How William Burns Was Unanimously Censored By Indian Media
US Undersecretary of State William Burns raised with the Indians concerns about the activities of Indian consulates in Afghanistan in support of terrorism inside Pakistan. Mr. Burns spoke in clear terms. Surprisingly, the Indian media unanimously censored Mr. Burns on the question of Indian export of terror into Pakistan using Afghan soil. The mass media missed the story. Here it is in its fascinating detail.
AHMED QURAISHI | Sunday | 26 July 2009
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—More than a month after the visit of US Under Secretary of State William Burns to New Delhi, I described in my column this week in Pakistan’s The News International [‘Forget AfPak, Resolve AfKash To Win In Afghanistan’] how no Indian official publicly contradicted Mr. Burns when he asked New Delhi to trim down or close some of its consulates in Afghanistan after they have been found involved in terrorism inside Pakistan.
I had no idea I was breaking news to a large segment of the Indian public opinion. It turns out very few people in India know this.
What Mr. Burns said is important because it paved the way four weeks later for Pakistan’s Prime Minister Gilani to have a frank talk with his Indian counterpart in Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, where Mr. Gilani leveled with Mr. Manmohan Singh about India’s role in spreading terror in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. The Indians agreed to quietly look into the matter and consented to let Pakistan mention that the two sides discussed ‘threats in Balochistan’, which was a face saver for the Indians. The alternative would have been embarrassing. Islamabad planned to go public with the evidence on Indian terror links.
The Indian government did get into trouble over this with its critics back home. But it successfully kept the lid on an equally embarrassing situation when Mr. Burns visited New Delhi in the second week of June.
It turns out India’s free media practiced a near complete blackout on Mr. Burns’ demand for India to trim or shut down some of its ‘consulates’ in Afghanistan that have been found breeding terrorism on Afghan soil. A couple of Indian news outlets [TV, online] covered Mr. Burns surprising request but the next day almost none of the major Indian newspapers and television news channels mentioned it.
Mr. Burns was effectively censored and selectively presented by the Indian media. This highly unusual occurrence in the world’s largest democracy went unnoticed. A careful search on the Internet of how the Indian print and televised media reported Mr. Burns’ visit between 10-13 June will confirm this fact.
The result is that most Indian analysts and commentators are unaware of what their government and some of its spy outfits have been accused of. When The News published my column this week, I was inundated with emails from India questioning the veracity of the information on Mr. Burns’ trip. The commonest charge was that this is a Pakistani propaganda.
To set the record straight, it appears that while the Indian government could not do much about the embarrassing joint statement, it did a good job of hiding the embarrassing request Mr. Burns made during his stay in the Indian capital.
For the benefit of our angry and suspicious Indian friends, these are quick references that corroborate the story that the Indian media chose to unanimously ignore during Mr. Burns’ visit:
Bharat Prakashan (Delhi) Ltd., which owns and runs the Indian Web news magazine Organiser.com, reported the following in its edition for the week ending on July 26, written by Mr. M. V. Kamath:
“Shri [William] Burns was even more brash. He asked India to close down the Indian Consulate in Jalalabad in Afghanistan because of Pakistani complaint that India is “fomenting trouble” through that Consulate in the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan? Can India ask the US to tell Pakistan to shift its capital from Islamabad to Karachi because Islamabad is causing trouble in Jammu & Kashmir? Who is Shri Burns to advise us where we should set up our Consulates?”
Similarly, under the colorful title, US to Delhi: Shut down Indian “Consulates” in Afghanistan– aftermath of RAW bombing of Peshawar hotel, the interactive Web news magazine Zimbio.com wrote this:
“Senior US diplomat William Burns gave Indian officials a terse and cryptic directive on Thursday. ”Shut down Indian Consulates in Afghanistan, reduce presence in Kabul and stop sending mercenaries across the Durand Line.” This message was supplemented with a letter from President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.”
The Indian Embassy in Washington confirmed on its website that Mr. Burns “also handed over a letter from President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Singh” but did not elaborate on the contents beyond the diplomatic line that “The letter underscored President Obama’s “commitment to broadening and deepening relations with India.”
In another rare instance, a South Indian news website NewKerala.com reported on June 11 under the headline, ‘India being asked to close down or prune its Consulate in Jalalabad’:
“New Delhi, Jun 11 : The United States is asking India to ‘close or prune down’ its Consulate in Jalalabad in Afghanistan following allegations by Pakistan that it (Indian consulate) is ‘creating trouble’ in the border areas of NWFP and Balochistan, sources said here today.”
Mr. Jawed Naqvi, a respected Indian journalist and a long time correspondent for Pakistan’s Dawn, reported on June 11 that the “United News of India quoted unnamed sources as saying that the US had asked India to “close or prune down” its consulate in Jalalabad in Afghanistan.”
And the list goes on. You will not, however, find any mainstream Indian news outlet covering this important aspect of Mr. Burns’ visit. And it is fair to say there was an undeclared moratorium on this issue that the Indian media faithfully enforced. The American and the British media were equally selective in covering this aspect that appeared to tarnish India’s carefully crafted image. In Pakistan’s case, the Am-Brit media has shown willingness to publish alarmist stories that lack credibility.
Why the free media in the world’s largest democracy practiced what appears to be government-inspired censorship?
For Pakistanis there is nothing new in this. The Indian mainstream media dares not veer off the official line on Kashmir when the Pakistani media in comparison has and continues to give space to views on Kashmir that sharply diverge from the official line.
Even the Track II diplomacy delegations coming from India over the past five years consisting of independent activists and professionals showed a strange synchronization in what they said when asked about key issues. The Pakistani delegations visiting India have always shown diversity in views and hardly any unanimity on vital matters.
The case of Mr. William Burns confirms the existence of a mechanism in India where the mainstream media does follow a uniform official code on some issues. When a senior Indian nuclear scientist was kidnapped and murdered in May, the Indian media slapped a blackout. Interestingly, despite the event’s nuclear security implications, even the Am-Brit media completely ignored it.
It is unusual that privately-held media in such established and self professed democracies such as the United States, Britain and India so faithfully mimics the national security priorities of their political-military establishments.
Even more stunning is how each one of them respects the security considerations of the other two. This the only logical explanation for how the Indian and the Am-Brit media, for example, covered the story of the Indian nuclear security breach.
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