India growling

Published Jan 31, 2013 03:06am

HOW the tables have turned! For years it was India that held out the hand of trade and economic opportunity to us, and it was Pakistan that growled back defiantly, wedded to antiquated notions and primitive instincts.

And now, one incident on the Line of Control (LoC) later, it is India that is doing the growling and Pakistan talking the language of peace, of resumption of dialogue.

Let’s get one thing clear on this whole issue: the incident on the LoC was just that, an incident. It was not a terrorist attack. With two large armies facing each other across such forbidding terrain, in such close proximity, it is inevitable that such incidents will occur, and have occur-red with almost boring predictability.

This is not unique to India and Pakistan. Wherever you have two large armies, belonging to countries with a history of armed conflict, faced off against each other within line of sight, and stuck in these positions for years on end, incidents of this sort occur.

What’s more, we also hear that the story is a lot more complicated than imagined at first, that it was not a case of unprovoked firing and infiltration by the Pakistan Army, but that there was, as with everything else, a history and a context to the whole thing.

What is unusual in this case is how the Indian media whipped up a storm of fury and peddled a dubious version of events that whitewashed any trace of responsibility on the part of the Indian army and held the Pakistan Army responsible for the entire sequence of events.

The hype and fury whipped up by television anchors was so intense that ordinary Pakistanis on a visit to India under newly improved cross-border sporting and cultural ties felt personally threatened in the street if they identified themselves as Pakistani.

Much credit belongs to the few brave journalists in India who actually took the trouble to  unearth the facts, and brought to light the understanding that the events were complicated, were not without precedent, and that both sides had engaged in brutal behaviour towards each other for over a decade.

I thought the entire point of the thaw in relations was to get past these primitive sentiments and antiquated notions. I thought that the composite dialogue was meant to compartmentalise the relationship precisely so that events and incidents of this sort did not spill over into other domains. And I also thought that setting up the dialogue in this manner was an idea that originated in India.

So what happened? We’re told that heightened sensitivities on account of the elections lie at the root of this whole fiasco. Apparently the media pandered to the lowest common denominator in its thirst for ratings, and none amongst the politicians had the courage to stand up to this right-wing fury for fear of how it might impact their chances for reelection.

As a consequence, we are told, the fury travelled from the screens to the streets to the highest levels of policymaking with blinding speed.

Fair enough. We in Pakistan understand these things because we have seen them happen in our country too.

We know how the approach of elections can make the political system jittery and vulnerable to emotional storms. We know how the media can pander to the worst in all of us in its thirst for ratings. Many of us also know that anchors tend to be, almost universally, a rather ignorant breed.

So what else is one to expect then? A media driven by ratings will peddle hate from time to time because of all primitive instincts, nothing sells like hate. Anchors will dissemble before their viewers because that’s what they do night after night anyway. And what’s an anchor without ratings? Politicians will cower in fear because if they were so brave as to be able to stand up before an enraged mob, they wouldn’t be in politics.

The biggest shame here is that the talks on economic opening up have been stymied on account of this whole sordid episode. It would’ve been far better if economic issues, that were supposed to be removed from these primitive instincts, had not been allowed to once again become hostage to them.

Only this time it’s happening in the very country that has, for years now, lectured Pakistan on the importance of disentangling economic considerations from LoC-related matters.

The best hope both these countries have of finding a just and lasting peace with each other is through greater economic cooperation.

There are three large issues that need to be sorted out separately between India and Pakistan. They are territorial issues, arising from disputes on how to draw a line on a map. Second is water sharing, and the third is economic opening up.

It bears repeating here that it was a good idea to separate these issues and place them in different compartments. Cutting off talks that are trying to deal with water-sharing issues, for instance, due to an incident on the LoC makes no sense. Some of us have spent many years trying to knock this sense into thick heads here in Pakistan. Now it seems we will have to spend a few more years trying to knock it into equally thick heads in India as well.

It’s pointless to rage against the media for pandering to the ratings, or to urge anchors to show more sense. But it is possible to reach across to those sections of the journalism profession in India where better counsel still lives and breathes, and urge them to do the hard slog, and take the big risks, to ensure that this maelstrom of emotion doesn’t sweep us all before it.

After all, that’s precisely the job that some of us have been doing on this side of the border for decades now.

The writer is a Karachi-based journalist covering business and economic policy. Twitter: @khurramhusain

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Comments (68) (Closed)

Feb 01, 2013 10:05am
Ever heard "Don't argue with a fool, he will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience"??? I'll repeat the same words for my Indian fellows with regards to our Pakistani neighbours, they perpetually continue to live in denial and act like saints, that the world knows they have never been! Just ignore them, indifference is the best attitude you can have when dealing with this lot! Let them continue believe they're the most peaceful, most responsible, most stable, more righteous bunch of people / country existing in this world (till the bubble bursts!). We simply don't need to invest our energy in defending ourselves, we simply don't need that! They're way more capable of undoing themselves.
Feb 01, 2013 09:44am
:-) Well, though that won't be ethical, but neither was Mumbai attack and beheading !!!
Feb 01, 2013 08:11am
we don't care to bridge any sort of gap......
Akil Akhtar
Feb 01, 2013 12:05am
Can you please point to any saner elements in india as I am yet to come across one. I watched their media and one and all were spewing venom and mostly silly and laughable. It seemd they were still very primitive and have a long way to go to behave with a bit more balance. But I guess it is understandable for a race that lived under slavery for a thousand years.
Akil Akhtar
Feb 01, 2013 12:00am
The likes and dislikes show how overwhelmingly DAWN is read by indians compared to pakistanis thus the balance is always towards their naroow point of view.
Feb 01, 2013 06:47pm
This attitude of "all is well" when things are NOT LOOKING behind the problems in Pakistan today.It seems to permeate the entire political culture of Pakistan " all is well- ah,this will get better soon-nothing to fix" One CANNOT decapitate enemy soldiers a country with which you are trying to build bridges,and expect business as usual...
Feb 01, 2013 12:08am
Unfortunately PK has a reputation for lying in the international community...any amount of window dressing wont help relationship between two countries in the longer run..
Jan 31, 2013 01:23pm
I agree with you analysis and your objective assessment. However, after Kargil and many such incidents before and after Kargil, we in India have a feeling that Pakistan first lies and when the lies are caught the truth comes out. If you don't believe me check out the first hand account from Lieutenant General (retired) Shahid Aziz and compare the response from Musharaff in 1999. Now the mindset of the people on the street is that Pakistan is upto no good. Such an environment is conducive for hate filled demagogy.
Feb 01, 2013 05:44pm
haha when you say lets assume half of the report is true, what if i say lets assume if the whole report is cooked up. whatever its time for compromises and giving chance to peace.
Feb 01, 2013 03:36am
Your have some of the worst TV channels spouting hate on others, especially Indians, Jews & Americans. All the conspiracy theories that are floating around in Pakistan are because of the TV channels giving prominence to them.
Feb 01, 2013 06:30pm
Well said..Animesh
Abdul Wahab-Pakistan
Jan 31, 2013 08:06am
Absolutely correct. It appeared like an Indian media waged war where battleground scenes were being shown and public polls whether India should undertake surgical strikes against Pakistan were launched. Interestingly the allegations were against Pak. army but debate about surgical strikes was generated..... Surgical strikes against Pak. army? where and how...? It really appeared like war-mongering. In the presence of mistrust, a third party inquiry, by U.N., as proposed by Pakistan was the most logical one. But a real war euphoria was created... very difficult to understand. Should media toe the line of jingoism, Indian politicians so imprudently launched for their political benefits without caring for the public sentiments which take ages to be developed in favor of each other across the border. Only silver lining among the clouds is the display of prudence among saner elements on both sides which are still trying best to bridge the gap created by latest war mongering.
Jan 31, 2013 04:26pm
Dear Mr. Khurram Husain, Totally agree with you. Well analyzed and written. Couldn't have said it any better myself.
Jan 31, 2013 09:41am
So easy to blame it all on media and call mutilation of our soldiers as a rather boring event. This kind of attitude will only invite more serious troubles for Pakistan.
Deb; India
Jan 31, 2013 09:38am
Quite sensible. Dialogue is the only way, but it has to take place in good faith.
Jan 31, 2013 02:43pm
Thats my man. Thats the spirit. We need more people like you around.
Jan 31, 2013 09:34am
well written.hope things improve
Jan 31, 2013 02:45pm
Pakistan has had several of its soldiers beheaded.
Jan 31, 2013 02:49pm
You guys are so blinded by your disbelief and hate. You hungrily lap up every thing your war-mongering media feeds you but reject your own Home Ministers statements on Hindu terrorism. You have lost all your credibilty. Indians are not to be trusted at all.
Jan 31, 2013 11:42am
Beheading of soldiers is not may be normal in other parts of world but not in india!!!!!!!!!!!
Jan 31, 2013 10:22am
India media needs to learn a lot from its younger sibling; Pakistani media.
Feb 01, 2013 05:13pm
Anwar, Looking at the past records and current records of pakistan and India within the population and within the army about behading or mutilating a soldier's body - its clearly Pakistan. Don't you agree?
Jan 31, 2013 10:14pm
Pakistan... a place where journalists describe decapitation as boring and predictable. Hopefully most readers are not as disturbed as this author.
John the Baptist
Jan 31, 2013 04:21pm
You cannot take india out of an indian, ever! Genetically programmed to hate everything Pakistan.
Jagjit Singh Sidhoo
Jan 31, 2013 11:24am
Sometimes patience runs out
Jan 31, 2013 12:47pm
what about beheading a soldier doing his duty.that may be ok in islamic pak but is not ok in india.even dead enemies must be respected as their soul is no different than ours.i guess that is not taught in an islamic republic.everyone has to end up at the same destination.
K G Surendran
Jan 31, 2013 11:18am
The problem was not with the cross border firing but the subsequent mutilation of the bodies of the Indian soldiers which whipped up sentiments, though it is true that some, not all, TV anchors try to seize opportunities like these to drive up emotions but in this particular instance there was the evidence of a mutilated body.and it is but natural for a country's citizens to feel tremendous anger, just as in the case where Pakistani soldiers were killed in the Salala US troops, and the reactions in India on the other fronts was on expected lines given Indo-Pak relations and history. As a consequence a democratically elected government had to listen to public opinion which had become pretty hostile, so to propagate that hawks had gained a upper hand in India would be obfuscating facts.
Feb 01, 2013 03:40pm
we are good in reciprocating gestures.....
Jan 31, 2013 03:19pm
Even wars should be fought honourably. Beheading is done by barbarians, not soldiers.
Jan 31, 2013 03:15pm
Half-truths and lies. What about the MFN issue which Pakistan does not have the honour to respect it and adhere to it, or even pass it in parliament despite India having done it over 10 years ago. Surely, Pakistan is dithering and reneging on the MFN status? No, the writer does not want to even mention it!
Cyrus Howell
Jan 31, 2013 07:26pm
That is no doubt the reason your family ran away to the United States.
Cyrus Howell
Jan 31, 2013 07:25pm
"The problem was not with the cross border firing..." Good Point.
Cyrus Howell
Jan 31, 2013 07:28pm
You can trust your politicians, little Debbie.
Cyrus Howell
Jan 31, 2013 07:36pm
Touche' Imran.
Feb 01, 2013 06:51pm
Our Army is professional- preserved from days of British India-a well disciplined professional out fit which ones tangled with first world enemies like Japan and Germany and bettered them. Pakistani Army is a political outfit,which sets out agenda for the state that sustains it to follow- it once was part of the Indian Army but now,a pathetic shadow whose professionalism is a joke!
Jan 31, 2013 01:08pm
For an ordinary Indian largest of all issues is justice for those who lost life on November 26th and those responsible are roaming freely in Pakistan. Pakistan and Pakistanis are very conveniently forgetting and want India to forget as well. But it cannot be forgotten. Till action is taken, there is no love for Pakistan in India.
Jan 31, 2013 08:54am
Good article there except the fact that you have knowingly side stepped the issue which kicked up the hornet's nest in India, which no one can tale lightly - beheading and mutilation of an Indian soldier by Pakistani force. Keep the misinformation campain up without showing any spine, kudos to selective reporting.
murty ganti
Feb 01, 2013 01:43pm
I remember when I was in Indian Airforce we had an 'exercise' where we were asked to review and assume our responsibility in case of of civil unrest. . I quickly realized at age 25 my rank was commensurate with the district collector of the region. Born in India and always enamored by civil power of collector, this really went to my head. Imagine, if I were to periodically assume such power, I would have yearned for it. That is precisely what happens in Pakistani military. A military that actually exercised such power and yearns for power. No wonder they will try to whip up frenzy, by mutilating body. It is the equivalent of 'media frenzy' in India. This is not a rationalization of events, but an analysis of events. The only medicine for this cancer is 'Ounce' of democracy three times a day and a prayer 'that there are enough cool heads in this nuclear armed neighbors.
Waleed Ikram
Jan 31, 2013 06:47am
Very well said. Indian Media should not behave like a war mongor, it does not help either side
Animesh - India
Jan 31, 2013 02:34pm
Mr Khurram did you forget when American forces intruded Pakistani borders and killed Osama Bin Laden? Now let me repeat your statement in the same context "..Wherever you have two large armies, ..., faced off against each other within line of sight, and stuck in these positions for years on end, incidents of this sort occur....". I never heard similar statements at those days but rather media blasting of American troops.
Jan 31, 2013 02:34pm
The article doesn't have any essence. A sub-par article which believes in no accountability of border incidents. No surprise why Pak is going down the drain with such intellectuals who cannot even think straight.
Jan 31, 2013 08:40am
Left the article at first 4 lines. Lets see what Pakistan has to say, if 2 of it's soldiers are beheaded. I am not sure if Mr Hussain has any inkling of what has transpired.
Jan 31, 2013 08:36am
Now all Indians will complain what a biased and one-sided article this is. All of a sudden Dawn is not the balanced newspaper it usually is. Come on Indians, lets hear some growling!
Feb 01, 2013 03:29pm
What you are saying is not true. In no time they found all the evidences against the doctor who helped in locating Bin Laden and put him in prison. Here they cannot find evidence when everything is so clear. Where Pakistan wants evidence, they will get it, but here they do not want an evidence. Problem is Pakistan believes that if they tell a lie loudly 10 times and it will become truth and world should start believing in it. November 26th is ingrained in the mind of Indian public as much as September 11 for Americans. It is a watershed moment and business cannot as usual unless they take action.
Jan 31, 2013 06:06am
An article filled with half-truths and personal opinions. So, whenever the Indian media reports anything that is unpalatable to Pakistani sensibilities, it is "peddling dubious versions of events" for "ratings". How convenient! Ratings=money='Hindu Baniya' mentality...of course! Mr Khurram Husain, an incursion half a km into another country's territory, ambushing a group of soldiers, killing two of them, beheading one and mutilating the corpse of the other, CANNOT be washed away with banalities like "such incidents will occur, and have occur-red with almost boring predictability". Perhaps this is true in Pakistan where this kind of grizzly violence has become part of daily life.
Jan 31, 2013 08:13am
Simply there is no issue . action by brick should be given by stone . If someone beheads soldiers , indian gov should block the rivers and break the water treaty . Let the whole population die .
Jan 31, 2013 06:41pm
Thats really hilarious!
Jan 31, 2013 06:33pm
And writer and mentality of similar minded (most Pakistanis) takes it lightly such incidence, hence there is so much violence in Pakistan and hence also branded the whole Pakistan as epicentre of terrorism. But we Indian cannot take it lightly. Now you will understand, what is the status of Pakistan and that of India in the eyes of the whole world.
Shahryar Shirazi
Jan 31, 2013 05:29pm
While I don't disagree that H.S might be responsible for 26/11, there is no evidence against him. The US foreign office , after the bounty was announced against him, admitted that "today" there is no evidence to prove him guilty in the court of law. This was admitted live and available on youtube. Courts are beyond an individual or nation. We need bullet proof evidence to accuse him in the court. Even Kasab could be hanged day 1. But it took for years. Lets hope we in Pakistan can get rid of these extremists ...
Jan 31, 2013 05:31pm
"War monger" ...Miss Khar had used these words and was in uncomfortable position and with in 24 hr she completely turned . So whats your plan ? :)
Shahryar Shirazi
Jan 31, 2013 05:36pm
Harish, Indian and Pakistani governments are not coming clean to their own people. Beheading has been practiced on both sides of LoC, by both parties. This has happened a few times in the last 13 years. Most of the Jawans, on both sides of the border, are un-educated, away from their family, have financial issues, deeply religious and patriotic. Watch Karan Thappar's interview with Salman Khursheed when he got accused of beheading on the indian side too and how Mr Khursheed dances the question around. Karan asks 3-4 times with no answer. This interview is on Youtube ... Lets hope sanity prevails on both sides of the border. I am not side stepping the beheading issue, this must be resolved and those who did it must be punished. However, we need to understand elections are due in both countries. 5 weeks before the termination of Govt, we are busy creating a new province :) ... On the other hand, Congress sees Modi just a few yards away from from the premier position ... They must play hardball with Pakistan ...
Jan 31, 2013 05:46pm
The point that you need to understand is to be realistic about things. Pakistan wants business ties because its internal economy is in shambles and its western neighbour afghanistan is not really a market. This was not the scenario 20 years back India did not provide a market oppurtunity the size today to pakistan and India did not have so many markets that it has today to sell too. So its obvious that India is not in a hurry to begin trading Pakistan. This is especially the case when Pakistan continues to have miliatry ambitions overt and covert against India. As for cultural and sporting ties go they are just PR activities which by themselves dont really have too much of a impact in terms of true relationships between countries. Indian media can be a irritant at most times but this time they have go it right. The point you need to askyourself is why would India want to normalize relations with Pakistan when Pakistan is truly not interested in it. Recently there have been admission by Pakistan army or ex-army folks that Kargil war was initiated by Pakistan's regular army and not by irregulars. Essentially all this goes to prove that Pakistan bears hostility towards india. In the face of this fact resumption of any meaningful ties is impossible. India will wait it out for Pakistan to either change for the better or self-destruct itself in this foolish pursuit.
Jan 31, 2013 05:56pm
Somehow, one possiblity seems not to have been considered. Whenever Indo-Pak relations seem to be heading in the direction of improvement, there is one institution which cannot tolerate this. What better option for the Pak Army than causing such an incident and watching all the fun, while the 'improving relations' take a tailspin.
Anwar Ul-Haq
Jan 31, 2013 05:56pm
All those Indians writing their comments have also conveiently forgotton Pakistan's report to UN accusing Indian army of mutilating bodies of Pak Army soldiers over the last ten years. Let us assume for one minute that if not all but half of the report is true. What do you say about your people and your army then. You lot make it out that you are in someway better than others, the fact is you are not. If you were, you would have the ability to think rationally, with the brain not with the heart.
Ram, India
Jan 31, 2013 05:57pm
Please comment if beheading a soldier and taking his head as trophy is considered a normal event.
Jan 31, 2013 06:20pm
Two large armies? Forget armies, just see the likes and dislikes on any comment in your paper. You will know that we are too many, we are too good and we are too much for you. We want peace but if you want something else, we shall give you that too. Choice is yours.
Jan 31, 2013 09:08pm
Superb, send your brother to the border, and let an 'incident' happen to him. Then go and preach dialogue about trade, dialogue to your government. That will make you a true saint.
rahul pathak
Feb 01, 2013 04:16pm
why comment section of any news article that puts PAK in tight spot is closed within few minutes while any controversial article concerning india goes on & on...... want example ? look at..... a) kargil war was four man show ...b) human rights report on minorities in pak.... this happenned in recent past too DAWN i heard u r most fair paper in Pak ..wHATS GOING ON....
Feb 01, 2013 02:41am
"Much credit belongs to the few brave journalists in India who actually took the trouble to unearth the facts, and brought to light the understanding that the events were complicated, were not without precedent, and that both sides had engaged in brutal behaviour towards each other for over a decade." So name the brave journalists, and quote their reports! What stops you? I am an Indian living in India and I haven't seen or heard of any such revelations in the media here. The biggest disservice to Pakistan is done by motivated and incompetent writings such as these. It reinforces the perception in India among even the younger generation that " .... if it is from Pakistan it is a lie!"
Feb 01, 2013 08:43pm
Height of self-delusion. Only an Indian can manage that.
Feb 01, 2013 08:44pm
You guys are simply obsessed with us. You cannot move forward without us dominating every moment of your thinking. Thats why despite your call to ignore us, all you guys are here like flies. Ignoring us is beyond you.
Feb 01, 2013 08:50pm
Thank goodness for that.
Feb 01, 2013 09:30pm
No one asked you to come down to our level. Why dont you go and enjoy your own high level press, if you can bear to read it?. Please please ignore us.
Feb 01, 2013 10:08pm
If only the India remove complex and intorance both have 1 to 7 ratio of population and assets but still complex and hatred caused by it.
Feb 01, 2013 10:09pm
QOUTE please
Feb 01, 2013 10:25pm
In the begining when my brush the article name - I read as india growing. But my heart was not believing that pakistani news paper can write something positive about their neighbour and after reading the article my heart was right. Anyway, religion has gone so deep in this country that they stop respecting humanity. I am sure Allah will hate you when you do that !!!!
Feb 01, 2013 11:39pm
What uncomfortable position was Ms Khar in ? Must have missed that one.
Feb 01, 2013 11:50pm