Last week, Indian media was rife with reports of a helicopter “violating Indian airspace” and was fired upon at the LoC by Indian forces. The chopper was reportedly carrying “prime minister” of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Farooq Haider. Dawn, in its October 2 editorial, after pointing out that the PoK government has denied that there was a violation of Indian airspace, points out how the incident illustrates that the “line between catastrophe and the tension-ridden norm along the LoC in the disputed Kashmir region has yet again been shown to be unbearably thin.”
“As ever,” says the editorial, “the facts are likely to be swallowed up by partisan accusations on both sides.” Dawn also claims that it is unlikely that the Indian military mistook a civilian helicopter for a military vehicle. The incident, it argues, “serves as an urgent warning to military leaders on both sides of the LoC that if tensions are not reduced and military-to-military communications not increased, disaster could strike at any moment”. The editorial hints at a pertinent point: Would recourse would be left had the PoK PM been severely injured or worse?
Dawn also points to the “recent bellicose statements” of General Bipin Rawat and the “bizarre spectacle” of surgical strike day being celebrated at the behest of the Narendra Modi government, which has “turned up the heat in the region to near intolerable levels and it is incumbent upon him (PM Modi) to lower tensions not only along the LoC and the disputed Kashmir region but between India and Pakistan as well”.
Allies in arms
The October 6 editorial in The Express Tribune also focuses on India. It looks at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit and the benefits India is likely to secure. It says: “President Putin arrived in India on Thursday, October 4 and he is expected to sign off on a billions of dollars’ arms deal with Indian PM Narendra Modi which is going to ruffle the feathers of the Americans, the Chinese and Pakistan.”
While India and Russia have a close and long relationship, especially with defence purchases, New Delhi’s growing bonhomie with Washington has pushed Russia closer to China and Pakistan. The immediate diplomatic challenge for New Delhi, then, is to secure an exemption from US sanctions against Russia for its arms purchases, according to the editorial.
“For its part India has said that it is ‘not going to be pushed around by Washington’”, says the editorial, “and with America eyeing its commitment to Afghanistan and analysts speculating on Pakistan and India fighting a proxy war in that country, the arms trade deserves our close attention”.
The recently passed Digital Security Act, which is meant to replace the IT Act under which many journalists and bloggers were arrested in Bangladesh, is examined by Nur E Emroz Alam Tonoy in The Dhaka Tribune on October 2. The core point of the article is: “Why do we have a new law that could possibly slap journalists and activists with a hefty prison term just for doing their job, which is to unveil the truths that are considered central for a democratic debate?”
The new law “technically makes investigative journalism a crime” by making the publishing of material obtained from government sources punishable by up to 14 years. “It criminalises honest people — journalists, rights campaigners, social activists — just for delivering on their commitment to society,” argues Tonoy, He also points to the continued existence of the draconian Official Secrecy Act 1923, to argue that “draconian laws are hard to repeal”. His argument is simple: “No one should be jailed for doing their duty.”
End the horror
Days after India “repatriated”, some say deported, Rohingya migrants back to Myanmar, the October 6 editorial in The Dhaka Tribune asks: “How can the world just stand by and let these crimes against the Rohingya continue?”
It asserts that “there can be no doubt” that rape and sexual assault have been used the Myanmarese army against the Rohingya. To buttress this point, the editorial cites data from the Centre for the Study of Genocide and Justice which has “meticulously documented 161 testimonies of the atrocities committed against the Rohingya from victims and eyewitnesses, and the findings are nothing if not shocking”. The editorial then recounts individual tales of violence and horror, and says: “This year, the world is taking an unprecedented stand against rape and sexual abuse — anti-rape activists Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege have just been awarded the Nobel peace prize for their work towards ending sexual violence as a weapon of war, and the #metoo movement has laid bare the pervasiveness of sexual abuse in every level of society all over the globe.”
Perhaps the tide will eventually sweep up the violence against the Rohingya as well.