-By Sanjay Jha
Arnab Goswami has started a new trend in broadcast journalism; a reality TV show of a fish market, a slugfest given to the highest decibels. If you saw his TV program on rising food prices on Times Now on January 14th 2010 featuring Brinda Karat , Ravi Shankar Prasad and Manish Tiwari , you would know what I mean. It was an astronomical flop-show. Ms Karat , as is the problem with several leftist spokespeople when speaking on aam aadmi issues , seemed unstoppable and after a point insufferable. Tiwari understandably retaliated with sufficient vigor, while Prasad prepared himself for a vitriolic assault. The paradox is that many news anchors live in a fool’s paradise that if they have guests squabbling like a bunch of soft-heads on a verbal laxative overdose they have hit the jackpot. Secretly, they believe they created real ripples, got the juices going et al. Utter garbage! They forget that their real audience switches channels rather quickly; the cycle is usually as follows, after the initial amusement at the silliness, there is heightened exasperation which culminates with a frustrated sigh. Switch! People rarely return to watch the parody. For Times Now this is now SOP. Firstly, Goswami invites heavy-weight guests. That too in fairly large numbers. Then he chooses to conveniently lose control; I have a sneaky feeling that his helpless loss of words is a deliberate tactic meant to make a viewer feel that Times Now really “ heats it up”. Not working Mr Goswami. It is as cold as a frozen turkey in a Polish subway .
On Face the Nation ( CNN-IBN) Sagarika Ghose landed up in a similar soup with Mani Shankar Aiyer and Lord Meghnad Desai, with Chandan Mitra for the third angle on the same old issue—Jawaharlal Nehru’s legacy , provoked by the media’s favorite whiplash boy Shashi Tharoor. . Aiyer tore viciously into the Lord’s flaky assessment of Nehru even as Mitra made some wobbly points of no relevance. But Mani surprisingly failed to make two crucial points in Nehru’s defense ; India’s first Prime Minister and one of the greatest statesmen the world has ever seen was a man who lived his active political life between two World Wars, when the concept of a big western empires still dominating large sections of the world was not unforeseeable and the risk of new power blocs creating a Third World war could not be ruled out either. India became independent even as war trials commenced and the whole world was still recovering from it’s devastating aftermath. It naturally impacted his entire political philosophy and approach to international relations. Nehru championed for regional and world peace post-1947 because he was convinced that if India led the Non –aligned movement and other peace initiatives with other smaller countries in their fold they would create a suitable buffer for reducing military conflict which actually neither India nor it’s trenchant neighbors could really afford given the massive challenge of human poverty they all faced , including Pakistan and China. The Indo-China War was more a tactical lapse in managing brewing tension as opposed to a strategic blunder. Nehru believed that after experiencing the horrors of western domination China itself would be more accommodating of it’s neighbors in matters which could be solved through mutual negotiations. That the Chinese aggressively pursued the military option is not a reflection on Nehru’s leadership but on China’s obsession with all things land that still surfaces sporadically even today.
Secondly, Mani could have categorically stated that instead of just pinpointing India one should look at how geopolitical relationships have changed so dramatically world-wide post the end of the Cold War, an inevitable aspect of evolution, change and progress. What is the big deal about India’s calibrated closeness to the USA in a unipolar world dominated by Washington ? Wasn’t Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being the first official state guest of Barack Obama at the White House a statement on India’s rising graph and it’s ability to suitably navigate with all the superpowers? Also now that McDonald’s has fought stroganoff for the Russian palate and soon there will be more Starbucks in China than in the US a manifestation of how economic equations now drive political relationships in a more mature free-trade globally integrated world the real big shift ? Aren’t we being antiquated in criticizing a foreign policy valid during it’s time of 1960s, naturally outdated with it’s passage. It is pragmatic politics. It has nothing at all to do with a dumping of the Nehruvian policy.
That Sagarika asked Mani for a public apology for making a personal dig at Desai was equally uncalled for , as there was nothing so unparliamentary or vilifying that Mani really said . Instead, for borrowing blatantly the title from Nehru’s masterpiece The Discovery of India and smartly calling his new book The Rediscovery of India perhaps Lord Meghnad Desai owes both Mani and the Congress an apology .