Kashmir Indepth

Western media biased: Jaishankar


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The biggest challenge for the government in explaining its decision to dilute Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir to governments abroad was the negative western media narrative, said External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar here on Monday.

“I think it was a more difficult challenge with the media, especially the English-speaking liberal media [in the West]. Partly because they were ideological about [Jammu and Kashmir], and they had strong preset views about it. My view was that they didn’t present a fair picture or absorb it,” Mr. Jaishankar said, speaking to an audience of American and Indian businessmen, at an event organised by the U.S. India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), speaking about the questions the government faced during his visit to the U.S. in September.

Mr. Jaishankar said that although the government believed its moves in Jammu and Kashmir is India’s “internal business”, it had sought to explain the issues to “governments of different countries and make them understand what it was about.”

In particular, Mr. Jaishankar blamed newspapers in the U.S. and U.K. for not reporting on the reasons for the government’s dilution of Article 370.

“I found a lot of people were surprised by the information that the particular provision of the Constitution was a temporary one, because the media does not say that,” he said, also pointing out that the media had omitted explanations of the “business and development obstacles” due to Article 370.

Mr. Jaishankar’s comments came ahead of a U.S. Congress hearing on Tuesday of the Asia Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), which is looking into Human Rights issues in South Asia including in Kashmir, and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam.

Ahead of the hearing, Indian Ambassador Harsh Shringla also met with HFAC Chairman Brad Sherman to explain India’s position.

Lawmakers’ criticism

Apart from U.S. media, the government has also faced criticism from a number of U.S. Congressmen and Senators who have called on the government to withdraw travel and communication restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, and release political leaders in custody since August 5.

Asked about India-U.S. relations, Mr. Jaishankar said that while the relationship is “very strong”, “the U.S. today has made trade issues pretty central to diplomacy”, which he hoped would be resolved soon.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is expected to visit India shortly, while officials are also hopeful of scheduling a visit by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to finalise the long-pending trade deal. In December, Mr. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are expected to visit the U.S. for “2+2” talks.

Speaking about India-U.S. ties at the same event former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice also lauded the relationship. Ms. Rice called for Indian and U.S. trade negotiators to “get a deal soon”.

“No two countries are better situated to grow together on strategic issues than U.S. and India. Over the past decades, we have reached a point where U.S.-India have parallel objectives on all the key strategic issues such as security and economic evolution of the world,” said Mr. Kissinger, a veteran diplomat who is now 96 years old.

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