How Shilpa Shetty halted the Chinese incursions

China apparently made 146 incursions into Indian territory last year. The Chinese are preventing locals from going up to regions where they had been taking their animals for grazing. Even a statue of Buddha is off-limits. And “cartographic aggression”, in which Arunachal Pradesh is shown as Chinese territory, is assuming epidemic proportions.

When two BJP MPs from Arunachal Pradesh, Tapir Gao and Kiren Rijiju, raised the issue at a party meeting last November, the journalist-turned-politician Arun Shourie, who was reading a book Why geography matters too chipped in. So, all three were invited by president L.K. Advani to attend the party’s afternoon press briefing.

Shourie writes in The Indian Express on how the media reacted to a matter of profound national security. The hack-pack, he writes, is only too eager to get into a tu-tu, main-main; to pick holes in the motives and motivations of the messenger instead of probing the message. And, as he told Karan Thapar on CNBC-TV18 last night, The Times of India and the Hindustan Times were busy with two very urgent stories—longer working hours for bars and 24-hour shopping:

I had hardly concluded that the usual clutch—pro-Congress, pro-Left—was up in arms. “When was the book published?” one demanded…. “But what did the NDA do about the incursions?” another member of that clutch demanded… “No, Mr Shourie, but you have to acknowledge that there is no agreed international border between India and China. So…” That is the Chinese position as articulated by your paper often, I said. It has not been the position of any Indian Government…

An anchor from a news channel phoned. I saw your press conference, he said. We have been following this story for many months. Can you please come to our studio? No, I said, I really am very upset at what happened. But I give you my word, he said, we think this is an important issue, and we are going to follow it in the coming months also. I will send an OB-van to your house.

The van came. The late night news. The earpiece in my ear. All set. Delay—quite understandable: some new eruption in Nandigram. Eventually, the anchor and I are talking.

“But are you sure about the facts or is the BJP indulging in its usual fear-politics?” the anchor asks. But why don’t you ascertain them from the two MPs who represent the area? I respond. Better still, why don’t you send your own correspondents and photographers to the area? I inquire. “We will, we will, I assure you. I was just making sure…”

In any case, look at what the ambassador of China has himself said, I remarked. Remember, just days before Hu Jintao, the Chinese President, was to come to India, the ambassador declared, right here on Indian soil, that Arunachal is a part of China…

“But maybe he was saying it for rhetorical effect,” said the anchor.

Rhetorical effect? I skipped a heartbeat. Is the Chinese Ambassador also running after TRP ratings like the TV channels? Would an ambassador say such things just for effect? And that too the ambassador of China, of all countries? You mean an ambassador, you mean the ambassador of China of all countries would claim the territory of the country to which he is accredited, that he would lay claim to an entire state of that country for rhetorical effect? I asked. And remember, I pointed out, he repeated the claim in Chandigarh later. And look at the government of China — it has not distanced itself from the claim advanced by its ambassador. On the contrary, its ‘think-tanks’ have held ‘seminars’ in the wake of the ambassador’s statement. In this the ‘scholars’ and ‘diplomats’ and ‘strategic thinkers’ have declared to the man that Arunachal is ‘Chinese territory under India’s forcible occupation’; that it is ‘China’s Tawang region’; that it is ‘Southern Tibet’ which must be brought under the control of the Tibet Autonomous Region. And you call this rhetorical? That is just lunatic…

The anchor was off to the next item. “Be that as it may… Another controversy… Thank you, Mr Shourie. Always a pleasure talking to you. Moving now to a slightly less controversial story…” “SHILPA SHETTY,” he said, his voice rising, “has not been in the news since the famous Richard Gere kiss, but we have her back today. Here she is, SHILPA SHETTY…”

The sound on my earpiece cut. Shilpa Shetty had once again trumped poor Arunachal.

Photographs: The Daily Mail, London

Read the full article: Shilpa Shetty trumps Arunachal again

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Cross-posted on sans serif