Monday, December 1, 2008

Deafening Silence in Mumbai

In the aftermath of last week's carnage in Mumbai, the global media are exhibiting their usual callousness in reporting on the issue. There are some improvements: most (with some glaring exceptions) of the major newspapers are referring to the event as an act of terror and the perpetrators as terrorists. Except some who still keep the flag flying, they have given up on the term 'militants' in referring to those who kill civilians and destroy societies in India. This was not the case 5 years ago when a ragtag bunch of terrorists drove into the campus of the Parliament House in New Delhi, their car laden with explosives.

CNN covered the event consistently- which was another exception for the media and especially for CNN. Besides these there is barely anything that I can view without revulsion in Western media reportage on this event.

The headlines are quick to judge, condemn and at the least 'tut, tut'. This article in 'The Week' magazine talks about some of them. They are urging India to let the "new" Pakistani government cooperate with Indians, asking India and Pakistan to do some "non-reacting", noting that India as usual is accusing Pakistan prematurely and without evidence, rebuking India for fomenting religious tensions and creating "disenfranchised" Muslim youth, showing puzzlement why India would continue to gnaw at Pakistan's heels when the Pakistani government clearly said they were not involved in the event and showed their cooperative side by sending their spy chief to India to talk to the government. Others are talking of how this will affect the way foreign investors look at India's business climate, thereby inflicting a heavy wound on the economy. Some others are deriding (sic) India's handling of the situation. Others are claiming that this was an event perpetrated by Hindu extremists, notwithstanding the growing mountain of evidence as to the orchestrators of the act. All of them are asking India to begin dialogue on the Kashmir issue, to open it up to the US and other nations to solve multilaterally and to ensure that the Muslim community which is by and large economically and societally backward and undereducated, is given focus and care in being able to redeem itself. Some of the more honest ones speculate that this will divert Pakistan's attention to engaging India's anger when it should be focused on the Afghanistan border. After all that is more important than subcontinental tragedies that will inevitably be forgotten in a few weeks.

It is events like this that open one's eyes to the agenda, prejudices and stubbornness that characterize Western political minds when it comes to India. As Samuel Huntington observed in 'The Clash of Civilizations', India is the only major country that is isolated, alone and culturally set apart from the world. India has no true friend. The closes of its allies, Israel and the US, are proving to be opportunists as India has always suspected them to be. The most puzzling question is why India has not been as hardnosed and decisive as China has been in pursuing a tough, self-centered, independent foreign policy.

The other remarkable observation one could make (this is no surprise though, having been repeated ad nauseam in the past) is the alactrity with which Pakistan has removed itself from suspecting eyes. The Pakistani government is new, ostensibly helping the US find the last stalwarts of the Al Qaeda hiding in the Afghan border, and has washed its hand off the responsibility. It is a victim of homegrown terror and the media argue therefore that it must be trusted implicitly by India, never mind that the legilative branch of the government has no connection to the Executive, especially the military; and never mind the calls and emails of the terrorists traced back to Pakistan; and certainly not the confessions of the captured terrorist that he had trained in Pakistan with the terrorist group LeT to fight his dirty war. Some Pakistani journalists are making the case they have always attempted to make- that the solution to all of this is for India to clean up its own backyard. Granted that India has many societal problems, but how convenient to suggest that if only India started behaving, perhaps giving away Kashmir among other things, it would all be solved. Almost all these articles call for US intervention to investigate the cause. Clearly they are dissatisfied with the evidence that is coming out of India's cops interrogating the captured terrorist and the email/phone conversations traced to Pakistan from the terrorists' satellite phone, the contact names of LeT leaders on those phones and so on. And they seem to sincerely believe that India should disbelieve its own police force and trust the US to come up with a plausible explanation for the tragedy, which of course, must exonerate Pakistan.

The LeT had of course named former president Musharraf as its honorary head prior to 9/11. This was hastily removed later. Reports of the LeT and the ISI, Pakistan's spy agency being almost interchangable, are also of course old news and therefore to be conveniently forgotten. We must trust the Pakistani claims that the LeT has somehow fallen from grace and is now an enemy to Pakistan. the connections with the ISI and deeply rooted common individual elements in these two organizations must not be relevant any more, for whatever reason.

For any media eyewash in the US, this issue has to take the cake o nbeing the most blatant. Their deafening silence in speaking out what is the obvious truth is telling. The US newspapers claim that India and Pakistan "mistrust" each other. This patronizing psycho-babble clearly muddles American minds. To India and Indians this will remain a deeply personal matter, and will only serve to further convict them of US opportunism. There may be no permanent friends in politics, but it will serve India well to remember that there are no friends at all in politics, only situations that they can manipulate. Machiavelli would be proud then, never mid Gandhi.

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