On the airwaves, there’s talk of war. Over here, the Prime Minister wants to declare war on plastic. Over there, Pakistan’s minister for railways has warned of war with India, and the Indian channels have run with the story. “Jang!” warned Aaj Tak at prime time, in letters half as tall as the TV screen. And if you searched for videos of Pakistani minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s dire warning on the internet, you would find that most of the coverage has been on Indian channels. In Pakistan, ARY News has the full video of the impassioned speech, which Ahmed delivered in Muzaffarabad, in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. He claimed to have warned about moves against Muslims when Iran and Yemen were pressed, and is issuing a warning again against Indians wishing to conduct a religious war. Though, of course, the Muslims of Pakistan know what to do about that. Now we know why Ahmed was replaced by Shaukat Aziz as the minister who would receive prime minister AB Vajpayee in Pakistan. The man would have given the game away without breaking a sweat.
Ahmed has had a colourful past. When he was minister for information and broadcasting, he was denied a permit to travel to Srinagar to meet relatives. He was detained and questioned in Houston over suspected links with Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hafiz Saeed. One must wonder why Indian TV channels have given so much attention to his war-dance. They should have treated him exactly like he was treated by Vajpayee’s foreign ministry officials, and dismissed him out of mind. But then, war dances are in fashion. They improve the ratings.
While news coming out of Kashmir remains limited, the protests in Hong Kong are visible everywhere. Meanwhile, China has engaged in electronic warfare. That used to mean attacking the computer resources of an adversary, as the US has done this week, destroying a database and networks that Iran used to track shipping. But now, it also includes disinformation campaigns that Russia is alleged to have used to tinker with the US presidential election. The Chinese have observed and learned, and have responded to the crisis in Hong Kong with a disinformation campaign that amounts to digital saturation bombing. So many fake stories and twisted versions of real news are being reported that the locals clearly have no idea if they’re coming, going, or just drifting sideways. The government of Hong Kong has its hands full denying wild reports of PLA tanks and troops massing for an attack, and of atrocities committed by both sides in the protests.
But some people have the luck of the devil. Half of America is licking its chops at the prospect of Deutsche Bank having details of the stuff that Donald Trump’s refused to make public — his tax returns, which would indicate details of his personal or family fortune. And there is news of loan applications co-signed by Russian oligarchs, which would be the closest the authorities have come to establishing a link of benefit between Russia and Trump. But precisely at the same time, the two-year-old news service Axios, co-founded by old hands from Politico, revealed that Trump had proposed to nuke hurricanes before they could make landfall on the US coast. And the president immediately went ballistic, changing the course of the conversation. Which may not come back on track as the world turns its attention to the forthcoming crisis in the UK, and in the world order. An Al Jazeera headline put it very well: “When pyromaniacs lead, the world burns.”