Vantage point

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Mushy's Comin

Musharraf is coming. And like last time, the country is split into two. There are people who believe that it is a matter of shame that the 'Killer of Kargil' is being welcomed by the Indian government. Many bloggers fall in this category. And there are people at the opposite pole who will act as if it is the second coming of Christ.

I would urge a middle path. The bloke is a foreign head of state. He leads a country that we would be better off at peace with. He is coming here as the Presdient of Pakistan. Let us extend to him a welcome we would give to any visiting head of state.

But let us not a pathetic spectacle of ourselves like we did in July 2001. The Indian government ordered a special "clean up" of the Taj Mahal because Mush was coming. They also ordered the demolition of a couple of houses in Delhi to enable the widening of a road so that he could visit his precious 'Neherwali haveli'. I find this despicable. The very existence of Taj Mahal should be reason enough for the government to maintain it with top priority. The visit of a visiting head of state should not be the catalyst required. And why are we demolishing houses for his cavalcade? If he wants to visit his house, he bloody well walk to it, or skip it from the itinerary.

The behaviour of the media was the most shameful. Not only did they roll over for Mush in the press conference like puppies wanting their tummies tickled, they were also putting a very desparate spin on the whole event.

For instance, when Musharraf's visit to the Ajmer Dargah was cancelled. Aajtak had a correspondent at the Dargah with the priests and a few other people around him. The correspondent started off by saying something like "The people of Ajmer were expecting Musharraf to come, and a lot of preparations were made, but now that the visit is cancelled, they are disappointed. Let us ask these clerics what they think."

At this, the cleric said, "No, no, we are not disappointed or anything. We believe that only those people will visit the dargah whom the Khwaja has really invited. If Musharraf couldn't come, it is his bad luck."

The correspondent though, insisting on putting his own spin to it said, "Yes, but all the preparations will go waste."

The cleric responded "We did not make any special preparations. For us, Musharraf is no different from any regular visitor. the preparations were made by the government for security."

Seeing that the crowd around him wasn't playing along and not helping him portray the "Ajmer people sad because Mush not coming" angle, he cut the conversation short and said

"So as you see, the people in Ajmer are very maayoos at Musharraf cancelling his visit. Back to you in the studio."

And just before the cameras switched back to the studio, one could hear the crowd yelling "Yahan koi maayoos nahi hai, koi maayoos nahi hai (No one is sad here, no one is sad)".

I expect a majority of the Indian media to do the same again, and expect Musharraf to dictate terms. I hope the MEA shows more brains than in 2001, and realise that there is a middle path between spitting on Musharraf's face, and sucking up to him. Be polite, be pragmatic, but also be on your toes.