Turning war into a spectator sport could be disastrous for India and Pakistan

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The Big Story: Cheering for death

For a country that has fought four wars with Pakistan, India's surgical strikes along the Line of Control on Thursday hasn't broken any records in belligerence. After all, India has conducted surgical strikes earlier as well. What has changed though is the media messaging that now goes along with Indo-Pak hostility.

While the Indian and Pakistani armies will hopefully not fight a war, in many ways their media is already in the middle of one. In studios in Delhi and Lahore, anchors and panellists are hoping for an improbable military victory over the enemy by sheer force of shrill rhetoric. In India, Times Now anchor Arnab Goswami has become somewhat of a cult figure, hated and loved by viewers, depending on their political views.

While it is easy for peaceniks to hate Goswami, there is a deeper phenomenon at play. War is becoming a mass commodity. People like Goswami are only satisfying a market demand. Every night as affluent Indians come back tired from work, hearing someone ask for war on behalf of the nation is cathartic. The feeling of being plugged into a whole greater than their own – India – is a powerful feeling, and Times Now does that for an hour every night (in return for advertisements about cars and cooking oil).

In the immediate term, Goswami is harmless as he screams his head off in a Mumbai TV studio. But in the long run, this could have terrible consequences. Europe has been down the path of total war during the 20th century and it isn't pretty. The mass hysteria of having whole peoples consume conflict as a spectator sport puts governments in a bind, given that selling peace then becomes extremely difficult and can often be painted as a sell-out (as the Bharatiya Janata Party tried to do many times with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh).

Already, it is clear that India's announcement of the surgical strikes was aimed at a domestic audience as well as Pakistan. With it, Narendra Modi regained his strongman image – one he’d lost when he reached out to Pakistan and tried to make peace. The question is, how will the Indian government react to other incidents of violence? Just a week after the surgical strike, militants have attacked a Border Security Force camp in Baramulla killing one solider. Will public sentiment, which now sees itself as a stakeholder in war, allow the Indian government space to manoeuvre and keep the peace?

The Big Scroll

  1. By weaponising public opinion, both India and Pakistan are diminishing chances of peace.
  2. How the media has taken the Indo-Pak conflict beyond the political space into the personal one.
  3. Far from making us safer, India’s chest-thumping nationalist media ishurting the Nation

Political Picks

  1. After Karnataka, now the Union government desists from following the Supreme Court’s orders in the Cauvery Water dispute. In the meanwhile, Karnataka, as a token gesture, has agreed to release some water to Tamil Nadu.
  2. Baramulla attack: Militants, who escaped after killing one solider,planned to carry out another Uri-type terror strike, says the Border Security Force.
  3. Arvind Kejriwal urges Narendra Modi to share video footage of the surgical strike into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir in order to expose “Pakistan’s false propaganda”.
  4. The Indian Army’s surgical strikes into Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir lifts mood, but gives no surety for votes for the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh.
  5. The Haji Ali trust has appealed to the Supreme Court against a Bombay High court order permitting the entry of women into the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali shrine in Mumbai.


  1. While strategic restraint vis-à-vis Pakistan may still persist as grand strategy, the predawn operation into PoK signals that the era of visibly "doing nothing" militarily may be ending, says Vipin Narang in the Hindu.
  2. In the Maldives, it is myopic for India to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses, argues Krishan Srinivas in the Telegraph.
  3. In the Hindustan Times, Jayanth Jacob explains why India chose the Abu Dhabi crown prince as its Republic Day chief guest.


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Though thousands have been shifted out of villages in Punjab, there is little to indicate that the evacuation was necessary, reports Nishita Jha from the India-Pakistan border.

In the villages, Babaji was not alone in stating that evacuations were premature, and wondering why – if it was risky at the border – Chief Minister Badal was flying into the area in a helicopter.The Punjab elections are due in January 2017 with the ruling Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party government facing strong anti-incumbency. The results of the election in this area will show whether voters see evacuation, and the losses that it will cause farmers, as a swift and necessary intervention by the government, or a politically-motivated disaster.

This article was first published on Scroll.in



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