The fall out from the infamous “Radia Tapes” continued this week, though in a somewhat quaint manner as a heated letter-writing contest between two billionaires. Member of Parliament and erstwhile telecom entrepreneur, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, fired the first volley with an open letter to Ratan Tata, Chairman of Tata Groups. Chandrasekhar alleged that contrary to Tata’s claims, his company had actually benefitted from the out-of-turn allocation of spectrum and the previous administration’s policy flip-flop, both issues that were raised by the Tata supremo in his attempts to justify his company’s recruitment of lobbyist Niira Radia. In a blistering reply, also an open letter, Ratan Tata excoriated Chandrasekhar’s claims as “attempted character assassination through widespread media publicity couched in pain and concern for upholding ethics and values.” Tata dismissed Chandrasekhar’s allegations as politically motivated and an attempt to embarrass the Prime Minister and the ruling party. Ever mindful of his reputation as a gentleman extraordinaire, the man known for his love of Hermes ties and handkerchiefs, signed off his acerbic missive “with warm regards.” At last count, Chandrasekhar had responded to the response, through (what else?) another open letter.
So who’s winning this letter war? The media hasn’t declared victory yet, but my vote is with Chandrasekhar, who won simply by virtue of eliciting such a passionate, if somewhat defensive, response from the notoriously media-shy mogul.
As the world of international diplomacy continues to get rocked by the sensational WikiLeaks revelations, some juicy tidbits have surfaced that are curiously privy only to a select few in Pakistan. Among them are “cables” that purportedly describe senior Indian generals as “vain, egotistical and genocidal,” and contain the explosive discovery that Hemant Karkare, the police chief killed during the Mumbai attacks, was in fact assassinated by the Indian government for his investigation of Hindu terrorist groups. The stories made the front pages of two Pakistani dailies, The News and the Urdu-language Jang. According to the News:
“An earlier cable ruled out any direct or indirect involvement of ISI in 26/11 under Pasha’s command while Mumbai’s dossier, based on prime accused Ajmal Kasab’s confessional statement was termed funny and “shockingly immature”. WikiLeaks revealed that a cable sent from a US mission in India termed former Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor as an incompetent combat leader and rather a geek.”
Unfortunately, these newsworthy “findings” have yet to make an appearance in any other newspaper. Britain’s Guardian searched the entire WikiLeaks database by date, name and keyword, and still couldn’t find these alleged cables.
The reports have no byline, which isn’t surprising because their author is probably some new ISI recruit with a killer imagination. Its another troubling instance of the spy agency’s reach within the Pakistani media. A look at the news sites of major Pakistani publications such as the Nation or the News reveal stories that read more like fiction than fact, especially when it comes to India. Blogs like Cafe Pyala may help balance the perspective a bit, but the common man gets his “news” from sources like Jang, Pakistan’s bestselling daily.
Not that the media across the border is any better. Barkha and Vir, we owe you for disabusing us of that quaint notion.
As if the WikiLeaks weren’t embarrassing enough, the U.S. State Department scrambled to set right another diplomatic snafu that resulted in the Indian Ambassador, Meera Shankar, being frisked at an airport in Mississippi.
“Shankar was pulled out of a security line at Jackson airport in Mississippi for a secondary screening despite the fact that she had passed throuh the metal frame without setting off an alarm.”
India’s external affairs minister, S.M. Krishna, declared the pat down “unacceptable,” and secretary of state Hillary Clinton also expressed concerns over the incident. As for the lady in question, Ambassador Shankar is yet to address the incident, though her frisker probably had a devil of a time patting down that sari.