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Contrasting Response


There is a comparison worth making in the context of the media and public response in India and Pakistan to the events that followed the Pulwama incident. Immediately after the downing of two aircraft – one, each of the IAF and PAF – during the Pakistani intrusion into Indian airspace, the inexperienced Pak PM, Imran Khan, rushed to announce publicly that two Indian pilots had been captured, one of whom was in hospital. In contrast, the Indian establishment took careful stock of the situation and came out with its authoritative statement several hours later. It must naturally have taken some time to ascertain who the other pilot was, when only one was missing on the Indian side.
Pakistan changed its tune soon enough and, for all practical purposes, the ‘other pilot’ was erased from the narrative. This was only natural, as the facts were hugely embarrassing – an F-16 had been shot down that was not supposed to be used by the PAF for aggressive intent, and the pilot was a Pakistani! He later died, having been beaten up by his own people, and was, by strange coincidence, also the son of an Air Marshal like his IAF adversary. It is noteworthy that neither the Pakistani opposition in Parliament, nor the media, has raised the issue, one reason being that the military establishment would come down hard on them for breaking ranks. In time, perhaps, the matter will come to light, but for the sake of solidarity against the Indians, it is being kept under wraps.
Similarly, not a trickle of information on the Balakot attack has been allowed into the public domain. If there had been no damage to the jihadi complex, the Pakistanis would have taken the international media on a guided tour of the place. Instead, according to locals, the place was immediately sealed off, even for the police. Nobody knows better than the Pakistani Army exactly how shallow is its strength against the Indians in a conventional stand-off. Everybody cooperates in maintaining the image of solidarity and strength.
On the other hand, much of the Indian media and the opposition have questioned every fact presented by their own government in the entire narrative. Leaders like Mamata Banerjee have even implied that the Pulwama attack was staged by the government to create war hysteria. It is no wonder that every conspiracy theory, no matter how outlandish, has been swallowed hook, line and sinker by sections of the media, politicians and intelligentsia. News reports in the foreign press emanating from the remotest corners of the world, whose origins are hugely suspect, are being accepted as the gospel truth – all in the name of democracy and free speech.
So, one may ask, which of the two environments would serve its people better in the case of a long drawn out war, when morale would matter much more than in the present situation?