An interview of P Chidambaram, former Union Minister for Home and Finance, made news when NDTV decided to drop it after airing excerpts.
NDTV’s co-founder Radhika Roy told The Wire, which first reported the dropping of the interview, that “political mud-slinging regarding the surgical strikes without a shred of evidence was actually damaging to our national security.” She said that NDTV was not “obliged to carry every shred of drivel that has now come to pass as public discourse” and that part of the channel’s editorial policy was to not “provide a platform to outrageous and wild accusations that thrive only on publicity.”
Speaking to The Indian Express today, Chidambaram said that Barkha Dutt, consulting editor of NDTV, who interviewed him told him that the interview was scrapped “despite her wish.” Dutt didn’t respond to an email. Chidambaram said that to release evidence of the strike is a decision for the Government to take and whatever decision it takes, the Congress would support it.
What did you tell NDTV that was not carried?
We discussed only two subjects. One, whether the Congress party supported the Army action across the border. And whether the demand from some quarters for “evidence” was justified. In fact, I have demanded that NDTV should release the tape to me so that I can put it on YouTube. They have not responded to my demand.
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The interview was quite short then, just these two main points?
No more than 15 minutes. And, in fact, the interview was played in part immediately after it was recorded. And I believe in several news segments during the day when it was abruptly yanked off the channel later in the evening. When they promised to play the whole interview.
What is your stand on both these points?
My stand is quite clear. I said, we support the government. We believe the Army and the DGMO. And whatever pre-emptive action the government of the day will take, as a responsible opposition, the Congress party will support the government. Now I said draw a line there, that subject is over. Then go to the next subject. There have been demands from quarters that evidence must be released. That is not questioning the Army action. That is a suggestion to the government so that we can call the bluff of Pakistan. Pakistan’s bluff has takers in some quarters, The New York Times, Washington Post, some sections of the social media, even that forgotten group called United Nations Observers Group.
Therefore, to call Pakistan’s bluff, it is for the government to consider whether it would like to release any evidence. But I made it clear that’s a decision for the government to take. Whatever decision government takes, in that respect, Congress party will support that decision.
Strikes have happened earlier but no announcements were made.
Quite rightly. Because the policy of the government of that day was strategic restraint and as part of strategic restraint we left such cross-border action to be handled by the Army at the operational, tactical level. We did not raise it to the government level. I believe UPA’s policy was right. But I am not saying that the present government cannot change that policy…Government has fuller information than any one of us. And, therefore, I concede the right of the government to adopt a modified policy. And, in fact, I go a step further and say after Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Pampore and Uri, any government could be expected to consider a modified policy.
Now that strikes have been announced, what will be the repercussions?
Clearly, the present government has changed tack. But that is the privilege of the government of the day. The fallout of such a changed policy can only be seen in the months and years to come…Whether Pakistan will change its behaviour or will become more aggressive, I think we have to wait and see.
There is a tweet by Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala that you have raised certain questions to NDTV.
NDTV responded to The Wire (which first carried the report). And NDTV said several things. I picked out three phrases and I asked them which part of my interview, fell under those three phrases. One, I asked them which part of my interview contained remarks that risked security for political advantage? Two, which part of my interview was shred of drivel? Three, which part of my interview was bizarre, political bickering…There’s no answer. I want to raise a more fundamental question. Why are people falling in line? You are looking at it as a criticism of the government’s action. I am asking a different question, I am asking the media: why are you guys falling like nine pins to unjustified demands, if any, from the powers that be? I don’t know, if the powers that be made any demand. But why are you guys falling like nine pins? It’s sad. If the media, which fiercely protests, or used to fiercely protest any suggestion that the media should be restrained — why is it capitulating?
How did you learn that the interview had been dropped?
The person who interviewed me (Barkha Dutt) sent me a message saying that despite her wish the interview had been scrapped.
There is talk these days of a nationalistic media.
I don’t know what nationalistic means. The Indian media must indeed be loyal to the interests of India when it comes to a hostile country. But Indian media must be loyal to the truth. Indian media must be fiercely loyal to freedom of the media. These are equal values. Loyalty to the country, loyalty to truth, loyalty to freedom of the media are of equal weight according to me.