Ask the right questions

Bad journalism was on display yet again when 24 hour television channels scrambled to beat each other in the coverage of the alleged attack on the Israeli diplomat’s wife in New Delhi. Israel predictably hit the ground running, insisting that Iran was responsible for the alleged bomb attack on the vehicle in which the woman was travelling even before the flames had been doused.

Israeli Prime Minister set their particular political ball in motion when from Tel Aviv he declared that Iran had launched a terror attack on Israel within minutes and hours of the incident.

Predictably, because Israel seems to be on the one point mission to isolate Iran so that it can attack the country for a variety of trumped up reasons. The United States might be paying the price for the invasion of Iraq, at home and internationally, but from the Israeli strategic point this has constituted a victory at all levels. A hostile state has been turned into a terror hell hole, a well known anti-Israel leader has been exterminated, and the political forces in Tel Aviv are reaping the benefit. Iran and Syria are next on Israel’s list and currently its diplomacy is focusing on getting the world to support military action against the two regimes.

It was thus very unfortunate that the Indian media decided to accept Israel’s allegations as the gospel truth without any regard for the facts, or the consequences.  The investigations had not even begun when the media decided to accept the Israeli version and launch into ‘breaking news’ and discussions claiming Israel versus Iran war was being fought on Indian soil. The Iranian denial was drowned in the din and one suspects the over-eagerness to please the corporate and allied interests. By the second day sections of the print media had also started joining the bandwagon, with not a single story questioning Israel’s claims, and the legitimacy of its assertions.

Fortunately, despite the tremendous pressure from Washington and Tel Aviv India has continued to resist the temptation to support Israel, and cut off links with Iran. It is no secret that US made its displeasure of India’s renewed friendship with Iran very clear during Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai’s visit to Washington. But till date New Delhi seems to be holding out, although given Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s close proximity with US one cannot say at this stage for how long, or for that matter whether it will last the course.

Fortunately there is a division in the strategic elite establishment that crowds government corridors. Iran is quite a favourite with the Indian people, as well as, sections of the Establishment. Besides, given the dip in growth statistics it is apparent even to those in government that the need to mop up energy resources is urgent. And India cannot afford to dismiss Iran as it had earlier. Against this backdrop the timing of the attack could not have been better for Israel, not Iran. After a hiatus India had started to mend relations with Iran that was clearly a source of worry for Israel and US. The question that thus, needs to be answered is: why would Iran at this stage risk its growing friendship with India by launching a terror attack against Israel? And that too on Indian soil? And that too against a lowly Israeli official? 

Sleuths across the world establish the motive first as an important aid in investigations of a crime. In this case Israel has a motive, in that it wants relations between India and Iran to sour and break. Iran does not have a motive as its efforts currently are to strengthen relations as it needs the friendship of India in countering the Israeli offensive.

Investigators also like to study the modus operandi. Till date the sticky bomb that was supposedly used to blow up the Israeli diplomatic vehicle has been used only by Israel in its targeted assassinations across the world. This magnetic bomb was used by Mossad operatives to kill Iranian nuclear scientists in recent months. Also it is a well known fact that Mossad specialises in such specific operations, and crosses borders and boundaries to reach and exterminate the targets. Iran has not adopted such a modus operandi as yet, and has really been more of a victim on this front than an aggressor. But now the Israeli’s would have the world believe that their weapons and their methods are being used by targeted nations who are bowed under sanctions, and being hit on an hourly basis by vicious propaganda and threats from powerful nations.

India did err by voting against Iran at a crucial juncture at the IAEA on the nuclear issue. It also dropped out of the energy rich peace pipeline Iran-Pakistan-India, under US pressure. There were many experts in this country who criticised this move, and it has taken some time for the UPA government to realise that Iran is essential for energy that is essential for growth that is essential for the ruling Congress to win the next general elections. Or at least have a chance to win.

India will make a major strategic mistake if its shifts position against Iran under the growing pressure. It might be recalled that after abstaining from a vote at the UNSC against Syria it has now sided with US against Syria, costing it much goodwill in the neighbouring region. Foreign policy under the UPA government has taken the shape of a seesaw that bends on the one or the other side under pressure. This has weekend India’s position in the developing world, as non-western governments are no longer sure of its policy at any given point in time. There have been number of instances when the government has moved back from categorical assertions, in a volte face that defies comprehension and flies in the face of consistency.

One can only wait and see how the current crisis plays out. Meanwhile one can only hope that the Indian media strikes a more independent note, and instead of reporting opinion, sticks with the facts. And asks the right questions.

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