Poisoned atmosphere

Published Jan 17, 2013 07:42pm

DID the Pakistan Army decapitate the corpse of any Indian soldier or mutilate it without beheading it? Was it one soldier or two? Was a Pakistani or Indian soldier killed first? The India-Pakistan stand-off over Line of Control violations has become an alarming case of a nation missing — or being made to miss — the forest for the trees. Almost always, the only facts journalists have from inaccessible conflict zones is what they get from militaries. And in this case even Indian military sources, as some Indian journalists have pointed out, have provided conflicting reports about what was done to the two Indian soldiers who have died. Yet the alleged beheading has become the focus of Indian outrage. Along with the angry rhetoric, Pakistani hockey players have been sent home, visiting theatre troupes kept from performing and a new visa regime for senior citizens put on hold. Where the media, civil society and politicians should be trying to save the larger goal of peace in the region, they are allowing possible propaganda and an incident that involved far fewer casualties than prior conflicts — even including the three Pakistani soldiers who have died — to possibly derail a hard-won peace process.

Pakistanis know all too well how state propaganda during conflict with India works; we have been misled by it ourselves. The Pakistan-sponsored militancy in India-held Kashmir in the 1990s was sold to us as an indigenous jihad. During Kargil, we were told that mujahideen were fighting the battle. The recklessness of that misadventure only emerged when Pakistani soldiers began dying along the LoC. Meanwhile, the ‘facts’ the military had supplied us with and the jingoism that had been created deceived us in the short term and poisoned perceptions about India in the long term. Wednesday’s ceasefire and the Pakistani foreign minister’s offer of talks with her counterpart have now provided an opportunity to tone down the tension. At this moment of hostility in India, Indian politicians and the media would do well not to take at face value the information they’ve been given and focus on the bigger picture — the importance of not derailing dialogue.


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Comments (11) (Closed)


V. C. Bhutani
Jan 18, 2013 09:09pm
19 Jan 2013. 0230 IST. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read this editorial. This is commendable. The Dawn has called things by their proper names. There have been voices on both sides that the peace dialogue should not be allowed to become a casualty: a lot else has been lost already and more may be lost. Personally, the moment I read about the decapitation of the dead body of an Indian soldier, my first response was that there is no hope of India-Pakistan good relations. My feeling was that, if anyone listened to me, we should cease all relations with Pakistan - political, diplomatic, commercial, cultural - and India should build a China Wall all along the IB and LOC to ensure that the nonrelationship shall become firmly established. Now, if Dawn can speak in a different sense, I can see some hope. I wish something like that came from the ISPR and the political leadership. V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India
Arbab Zahid
Jan 18, 2013 08:29pm
Accusations and blame game would further aggravate the tensions between the neighbouring nation-states. If Indian claims of beheading the soldiers is based on conformity and actuality, why didn't they accepted the Pakistans' offer of a probe by UN in this matter?
Iftikhar Husain
Jan 18, 2013 12:47pm
Thank you Dawn for giving the right comments I fully agree with the editorial.
abbastoronto
Jan 18, 2013 09:47pm
In war, truth is the first casualty.
Nasah (USA)
Jan 18, 2013 08:11pm
The falsehood from the army is not the exclusive domain of Pakistan army -- the Indian army does the same -- exposing their own army's falsehood is not the exclusive domain of some Pakistani journalists either -- some Indian journalists do the same. The problem is with the readers like you and me who go ballistic believing every word of the media frenzy as black or white -- never ever questioning their own side. (Dr.) Nasah
Atif
Jan 18, 2013 05:25pm
You are only appreciating part of the article while totally ignoring the other part which questions whether everything that comes from Indian Military is as true as your public and politicians make it to be? The overall point by DAWN is that LOC violations are a tit-for-tat phenomenon, which has been going on for long, with casualties from both side, including this very case, so why is it that the peace process be derailed on this? When the larger vision of peace prevails, such skirmishes over the borders will die down automatically. Like the article in question said: don't lose the forest while looking for trees.
DEVARAJAN NAVANEETHAM
Jan 18, 2013 03:18pm
The Pakistan Foreign Minister is always a little bit late in comprehending any situation dealing with India. Within 24 hours of the Indian protest she was in the denial mode. Did she think that India simply made up the story just to malign Pakistan after all these years?. She should also desist from making such immature and childish remarks like " India should grow up". It is a pity that nobody in India is taking her seriously nowadays because a new a mature FM is expected in 4 months time.
Mr Singh
Jan 18, 2013 10:48am
hats off for unbiased article
(Dr.) B.N. Anand
Jan 18, 2013 10:54am
Sir, at long last, your esteemed paper has indeed made a confession about falsehood which the Pakistan army/ leaders sold to the Pakistan people both in 1990 and during Kargil war. Naturally, the media and people believed in these falsehoods and created a biased mind against India among the people of Pakistan. That is why we always believed that Pakistan always lived in denial. Now again, when Indian soldier has been decapitated at LOC , it is too much for the People in this country. That is sort of saying that enough is enough. That is why so much anger. Yes, beheading and hanging someone on tree for a public show are a common features of Talibans in Pakistan but a professional Pakistan army doing this to another professional enemy soldier is indeed not any more acceptable in this country. The setback to the relations is tremendous and only God knows how the process of CBMs could be revived. For the time being, every step in this direction is on hold and no body should be complaining but rather be introspecting.
Jagdish
Jan 18, 2013 09:41am
A mature article. However stopped short of being totally honest, though it gave strong hints of Pakistan complicity. Hats off to Dawn. From Indian point of view, peace is absolutely essential, but red lines of each nation needs to be respected.
Feroz
Jan 18, 2013 09:28am
Pakistani Foreign Minister has no authority to make foreign policy and no one can take any foreign policy formulation seriously. Peace between India and Pakistan will put many mud rakers and profiteers out of business. Indian soldiers bodies were mutilated even during Kargill misadventure, this time repeated with both occasions being on Indian side of LOC. Taking body parts as trophies is not acceptable and culprits should be apprehended and punished.