Former diplomats decry media frenzy with Sharif peace bluster

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, January 19: Former diplomats on Thursday decried the Indian media for falling to the Pakistani spin masters in the wake of Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s much publicized television interview to Al Aarabiya, the UAE-based news channel. Sharif was in the UAE, while the Indian media speculated that he may have pleaded with the host President Zayed Al-Nayhan to find peace way with India.

The Indian media went all guns blazing with reams of prints to amplify Sharif’s gambit, with editorials, commentaries and news reports splashed all around. But the former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal was livid with the India media eating out from the hands of the Pakistani spin masters.

“With front page/edit coverage to Pak PM’s self-serving interview to Dubai TV, our media lobbies make Pak spin credible & act as Pak tools to sway Indian opinion. Minimise hard core of Sharif’s position & cling at straws in it. Media has mindset of vulnerable not strong country,” tweeted Sibal.

His anguish was drawn to the Indian media going overboard with the coverage of Sharif’s interview, which was substantially disowned by his office ostensibly at the behest of the Pakistani Army, which is known to pull strings in the political establishment of the Islamic nation. There had been some empathetic voices within the Indian media for Pakistan in the wake of the super floods ravaging the country recently, which left over one-third of the population struggling with food.

“I agree. Proposal by Sharif (is) not sincere. India policy in Pak is decided by Army, not PM. He says (that he) wants to discuss seriously & honestly. Means so far Pak was not honest. Talks can happen only when terror stops. He’s trying to appear reasonable to his western & gulf pay-masters,” Ashok Sajjanhar, former diplomat, tweeted in response to Sibal’s comment.

Former diplomat Vishnu Prakash, meanwhile, told a Pakistani journalist that “Pakistan needs to choose between jihad & engaging India”. Currently, Pakistan fritters away its energies to damage India while we concentrate on developing India, he added.

It may be mentioned at a few of the media commentaries did counsel the government to ignore Sharif’s comments, calling them usual blusters, which have been heard too often to have even modest credibility. After the Pulwama terror attack, India had withdrawn the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ as mandated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and since then the bilateral relations remain frozen.

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