Sunday 6 August 2023

WaPo must read India correctly (The Sunday Guardian)

 The Washington Post established itself at the apex of the journalism pyramid as a consequence of four individuals. The first was Katherine Graham, the publisher, who withstood multiple efforts at persuading her to roll back the newspaper’s Watergate coverage. Without her support, Executive Editor Benjamin C. Bradlee would not have been able to unreel spool after spool of support to Woodward and Bernstein, the two journalists who to this day epitomise the Watergate saga, which caused the resignation of a gifted but conflicted US President, Richard Milhous Nixon. Fast forward to the present, when even those opposing him in the race to get the Republican presidential nomination for the 2024 polls are too skittish to make any except the most oblique references to Donald J. Trump. Given the quantum of reportage about the former President’s mishaps or misdemeanours, depending on your affiliation, a scandal such as Watergate could have been featured repeatedly by newspapers without adversely affecting Trump’s political fortunes in the slightest. Indeed, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have devoted considerable space to allegations made by the Justice Department against Trump, but to no avail. Given the obvious political interest that President Biden has in besmirching the image of his former rival for the Presidency, the perception that what is taking place is indeed a witch hunt is gaining ground. Other former Presidents have been revealed to have broken the rules regarding the keeping of documents relating to their term in the White House, but have gotten away lightly. Soon after he took over from the disgraced Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford pardoned his former boss, and lost in the polls to the Democratic candidate, despite his personal qualities. It is unlikely that the conventional verdict that Ford lost because of his pardoning off Nixon is right. More likely it was because he seemed to be unfitted to the job, which perhaps he was, being new to the Executive Branch, that too as its head. Had Biden in this respect at least followed the example of President Trump, who refrained from pursuing and prosecuting his former rival Hillary Clinton, he may have gained more popularity than he now has. As matters stand, should there be a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024, this time it could be the latter who succeeds, no matter the vitriol poured on him by the opinion columnists of the NYT and WaPo.

The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, bought the Washington Post for what to him was a measly $250 million, most likely on the request of a liberal friend, who was anxious that the newspaper be rescued from impending bankruptcy. It is unlikely that Bezos is behind the acid rain that the newspaper regularly sprays on India, picturing it in unflattering colours. Nothing is a simple mix of Black and White with Grey in between, and the situation in India is a festival of colours, some dark but many bright. Had President Biden followed the advice of the editorial writers of the Washington Post to blacklist India, he would have made the leaders of China, Pakistan and of course Russia very happy. All three are unhappy at the increasing warmth of India-US relationship, and seek to ensure its reversal back to the Old (USSR-US) Cold War days. In the New Cold War that most prominently features China and the US, what is a nightmare for Beijing (as well as Moscow and Rawalpindi) of closeness of relations between Washington and Delhi is an imperative if the democracies are to prevail over the autocracies in the New Cold War. Sometime in the future, perhaps an editorial writer will come to India for six weeks and travel around the country not just by air but by rail and road as well, and alone, not in the company of those who delight in seeking to consign their own country to the dustbin of international opinion. He or she will certainly come across scenes of despair, perhaps occasional spasms of violence, but neither would be unfamiliar to a resident of the US. Also would be seen the immense changes that have been brought about during the past decade in India. The vastly increased reach of digital systems and access, the improvement in living conditions of those previously marginalised communities, the surge in opportunities and expectations of the young. There would then be the first glimmers of comprehension why so much of the world is seeing India not in the way the Washington Post and its fellow travellers in the doomsday box see the country. They see India as a country on the cusp of being the third largest economy in the world, a level reached not through authoritarian fiat but through democratic persuasion. They would observe that the very media outlets that describe India as dictatorial and worse do so freely. That even the Sonia-led branch of the Congress Party, a group that never fails to scatter vitriol against the present dispensation, has been left unmolested. As for the court decision that deprived Rahul Gandhi of government accommodation, the matter was before the Supreme Court for a final decision, and not before the executive. Those who retain their regard for the Washington Post remain hopeful that someday, the newspaper will look at the entirety of the elephant that is India. That it will not obsessively focus on any single part real or imagined of the pachyderm to claim that this by itself it represents the whole. There is indeed authoritarianism threatening the world order, but it is centred elsewhere and not in the world’s most populous democracy. Please, editors at the Post, look around the world a bit more closely, look at India a bit more closely, and read the country correctly.

WaPo must read India correctly

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