Asia Scope

Careless vs Inflammatory

One of India’s leading commentators on its regional relations has an interesting piece out on, looking at recent tensions between India and China over the disputed border area that I mentioned last month.

I felt, and still do, that in these kinds of situation it’s easy for media speculation to take on a life of its own, and the Indian government should get credit for not risking an escalation through careless talk.

But Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research, believes the Indian government has crossed from judicious restraint to obstructionism in its dealings with the media, writing:

“If the threat from an increasingly assertive and ambitious China is to be contained, India must have an honest and open debate on its diplomatic and military options, including how gaps in its defences can be plugged and what it will take to build a credible deterrent.

“The media has a crucial role to play in such a debate, both by bringing out the facts and providing a platform for discussion. Still, New Delhi has sought to make its home media the scapegoat. Even more odd is that it has taken its cue from Beijing.”

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In the meantime, though, India has had to turn its attention west, with the attack on its embassy in Kabul claiming at least 17 lives and injuring scores more. The attack has inevitably provoked speculation that the attack was part of a broader struggle on the subcontinent, with some pointing the finger at what they say is Pakistan’s indirect hand in the attack.

According to this report by Indo-Asian News Service:

“Ajai Sahni, an expert on terrorism, said the attack was planned well in advance to keep pressure on India to stay away from Afghanistan.

“The attack, he said, bore the hallmark of last year’s attack on the Indian embassy that was executed by the Haqqani group of the Taliban in close coordination with Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

“‘It’s been well-documented not only by Indian intelligence agencies but also by American intelligence agencies which found proof in the form of wireless intercepts between Taliban militants and their ISI handlers,’ Sahni told IANS.”

So, is this reasonable reporting or carelessly inflammatory? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference. And sometimes there isn’t much.