Is the Indian Media Forcing the Government into a War with Pakistan?  

26 September 2016
. On India Today TV, Gaurav C Sawant, the channel’s executive editor and one of its anchors, held court on the prime-time show “To the Point.” Dressed in a pair of cargo khakis and a brown vest that would befit a reporter covering a war on the ground, Sawant had abandoned the sleek suits that anchors usually opt for.
uri_media_vantage_the-caravan-magazine_26-september-2016
. On India Today TV, Gaurav C Sawant, the channel’s executive editor and one of its anchors, held court on the prime-time show “To the Point.” Dressed in a pair of cargo khakis and a brown vest that would befit a reporter covering a war on the ground, Sawant had abandoned the sleek suits that anchors usually opt for.
uri_media_vantage_the-caravan-magazine_26-september-2016

Is a war between India and Pakistan inevitable? The mainstream news media in India certainly seems to be suggesting so. Even entertaining the possibility that such a war may be ill-advised would cast aspersions on the patriotic zeal of these news organisations. So, the answer must be yes.

For some, it is a more resounding affirmative than others. For others, such as The Quint, a digital news platform, India is already at war with Pakistan, and winning. On 22 September 2016, The Quint published a report titled,  ‘Exclusive: Uri Avenged As Spl Forces Cross LoC, Kill 20 Terrorists’ by Chandan Nandy. Nandy, the opinion editor at The Quint, has previously worked with publications such as The Times of India, and describes himself as a “hardcore reporter by training.”  The story claimed that two units from the elite 2 Paras, consisting of around 18 to 20 soldiers, had flown across the Line of Control (LoC) in Uri in the intervening hours between 20 and 21 September, and conducted an operation that killed at least 20 suspected terrorists in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). The report, based entirely on the accounts of anonymous sources, has been denied by military officials. An editorial note that was added to the story after it was published, states, “In light of the reactions to this article, The Quint decided to reconfirm the information from its sources. We stand by our story.”

It all began in the early hours of 18 September, when a group of four armed militants entered the administrative buildings and store complex of an infantry battalion in Uri, located near the LoC in Kashmir, and killed 18 soldiers. The Indian armed forces suffered its heaviest casualties ever in a single strike. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the national outrage and announced on the same day, “Those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished”. Since then, the media has assumed that an effective response can only be articulated through military means, and in the immediate future. Subsequently, most news outlets in print, television and on the internet have taken upon themselves the mantle of strategising this ostensibly imminent war, on a daily basis.

A day after the attack in Uri, on 19 September, The Times of India ran a story titled, “Army to turn on heat, asks govt to consider cross-border strikes,” by Rajat Pandit. The report spoke of cross-border strikes that the Indian military could use to “‘bleed’ the Pakistani troops without crossing the LoC.” Attributed anonymously to “government sources” and “security establishment officials”, it stated, “The Army is going to turn the heat on Pakistan along the 778-km Line of Control (LoC) with concentrated artillery barrages, sniping and other operations, even as a section of the Indian security establishment wants the government to also consider ‘limited but punitive cross-border strikes’ to send an unequivocal message to Pakistan.”

That day, the headline on the front page of The Telegraphsimply screamed, “RAGE,” as though being angry absolves the world of news from the sobering exercise of discussing policy options.

Sonia Trikha Shukla is a strategic affairs analyst and an Adjunct Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies in Delhi

Keywords: Pakistan war media Uri Attack
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