Muhammad Usama Khalid
The beginning of 2019 was an eventful year in the modern history of the subcontinent. Both the nuclear armed neighboring states in the region, Pakistan and India, had indulged in a military standoff in the wake of an attack on the Indian paramilitary troops in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIO J&K). The incident is commonly known as ‘Pulwama Attack’. However, the tensions between India and Pakistan were not provoked by this mere assault on Indian paramilitary personnel, rather it can be observed prior to the Pulwama crisis. Since both the nuclear armed arch-rivals have fought four wars in the last seventy odds years.
Specifically, developments unfurled, following the attack, were of real concern. Pressure of Indian mainstream media and public was building up on the national government that prompted BJP’s regime to take certain actions, acceptable enough to calm public rage and shut journalists’ mouths. Therefore, on the night of February 26, 2019 some Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets illegally crossed the LoC and dropped their payload on an uninhabited area of Balakot. While, the Indian intent was not to just drop the payload and run away, instead it was a rapid and timely response by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) that coerced them to runaway for the sake of face saving.
In the aftermath of such a blunderous act by IAF, Bollywood-styled Indian media projected it as a victory and started an overt propaganda against Pakistan by falsely claiming to have killed more than 300 militants. Some doctored videos were circulated claiming to be of a so-called successful Balakot air strike, but ground realities exposed Indian assertions as mere lies and deceit on the very same morning. However, next day on February 27, 2019, when Pakistan Air force conveyed its message loud and clear to India that it was capable of retaliatory strike, after it had locked the Indian military command bases in the IIO J&K, but consciously hit the barren lands near them. The dodge fight ended with the shoot down of one IAF fighter jet (MiG 21) and captured its pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
Pakistan’s actions were very calculated in all that situation. From retaliatory strike to Abhinandan’s capture, it shows that Pakistan is timely prepared for any sort of military actions, if its sovereignty is under threat. Pakistan’s actions were not only limited to the on ground situation, instead off the ground it was battling the narrative warfare. The fabrication of Indian propaganda against Pakistan since after the Pulwama attack had taken a new shift in the post Balakot air strike time. India’s overconfident newscasters, journalists and analysts were portraying the strikes as if they had conquered the whole of Pakistan. Pakistan also played very sensibly. Pakistan army accompanied foreign journalists and diplomats to the sites of the strikes and showed them the exact location where the payload was dropped.
Even from within the India some prominent impartial voices have been heard who blatantly criticized the Indian government and security institutions for such a security lapse that resulted in Pulwama incident. Arundhati Roy, a well-known Indian author and commentator, bluntly denounced government’s official stance and declared Pulwama attack a major intelligence failure. As far as February 26 developments are concerned, Roy said that it was a false flag operation that Modi Sarkaar did for covering up its failure and used such operation for his election campaign.
Meanwhile, in the year 2019, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was strongly campaigning to retain power for a consecutive second term, to which the Modi-led BJP had been busy constructing anti-Pakistan rhetoric to take an upper hand in the upcoming general elections. Similarly, in the realm of media, Arnab Goswami – a prominent Indian talk show anchor – was acting as BJP’s right hand, created a fiery profile of Modi and appraised his hardcore hindutva nationalist polices, as well as whole-heartedly admitted that he helped BJP on multiple issues.
Whereas, the recent leaked chats of Arnab Goswami, in the wake of TRP scandal, revealed that the Balakot air strikes were conducted to make the public believe that government had taken stern action against the so-called perpetrators. The exact words of Goswami’s leaked WhatsApp chat, that occurred between him and Partho Dasgupta who was a CEO of a TRP company BARC at that time, are, “ On another note something big will happen.’’ on the same day he further typed, “ Bigger than a normal strike. And also on the same time something major on Kashmir. On Pakistan the government is confident of striking in a way that people be elated.” That preconceived episode, ultimately, relieved the Modi government of public pressure.
Arnab Goswami is quite popular not just among the ruling party of India, rather due to his fluent English speaking quality, he is being listened to and praised by the youth of the country, too. Arnab has been working as living propaganda machine of ruling Indian Party for the past six years. Even, on the day of the Pulwama attack also, in a WhatsApp message chats with Partho Dasgupta, Arnab in jubilation said that he and his media network were ahead of all the media outlets in the coverage of the Pulwama attack. He further communicated that the attack had won him a lot of TRPs which is a great achievement for not only him, but for the channel also.
Despite being relatively on a weaker side internationally, Pakistan had still very handsomely managed to counter the Indian propaganda. Pakistan’s strategy was very simple and precisely accurate enough to counter such an ominous allegations. Against any of the Indian allegations, Pakistan openly welcomed international observatory groups and journalists to come and see the on ground realities. However, the recent leaked chats of Arnab Goswami uncovered a villainous intents of India that how it has been using Pulwama attack, which in the first place happened due its intelligence failure, in maligning Pakistan. Though, the war of narrative is naive for both the regional nuclear armed neighbors, but the developments that unfolded in the recent past has clearly depicted Pakistan as victorious because Pakistan acted rationally and responded timely according to the situation.
Muhammad Usama Khalid is an undergraduate student at the department of Strategic Studies in the National Defence University, Islamabad.