India US Nuclear Deal — We’ve Done It!

I’m a staunch sup­port­er of the India US Nuclear Deal and have defend­ed it in the past. (If you’re new to my blog, do read my response to the Forbes arti­cle that was dis­parag­ing and caus­tic about India’s inten­tions because of the protests against the USS Nimitz dock­ing in Chen­nai).

Well, after two long years since announc­ing the strate­gic part­ner­ship agree­ment over nuclear coop­er­a­tion, the Unit­ed States and India have man­aged to work out the minu­ti­ae of the 123 imple­men­ta­tion agree­ment. This is a land­mark moment in the his­to­ry of India.indiausamap I know its not done yet, and that we’ve a long way to go, but I think the major hur­dles have been crossed, and I’m opti­mistic that it’s now just a mat­ter of time.

I was fol­low­ing this sto­ry on a minute-by-minute basis on the Inter­net, observ­ing the tone and expres­sion of the var­ied news sto­ries being pub­lished online. What I would like to point out here is how diver­gent the sto­ries, and espe­cial­ly the head­lines, were, among the dif­fer­ent web sites.

The Indi­an news sites — NDTV, Indi­an Express, The Hin­du, etc., broke the pos­i­tive news first. When I start­ed mon­i­tor­ing, nei­ther the Wash­ing­ton Post, nor the New York Times had any update. Then Wash­ing­ton Post broke the pos­i­tive news first.

Since the last few days when the talks were extend­ed beyond sched­ule, a num­ber of var­ied inter­pre­ta­tions were made regard­ing the pos­si­ble out­come. Most­ly, the inter­na­tion­al as well as domes­tic Indi­an and US media cov­ered the sto­ry with head­lines like “strug­gling”, “talks extend­ed”, and so on, but there are very notable excep­tions. Note that even if the con­tent of the news arti­cle was the same, the head­lines were dif­fer­ent. And head­lines are where I think the edi­to­r­i­al empha­sis makes the whole dif­fer­ence. Even as I write:

The Gulf Times head­line says: “Offi­cials break log­jam in N-talks, pact elu­sive”. Excuse me?

The Indi­an Mus­lims web site says: “U.S., India remain divid­ed on con­tro­ver­sial nuclear deal”.

The People’s Dai­ly Online from Chi­na says: “US expects no break­through from nuclear talks with India”.

And the Asso­ci­at­ed Press of Pak­istan goes one step fur­ther: “US — India talks on nuclear deal fail — WSJ”. As if not to be blamed for attribut­ing report­ing of the fail­ure to itself, it includes the Wall Street Jour­nal in the head­line, where the WSJ actu­al­ly said no such thing.

Mus­lim and Chi­nese — these were the only web sites I found that had neg­a­tive head­lines while the talks were still in progress. Why is this the case? I wish it were not so. Why weren’t there any neg­a­tive news head­lines from the main­stream US or Indi­an news sites? But sad­ly, that’s the case. And do we need any more proof of how edi­tors manip­u­late head­lines to attract max­i­mum read­er­ship?

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  • by the way The Econ­o­mist was absolute­ly against the nuclear deal ini­tial­ly. I wrote a let­ter to them on this. I have also writ­ten a post on this.
    Its basi­cal­ly two kinds of nations who will oppose the deal. I would say our ene­mies and those who are have lit­tle under­stand­ing of India. I would say The Econ­o­mist falls in the lat­ter category…they soft­ened their stand lat­er though.
    Well any­way, final­ly facts are facts and no one can change that.
    About the media — remem­ber the media con­sists of just peo­ple. Its a rare jour­nal­ist who is not biased…its often not a con­spir­a­cy to manip­u­late news, its just what peo­ple believe or want to believe.

  • Nita: Thanks for remind­ing me that it’s not a con­spir­a­cy. But the strik­ing dif­fer­ences in the nature of the head­lines in this case does make one won­der — isn’t there a “spin” being added to the news by those ele­ments who are opposed to the deal?

    Also, I read your let­ter to the Econ­o­mist, and as I’ve com­ment­ed on your blog, I think it’s great. Suc­cinct, to the point, and deliv­er­ing the intend­ed punch. I’ve a lot to learn from your writ­ing!