India Insight

After the headline, the hysteria

The toll in India from the H1N1 pandemic rose this week, but a look at the screaming TV headlines and graphic visuals in newspapers would suggest a country under siege from something akin to the bubonic plague.

Dramatic headlines and graphic visuals in the media; reporters looking alarmed behind their masks; commuters with handkerchiefs and scarves around their mouths; and long lines of people outside screening centres, imagining the worst.

Even as the health minister and state officials appealed for calm and warned against hoarding masks and flu drug Tamiflu, the red splashes of breaking news and the tone verging on hysteria were unabated.

The World Health Organisation estimates the H1N1 swine flu could affect 2 billion people globally, and experts consider the pandemic to be moderate.

That hasn’t stopped the breathless media coverage, selling of masks and sanitisers at several times the usual price and panicky schools shutting down.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Russia points to Dawood Ibrahim in Mumbai attacks

Indian newspapers are reporting that Russian intelligence says underworld don Dawood Ibrahim -- an Indian national who India believes is living in Karachi in Pakistan -- was involved in the Mumbai attacks.

The Indian Express quotes Russia’s federal anti-narcotics service director Viktor Ivanov as saying that Moscow believes that Dawood’s drug network, which runs through Afghanistan, was used to finance the attacks. Ivanov said these were a “burning example” of how the illegal drug trafficking network was used for carrying out militant attacks, the paper said, citing an interview in the official daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

The stories caught my eye not just because of the alleged link to Ibrahim, but because it highlights the extent to which Russian and Indian intelligence may be cooperating over Mumbai and on the wider issues over Afghanistan and the heroin trade. (A colleague in our Moscow bureau tells me that Ivanov is close to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and has good connections in the Russian intelligence community.)