LoC killings: media drives hard line on Pakistan - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 14 January 2013

LoC killings: media drives hard line on Pakistan

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14th Jan 13

Since the Jan 8 killing of two Indian soldiers and the mutilation of their bodies in a Pakistani attack on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), the government has faced a growing clamour from hard-line nationalist sections of the media --- especially electronic media --- for “action” to be taken against Pakistan.

After a relatively restrained response in the immediate aftermath of the killings, the government --- apparently due to relentless media pressure --- shifted to a harder line against Pakistan. On Jan 8, first reports from the army’s Northern Command of the deaths of two Indian soldiers in a “ceasefire violation” in the Mendhar sector, had mentioned that the bodies had been mutilated. Although the press release made no mention of beheading, senior army officers quickly leaked the shocking news that one soldier had been beheaded and the head taken away. Only four days later, on Jan 12, was this news corroborated by a MoD spokesperson.

But on the evening of the incident (Jan 8), with a crop of retired generals baying on television for the army to be “unleashed” against Pakistan, Foreign Minister Salman Khursheed appeared on television, conveying serious concern but also restraint. The next morning, Pakistani High Commissioner Salman Bashir was summoned to the foreign ministry and conveyed India’s concern. Statements from Pakistan, including one by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, also sought to put a lid on the incident.

From New Delhi’s perspective this was unsurprising, given the government’s wish to prevent this incident, howsoever brutal, from derailing a ceasefire that had held for almost a decade, saving countless lives. MEA sources emphasise that the Indo-Pak dialogue should not be disturbed, since it is going India’s way. Discussions focus on the issues important to India (commercial ties, liberalisation of visa regime, terrorism, and people-to-people contacts); while there is lesser emphasis on the issues that New Delhi wanted to avoid (Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek).

Nor is the MoD keen to disturb the ceasefire; the Pakistan Army has shifted some 70,000 soldiers from the LoC to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, for counter terrorist operations in the tribal areas. If India turned on the heat seriously, an insecure Pakistan Army could move troops back to the LoC. Indian intelligence agencies also worry that an aggressive Indian response could cause the Pakistan Army to mend fences quickly with the jehadi groups they are currently fighting.

But this logic has been ignored by large sections of the Indian media, which covered the incident in gory detail on the morning of Jan 9, even as there was deafening silence from the Pakistani press. After a full day of Pakistan-bashing on television, Jan 10 saw two Indian newspapers --- The Hindu; and Daily News and Analysis (DNA) --- prominently headline the news that the Pakistani attack in Mendhar was in response to an Indian attack in Uri the preceding Sunday, in which one Pakistani soldier was killed and another grievously injured in an attack on a Pakistani post. The article also stated that earlier Indian attacks on Pakistani posts on the LoC had been accompanied by the beheading of Pakistani soldiers.

For many Indians, this revelation somewhat changed the complexion of the debate. From a dastardly sneak attack that involved the barbaric chopping off of Indian heads, the Pakistani action was now retaliation; and its barbarity viewed in the context of a wider barbarism on the LoC. But large sections of the media simply ignored the report, maintaining a relentless drumbeat for action against Pakistan.

Like many Pakistani television guests, the Pakistan Army’s former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Tariq Majid, emphatically reject allegations that Pakistani soldiers could have deliberately taken an Indian head. He argues that explosions during combat sometimes mutilate soldiers’ bodied.

“The perception in our official circles is that this (Indian allegation) is yet another manifestation of the blow-hot-blow-cold policy being pursued to keep Pakistan under pressure,” says General Majid.

Currently, even as the firing gradually abates on the LoC (on Jan 10, a second Pakistani soldier was killed in alleged firing by India), the government struggles to placate the nationalist media on the one hand; and keep the Indo-Pak peace process afloat on the other. This is proving difficult; the latest remark that the Indian media has seized upon is the statement on Saturday by IAF boss, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, that if “these violations continue to take place, then perhaps we may have to look at some other options for compliance.”

With the TV channels flashing this “Breaking News”, MoD spokespersons began calling in to clarify that the options that Browne referred to included “political and diplomatic options as well.”

The foreign minister has now gone on record to cool tempers, placing the issue in a larger context. In an interview on Saturday he said, “There's a much larger situation... the situation demands very responsible and sensible and moderate behaviour. We're not going to be pressurised by wild calls for revenge and reaction. We will do what is in the best interest of the country and peace, keeping in mind that there is a lot at stake.” 


  1. What I find most worrying the abysmal quality and depth of political leadership on both sides of the border. War is too serious a matter to be left to the armed forces. I fear that a trigger happy brigade commander on the LOC will start a shooting match which rapidly escalates and the armed forces bully a weak political leadership into war with Pakistan. It is not an unthinkable scenario and truly scary. The extent of abdication of policital leadership by MMS, Antony and other senior leaders is very risky.

  2. The first really balanced report on the entirety of the incident and its implications. i am glad it comes from someone who has a background of the Army as well as of the media. Thank you Ajay. If you too had gone hawkish I would have started tearing my hair.

  3. Boo hoo hoo bad bad media...as versus congress bootlicker shukla...

  4. Complecency on LOC and you pay for it. We are timid nation and a tamed military. Unless we attain a moral ascedency over our enemies both inside and outside, the humiliation will continue. If Pak is a failing state we are a decaying society.

  5. Yes media does get carried away sometimes but the reason is that India somehow always appears to be at the receiving end bending over backwards to placate Pakistan. One simple question is who has a larger stake in maintaining peace on the LC? Why are we unable to stop Pak army from assisting infiltration? So long as they try to push in Jehadis the ceasefire will remain fragile with the danger of things boiling over now and then. Also, did the Pak troops harass our posts in Uri? What will happen if India did just the bare minimum to play the waiting game?

  6. Yes media does get carried away sometimes but the reason is that India somehow always appears to be at the receiving end bending over backwards to placate Pakistan. One simple question is who has a larger stake in maintaining peace on the LC? Why are we unable to stop Pak army from assisting infiltration? So long as they try to push in Jehadis the ceasefire will remain fragile with the danger of things boiling over now and then. Also, did the Pak troops harass our posts in Uri? What will happen if India did just the bare minimum to play the waiting game?

  7. Did you hear the press conference

    And prior to that the Air Chief's statements

    And then look at YOUR STATEMENTS
    on NDTV :


    Any SHAME LEFT ?

  8. You took a completely different line in your discussion with Thapar of IBNLIVE. It actually contradicted every thing you said in the previous ones.

    What brought you there ?

    For Karan its understandable, he plays a low line favouring Pakistan disguising it with logic. Not to forget his father's "cherishable" duty during the China War.

    Journalists are men afterall. Even if they are exarmy.


  9. Completely agree. You and Manu Shankar Aiyar took the pants off the dumb hawks on the NDTV show a couple of days ago.

  10. As long as it's not my head why care?

  11. Inderjit Kashyap14 January 2013 at 06:03

    The immediate reaction from not just the media but even retired fraternity has been the obvious, hammer & tongs against Pak & also to discontinue the ongoing talks. Wonder if some saw the discussion cum debate on " Headline Today" on Friday evening 8PM-9.30PM, which had speakers from both countries which included ex Ministers & Govt officials. It was educative & made one realise that there would be elements on both sides who would want to derail the discussions, which are very complex & have to be handled very very tactfully. Such elements' actions have to taken with a pinch of salt & responded to very carefully.Response of even the political parties has to dealt with tactfully. The ongoing deliberation between Israel & Palestine should be taken as an example, there have been so many provocations & incidents, yet both sides continue to engage with each other. Our case is very similar & will test the Govts & the defence establishments to the limit but they should not waver in their efforts.

  12. Wow, media drives hard line??

    1. It ignores the fact that Pakistan first highly publicized the killing of two of its soldiers, claiming that Indian soldiers crossed LoC. It was picked up by all news media across the world, while the later beheading itself was not. I would argue that if Pakistan had not tries to project itself as a victim, Indian army wouldn't have publicized the recent beheadings too. Refer to the article in Deccan Herald on how Pakistan had beheaded two soldiers in August 2011 too, which was hushed up by MoD and IA.

    2. You mention the two reports in The Hindu and DNA justifying the Pakistani actions based on the fact that IA killed two soldiers in cross-border firing. The fact that Indian soldiers have been killed earlier in cross-border firing haven't resulted in cross border raids to behead Pakistani soldiers hasn't been acknowledged. Would India have raised such a big issue if PA hadn't beheaded the soldiers and taken away the body? Definitely not! It is the gruesome act that was a replica of the Lt Saurab Kalia's torture & murder that caused so much outrage.

    3. You seem to imply and agree with Pakistani officer's account (both in this article and orginal BS article) that the head could have been severed in firings. You are willing to believe the pakistani officer against IA which has consistently claimed that the heads were "slit". IA has seen enough deaths to distinguish between heads severed under firing to heads slit by knives. Yet, you give benefit of doubt to PA. Strange! Perhaps you also missed the news article which said that the women relatives of L/N Hemraj wasn't allowed to see his body due to the horrible mutilations inflicted on him by PA, which IA has consitently claimed since day 1? An IA brigadier had acknowledged on the day after the incident that one of the heads was carried away.

    4. Now to your comment about PA having shifted 70,000 men to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Have they really been fighting the terrorists there? If so, why are the terrorists having a free hand there? The so called terrorists are supported by PA. PA shifted soldiers there only under pressure from the US, whose pressure also ensured that India kept talking to Pakistan and not responding to provacations like 26/11, so that PA can help in reducing cross border attacks into Afghanistan! If pakistan could have "made peace" with the so called "terrorists", it would have already done so. With the Americans scheduled for complete withdrawl except for token force of around 3000, pakistan is sensing victory. There has been double the ceasefire violations across LoC compared to previous years? This is purely batting for US, rather than looking at it from Indian strategic point of view.

    5. The UPA government strategy of trying to improve business, people-to-people relations etc won't do diddly squat to Indo-Pak relations as long as the PA controls the foreign policy. And the PA owns huge commerical interests in Paksitan, and the current scenario suits them just fine. If the GoI or you are under delusions that increasing people-to-people contacts will somehow improve Indo-Pak relations, they are smoking something pretty darm powerful! The last few generations of Pakistanis have been totally brainwashed by their education curriculum since Zia's days, the effect of which is being seen in Pakistan today. And with PA being the primary driver of the government which can't do anything without the approval of men in Khaki, dreaming of improvement of relations is just going to remain that. Pakistanis are already playing us to get us to agree to bunch of stuff while just giving us empty promises.

    6.Earlier, you used to just push US products through your articles. Nothing suprising there. Now, it looks like you are actively pushing their line on the India-Pakistan relations, instead of looking at it from India's best interests!

  13. Neither of teh articles you reference (Praveen Swami's or Saikat Dutta's) articles mention anything about the Indian forces beheading Pakistani soldiers. That part needs to be corrected in your piece.

    Also, the accounts you mention have been contradicted by other sections of the media. An unbiased article would have mentioned this as well.

  14. You said it shuklaji, we does not want to escalate the situation, if we go for a war, atleast an indian's life is lost, these headline hungry media lose nothing, but family of soldier loses everything

  15. @LoC Killings. We need to accept:
    1. LoC ceasefire has reduced unnecessary casualties but has not resolved the issue.
    2. A people denied complete information can not be faulted for hardline position!
    3. No self-respecting nation can accept beheading of its soldiers. Remember Pakistan did not take kindly to US drone attack which killed more than a score FF troopers.
    4. Finally people are eseentially expressing rage at seeming impotence of the government.

  16. Ajay Shukla, For an ex-Army Colonel - that is some seriously skewed (and shocking) views from you in the guise of news reporting. You seem to suggest that it is the normal way of life for operations in the LoC for our Jawans to be decapitated by the enemy. Please do remember that as the COAS stated - the beheading has a strategic implication that we would ignore only at our own peril. It would appear to be a sign of things to come - irrespective of what peaceniks and 'Aman-ki-Asha' lots want.

  17. Wider sense of barbarism in LoC, never seen any report on the beheading apart from the news of 2011, when pakistanis beheaded 2 indian soldiers in URI sector. However this was not flashed by army and reported only in media with low scale. However a large section of citizens are convinced that a fitting response is the need of the hour. How long we need to be on recieving end with precious lives lost.

  18. Sir could you please elaborate on how India benefits from Pakistan without it changing it's anti India stance. We are living in a fools paradise if we expect Pakistan to fight anti India terror groups. It is one of their offensive arms and you will be wrong to not see the connection. You say you are a soldier but I find it hard to believe that you don't understand the sentiments of the Indian army. To teach a rogue country you have to adopt a strong stance but unfortunately we have been treating them with kid gloves and we expect to be a super power. Our impractical foreign policy has allowed countries like Maldives to dictate terms. I understand every country is sovereign but we have to look after our interests and should have foresight which unfortunately we are lacking. A country like Pakistan would never have tried it openly with Usa or China but with India they already know our response and line of thinking that is why they take us for granted. This is not the first beheading nor the last but it will definitely continue if we don't adopt a tough stance.

  19. No matter how often you feel otherwise, a escalation at this point is not in the interest of the country, yes justice has to be made for the soldiers killed and I'm sure will me made.
    Even if no sympathy with the government otherwise, in this case surely lives at stake and in a wider and much complex sense, not withstanding the barbarism by the Pakistan Army.
    Have to agree with the views here therefore, media has been playing foul to a certain extent and misquoting is sensationalist, at some point media has to be sensible and have their own complex research to know the impact and not just quote, often not correctly atleast in international matters.

  20. This is the most ridiculous article you have ever written, toying Congress Govt. line. Pakistan is between rock and hard place. If we turn up heat, they will have to mend their ways. They cant afford to fight on two fronts. International community will not allow making truce with Jihadist. Are we afraid of Pakistan moving 70k soldiers back to LOC? if yes then why spend so much on arms? Surrender Kashmir and you will save countless life and money. Remember peace virtues have meaning only if they backed up by explicit threat of use of devastating force.

  21. still wondering what Ms Lekhi was suggesting on NDTV tonight.....regarding isolating pak .

    She surely opened up a 4th dimension!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Good going Ajai. Expose these hardliner RSS chaddichaaps.

  23. "Discussions focus on the issues important to India (commercial ties, liberalisation of visa regime, terrorism, and people-to-people contacts); while there is lesser emphasis on the issues that New Delhi wanted to avoid (Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek)."

    Thanks for sharing an insight that solving "K" or "S" problem is not on govt agenda. While no well read person would be surprised, this is more or less official now.

    Congress A-holes do not want to fix the half century old issues that their ex-leaders created which keeps our nation bleeding till date. Typical cowardice approach nation has come to expect from Gandhian goons.

    "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last." ~Winston Churchill

  24. Instead of reading those news articles from The Hindu aka (Anti-Hindu) and those Praven Swamy, People should better read MediacrooksDOTcom or niticentralDOTcom for a better analysis.

    Pakistan is much smaller in size and power but can challenge India which is roughly 7 times bigger in area, economy and population. Where as India is scared of China which is 3 time bigger. That say all about India and their capabilities.

    They are just cowards and hiding behind peace.

    What would have been the result if Indian soldiers has done the same to Chinese army?

  25. Good Article Ajay..
    ironically this news was one liner in Pak Media. since they had big news of Quata blast.

    Now, army chief also made certain comments. I think it was not necessary .Let politicians do the talking..( Sushmaa svaraj is not one of the ones who should talk )
    Army should work on preparedness and long term planning

  26. Mr.Shukla you more sound like you started eating Biryani now a days, you seems to be relax comfortable and when you mention beheading of your fellow mates...You sound sarcastic. Sad to see ppl like sound like turn on your on ppl. Well there are many who just interest in individual homes/families..But if country will not left your home will not be there anyway ..shame on you ~!

  27. Pakistan has already pissed on the peace process, track two diplomacy not withstanding etc. Whatever BS you want to believe in, you can that Pakistan's wants to show its two face but in reality both the civilian and military leadership of Pakistan believe in one and only one fundamental belief, destruction and disintegration of India as we know it. Both are sides of the same coin. Go ahead delete this comment if you want

  28. Great analysis, Mr. Shukla. What escapes BAJPA and the BratShakers who have collectively decended down here to deride Government policy and you is the fact that when things escalate at the LoC, it gives PA a leverage to rally a gazillion terrorists behind them who would otherwise be happy chopping Pakistani heads.

    The cumulative number of deaths caused by terrorists in Pakistan this week alone far outnumber Pakistani deaths our army has caused in the past decade.

    The drum beating is not in our best interests. It will only aid Sushma and her ilk to gain political mileage and Bratshak forum to earn more page views.

    When the time is right, we will exact our revenge.

  29. When you start bowing you always do. On the back-burner, my god, who's illegal in Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek? Why try avoid it, are we the culprit intruder? Why we have lost gut to say, the POK is actually Illegally Occupied Kashmir and etc?

    Life is trade-of where powerful and timid exchanges their superior qualities for peace. And so-called liberal media wants us one among while vaguely pointing towards latter.

  30. I'm absolutely fed up by watching indians fight other indians over pakistan.

    Two indian soldiers were killed. Forget about war, have their deaths been avenged? NO!!! So shut up.

    Give me the fu#king reason why the pakistani army executes operations on indians with absolute impunity. Why is that?

  31. let India's howitzers roar... like during kargil... lest they forget the nightmare... of 1999...

  32. Slimy shukla ... what question did he ask chief: not... sir what are u gonna do or what did u tell the PM.. instead ..when is the court of inquiry..why did it happen...this armchair staffer who spent his time underground in Nagrota and swaggers around pretending to be a soldier cribbing and whining about prorata doesnt stand for the forces.. he is desperate for Congress& babu baksheesh...mark my words...bhai get a life with a ... ull have the perspective.

  33. Col. Shukla,
    I agree to some extent the logic of what you suggest in your article. However there comes a time when one says enough is enough and that time has arrived. How long can we avoid a final war with Pakistan? It is inevitable and so let us all be prepared for the hardships of war to come.
    A clear, muscular and robust policy towards Pakistan is only possible once the generation who have living memory of partition passes on.

  34. Are u basing your argument on the report from the pro maoist pro china news paper??? Is this the depth where you have fallen to ajai bhai??? Come on I know you are better than this. BTW how is it that the day after a known ISI paid paki journalist tweets that a changed narrative will appear in news and that maoist paper publishes it, and what about the rumor perpetrated by the editor of that news paper which has been proven false?? Is it that this journalist is also a paid stooge of ISI.
    May be its time we have the news papers and the authors liable for what they write. last time some other editor wrote about Indian Army trying for a coup by moving their forces in to delhi?? why is it that none of the media organizations look in to why the paper published the news and who in fact was behind the false propaganda???

  35. Mr. Shukla, your article seems like you are towing MEA and MOD line. Why should we keep silent, when Pakistanis are getting away with all the atrocities and heinous crimes. Please don't be mistaken: It is not media, It is common Indian baying for retaliation. Retired generals are not media and they have done their service like you did.

    The general understanding is that MOD and MEA are run by people planted by pathetic MMS and the team. Fredrick the great once said: diplomacy without power is like music without instruments.

    There is just one request to you please do not bring further shame to yourself and free journalism by continuing as defence journalist. You are an Indian and served in Indian army. There are some ethics in life to die for.

  36. Ajai,

    maybe you have a different perspective because you have a good sense of the magnitude of the gains of peace and continuing dialogue, that kind of puts the loss of human life and dignity in balance.

    For the rest of us, it is really looking like appeasement. While it might sound like an exaggeration, it is akin to someone slapping me silly while insisting that he really wants to be friends with me, but his right hand has got some neuro problems due to which it keeps slapping people.

    We keep talking to one set of jokers while the other set plan and execute horrendous events like the Mumbai massacre.

    Where is the consequence for their malevolent actions? I'd say talk to them, let their players and singers here, give them preferential treatment with water treaties etc., be benevolent and large, but when they murder our citizens, we cant just keep pretending nothing has happened.

    And then there is a little voice in my head that whispers, "But doing nothing just gets the perpetrators in deeper mess with the fundoos hehe"

  37. @ avtaran,
    That opportune moment to strike and avenge has come and gone. You can keep waiting. Pending US exit in 2014 these factions will be united anyway and directed toward India to satisfy their bloodlust. Why couldn't simultaneous operations be planned with the Baluchistan liberation movement and engaging Pakistan on it eastern border to divide their forces? GOI isn't waiting for an opportune moment, it's asleep at the wheel.


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