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‘Is War Coming?’: Foreign Media on India-Pakistan Crisis

How is the international media reporting on the escalating India-Pakistan tensions?

Updated
India
4 min read
Post Pulwama, there has been escalating tension between India and Pakistan.
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After the deadly Pulwama attacks on CRPF jawans on 14 February, Indo-Pak relations seem to gone further sour.

From the IAF air strikes across the LOC on 26 February, to the capture of an IAF pilot by Pakistan on 27 February, bilateral tensions continue to soar.

With a lack of clarity on the exact details on the events, the hashtag #SayNoToWar trending, and rising nationalist fervour in both countries, there are many questions that need answering.

Meanwhile, international media outlets have been weighing in on two neighbouring, nuclear-armed countries’ escalating crisis. From talking about the opposing narratives of both countries to the possibility of war, here is a list of all that they said.

'Conflicting Media Reports’

Headline of The Washing Post’s report on the Indo-Pak tensions on 27 February
Headline of The Washing Post’s report on the Indo-Pak tensions on 27 February
(Photo: Screenshot)

The Washington Post reported on the conflicting reports from Indian and Pakistani media outlets on the situation.

Read all the latest updates about the Indo-Pak crisis here.

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“If you followed certain Indian media outlets in the early hours of Tuesday, you probably heard that Indian Air Force jets swooped into Pakistani airspace and carried out devastating strikes on militant camps, killing roughly 300 fighters. If you were watching in Pakistan, you saw news of a cowardly incursion in which Indian warplanes dropped their payloads over uninhabited countryside and then scurried home, harming nothing save for an empty stretch of forest.”

The article further asserted that the “jingoism consuming popular opinion on both sides of the contested border” might make it difficult to de-escalate the situation.

De-Escalation Possible Due to Differing Narratives

Headline of The New York Times report on the Indo-Pak tensions on 27 February
Headline of The New York Times report on the Indo-Pak tensions on 27 February
(Photo: Screenshot)

However, The New York Times reported on how the conflicting story-lines about the events sent out by both governments, while confusing, could be a boon.

“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 article purported that the conflicting reports was a deliberate decision by the Indian and Pakistani governments, saying, “But in the jarring escalation of hostilities, the leadership of each nuclear-armed country also appeared to leave itself a way out of pushing the conflict into war.”

Waning US Influence in The Region

Headline of The Guardian’s report on the Indo-Pak tensions on 27 February
Headline of The Guardian’s report on the Indo-Pak tensions on 27 February
(Photo: Screenshot)

Looking at the regional crisis from a larger lens, The Guardian reported on the international community, and especially the US, urging “both sides to pull back from the brink.”

The article focussed on the US’ waning influence and lop-sided support under the Trump administration, as compared to earlier instances of the US using diplomacy to solve international crisis.

“It is doubtful that today either President Trump or his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has the same leverage in the region as their predecessors...Trump has shown little interest in being even-handed in the region, increasingly siding with India and shunning Pakistan...American influence in the region has also fallen due to plain neglect.”

‘War is Not in Anybody’s Interest’

Headline of Al Jazera’s report on the Indo-Pak tensions on 27 February
Headline of Al Jazera’s report on the Indo-Pak tensions on 27 February
(Photo: Screenshot)

Associate professor of Disarmament Studies at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Happymon Jacob wrote for Al Jazeera on behind-the-scenes reasons for the crisis, such as the upcoming Indian elections and Pakistan’s need to save face post the attacks on their territory.

“While India’s reasons to attack may have been partly influenced by the upcoming national elections in the country, with its counterstrike, Pakistan seeks to avoid embarrassment and to ensure that such attacks do not become routine in future. One side wants to create a new military normal, and the other side wants to desperately avoid that.”
Happymon Jacob for Al Jazera 

Jacob wrote on the confusing opposing narratives, “The scale of the "air battle" is difficult to gauge given conflicting reports.”

He added that “This is also a war of perceptions for both Modi and Khan” and after Pak PM Imran Khan’s speech earlier today, it is up to India to either choose an “unfavourable compromise or an escalation which would invariably involve more violence.”

Jacob said that a potential de-escalation was likely, however, as “Both Modi and Khan likely understand that an all-out war is not in their best interest.”
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‘Military Solutions Are Costly’

Headline of BBCs report on the Indo-Pak tensions on 27 February
Headline of BBCs report on the Indo-Pak tensions on 27 February
(Photo: Screenshot)

BBC’s India correspondent reported on the uncertainty that lay ahead for both countries, and the rest of the world because of the possibility of nuclear use. The report also echoed other media outlets in saying that war was not in any country’s best interest, and de-escalation was possible although it was unclear which country would back down first.

The article quoted Professor Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the US, saying Pakistan “does not want war with India but its military faces a credibility challenge.”

Reiterating the need to bring down tensions but remain firm on an anti-terror stance, the article quoted Daniel Markey, a senior professor at Johns Hopkins University in the US saying, “The goal now is to introduce a higher level of punishment for each instance of Pakistani aggression.”

“Most military solutions to the Pakistan problem at India’s disposal are far, far more costly to India than they are likely to bring about the desired end state.”
Daniel Markey

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