverty and ignorance that confront us which successive governments have been unable to address largely because of lack of resources."

Dr Moonis Ahmar in an article in The News discussed the question of Kashmiri identity. He suggested that the best way to address the issue of Kashmiri identity was to encourage dialogue between all regions of Kashmir, Srinagar, Jammu, Leh, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit. In the absence of a dialogue, there would an assertion of multiple identities in Jammu, Ladakh, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan, for Srinagar only cannot claim to represent the entire Jammu and Kashmir, he wrote.

Imtiaz Alam in an article in the News said that "As Pakistan competes with India in promoting peace and as confidence building measures are being taken at such a good pace that it has become difficult to keep track of who initiated what. Such a marvellous display of diplomacy is bound to upset the warmongers and those who have no alternative but to perpetuate the conflict. After the ceasefire along the LoC, "a divided people are showering gifts on and exchanging affection with each other, strengthening Kashmiriyat, in fact, at the cost of an unnatural LoC," Imtiaz Alam wrote.

An article in the Urdu newspaper, Jang by Qadir Hasan said that relations with India were changing fast with delegations of businessmen, intellectuals, senior journalists and parliamentarians visiting each other. Whoever comes from India speaks of love and friendship. Pakistanis have been welcoming these people wholeheartedly but the continuation of these sentiments depends only on the resolution of the pending issues, according to the author.

Speakers at a seminar organised by the Jang group of newspapers on March 20, expressed the view that Pakistan must develop cordial relations with India, but at the same time it must keep in mind whether the neighbouring country has accepted the existence of Pakistan or not. The News quoted former minister Nawaz Khan Marwat as saying, "It is the ground reality that parliamentarians and ministers of India still talk about confederation." These sentiments that manifest the negative attitude of Indian legislators cannot be ignored, but he added that "18 million Muslims are living in India and we must respect their feelings."

While the major part of the coverage was positive, there was also an element that indicated the mistrust between the two countries. According to the Dainik Bhaskar of April 8, 2004, despite the wind of improving ties blowing in Indo-Pak relations, two Pakistani radios were still spewing poison against India. Two radio stations in Muzaffarabad and Taharkhal in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir could be clearly heard in the bordering villages of Poonch area, the newspaper wrote. The morning and evening news bulletin broadcast in Hindi, Dogri and Gojari dialect claimed that Indian soldiers were killing the mujahiddin who are sacrificing their lives for freedom. The broadcast claimed that Kashmir will become a part of Pakistan one day and Satvadi (a Sikh settlement in the Jammu region) will become Khalistan. Both the radio stations also broadcast songs, qawalis, comic dramas where the Indian government and the Indian army were abused and lampooned. The government had installed high power transmission towers to jam the broadcasts but these efforts had not been effective, the news report said.

Among the Hindi newspapers, Dainik Bhaskar carried more news reports related to Pakistan, while Dainik Jagran had a larger number of articles and commentaries about Pakistan. In the Dainik Jagran of April 9, columnist Rakshat Puri commented on Gen Musharraf`s videospeech at the India Today conclave in Delhi where he spoke of a definite timeframe for the bilateral talks on Kashmir. According to Puri, Musharraf’s ultimatum was indicative of a timeframe and came in the midst of the election campaign in India. Puri asked whether Musharraf wanted to say that Indian voters should reinstate Vajpayee in the Prime Minister’s position. Was it possible that Musharraf felt that talks with Vajpayee would prove to be more result oriented, he asked.

The Pakistani newspaper, Dawn reported on April 11 that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs was quietly lobbying against Pakistan`s entry into the ASEAN Regional Forum. It quoted an Indian newspaper of April 5 that the Ministry had asked all its ambassadors in the 10 ASEAN countries to oppose Pakistan`s candidature for the ARF. In the backdrop of the recent peace initiatives by both Pakistan and India, this move came as a rude shock to the Pakistani establishment, the Dawn report said.

An editorial in the Nation newspaper said: "The political divide caused by Indian intransigence and its brutalities in Kashmir cannot be bridged by improving trade relations." It advised Pakistani business delegations to exercise caution in supporting the Indian demand for MFN (Most Favoured Nation) status. For without any progress in the composite dialogue, such an endorsement would not only help New Delhi to get credence for its claim that there was no serious political dispute, but will also cost Pakistan the moral high ground, the paper said.

An editorial in the Urdu newspaper, Nawai Waqt said that taking confidence-building measures is not the responsibility of Pakistan alone. India should also fulfil its responsibilities. Otherwise how would this one-way traffic continue, it asked. Pakistan should review its policies towards India. Till date New Delhi had not budged a bit from its old stand on Kashmir as an integral part of India nor had it given any assurance that the Kashmir issue will be settled according to the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

A lead article, in the Hindu newspaper with the headline, Old Wine in Old Bottles by Harold A Gould, an American strategist said that in designating Pakistan as a "major non-NATO ally", the United States had once again opted for short-term gains over long-term consequences. On April 2, Manoj Joshi`s lead article in the Times of India: Back to the Future, American Tilt in South Asia was on the India-Pak balance. Joshi wrote that once again in the face of evidence of reckless proliferation behaviour, Washington had lifted sanctions on Pak and declared it MNNA (major non-Nato ally). "All this seems to have induced a new truculence in Gen Musharraf’s tone. We can only hope that Pakistan has learnt something and will continue on the path of détente set in January" Joshi said.

The Hindu carried a Press Trust of India report on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee`s campaign speech from Bahraich, saying that India-Pak must move beyond cricket diplomacy. Prime Minister Vajpayee said: "jahan pehle bomb se khela ja raha tha waha ab cricket match khel rahen hain." (Where bombs were being played with, now cricket is being played). The Times of India`s Special Correspondent from Mumbai reported on Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackaray`s terms for ending his opposition to Pakistan team’s tour on India, made while launching his party election campaign. Thackaray said that he would end his opposition to the Pakistan cricket team’s tour only after the Indian team returned home safe and after cross-border infiltration and terrorism stopped completely.

Stories about trade and commercial ties have begun making their appearance. In the Times of India of April 5, Baiju Kailash wrote from Mumbai that Pakistani firms wanted to be listed in Indian exchanges. Applications had been received from Pakistani companies for trading in oilseeds, vegetable oils and oil cake. Another company wanted to trade in palmolein and tea. "Indo-Pak trade tends to mirror the political developments between the two neighbours and has been volatile since 1995-96," wrote Kailash.

The improvement in the atmosphere has led to an increase in business and commercial subjects being reported in the English, Hindi and Urdu newspapers. Dainik Jagran on March 24 reported that the Data Access India Pvt Lt was planning to extend their business activities to the telecom market in Mauritius and also Pakistan. The company, which was engaged in the field of international long distance communication (ILC) was entering the capital market with a public issue. On April 5, the newspaper`s business section reported that Tata Motors, India`s major auto manufacturing company had indicated an interest in entering the Pakistani market. Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata had said that the company could not ignore the Pakistan market. The company had decided to set up a team to assess the market and prepare a detailed plan for the Pakistani venture.

The same day, Dainik Jagran carried another report that an Indian tea delegation had been denied visas to Pakistan. A 14-member delegation of the Indian Tea Association (ITA) was planning to a tour to Pakistan from April 8 and had applied for visas in March, but despite the improving bilateral relations the tea industry was shocked that the delegation did not receive the required permission for the tour. ITA`s President CK Dhanuk said that the Association had postponed the tour, for they had been told that the Pakistani Interior Ministry had refused their visa application.

The Dainik Bhaskar carried a report on the Jammu and Kashmir Bank that had successfully expanded its operations in Mumbai and Dubai in the past two years. The improving relations between India and Pakistan had led the bank to consider the possibility of reopening its branches in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir that had been closed several decades ago. The J&K Bank will soon send a formal application to the Reserve Bank of India for permission to restart its branches in PoK. Apart from the Reserve Bank of India, the Bank will need to obtain clearance from the Finance and the Home ministries as well as the Pakistani government for its operations in PoK.

The more subjective articles and analysis in the newspapers are usually from outside contributors and columnists, some of whom are retired bureaucrats and military personnel, associated with think-tanks, academics or even politicians. In the Times of India, Bulbir Punj`s lead article on the editorial page had the headline: Cricket for Peace, Vajpayee`s Spin Bowls Over Pakistan. According to Punj, "Most Pakistanis today desire peace with India, having exhausted other options. This climate in favour of détente has partly been sparked by a general realisation among Pakistanis about the benefits of a close relationship with India, which has far outstripped the former in terms of economic achievements. While India is powering ahead -- thanks to its quality human resource -- Pakistan has turned itself into something of a basket case, largely because of its involvement in the jehadi cause."

An article by S Shankar in the Dainik Jagran of April 9 also questioned Gen Musharraf`s commitment to peace when he was busy setting deadlines. Shankar was of the opinion that there existed a complete industry in India for propagating false impressions. Many writers repeatedly stressed that the Indian and the Pakistani people want to befriend each other, and it was the governments of both the countries that kept them apart. There is a whole tribe of such writers and propagators in India, Sankar said, who either due to their anti-Hindutva leanings or due to some other inspiration blame the Indian administration along with Pakistan for any negative development. Many leftist writers blamed India as more or less the only culprit, but fortunately the common man understood the truth through his common sense. He understood Pakistani wiliness and how its aim was to insult and if possible break up India, according to S Shankar.

Indian and Pakistani newspapers carry, on an average, one item on the neighbouring country, and sometimes more or sometimes less. The news items are mostly from news agencies, news analysis generally take into account the official position on the subject, but it is in the articles and commentaries that individual biases become obvious.

 

Shubha Singh writes on international affairs and is a columnist with Pioneer. Contact: shub@vsnl.com

 

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