When Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale read out a prepared statement on what he described as an “intelligence-led”, “pre-emptive”, “non-military” strike on Pakistani soil, he made clear he wouldn’t be taking in questions.
No opportunity to ask questions like:
What were the estimated casualties on the ground?
What was the basis of these casualty estimates?
What was the nature of the intelligence that made this strike essential?
If we have such great intelligence, why didn’t we see the Pulwama attack coming?
Is bringing the sub-continent to the brink of all-out war, really the best possible response to the Pulwama attack?
The government’s reticence is understandable. No government likes to share details, particularly about a sensitive cross-border operation against a nuclear-armed neighbour.
It is our job, as the media, to compel them to share information and justify decisions that could lead to nuclear war: something that affects a lot more than Narendra Modi’s election prospects.
Fortunately for this government, a section of Indian journalists believe that the point of quoting “sources”, and accessing “leaks”, is to put out information in favour of the government.
This has allowed the government to milk the moment for political gains without having to take responsibility for the information that journalists are putting out on the government’s behalf.
Actually, the whole point of a “source” is get information that the government would not want out in the public.
Thus far, Saikat Datta’s piece in the Asia Times seems to be the only one to put sources to good use, where Datta notes:
“Indian military sources confirmed to Asia Times that a raid had taken place. “However, it does seem like the Pakistanis were prepared and expecting something,” a senior military official said.”
Minutes after Gokhale’s press conference, India Today had a “blow-by-blow” account claiming that the Air Force suggested cross-border raids the day after the Pulwama attack, and the government cleared it right away. This information is presumably intended to bolster Narendra Modi’s claims to be a decisive leader.
On Twitter, Shiv Aroor, the India Today journalist who wrote the copy, listed out the military equipment used in the attack — presumably to assure his readers of the authenticity of this information.
Meanwhile, Manu Pubby, a respected journalist who broke several important stories on the Augusta-Westland scam, lent credence to the totally unsubstantiated the claim that the strikes killed “300” terrorists.