India and Pakistan's competing claims have caught the attention of the world.
On February 26, the Indian Air Force carried out an operation across the Line of Cross in Balakot, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. This was later described as an intelligence-led, non-military pre-emptive action by India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale. India also stated that the pre-dawn operation struck at JeM’s biggest training camp and eliminated a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis.
The next day, tensions continued to build with Pakistan’s violation of the Indian airspace and the capturing of an Indian Air Force pilot. Given the scale and gravity of these developments, and India and Pakistan’s importance to stability in South Asia, news related to Indo-Pak tensions made headlines not only in India and Pakistan but also internationally.
The New York Times
Before the situation worsened on February 27, NYT published a piece pointing that in the aftermath of India’s air strike on Pakistan, both the countries had left some room for de-escalation. “With India claiming to have avenged the Kashmir attack, and with Pakistan claiming that India had done no real damage, it seemed possible that the situation could yet be defused,” the paper stated.
The piece also pointed out India’s upcoming elections and the chances of India’s airstrike being nothing more than “political symbolism”.
However, in a piece published on February 27, hours after the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that an Indian Air Force pilot was missing in action, the NYT reported: “The capture of the Indian pilot may only weaken his (Modi’s) position and lead to a dangerous escalation if Mr Modi chooses to respond militarily.”
NYT was pointing to the fact that the two governments may be beholden to their electorates and, in such a situation, calls for firm military responses leaves limited scope for a diplomatic resolution.
Meanwhile, another piece in NYT pointed out a Twitter phenomenon, which is also true of a large section of India TV news: social media’s take over by warmongers. This piece also pointed out the difference in claims when it comes to the loss inflicted due to India’s airstrike: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, up for re-election in two months time, claimed to have hit a terrorist training camp in the Balakot area in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, killing 300 militants. Pakistan’s military spokesman, Major General Asif Ghafoor, denied the claims, saying that Indian war planes dropped their payloads without causing any casualties or damage to infrastructure.”
The Washington Post
The Post‘s coverage of the ongoing conflict between the two nations is nothing short of extensive. It, so far, has at least over a dozen pieces ranging from “Pakistan captures Indian pilot after shooting down aircraft, escalating hostilities“, “Pakistan violated Geneva Conventions by tweeting video of captured Indian pilot, expert says” to “Pakistan calls India airstrike on militant camp ‘fictitious‘”.
Like the NYT, a piece in the Washington Post also pointed out the duelling accounts concerning casualties reported. It stated that the act of an Indian aircraft venturing beyond the Line of Control to hit targets on Pakistani soil marked a potentially grave escalation of tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
American Broadcasting Company (ABC News)
ABC News also seems to have taken note of the differing number of casualties being reported by the two nations. “While the Indian foreign secretary claimed in a statement on Monday that a “very large number” of terrorists had been killed, the effectiveness of the attack has been refuted by Pakistan,” the piece stated. It added: “The spokesperson for the Pakistani military claimed on Twitter there had been no casualties, as the aircraft were apparently successfully scrambled after arriving in Pakistan’s territory.”
To explain the crisis that is unfolding between India and Pakistan, The Guardian has a visual guide. Apart from comparing the nuclear arsenal and military might of the two nations, the guide also lists the developments that took place on February 26-27.
The Guardian highlighted conflicting narratives coming out of India and Pakistan. It pointed out FS Gokhale’s claims of elimination of “very large number of JeM terrorists…”, while also stating that Islamabad released pictures of uprooted trees and cratered soil, which it claimed was the extent of the damage from the Indian bombing.
“The attack was celebrated in India, but it was unclear on Tuesday whether anything significant had been struck by the fighter jets, or whether the operation had been carefully calibrated to ease popular anger over the 14 February suicide bombing without drawing a major Pakistani reprisal. Local media in Pakistan as well as Reuters quoted residents of Balakot who said they heard four to five blasts overnight which damaged homes and left large pockmarks in the ground,” the piece noted.
Al Jazeera, on the other hand, had a ground report that looked into the authenticity of India’s claims. Contrary to FS Gokhale’s claims of having eliminated a large number of JeM terrorists, the report’s headline states there were “no casualties”.
“Local hospital officials and several residents who rushed to the scene said they did not find any bodies or wounded people following the Indian attack, which took place at approximately 3am local time on Tuesday,” the report stated. The article also included the testimony of a person who was injured in the airstrike.
Importantly, Al Jazeera noted the presence of a Jaish seminary near the site of India’s air strikes that it was not allowed to visit.
The point about competing narratives is also made by presenter Laura Kyle during an Inside Story debate. Al Jazeera‘s coverage also included reports on all the latest developments, including disruption of international flights, claims made by the two nations, fear among the residents of villages along the LOC and more.
Like NYT, an opinion piece on Al Jazeera pointed out India’s upcoming elections. The piece stated that India’s reasons to attack may have been partly influenced by the upcoming national elections and given that “the hawkish Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a second term in office” makes such a military escalation even more dangerous.
The BBC put out a piece this morning, titled: “Abhinandan: Who is the Indian pilot captured by Pakistan?” Other than this, the BBC had several reports on the latest developments including India’s demand to release Varthaman. In an opinion piece carried by the BBC, the risk of a nuclear conflict is also discussed. “Sadly, there is always a real threat of nuclear escalation between India and Pakistan, but we are several steps from that at this moment. Aside from accidental or unauthorised use (both unlikely), we would need to see a significant conventional escalation in this conflict before nuclear use looks likely,” the piece states.
In addition to several reports on each development concerning the Indo-Pak tensions, a report on the strategy and risks involved in India’s airstrike, the international news agency also had a ground report. The article quotes FS Gokhale’s claims about elimination of a large number terrorists, at the same time provides testimony of residents, as well as an official on duty at the hospital nearest to the alleged site. It also stated, “Another senior government official told reporters that about 300 militants had been killed.”
The report quotes one of the locals as saying, “No one died. Only some pine trees died, they were cut down. A crow also died. I haven’t seen any dead bodies, only a local who was hurt by something or hit by some window, he was hurt.” It also quoted an official at the hospital as saying, “It is just a lie. It is rubbish. We didn’t receive even a single injured person. Only one person got slightly hurt and he was treated there. Even he wasn’t brought here.”
According to the report about 400 to 500 people live locally. Of which, Reuters spoke to about 15 people, but none of them knew of any casualties apart from Nooran Shah, the person who was slightly injured.
The Telegraph (UK)
The Telegraph‘s coverage pointed out how the current flare up between India and Pakistan could be potentially more dangerous than the threat posed by a nuclear-armed North Korea. The opening lines stated: “While the eyes of the world have been on Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un’s Hanoi talks to denuclearise North Korea, a potentially more dangerous nuclear threat has erupted 2,000 miles away.” It also stated that since India and Pakistan are “nuclear armed”, the world’s oldest frozen conflict, the simmering dispute over Kashmir, is all the more menacing.
In another piece, The Telegraph pointed out that in both nations, voters support tough action. And this popular pressure, the paper points out, is working to prevent a compromise between the two leaders (India PM Narendra Modi and Pak PM Imran Khan) who each fear seeming weak in the eyes of their voters.
China Daily is an English-language daily owned by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China and published in the People’s Republic of China. It has carried close to 10 pieces on the issue: Pakistan army says Indian aircraft cross LoC, India strikes inside Pakistan after attack, Pakistan foreign minister speaks to Pompeo, warns India’s ‘aggressive posture’ could affect Afghan peace process, Pakistan says it downs two Indian warplanes, Pakistan PM invites India for dialogue amid escalating tensions across LoC and so on.
One of the pieces notes that “a senior Indian government source said that 300 militants had been killed in the strikes. But no details were provided”.