Indian PM’s media coup at Yekaterinburg

June 17, 2009

“I am happy to meet you, but my mandate is to tell you that the territory of Pakistan must not be used for terrorism.” This was how Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began his crucial meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Russia’s Yekaterinburg on Tuesday.

The comment, made in the full glare of the media, hit Zardari like a well-aimed arrow as the embarrassed Pakistani leader quickly interrupted to ensure the reporters were asked to leave the room.

Those few dramatic moments may have served Singh two crucial purposes: Pakistan could not showcase the meeting as proof that it was again business as usual between the two countries. Second, Singh managed to preclude any criticism back home that India had capitulated before Pakistan.

Indian newspapers such as The Hindu prominently speculated if Singh’s comments were by “design or happenstance”.

The Times of India too highlighted Singh’s acerbic comments with a front page photograph of the two leaders.

In their 60 years of hostilities, one weapon that India and Pakistan has used with much success is the media.

When then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf famously offered a handshake to Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at a South Asian summit in Kathmandu in January 2002 — while the two countries mobilised for war following an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 — he was aware of the media arc lights.

Musharraf also won the “media war” during the famous Agra Summit in 2001 when he addressed Indian editors, seeking to highlight the Pakistani point of view and upstage India.

But Singh seems to have turned the tables, possibly leaving Pakistan on the backfoot for now.

16 comments

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I do not know what is there to be bloating about about “Mandate to Tell”?Writer should be more explanatory and explain if this is a major diplomatic battle that Dr Singh has won and if so what was the battle, how was it won and what were the sweet results of victory?What would have anyone gained if the meeting conveyed that it is business as usual? What is the loss to anyone if the business is unusual or otherwise? Would MMS have capitulated by giving a 30 minutes time to Zardari to brief on progress and status of investigation regarding Mumbai Blasts?The Times of India carried image + Story; The Hindu carried something and war has been fought through media should be better explained. As to what victory has been achieved by both sides via media?One of the worst blogs I have ever read… A bloated, egoistic writing which carries no material.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

One billion apsirations of Indians say ‘Mr Singh, please dont take us for a ride again’.Mr Singh handshaking with Zardari is a symbolic gesture which says ‘it’s ok if you kill and miam us, we will continue to make friends with you but we will tell you once in a while not to kill us’.The mandate of Manmohan is to protect Indians and pre-empt mortal threats coming from Pakistan. Making some statements like this is utter waste. We have seen how the Govt reacted during and immediatly after Mumbai attacks. There was no leader worth the salt to comfort the public that ‘we will protect you and that things are under control’.So much for the ‘mandate’.

Posted by Gautham | Report as abusive

Once again we crumble in international pressure. What message our PM gives by going to talks with a rouge country which is not even remotely interested to contain those who attacked our soil barely just few months ago. Big Shame.

Posted by Aaruni Upadhyay | Report as abusive

[...] India-Pakistan and their ‘choreographed contempt’ In India, Politics, Viral Videos on June 17, 2009 at 1:02 pm This week the leaders of India and Pakistan met for the first time since the devastating terrorist bombings November 6 bombings in Mumbai. PM Manmohan Singh’s zinger to President Zardari within media earshot is being hailed as a “media coup”. [...]

Indian PM asking Pakistani President to stop terrorism from its soil in the presence of media and face to face is different from issuing statements through media. This in itself is not a big deal until Pakistan really acts against teroorists without puting Kashmir-first hurdle, as Musharaf did in Agra Summit. PM told him to act the way they are doing against Taliban.Putting into Mr. Singh’s shoes, I do not know what is the alternative. Perhaps someone here can give a solution. Not having dialogue etc…. will not eradicate terrorism. Remember it has been more than half a year since 26/11 so change in tactics is necessary.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

One thing is for sure, Pakistan is on its way again towards wrong policies, wrong attitude and wrong perceptions. In their childish hopes, they are demanding Kashmir from USA again as rewards for the attacks on taliban. And they feel that starting the talks will be the begining of the dream. The US is also towing Paksitani line because Obama and its cronies are new. Well, I just want to say one thing: HILLARY CLINTON IS NOT WELCOME TO VISIT INDIA NEXT MONTH. we do not want to meet her.

Posted by Sanjay | Report as abusive

enough of talking and meeting concrete action is required at both ends.india – must be proactive in cleansing own house by taking stern action on known trouble makers in kashmir, SIMI,Naxalites…..if we clean our house no one will dare to intrude in ur territory.Pakistan – in its own interest deal with hardliners and all grp stating with J…..

Posted by Rashmi Shah | Report as abusive

@RohitBarack Obama did not change the situation on the ground in Gaza, Afghanistan or Iran with his address to the Muslim world. But it was a start that got (mostly) strong coverage both in the West and the Middle-East. Diplomacy is about baby steps. Singh’s statement in front of the world’s media may not have changed much, or anything, but it conveyed India’s position effectively and got mostly excellent play in the Indian media. It can be seen as a media coup, not a diplomatic coup. Remember, a few months ago the opposition tried to label him India’s weakest ever prime minister.

Posted by Seething Lane | Report as abusive

According to an article in the Dawn, “Senators assail Singh’s remarks”, the Pak MOS for foreign affairs has already rejected that its soil could be used for terror attacks against another country. Such a reaction does not really come as a surprise though.Another report on an Indian TV channel talks of Pakistan refusing to hold conditional talks. On the other hand press reports talk of Zardari telling Manmohan Singh that he needs more time. Again this is par for the course.Personally I think that India cannot allow Pakistan to wriggle out of tackling its terror infrastructure and support any longer. The average man in the street will not settle for anything less. I think Manmohan Singh understands that only too well and should not compromise.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

@Seething Lane:Media coup?Can the media protect us from terrorists?Why is media quiet about Swiss Bank accounts etc?Media will only look at the way the money/power goes.

Posted by Ashok | Report as abusive

……Thus, the above dilemma also sees most celebrity talk show hosts increasingly losing track of the shifting nature of populism. They end up defending the ideological comfort zones that they had built around a preceding phase of populist thought, sounding ‘out of it’ as a result.The above is exactly what has happened on most local TV talk shows and on the op-ed pages of the country’s Urdu newspapers. For example, prior to the showing of the Swat girl flogging video by mainstream TV channels [5], and more so, before the controversial ‘peace deal’ between the government and the Taliban in Swat collapsed, most frontline talk show hosts, Urdu journalists and televangelists had gradually built up a long-winded narrative that explained religious extremism in Pakistan as being an expression against ‘American imperialism’, ‘Zionist conspiracies’, ‘Hindu infiltration’, ‘economic inequality’, and ‘injustice’…………………… ….http://blog.dawn.com:91/dblog/2009  /06/18/on-screen-out-of-touch/BloggersT he Pak scribe, Mr Paracha, emphasizes how the Pak media are confusing the public on a daily basis. Engaging in confidence building measures will be unproductive and futile.

@ Seething LaneWhat Barrack Obama is doing does not concern topic of discussion nor does it serve as example.”Media Coup” whether it relates to Obama or Manmohan are nothing but “PAID” bloated stories. Indian media as you would have noticed in coverage of Mumbai Attacks, ICL 20 Twenty Cup (Before and After), thrives on feces.For your kind information, not everyone believes Manmohan is a leader. To many he is only another government servant… For me as an individual, Manmohan is only a puppet who cannot think and take independent decisions.It doesn’t matter to any common person of India whether Manmohan does anything or not, walks baby steps of diplomacy or giant steps of diplomacy.Any sane person can tell that he is indulging in forced lame talk which will bring zero result.Did Terrorism stop after Mumbai attacks when Super Personality Manmohan backed by even superior creatures of earth called as Sonia, Priyanka and Rahul did not talk to Pakistan?Will terrorism stop after Super Personality Manmohan backed by even superior creatures of earth called as Sonia, Priyanka and Rahul and some foreign extra superior creatures like Obama, Clinton, Milliband talk to Pakistan?Has terrorism from Pakistan stopped ever since it was initiated?Did India Pak talks of not only super personalty Manmohan but Gods like Gandhi, Nehru, Idira, Rajeev, Narsimha, Sonia, Rahul, Priyanka; less humane persons like Gujral, Chandrashekhar, Hardanhalli, etc and demons like Atal Bihari, LK Advani bring any result?In a nutshell, these acts are hogwash and media wants us to believe that it was some super duper achievement. Indian media and those associated with it are worse than swine flu.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

@Azad: Thanks for the Dawn blog. Nice article backed by supporting references. The problem is the recommendations of many Pakistani intellectuals like those from SDPI Islamabad who prepared a report on the education system of pakistan remain unicorporated.@RohitI agree that there is nothing concrete to celebrate about. But does that mean PM MMS/congree is unfit for the job. If so, who is the alternative PM/party?

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

@ RajeevYes MMS and Congress are unfit for the job. History proves so.Alternate can emerge if terrorism is prime issue for every Indian. But for most of Indians the prime issue is ensuring basic needs on a daily basis.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive

Rohit:@Yes MMS and Congress are unfit for the job. History proves so.-Thus far the most positive news about Indo-Pak talks is back channel talks, started by PM Bajpai and the issue almost sealed by PM Singh and Musharaf. The talks fell apart because of Pakistani internal political situation. So I do not know how history does not support Singh/Congress on this issue. Correct way to put is that the closest India-Pak have come to solve the disputes is during Singh/Musharaf India-Pak rules.@Alternate can emerge if terrorism is prime issue for every Indian. But for most of Indians the prime issue is ensuring basic needs on a daily basis.–It takes 2 to tango-ndia and Pakistan both. After billion Indians take stand on terrorism, we need Pakistan to cooperate. Practically speaking and for the long-lasting peace, the best scenario will come only when Pakistan realizes that it is in their best interests to get rid off Fassadis bred against India. Anything else will, at best, generate short term solutions. Pakistan is getting closer there way they are cut by the double edged tool against India.We cannot expect Indian democracy and Chinese ruthlessness and efficiency at the same time to take care of the problems. Democracy will take its own sweet time.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Rohit:@Yes MMS and Congress are unfit for the job. History proves so.-But history proves that the closest so far India and Pakistan have come to resolving disputes is during PMs Bajpai and Singh rules through back channel talks. Talks fell due to Musharaf getting entangled in Pakistan internal politics.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

The reuters folk did not publish my earlier comment. It was a lengthy one but a beautiful summary of Pakistan. But anyways, in brief, Rajeev, don’t you think that you are unduly optimistic based on media reports about Indo Pak talk success by AB/ Nawaz/ Mush/ Singh whereas in realty the result was Kargil conflict, Parliamentary attacks, Mumbai attacks?Basics of Pakistan have not changed so the results should also not change… We can wait, watch and see what would be the result of the US forced dialogue between India and Pakistan.Mumbai attacks killed some people we can say were influential and destroyed property of influential. So a lot of hulla gulla erupted and The entire leadership and media created a war hype. Mukerjee fooling around with “All Options are Open” statement. Singh fooling around with “No Relationship With Pakistan till terrorists are caught and deported to India”.Where are we now? All this proves that the leaders of India as W Chuchill said “Will be men of straw”

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive