Guess what is not on Thursday’s front pages in India?
It’s actually on page 17 of the Hindustan Times. The Mail Today, which leads on liquor being allowed for sale in shopping malls, puts it on page 16. The Hindu, which also finds space for liquor sales liberalization on its front page, puts it on page 20.
Why is such major news in Asia relegated to back pages of Indian newspapers (there are some exceptions, of course) ?
The Indonesia quake especially was close to India – there was a brief tsunami alert for the Indian Ocean — and how Indonesia copes will be of immense interest to people in India who wonder how authorities have learnt from the last 2004 Asian tsunami. And of course there is the simple humanitarian issue – the stories of suffering and hope that we all can identify with.
My pet theory is India is such a huge country, that rather like the United States, it has a tendency to look inwards.
There is a strong current in India and the U.S. that the rest of the world does not matter too much – India itself bases its economic growth on its 1.2 billion domestic consumers rather than selling stuff to the outside world. Much political and social attention in India is focused on the immense problems within its borders.
It comes down to details, too. Take for example, India’s airports. New Delhi is one of the few capital cities I know in the world that has done a first class modernization of its domestic airport, but left its international airport trailing way behind.
Most other capitals I know, it’s the other way round. In Chile, a small country that depends on exports and the outside world to survive, the first thing they did was modernize the international airport. In Venezuela, home to socialist President Hugo Chavez, their international airport dates from the 1970s — symbolic of the oil-rich country’s statist, nationalistic stance.
But one wonders if the relegation of foreign news (aside from Pakistan), is really healthy for a country that is increasingly playing diplomatically a global role, from climate change to trade and the Commonwealth Games?
Should the media be leading the way?