Jan 25, 2021
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The transcript of an Indian journalist on WhatsApp caused "a storm in a glass"

The material about the true meaning of what is happening outside our country was provided by the Katekhon Analytical Group.

Alleged transcript of messages in Whatsapp between the scandalous Indian TV presenter and the former head of a rating agency who broadcasts on social networks, is quickly turning into a small political scandal in India. And Pakistan really wants to use this, since Prime Minister Imran Khan seeks to regain the initiative in shaping the international information field about his country’s relations with its main rival, India.

Key elements of this story remain speculative and await more extensive investigation. In addition, while it is highly unlikely that it will do any lasting political damage to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or help further Khan’s campaign in India, this episode highlights the difficult – and often problematic – the relationship between electoral politics, the media and the national security establishment in India.

Transcript of conversations between presenter Arnab Goswami, who runs a hyper-nationalist television station Republic TV, and Parfo Dasgupta, former director general of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), is part of an additional indictment filed by Mumbai police in a rating investigation. Mumbai police have blamed some TV channels, including Republic TV, in cahoots with BARC to artificially raise their ratings. However, it is not known who was behind the leaked social media transcript.

Goswami was arrested on November 4 by the Mumbai police in a separate case and then released on bail by the Indian Supreme Court. Dasgupta was arrested on December 24 as part of a ratings investigation and has been in custody ever since.

According to the transcript of the conversations in Whatsapp between Dasgupta and Goswami, which appeared last Friday, Goswami told Dasgupta on February 23, 2019 – three days before India attacked a suspected terrorist camp near Balakot town in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – that “something big is going to happen.” in terms of India’s upcoming response to the terrorist attack a few days earlier.

On February 14, terrorists attacked a convoy at Pulwam in Indian-ruled Kashmir, killing more than 40 soldiers. When Dasgupta asked the Goswami for clarification, Goswami noted that the response from the Indian military would be “larger than a normal strike.”

The Pakistani government is confident it will strike in a way that will enthrall people

Goswami added.

In September 2016, in response to a terrorist attack on an Indian military base in Kashmir, the Modi government announced an open special operations strike across the line of control in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. However, India’s military response to the Pulwama attack was theoretically more decisive, as New Delhi used aircraft against Pakistan for the first time since the 1971 war between the two countries.

Goswami also told Dasgupta:

And at the same time, something important is known about Kashmir. And these are the exact words.

This suggests that he was – at least vaguely – aware that the Indian government would seek to change the status quo in Jammu and Kashmir. Note that in August 2019, the Modi government revoked the special autonomous status of the region and divided it into two centrally administered territories.

In response to this alleged conversation between the Goswami and Dasgupta – it is important to keep in mind that the transcript could not be authenticated – the opposition congressional party accused the Modi government of leaking confidential national security information. It is said to have thus alerted Goswami, a controversial TV presenter known equally for his loud and belligerent news broadcasting, as well as his strong defenses of Modi, the Indian military and the BJP.

Hindu quotes the leader of the Congress Party Abhishek Manu Singhvi:

Arnab’s chats from February 23, 2019 are about the exchange of reactions Intel on the border with Pakistan. This means that someone very high in government is leaking highly sensitive information that could endanger the lives of our soldiers and, which is understandable only for profit reasons, increase TRP [телевизионные целевые рейтинги]…

Other opposition figures, including Congressional MP Trinamool Mahua Moitra, also demanded an explanation from the Modi government as to how the Goswami knew of the impending military and political moves. And some on social media have gone as far as demanding prosecution for the host under draconian state secrets laws that have existed in India since the colonial era.

Assuming that the transcript is indeed genuine, Goswami appears to have known ahead of time about the Indian military action on February 26, which would not be particularly surprising to those familiar with the workings of Indian security agencies and the government culture of “selective leaks” (if not common boasting). But it is still important to note the high degree of inevitability of an Indian strike on Balakot, which was predetermined by domestic policy.

In the immediate aftermath of the Pulwama attack, many analysts (myself included) noted that with the 2019 general election approaching, there will be tremendous pressure on Modi to act against the alleged perpetrators, even if it means escalating the conflict. Some also noted that in the face of a weakening economy, when key indicators signal danger, ostentatious “toughness” on national security will make a difference when it comes to Modi’s re-election.

However, this thinking has not found support in the opposition parties in India, which are struggling to push back the almost complete dominance of the BJP on the country’s political scene.

Pakistan has reacted to the transcript of Dasgupta-Goswami in a way that confirms its version that the Modi government poses a clear and real threat to the security of the region. However, Imran Khan’s government appears to have been quick to retaliate.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Qureshi tweeted on January 18:

India continues to be exposed for leaked reports, posting a stunning anti-record. False-flagged operations, inciting hyper-nationalism, unholy ties between the BJP and crony media, and threatening regional security are their crimes. RSS Rogue Mode – The BJP is not trusted to take any steps to get to and stay in power.

This makes one wonder exactly how he came to the conclusion that the attack on Pulwama was a “false flag operation” from the transcript of Goswami-Dasgupta. Han himself also tweeted about the saga, drawing predictable conclusions.

Abhijnan Ray – editor for security and defense at Diplomat and research director Diplomatic Intelligence Risks.

The original material can be read without translation here.

The material on the true meaning of what is happening outside our country was provided by the Katekhon Analytical Group.

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