In the predawn hours on Feb. 26, India launched an aerial attack — unprecedented in peacetime — on neighboring Pakistan, in retaliation for a suicide bombing 12 days earlier that killed more than 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers in the disputed valley of Kashmir. Pakistan predictably responded the next morning with its own air strike into Indian-controlled Kashmir.
The confrontation could spiral out of control quickly. But fortunately, apart from a wounded Indian pilot and a Pakistani villager hit by falling rubble, the only confirmed casualty so far seems to be truth. Right now, the more extensive and damaging war in South Asia is the multi-pronged assault on reality by the warriors of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and hyper-nationalist news channels as well as mendacious governments.
India’s public sphere was the first to erupt with war cries. “Mess with the best,” declared one aged Bollywood action hero on Twitter, “die like the rest.” Even the few commentators ostensibly wary of Narendra Modi, India’s Hindu nationalist prime minister, succumbed to patriotic bloodlusts. India’s leading television channels vied with each other in urging more bombings and broadcasting transparently fake footage of the attack.
As this war porn went viral, it was hard not to feel déjà vu. A similarly murky “surgical strike” by Indian forces in retaliation for a 2016 terrorist attack in Kashmir also incited a euphoric unanimity — though it achieved nothing, apart from an abysmal Bollywood tribute. Enraptured by #surgicalstrike2 (the trending Twitter hashtag), far too many powerful and influential Indians appear determined to give war a chance. These smartphone bombardiers were shockingly incapable of grasping a simple fact — that assaulting hills and dales deep in Pakistani territory would do nothing to forestall more terrorist attacks in Kashmir while guaranteeing Pakistani escalation. [Continue reading…]
Pakistan says it will release a captured Indian pilot as a “peace gesture” between the neighbours amid the gravest military crisis in the subcontinent in two decades.
Imran Khan, the country’s prime minister, told a joint sitting of parliament that the Indian wing commander, Abhinandan Varthaman, who was shot down over the heavily guarded ceasefire line in disputed Kashmir on Wednesday, would be released on Friday.
“We have captured an Indian pilot,” Khan said. “As a peace gesture, tomorrow we are going to release him.” [Continue reading…]