“Ambiguous. Beseiged. Confusing. Disappointing. Dismaying. Evasive. Frightening. Unpardonable. Unsatisfactory. PM should speak again”: editorials on ‘Surender’ Modi’s cop-out

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The major English newspapers all have editorials on Narendra Modi‘s brazen lie, without taking the name of China, that “no one has intruded on Indian soil, nor is any one sitting on Indian soil, nor has any post been seized by anyone”, which made a total mockery of the killing of 20 Indian soldiers last Monday.

The subsequent clarification by the Prime Minister’s Office has done little to quell the doubts of the newspapers who in their editorials call out the craven surrender of India’s sovereignty, or the very real prospect of it.

Yet again, the newspaper editorials are proof of the quality of India’s print media compared to its brain-dead television counterpart which is chiefly in the business  of cheerleading the BJP government. The editorials are also an indication of what the Indian public stands to lose when the independence of the media is curtailed by state and non-state actors, or by the hollowing out of newsrooms due to COVID.

However, it is also apparent reading some of the editorials of the commercial and ideological factors guiding them.

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Deccan Herald: “PM’s remark raises more questions”

“The PM’s comment did not provide reassurance to the nation. If there was no intrusion what was the escalating situation about, and why and where were the soldiers killed? What were the talks of the senior army officers of the two sides about in the past few weeks? The PM’s statement contradicted the external affairs ministry which said the Chinese side “tried to erect a structure in the Galwan Valley on our side of the LAC.

“The PMO said a “mischievous interpretation” had been given to the PM’s remarks. Are all the retired senior Army offices who commented on the situation wrong? Confusing and contradictory statements from responsible authorities would undermine India’s position and strengthen China’s claims. It is unfortunate the PM’s statement has created such a situation.”

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Hindustan Times: Narendra Modi must make a new, clear statement

“The PM’s original statement had the potential of undermining India’s sovereign claims and its negotiating position, confusing India’s friends, providing diplomatic ammunition to China, and appearing contradictory to earlier positions of the external affairs and defence ministries.

“Whatever the motivations, the message has sent out an ambiguous signal. The PM must speak again and categorically address three issues: on Chinese transgression across the LAC, if any, in recent months; whether China is attempting to change the facts on the ground in Pangong Tso; and the current status in Galwan Valley.”

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The Telegraph: “Modi’s performance in diplomacy has been disastrous

“Should the PM’s assurance of territorial sovereignty being intact be read as a tacit confirmation of the Chinese position on the matter? This can only mean that the Modi is not averse to redrawing the Sino-Indian map.

“Modi is mandated to inform the nation about the details of not just the death of soldiers but also status of LAC. His evasiveness on a matter so crucial to national security is unpardonable. His responses to searching questions by the Opposition were unsatisfactory. He has also managed to isolate most of India’s allies in the neighbourhood. Indians must reflect on his solemn pledges at such a crucial hour.”

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The Hindu: “Lost in clarifications

“It is more than clear that the PM did not choose his words carefully. While it should be obvious that any speech that requires no less than two clarifications has serious problems with its messaging, the controversy has only underlined the government’s poor communication on the border issue.

“A blanket of silence hardly serves the government’s interests. The absence of timely and credible information will only fuel speculation and alarm.”

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Deccan Chronicle: “Questions and doubts after PMO weighs in”

“If Narendra Modi’s statement was a deep disappointment, its clarification by the prime ministers office was worse. It was deploying dismaying. It appeared to be saying the same thing as the Chinese. In effect, it mocked the death of India’s 20 soldiers, although this could not have been Modi’s intention.

“The PM’s statement and the PMO clarification succeeded in leaving the frightening impression that our soldiers had intruded into China’s area (since the PM had said the Chinese had not come to our side). Evidently, the running of the PMO leaves much to be desired.”

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The Indian Express: “Unlike China

“It’s disappointing that in its clarification, the PMO labelled the questioning of the PM’s remarks as “mischievous” and “motivated propaganda”, an “unnecessary controversy” to “lower the soldiers’ morale”. On the day after, the problem is not just the PMO’s clarification may not set the questions to rest but also that it paints the very act of questioning as improper and illegitimate.

“That the government held an all-party meeting speaks of a democracy that does not freeze or shut down in crisis but seeks to handle it through means that only democracies possess—a coming together, a pooling of wisdom and resources, across political and party lines.”

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The Times of India: “A long game”

“In the contest with China it’s important to be strategic, not over-emotional. The government’s dilemma is understandable, as complete transparency may not be possible in a situation like this.

“Popular nationalism is constructed in a cartographic way, that is, it demands every inch of territory claimed on a map—no matter whether inhabited or very remote—be controlled by the government. However, this isn’t feasible in every situation.

“In a way, the government is back to India’s pre-1962 situation. It has limited options at present with a broken economy, coronavirus raging, military sending and a defence industrial complex inferior to China’s.”

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The Pioneer: “Bare facts

“In reversing the image of India from the Nehruvian era, Narendra Modi has almost always highlighted his aggressive foreign policy, one which propagandists claim to have elevated us internationally. The fact of the matter is for all kinds of muscular leadership we might profess, we have failed to read China. And for all practical purposes it has besieged us.

“The PM should be transparent and use Parliament to keep the Opposition and the nation abreast of developments. Or silence would be interpreted as appeasement, something the Chinese love to feed on.”

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