'Nawaz Sharif a weak leader': Modi govt is using AIR in radio wars against Pakistan

Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought up the issue of Pakistani atrocities on the people of Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) in his Independence Day speech on 15 August, the All India Radio (AIR), the national public radio broadcaster, has been used to highlight the issue.

However, going by the bulletins that are being aired by the national broadcaster it's safe to say that AIR is attacking the Pakistan government on different fronts. For example, a bulletin aired by AIR's External Services Division said that Sharif is a "weak" leader because he referred to Burhan Wani and the issue of Kashmir in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly.

The Economic Times quoted a senior Prasar Bharti official as saying, "This time there has been much more planning on the content...we wanted a direct and stern message to go out."

On 16 September, AIR had launched a website and mobile app for it Balochi service. This meant that Balochi-speaking people in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and other parts of the world could then tune in to AIR broadcast in the language through computers and mobile phones.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Prasar Bharati chairperson A Surya Prakash, who had launched the mobile app and the webpage, had said the move is part of India's efforts to reach out to the neighbourhood for better people-to-people contact. Prasar Bharati officials had also said the mobile app and the webpage were just "value addition" as Balochi service of the AIR has been in existence since 1974.

"As the world's largest democracy, we have the responsibility to disseminate news and information across the world that is factual and correct," Prakash had said.

AIR DG F Shehryar had said that while AIR does not aim at countering any kind of propaganda, it will challenge falsehoods by presenting the correct information.

But after the AIR bulletin's remark against Sharif, it would be pretty naive to assume that AIR was improving its Balochi service for the sole purpose of "value addition" or basic news reporting.

In fact, on 1 September, a day after India gave its nod to AIR to broadcast programmes in Balochi language, Pakistan had hit back by imposing a cap of less than six percent air-time to telecast Indian television channels from 15 October, according to PTI.

This had happened a day after India boosted the signal capacity of AIR transmission by installing a new 300 KV Digital Radio Mondial (DRM) transmitter in Jammu, which meant that AIR programmes could then be heard in regions of PoK as well as in other parts of the neighbouring country.

Another headway in expanding radio reach had been the decision for setting up an AIR station at Udhampur which had been a long pending demand for several decades.

The usage of radio by the Indian government against Pakistan is significant, even in today's age of television and internet. According to Asian Tribune, radio is still very relevant in rural areas of South Asia because all you need to listen to the radio is a small transistor set. In fact, radio is flourishing even in the developed countries today.

"(Radio) is flourishing with the advent of FM across the world, developing and developed countries alike such as the United States, Russia, Japan and India," said the article.

Moreover, as Seema Guha noted in this Firstpost article, the move to directly communicate with the people of Balochistan through radio was PM Modi's message to Pakistan that two can play the game of stirring the pot in a territory.

The article also observed that AIR had been effectively used during the Bangladesh unrest ahead of the liberation war and the arrest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. AIR was also effective in the early days of Myanmar when India supported the pro-democracy movement.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Sep 27, 2016 13:09 PM

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