'Blow to Pak-India ties': How Indian newspapers covered Jadhav's arrestPakistan
This article was originally published on April 1st, 2016.
In a press conference last week, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) head Lt Gen Asim Bajwa and Federal Information Minister Pervez Rashid aired a video confession of Indian Navy Officer Kulbushan Jadhav, who was arrested by Pakistani forces in Balochistan last month.
While Jadhav claimed to be an officer currently serving in the Indian Navy, the Indian government said he was a businessman who had taken early retirement from the government.
Several major Indian media outlets have downplayed the development, while some asked more questions.
The Hindu, in an opinion editorial, took a measured approach with Suhasini Haidar looking at the bigger picture and discussing Jadhav's arrest in relation to Pakistan-India talks.
"What finally matters is not the truth of Kulbhushan Jadhav or the authenticity of his confessional video; it is the timing of its release, which has dealt a body blow to the bonhomie generated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Christmas visit to Lahore."
At the same time, it raised some probing questions.
"While Mr. Yadav’s confessional statement isn’t quite convincing, the circumstances around his appearance in Pakistan certainly need investigation by India. What is clear is that the storm couldn’t have come at a worse time for India-Pakistan relations, hinged as they are on the security relationship alone. The question that arises is, if the NSAs had indeed built a strong relationship, with a commitment not to go public before they had spoken to each other, why did this not apply to the spy case?"
The newspaper did not feature Jadhav's video confession on its front page, and carried a report titled 'Hints of duress in Pak video of spy' on page 12, which said: "The video features multiple quick edits and the audio appears to go out of sync from to time, which hint that it was shot under duress."
The Hindustan Times also downplayed the arrest, casting doubt on its relevance citing a lack of widespread international coverage.
"Pakistan on Thursday said it had apprised the European Union and the world’s major capitals about an alleged Indian spy’s arrest from Balochistan, but did the whole world really take notice of the saga? Probably not, if one goes by global media reports on the matter. Very few large media outlets reported about Kulbhushan Jhadav – the man at the centre of the storm – and most of the reports were sceptical of Pakistan’s claims."
While other Indian media outlets questioned the authenticity of Pakistan's claims, the Ahmedabad Mirror, citing "top intelligence officers" said "Jadhav had been working in the region for 14 years and had become a bit complacent."
A report published by the Ahmedabad Mirror claims Jadhav’s habits and mannerisms gave him away and his phone calls in Marathi to his family did not add up with his assumed identity.
It said: "Kul Bhushan Jadhav was arrested by Pakistan's Intelligence Bureau as he had dropped his guard and started talking like a Marathi Manoos during his telephone conversations with his family, disclose senior officers from central intelligence."
The Indian Express, however, said Jadhav's arrest ? and its wide publicity ? has ruffled some feathers.
"Several Indian diplomats privately expressed surprise at the admission but South Block maintained it had 'nothing to hide' — a stance held by India for several decades now — since the individual was no more associated with the Government".
"But an Indian diplomat told The Indian Express: This is, by far, the most high-ranking official — even if he retired some years ago – who has been arrested on Pakistani soil, that too in Balochistan."
An opinion article in the newspaper suggests that Pakistan and India enter spy swap agreements: "It’s natural for India and Pakistan to spy on each other. But it’s time they instituted spy swaps to bring them home when they get caught.
The Times of India (TOI) did not carry the Jadhav saga very prominently. Until the publishing of this post, there has not been an editorial or opinion article published on the issue in the newspaper.
Despite agreeing with the claim that Jadhav is not a Patel as per his passport and an established report that tells us Jadhav lost contact with his family earlier this year, the TOI contributed to further confusion.
A news report in the Times of India claimed: "Sudhir Jadhav [Kulbushan's father and retired assistant commissioner of police] lives along with his family in a two-bedroom flat in Silver Oak society, Powai. The family remained tight-lipped on Saturday though several mediapersons made attempts to get in touch with them. However, a local milk delivery boy, when shown a picture of Kulbhushan, immediately identified it and claimed he had seen him 'in his flat just days before Holi'."
Many renowned newspapers in India speculated that Jadhav was "abducted" or "lured", potentially by Jaishul-Adl, a Sunni militant group based in Iran.
In an opinion piece titled Pakistan is lying about arrest of Indian 'spy' published on March 27, India Today questioned the chain of events leading to the arrest, and attempted to highlight the "inconsistency in facts as presented by the Pakistani government officials."
"If Patel had indeed entered Pakistan from Iran, this would place him in the southern end of Balochistan near the Makran coast, rather than up north near Quetta and Chaman. Why would he enter from the southern end and then travel through an insurgency-infested province to reach Chaman, when it is more easily accessible from Kandahar in Afghanistan?"