A perusal of the recent reports published in the media, both in India and Pakistan, regarding the case of Kulbhushan Yadav proves that there has been an interesting similarity between the two. While in India, the reportage of the case has been mired in jingoism, the Pakistani media have concentrated on the so-called “confessions” of Yadav made under duress to pass a verdict, even before the case is currently being heard. Both versions miss a crucial thing that news reports should have: objectivity.
Who is Yadav?
Before looking at the various news reports and opinion pieces that have been published ever since the matter came into limelight, let us look at some of the basic facts regarding Yadav.
Kulbhushan Yadav, alias Hussain Mubarak Patel, is an Indian national who was arrested in Baluchistan, over charges of terrorism and spying for India’s intelligence agency. The Pakistani government maintains that Yadav has been a former naval officer, who has been involved in terror activities in Baluchistan. In fact, he was arrested during a counter-intelligence encounter in that area. India, on the other hand, does not deny that he has been a former naval officer, but alleges that the government has nothing to do with him. On April 10, 2017 the Field General Court Martial sentenced Yadav to death. However the International Court of Justice on May 18 put a stay on his hanging. Since then media houses in both India and Pakistan have focused less on the case itself, but more on defaming each other.
Media and the politics of nationalism
To begin with some media houses in Pakistan have criticized Pakistan’s handling of the case, saying that although going to the ICJ was the right decision, the case itself was not presented well there. For instance the Daily Times opined that going to ICJ should lead to new vistas in the India-Pakistan relationship, as it would give Pakistan the opportunity to go to ICJ for settling the dispute in Kashmir. It is for the same reason, that some experts, such as Justice Markandey Katju, have opined that going to ICJ is a big mistake on the part of India, as it lets India fall into the trap laid by Pakistan. From now on, Pakistan will want international arbitration on every dispute relating to Kashmir.
Indian media houses, especially Right-leaning ones such as the Times Group and the Republic have taken the ICJ’s decision as an endorsement of the BJP government’s tough foreign policy, especially the mettle shown by Narendra Modi. It is also notable that the matter comes at a time when Modi is celebrating three years in power. The same jingoism can be seen in the Pakistani media as well. It has prompted Reema Omar to make the following statement: “It seems we have become incapable of understanding the law objectively and instead use it project our own aspirations. In Jadhav’s case this was all the more striking as nationalist sentiment, not a dispassionate assessment of the law, was the primary driving factor behind the “expertise” on display, misleading the public on the applicable law and hence Pakistan’s chances, or lack thereof, of “winning”.”
While the case is still pending in ICJ, the verdict seems to have already passed by Pakistani and the Indian media houses, both of which have chosen to look at the matter from the point of view of nationalism rather than that of objectivity. Social media seems to have boosted this jingoistic campaign between the two countries. Social Media trolls have liberally shared posts in different social media platforms, thereby exacerbating the felling of hatred and mutual suspicion. The issue should go beyond the logic of social media and the space of digital marketing and should be looked at from an objective, legal point of view.