“Media is a double-edged sword. It can be a frightful weapon of violence also when it propagates messages of intolerance or disinformation that manipulate public sentiment. The inevitable manipulation of the media in war situations leads to greater polarization and fuels mistrust between populations in conflict”.
The Media in Kashmir; An Introduction
The media has been instrumental in shaping opinions in conflict zones in ways that have both democratized and skewed informed decision-making. Kashmir is no exception. Governments increasingly use the media for shaping policies and manufacturing consent, while the public continues to rely on the media for a range of different needs, from the reinforcement of nationalist dogma, for refracting centrist views or for independent reporting of the news.
The twentieth century has witnessed escalated conflicts on ethno-political, geo-political, and socio-religious faultlines, with estimates suggesting that 110 million lives have been lost to around 250 conflicts, a marked increase from the nineteenth century where 211 conflicts resulted in the loss of 19 million lives. Statistics like these have prompted a global need to create media channels that de-escalate rather than exacerbate such situations.
Although global media’s coverage of conflict and war has changed substantially over the years, South Asia is still experimenting with its own landscape of media standards and ethics, fleshing out the high-stakes dynamics between the two poles of objective and embedded journalism. There is a slow but perceptible shift in South Asian media practitioners, who as formally free actors, use sophisticated standards when reporting domestic news, but by and large apply different rules when foreign policy or Kashmir is discussed. In fact, among the majority of newspapers and broadcast media, prejudice still clouds substantial swathes of the discourse on Kashmir. With the exception of a few English-language journalists there is little consensus on following, if not formulating new rules of the game.
Expectations from the media are high. In seemingly intractable conflict-zones like Kashmir, it is not enough for the media to play its traditional watchdog role: it must strive for unbiased and non-partisan angles when reporting, but when commenting, which it is an entirely different function it must act responsibly as an advocate for non-violent transitions, possibly acting as a stakeholder in bilateral peace.
In India and Pakistan, with entrenched positions staked on the extremes, the middle ground is where possibilities for independent voices has created space for policy conversations .While there is a clear recognition in many mature media practitioners that if the media is to successfully operate as a ‘watch dog’ on domestic government policy it must provide an alternative view to the government itself, on Kashmir the trickle-down effect of this formal open-ness is still exceptional.
The Kashmir conflict has featured as a major player in both Indo-Pak media, especially print, predating even the nuclearisation of the sub-continent, which has factored a new equation into the discourse and pace of political imperatives. Votaries for peace have emerged stronger than ever after the Indo-Pak institutional thaw, but it is equally true to contend that even today the media has, and often continues to play, a substantial role in keeping this particular conflict alive.
This century’s enhanced media footprint, both print and broadcast, has resulted in an unprecedented proliferation of media options. Despite high illiteracy in the two countries, people are on average, more informed than ever before. The internet in particular has not just shrunk the globe, but for Indo-Pak users opened up vital avenues of new communication and reportage. The web not only dissolves boundaries that print media had trouble circumventing, it is virtually un-regulatable. This implies a fundamental shift in the pattern of information flows, as well as in the inclusion of marginal voices.
But even in print media, there are differences in coverage and circulation. Each country sees history in a divergent matrix, with particular differences in opinion about the causes of the conflict as well as solutions to the conflict. These opposing trends emerge clearly in print -media discourse. This trend manifests itself in the way Indo-Pak media covers Kashmir, with the emphasis not only on officially certified truth but also on the officially held state voice. They have had particular trouble converging state views on policy, firstly due to the fact that India views the Kashmir conflict as a problem of internal policy, whereas for Pakistan, Kashmir is about unfinished historical and geographical business on its northern frontiers. For Pakistan, Kashmiris an integral issue, it must be on the table and it must be the precursor to any agreement  whereas for India, Kashmir is an internal issue grounded on the belief that Kashmir is rightfully hers.
In this paper, the media’s role in the Kashmir conflict is refracted through the Pakistani and Indian experiences. The issue is discussed with reference to five categories and mediums in the reporting of events/conflicts as well as of shaping opinion through commentary:
- Nationalist print media
- State/ Centrist print media
- Independent/alternative print media
- The World Wide Web
- Broadcast Media/Television and Radio
In the absence of direct and unfettered contact between the people of Indo-Pak, the media has become a primary source of generating and disseminating images and information from across the border, and Kashmir forms the matrix in which this reporting takes place. How this is reported differs across a wide spectrum of positions, and is thumb-nailed below.
The Print Media in Pakistan and India: Kashmir as Imagined Terrain
The Pakistani print media is essentially under private ownership and thrives on advertisements from both the public and private sector. The situation is similar across the border, with vernacular print media dominating in terms of size and numbers.
In 2000 alone, the total number of newspapers being printed in India equaled 49,195. Published in 101 different languages and dialects, print in Hindi scored the highest at 20,589 with English following suit at 7596.
In Pakistan also, the vernacular press had greater circulation. In a survey published in ‘Voices from the Periphery: Report on Local Media in Pakistan’, by the Pakistan Advertisers Society, it is indicated that out of 51 per cent of urban dwellers who regularly read the newspaper, 95 per cent read Urdu newspapers and 8 per cent read English newspapers.
In both India and Pakistan the print media has been surpassed in terms of end-users by the electronic media, but only in the last five years. Yet any assessment of the print media’s power in shaping public opinion should not always be matched by its outreach as compared to the more mass medium of television.
The written word casts a long shadow on the policy-making environment in South Asia, and is now amplified through the unrestricted outreach of the world-wide web.
Print not only remains the classic medium of orchestrating policy shifts, it plays host to a multiplicity of analytical and polemical scholarship on Kashmir. While the print media in bothPakistan and India is renowned for its high level of professionalism in reporting domestic politics, national security issues, which include Kashmir, are subject to less stringent standards. In all categories, nationalist, centrist or independent, Kashmir is the contested terrain, but with a clear shift in emphasis on the ownership of both the conflict and its victims.
The one common thread that runs through all print media discourse is that Kashmir is larger than the sum of its physical parts: in the public imagination Kashmir is either the Elysian valley to be retained or gained or it is the valley of violence and death. Because of restrictions on movement between the two borders, which are positioned to change soon, the media coverage and emphasis has been on Kashmir as a disembodied terrain, full of information gaps and challenges for the ordinary media-person.
In almost all newspapers in both counties, unlike reporting on domestic issues, there is no or little verification of facts or checking on the government brief. Official statements remain the stuff around which analysis and news features are commissioned and carried. In times of crisis, or the escalation of tensions between the two countries, especially over Kashmir, there are very few and feeble calls to caution.
Nationalist Print Journalism: Prejudice, Patriotism and Paranoia
As a norm, the vernacular Indo-Pak press is prone to zealous nationalism. It is also fanned by the religious fanaticism of the dominant religions, Muslim and Hindu. Coupled with a history that is punctuated by divisions, hatred, communal violence and full-fledged wars, the two elements form a potent cocktail for sensationalism in print. Since the press in India has a high outreach where several languages jostle for public and regional space the press has more often than not succumbed to jingoistic nationalism. The same argument holds most true for the vernacular press in both India and Pakistan.
As a rule, India and Pakistan have tended to use their respective press mediums to conflagrate the pre-existing enmities between their nations. They rely on a familiar repertoire of inflammatory words, themes and narratives to enhance existing prejudices.Examples include:
- India has a moral and legal right to attack Pakistan and surgical strikes are a realistic example
- In Pakistan, such jingoism is answered in equal measure by the vernacular press and is generally takes the form of squarely blaming RAW for insurgencies within Pakistan.
The voice and outreach of the vernacular media has been the strongest, both in Pakistan and India which explains why the government has always exerted a stronger hold over the manner in which news is published in such newspapers. Over the last 57 years, the vernacular press in both countries has firmly aligned itself with a dogmatic nationalism that locates Kashmir in a fixed and unyielding terrain of conflict and ownership. Pakistan’s Urdu press and India’s Hindi press has become the foreground for nationalistic identities, and just as the press is dominated by state policy, state policy is influenced by ‘language press’ because of the ease in understanding the medium.
 One view ascribes this phenomenon to the strong relationship that the vernacular press has had with the security and intelligence establishment in both countries. The fact that state policy in both countries has traditionally targeted ‘blame [on] the other side’ has greatly reinforced stereotypes and war imagery in the vernacular press.
Yet there is a clear and perceptible difference in print media acceptance of government policy in Pakistan, where commentary remains by and large independent of government policy on Kashmir, as compared to the state fidelity displayed by the Indian press in its many avatars. For instance, Pakistan’s daily Urdu newspaper Nawai-Waqt has always followed the government line on invariably identifying RAW as the main architect of terrorist attacks within Pakistan, and has always located Kashmir as the only real issue worth entreating with India. Now that state discourse in Pakistan has shifted a little from the right, this newspaper retains its strident nationalism in language that is laced with emotional power-play.
Barring a few Hindi newspapers such as Rajasthan, Danik, and Punjab Kesari, almost all Northern Indian Hindi print toes an unequivocal government line.
 Hindi press locates its greatest circulation in the regions of Himachal Pardesh, Delhi, Haryana, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, states that have a great hand in shaping Indian politics. Prior to the SAARC summit in 2004, the Indian mainstream press maintained a critical stance towards Pakistan. But with shifting policies within the government, and former premier Vajpayee’s formal willingness to communicate with Pakistan, the vernacular press in India by and large started moving towards a softer approach. As Vajpayee and Musharraf prepared to meet on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in January 2004, the Danik Bhaskar wrote ‘The Indian government now needs to work on anti-Musharraf elements inPakistan to pave the way for a better deal between India and Pakistan.”
Despite a shift in emphasis in the Indian media, whatever the content of the article, the underlying issue tends generally to be the Kashmir conflict and cross-border infiltration, which is posited as the heart of current Indo-Pak differences on where the locus of the problem lies.
Policy-makers in Pakistan would challenge this emphasis as a creation of the Indian propaganda machine, while Indians would see it as a reflection of Pakistan’s intrusionary policies in Kashmir.
The Indian vernacular press does its utmost to stay focused on the illegitimacy of Pakistan’s claim to Kashmir and to reinforce Pakistan’s meddling in India’s internal security concerns by disturbing peace within Kashmir. This has largely become reducible to the evil neighbour paradigm.
The argument is simple: Pakistan’s hate relationship with India is based on its religious orientation, while India targets Pakistan for its anti-secularist stance and pursues the thesis that Pakistan wants to destroy India’s pluralist society.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the manner in which the Kashmir conflict is covered in the vernacular press because state policy maintains that the Indian hold on Kashmir justifies India’s secular position, that it can be a nation where religions co-exist, whereas in this view, Pakistan justifies its Kashmir policy on the basis of communalism. In Indian vernacular discourse, of course little or no mention is made of the flawed accession and political process, and since it is focused on keeping the conflict alive, no transparency is attempted in re-cycled narratives.
For its part, the Urdu press in Pakistan promotes the Kashmir issue as equally uni-dimensional: Kashmir is portrayed as a physical and emotional space where its Muslim brethren are suffering.
This paradigm sees conflict-escalation as a norm, playing on nationalist and religious sentiment, constantly casting ‘the Other’ as the primal enemy. Emotional idiom is privileged over rational language, and the argument is almost never inclusive of two views.
Despite its uni-focal pitch, the vernacular print paradigm rarely sees itself making an elitist argument. Because of its language, it seeks to position itself always as a mouthpiece of the masses, as opposed to an elite corruption of the nationalist theme.
This nationalist paradigm focuses mainly on Kashmir as a constant zone of conflict, almost never initiates creative and mutually acceptable processes for peace, always puts the blame on the other, gives no voice to other parties, focuses always on one-side suffering and symbolism, and systematically dehumanizes the other party to the conflict.
Although this model pitches itself as a mass medium, its focus is always non-participatory in favouring elites as peace -makers.
Centrist Print Media: Degrees of Alignment with the State
The question of state- owned print media no longer arises in Pakistan where most of the media
 is under private ownership. Nonetheless, there are several newspapers that perform the function of state mouth- piece. This type of reporting is best described as self-censored print. In terms of state print, a commonality in press reporting occurs in both countries as intelligence agencies as well as news agencies figure centrally in reporting structures. The close relationship between intelligence agencies and news agencies means that state control occurs from the outset of the reporting process.
India’s mainstream english national dailies, almost uniformly refract state policy when discussing Kashmir, at its purest. In Pakistan english newspapers such as ‘the News’ and to some extent ‘the Dawn’, serve the same centrist purpose, but with a less unitary view of state objectives, frequently casting their net wider for alternate options.
This open defense of state-media collusion on foreign policy, particularly on Kashmir, is defended by most Indian journalists as a fallout of the many years of a Nehruvian consensus in society.
Foreign policy critiques are rare as they are often seen as challenges to New Delhi’s dominance of the discourse in state formation and consolidation.
Indian state policy on Kashmiris dominated by the belief that Pakistan agitates the freedom movement in Indian Occupied Kashmir by supporting cross- border terrorism, and unlike the mainstream Pakistani press, few takers for an independent analysis will emerge except perhaps in periodicals like Frontline, and civil society advocacy journals.
 Columnist for the Indian Express, Rajdeep Sardesai explains why nationalism in the Indian media is imperative. By not following the state’s line, Indian journalists risk being dubbed ‘anti-national’ and purveyors of Pakistani propaganda. He uses the Kandahar hijacking and the subsequent release of Masood Azhar as events where the media has been used to pressurize the government into a particular course of action. Sardesai is critical of the role of nationalism and the press saying that the media, government and nation cannot have converging interests at all times. In his penultimate lament against such negative profiling when a journalist serves objectivity and truth above the formally articulated interests of the policy establishment, he despairs: “We must flaunt our patriotism.”
For India, its English press has always been its secular voice, the policy formulations coming from the state, but its ultimate weakness lies in the fact that its Pakistani reports come from journalists who have strong ties with the government. Common to almost all voices in the Indian print media is the ’pat on its government’s back’, when most journalists seem to find it hard to take a neutral view-point on Pakistan’s contributions if any. Pakistanis generally portrayed as the ‘impatient’ party to talks, one that wants quick fix results. However, having said that, there are a number of columnists and reporters who are capable of taking a more holistic and realistic view of Indo-Pak talks especially on the Kashmir conflict.
Many, but not most Pakistani mainstream newspapers, tend to follow a similar pattern, but with important exceptions. As private print media, these newspapers apply self-censorship on Kashmir for two reasons. Firstly, most private print media tends to obtain its funding from advertisements generated from both the public and private sector. In order to avoid conflict it is easier to remain on the right side of the government. Secondly, news agency sources have close links with the state, especially on issues of foreign policy. Rai Shakil Akhtar developed this argument further by referring to this as ‘state journalism’. Here. Accordingly, self-censorship allows ‘the analyst to read the mind of the news actor as well of the media which reproduces it without exercising their professional discretion€¦ limiting itself only to the decision about the size and place of display and choice of headlines and lead sentences’ .
In Pakistan, because Kashmiris a critical national security item, reporting of the issue is guided, if not controlled, by both the government and intelligence agencies. According to M Ziauddin, the resident editor of Dawn, “in the long struggle for media freedoms in Pakistan, the governments have been the winners and working journalists the losers as the laws ensure perpetuation of the monopoly of a limited number of barons who retain mutually convenient relationships with the authorities. Both print and e-media laws are designed to discourage new entrants to the field so as to limit the unsettling influence of a competitive media and to ensure compliance on state terms”.
Most mainstream newspapers in Pakistan, with an exception or two, are firmly aligned with state policy and pattern their coverage and commentary on the state journalism model. Moreover, by appearing cautious and paying lip service to government policy they avoid drawing criticisms similar to the ones mentioned by Sardesai in the context of Indian media coverage. ‘The News’ will, for instance, on any given day carry an article about Kashmir usually to reinforce that Kashmir is and must be treated as a core issue. It continually reminds the government about the centrality of Kashmir to nationhood and also regularly documents Indian internal policy and its relations with other countries, exhibiting concern about India’s military acquisitions and its impact on Kashmir.
Yet, in terms of moderate or rational views in the print media, especially English, Pakistan seems to be better equipped to deal with Kashmir discourse. The English press has distinct advantages over the vernacular press in that it allows itself diverse sources of information and can afford to be more open than the state-journalism employed mostly in Kashmir discourse in India. In terms of nuisance value, based on its readership, the English press in Pakistan, assumes it can afford to be more open about how it approaches conflict reporting because the people reading such print are usually educated to a certain degree and more often than not, belong to the small middle class. On the Kashmir issue, the Pakistani print media is more open in comparison to Indian print, because Pakistan has for several years sustained a culture of dissent against the state, due mainly to its long experience of intermittent military rule. The shift in political balance, towards a more open culture has enabled the Pakistani print media to ‘express a view alternative to state ideology’. India on the other hand, due to its long democratic culture, where a consensus was creating around state goals in Kashmir, has a fairly embedded policy. To shift views after decades of a one track policy making is going to be much more difficult in India than in Pakistan.
Pakistani newspapers such as the Dawn and Daily Times have attempted to take the middle row towards government policy on Indo-Pak talks and policy on Kashmir. The Dawn in particular lends a unique standpoint in assessing the stance on Kashmir, encouraging the government to think ‘outside the box’. In an editorial published in September 2004, the Dawn wrote, “At some point we have to realize that both of us are strong, independent nations capable of looking after our interests without necessarily being at loggerheads. India needs vision, to see that it has to make concessions to accommodate Pakistani concerns. Even token gestures like scaling down of its military presence in Kashmir and respecting the human rights and civil liberties of the people of Kashmir will help. Pakistan needs to be confident of its own identity and realize that it no longer requires an external threat to justify its existence. We don’t have to be in a state of perpetual conflict at home and abroad to establish that we are somehow more righteous than the other people. It is the whole change in outlook that has to be encouraged on both countries to give substance to what Mr Khurshid Kasuri and Mr Natwar Singh are discussing’. 
Independent/Alternative Print Media: Coming In From the Cold.
Independent or alternative media has served as the only real template for a consistently critical view on the Kashmir issue in both India and Pakistan.
For one thing, a growing number of editorials and comments in regular newspapers have been a rich source of critical debate on government policy, on both sides of the border.
Secondly, publications by non-governmental organizations feature as a great resource in understanding the variable features of policy development. Organizations such as Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy, South Asian Media Association and South Asian Free Media Association have encouraged more liberal print as well as the exchange of people involved in reporting on happenings in India Pakistan, especially in the context of the Kashmir conflict. An International Crises Group report on ‘Kashmir: The View from Islamabad’  maintains that magazines like ‘Newsline’ and ‘The Herald’ take a very critical stance on Kashmir policy.
English journalism is more conducive to critical debate, and discourse in independent print ranges over the “œillegitimacy of the military’s monopoly over domestic and external policy to the adverse effect of Pakistani sponsored Islamic extremism on the country’s economic stability”.  In India, magazines such as ‘Outlook India’ have served a similar purpose, but remain less mainstream than the muscular ‘India Today€, which serves as a thinly disguised vehicle for hawkish right-wing sentiment on Pakistan. At the same time independent columnists published in daily newspapers and periodicals have been able to rise above policy locks within their own newspapers and added an invaluable dimension to statist views. By virtue of being non-aligned they have the potential to not only write ‘outside the box’ but to encourage creative thinking on Kashmir. Unlike the last century, when their views were seen as voices in the wilderness, catering to niche audiences, their ideas have now become increasingly acceptable to the establishment-security combine that dominates policy discourse in Pakistan.
Print journalists in this independent/ alternative category are few and far between but important in that they reflect a non-atomised view of the conflict, seeking causes and outcomes in history as well as culture. They usually cover the story from all sides of the contextual matrix, and try to render conflict episodes transparent, so that the narrative does not get bogged in an ideological gridlock. From both sides of the border, such media practitioners will almost always calculate impressionistically or methodically, the costs of conflict, and eschew identification and glorification of potential victors, because they invariably see conflict as a no-win option, in which people on the ground, as opposed to remote states and elites, are the losers.
The World Wide Web: The New Frontier
Information technology, especially the World Wide Web has revolutionized the way we receive news and information. The medium enables vast numbers of users to access a virtually unlimited database of information. Moreover, the infrastructure that enables transmission of information on the web is without any central authority. Government control over information technology is marginalized and they have found it increasingly difficult to withhold information or block access to particular resources. Web server addresses can be manipulated so that it becomes difficult to block off access. Interactive forums such as blogs (weblogs), chat-rooms and other web-forums allow people from all walks of life to share ideas as well as agendas.
The information technology back-bone in the subcontinent is experiencing unparalleled growth. In Pakistan, there is only one government-run Internet Service Provider. Documentation on internet usage suggests that 1707 cities and small towns in Pakistan are networked and most towns and cities, both urban and central, are equipped with internet kiosks. The internet cafe culture is mushrooming, with no boundaries for communication between interstate and intrastate actors, which in turn has profound implications for the way conflict is perceived and managed. It is estimated that computer ownership in Pakistan is increasing by 30 per cent per annum and internet access is growing by 60 per cent per annum. The ultimate power of the web is that ‘it bypasses traditional gatekeepers and intermediaries€¦thus communicating directly to faithful visitors and nomadic surfers, creating communities and interest both locally and globally’ .
A similar scenario is witnessed across the border. India has an estimated 2.7 million computer users and is one of the world’s largest software producers. Both countries have increasingly used print media alongside the internet with the development of online newspaper and magazine portals.
Increased web literacy has resulted in the liberalization of way information is transmitted. Also, lack of time delays and fluid movements across borders and time zones has given this resource an enhanced character. In terms of Kashmir on the web, there is no dearth of resources on the actual history and cause of the conflict. Major search engines like www.google.com provide a host of data on Kashmir. However, both countries have been slow to utilize the potential of the web in reporting Kashmir and also allowing interactive feedback. Because the net observes no psychological barriers and allows for transmitting information despite problems of mobility and access, using the web provides the people concerned with the Kashmir issue a unique tool to develop an understanding of the factors relating to the conflict.
www.chowk.com is one such initiative. This is an online interactive forum that allows mutual participation and lets people from both sides of the border to reflect and post opinions on the issues facing their respective countries and governments. However, the internet is still an under- utilized resource. Kashmir- specific forums can be developed to deal with new angles and information on Kashmir policy, with the potential to engage civil society more than ever before. Informal exchanges of communication can and are being encouraged between both countries and their peoples through South Asian internet digests and web-zines that promote peace between both states and peoples.
Broadcast Media/Television and Radio: A Shifting Landscape
Broadcast media in Pakistan and India has experienced growing changes and developments. In terms of viewer-ship, although print media carries clout, television viewer-ship and radio carry vast potential in shaping opinion and creating or reinforcing ideologies of hate or alternatives to conflict.
The similarity between Indo-Pak print and broadcast media is that they are both subject to some degree of voluntary or state censorship. Broadcast media in particular marginalizes alternative viewpoints because of their potential impact.
Pakistani broadcast media is in a state of flux. 53 per cent of Pakistani citizens watch television while 73 per cent own television sets. 25 per cent listen to radio. While Pakistan TV remains the state mouthpiece, private channels have grown substantially and now channels like ARY, Indus Vision, GEO and KTN are popular household names, reaching more than four million homes in Pakistan. There is no doubt that in countries such as India and Pakistan, where literacy levels are low, television and radio media are premier informants and news-breakers. An Indian survey estimates that typically on a weekday, an average person watches television for around 119 minutes as opposed to 23 minutes that are spent on reading the newspaper and 32 minutes reading magazines. This prompts an automatic focus on the broadcast media as a powerful tool in the shaping of new sensitivities on the Indo-Pak stance on Kashmir. Its role as mass educator can never be discounted, and both India and Pakistan can effectively shape a non status-quo agenda on the subject if the political will to drive it finally translated into executive action.
The problem with Pakistani television and radio is that it is linked genetically to establishment views. Limited ownership and also uplink services keep private channels connected to PTV, thus limiting their ability to present alternate views. Although just by the sheer numbers of private channels proliferating, a huge opening for alternate discourse should have appeared, but the ideological framework of the religious right remains gridlocked on the Kashmir programming, often ludicrous in its conceptual lag behind a shifting state policy.
This comes into sharp relief with media coverage of the freedom movement in Kashmir, as well as the constant reporting of martyrdom and the focus on pan-Islamism, which casts the Kashmir issue only in communalist identity terms, with jingoist language positioning Kashmir as the jugular vein of Pakistan. This explains the enemy thesis and resentment towards India, and is the focus of most programs aired on television. The current government seems to have allowed a little more freedom but is still hemmed in by old statist views, and does not allow itself movement outside that box. In most entertainment programming, the Indians are demonized without relief, while the Kashmiri is victimized, and the Pakistani in the triangle is the unmitigated saviour.
On the other side of the border, the situation reflects a similar reality. Although India has a greater plurality of channels and media services, in terms of the Kashmir conflict all stay within a scripted zone of discourse. The problem with media coverage of Kashmir on both sides of the border is that the conflict is intimately connected to state security and national interest. As a combination of factors, both end up precluding a critical stance. India’s state channel, Doordarshan, which has the largest view-ship, is the frontline player in purveying nationalistic sentiment on Kashmir, closing off any new discussion of a conflict that is treated as intrinsically external to the state or its oppressions. In his article ‘Media and Governance’ Mukul Sharma writes that ‘national television created a single visual regime, right across the country for the first time. At another level, the Congress party wanted to seize this advantage. However, by playing the Hindu card, it was the Hindu Right that succeeded in changing the terms of political debate, entering into an era of authoritarian populism€. Whilst this has implications for the way the masses perceive the Indo-Pak conflict, Doordarshan’s apparent monopoly of the media has steadily eroded due to greater private ownership and the advent of cable and decoder facilities.
Infotainment, and movie culture in India often employs scripts that use the imagery of communalism and a crude stereotypical Indo-Pak conspiracy-theory conflict backdrop. The Kashmir issue has featured prominently in such commercially popular films but the emphasis has always been on Pakistan’s sponsorship of the mujahideen and its designs to undermine Indian stability. As the status-quo power, India is seen as defender of its boundaries while Pakistan is by default the rogue state that actively sponsors terrorism. This view, however, has increasingly come under fire with the exchange of film-industry personnel across the two borders.
New Rules for the Game: Building Bridges Through Responsible Media Practices
In the Indo-Pak peace process the media can play a pro-active and constructive role in helping both countries to dislodge old prejudices and create the building blocks for a relationship based on mutual trust. Festering inter-state conflicts such as Kashmir can be principal beneficiaries of such an approach.
The good news is that the last decade has witnessed a heightened interest among editors, reporters and columnists from both countries in the creation of new communication channels that establish reciprocity in terms of travel, exchange of media products and the creation of South Asian media associations in the search for a heightened role in conflict-resolution and management. This growing commitment to re-visiting the Kashmir dispute through more responsible rules of the game has spawned a multiplicity of media ethics, charters and codes. None of them are naturally enforceable in any institutional sense, but are slowly beginning to inform a percentage of the vast corpus of reporting and commentary on Kashmir.
Recommendations to Indo-Pak media when engaging in Kashmir reporting or comment more or less cohere around the following points:
1. Reporting and commenting objectively without a necessary convergence between state and public interest will present the story or analysis of a situation from multiple viewpoints. Independent reporting instead of embedded reporting will develop higher credibility in the medium as well as the power of its opinion.
2. For the Kashmir conflict to find rest, both Pakistan and India have to commit themselves to a new understanding of using the media to cover the Kashmirconflict. Neither country can afford to deliver ‘half truths’ or ‘convoluted facts’. It is necessary to popularize an “enlightened us” instead of “us versus them” approach in interaction. Obstacles in accessing credible or truthful facts about the Kashmir valley should be removed by the Indian government and journalists from both countries be allowed free access to all regions.
3. The realization that neither country can afford to use the media to engage in a media war must take on the mantle of official policy.  Official spokesmen who brief the press must be allowed to de-escalate the language of hostility when it comes to Kashmir, which will in turn discourage media from using war-like imagery and language to describe the other side.
4.The idea that enhanced transparency almost always leads to a substantive outcome in opening up avenues to conflict-resolution must be reinforced. As an international print standard, reporting for or against in conflict zones necessitates an interest in outcomes, generating a subjectivity that reporting/journalism theoretically attempts to avoid at all costs. There must be a recognition of the fact that the best of conflict-zone reporters can be objective, but never neutral or amoral. Victims of conflict from either side must be treated with the same compassionate reporting standards in human interest accounts.
5. Understand the primacy of constructing identity in responsible journalism. Attempt to identify people by the names they use for themselves, rejecting the knee-jerk slotting of groups and individuals that has become common practice in conflict-reporting, particularly Kashmir. Consciously eschew belligerent language, such as ‘barbarian’ or ‘infidel’, that are often used in Kashmir reports. Construct identities from multiple, rather than single sources and understand that identity is neither fixed nor non-negotiable.
6. Increase visual and textual coverage of development and non-conflict themes through easier and increased access to all parts of Kashmir. When reporting conflict, do not strip it of human context if access is available to alternate sources, especially from the internet.
7. Promote a mutuality of perception on areas and issues that are not contested. Encourage joint-reporting and publishing across borders, particularly with respect to Kashmir. One major step would be to establish an Indo-Pak feature service focusing on human interest features on Kashmir as well as India and Pakistan available to newspapers in both countries.
8. Avoid triumphalism and side-taking in reporting war or conflict. The Pakistani press often reports Kashmiri strikes or resistance against India as a triumph, while the Indian press became interchangeable with the state in reporting the resolution of the Kargil conflict.
9. Encourage networking and resource-exchanges between all parties to the conflict. Invite as much Kashmiri opinion as possible in analyses and commentaries of the dispute.
10. Bring advocacy to bear on the conflict. Always point out the costs of conflict when reporting either peace or war between India and Pakistan, especially when the Kashmir issue is being emotively described in episodic reports.
11. Report events, particularly summitry and peace-dialogue conferences or meetings, as part of a larger continuum and process. Resist attempts to hype one event like a summit into anything more than a single block of a larger edifice. Too much media focus on such conferences often sets them up for failure, raising the stakes for political players who then divert resources to keeping face for fear of being dubbed soft or non-starters by an over-hyped media. Emphasize the track record of peace processes that have been successful and point out the value of incremental successes rather than raising expectations for episodic and grand solutions.
12. Be objective, ethical, and as balanced as possible. Try to verify facts from other than government sources and obtain as much information as possible from the other side.
OBJECTIVITY ITSELF WILL CAUSE AN IMP SHIFT IN EMPHASIS IF NOT CONTENT
FOR KASHMIR, THE MEDIA HAVE BECOME IMPORTANT STAKEHOLDERS
ULTIMATELY, THE MEDIA HAS TO DECIDE FOR ITSELF, DOES IT WANT TO REINFORCE IDEOLOGIES OF HATE OR WORK TOWARDS POLITICAL SOLUTIONS?
At least some organs of the state are moving in one slow direction, the media as a whole should at least catch up and resume its role of leading the way.
 Hieber and Media Action International., 2001
 ‘Telling the Truth to Peoples at Risk: Some Introductory Thoughts on Media and Conflict’, by Robert. K. Manoff, Director, Center for War, Peace, and the News Media,New YorkUniversity.
 This is not an inflexible rule as depending on the climate and agreement to look at theKashmir conflict, Pakistani elites try and develop avenues that allow it to keep debate on the conflict alive. But generally speaking,Kashmir is a core issue which must necessarily be addressed.
 To be or Not to Be. Media and Conflict Resolution in the context of India-Pakistan Conflict overKashmir by Tejas Patel. http://mumbai.indymedia.org/en/2004/01/208930.shtml
 Report published byInternationalCenter for Peace Initiatives ‘Weapons of War of Purveyors of Peace: Print Media inIndia andPakistan’
 International Crises Group in ‘Kashmir: The View fromNew Delhi’: €œinflammatory and hawkish statements have become a regular modality of this powerful constituency, which, democratic thoughIndia is, is very influential in the formulation ofKashmir policy€.
India’s former Defense Secretary Yogendra Narian, referring toPakistan’s support for militants inKashmir
 Published in Himal Mag in August 1998, Vol.II No.8. http://www.himalmag.com/Aug98/inkblood.htm
 Quarterly Journal of The Institute of Strategic Studies Vol.XXIV, Winter 2004, Number 4. Pg.166
Pakistan does have a state owned media channel as well as a radio station but in terms of press there is no state owned newspaper.
 Dispatch and Courier wrote aboutPakistan: €œWhat we can do now€”is perhaps start a proxy war in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. There are quite a few secessionists in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and we can find enough people to act as paid agents and to start a campaign against the government. We can also play the same dirty, violent game€.Rashtriya Sahara wrote €œIslamabad knows only too well than an Indo-Pak war may result in serious losses to India, but it will completely destroy Pakistan. Its strategy is, therefore to provokeNew Delhi into includingPakistan in the talks while at the same time carefully avoiding war€¦forIndia this is the time to act. The time has come to crush the enemy. We must get our act together quickly! It is now or never€.
 C Raja Mohan’s piece on ‘Making Natwar’s visit a Success’. €œIndia is fully aware of the growing impatience inIslamabad that the peace process is going nowhere.Delhi believes that this sense of frustration inPakistan is unwarranted€¦ Pakistani expectations thatIndia can generate dramatic progress in six months on a subject likeJammu and Kashmir that has bedeviled relations withPakistan for nearly six decades have been entirely unrealistic. Whipping up such hopes would only lead to political despair’. But at the same time, Mohan ends on a note which is surprisingly balanced and neutral in the way it approaches Indo-Pak talks encouraging both countries to understand that ‘The trick for Natwar Singh and his Pakistani interlocutors lies in refusing to burden the agenda with the weight of their inherited baggage. As they begin to settle small but contentious issues and find ways to expand cooperation wherever possible, the level of mutual comfort will steadily grow’. Once again in ‘Pace of a composite dialogue’, a New Delhi based columnist Kuldip Nayar who was visiting Pakistan, portrays it in a relatively positive light and tries to build a picture of people-people meeting rather than an Indian meeting a Pakistani. The latter always implies that neither country is able to rise above their nationalistic garb.
 See Media, Religion and Politics inPakistan, in Nature and Dynamics of Media Discourse, OUP Karachi 2000, Millennium Publications for further details on state journalism.
 The Role of Media and Conflict in South Asia by Huma Baqai in National Development and Security, Vol. XIII, No.1, Autumn 2004.
 In an article on ‘Growing Media Abundance in Pakistan: Challenges and Opportunities’, the Editor of Internews reports on the self-censorship that occurs in Pakistan’s print media:
 In a more recent coloumn published afterIndia released its internal army report on Kargil, Ayaz Amir of Dawn turned his criticisms to practices withinPakistan. ‘Anatomy of folly: not for robust souls’ was particularly critical of the militaries dual policy to allow ‘freedom of expression to the full when it comes to civilians and politicians, [but] jealously guards its own’. He opines thatPakistan’s stance onKashmir and its agitations especially Kargil have done little to its positive image. If anything ‘Kargil proved to be the last frontier of Pakistani militarism inKashmir’. OnSunday February 27, 2005, Shamshad Ahmad, once again from Dawn persuades us to review Pakistani foreign policy and compels one to see that ‘Peace is the only option’. He explains that in terms of the Indo-Pak strategies Kashmir has been used to advance the countries own ‘strategic and political interests’ and that the time has come when we should ‘focus more on our country’s economic development and domestic consolidation while leaving, if necessary, a final and €œprincipled€ solution of theKashmir issue to better times’.
 ICGAsia Report No 68,December 4,2003
 In the February 2005 edition of Herald, Zaffar Abbas discusses Indo-Pak peace talks from the angle of the Baglihar issue and what it portends for the future of peace talks without a word that could influence or retard the peace process. The reality is that theKashmir conflict has always found itself caught up in a framework of a host of other issues thatIndia andPakistan face, both internally and externally. Prominent amidst these areIndia’s insistence thatPakistan clamp down on cross border terrorism. To this end Abbas writes that the Baglihar issue is ‘indicative of the sort of problems that continue to stand in the way of resolving various key issues between the two countries’. The primary issue between the two countries is the unprecedented levels of mistrust. ‘Many inIslamabad still believe thatIndia has only agreed to the peace process due to international pressure and is using it to buy time to consolidate its position inKashmir. Meanwhile, those inDelhi question the sincerity ofPakistan’s desire for peace withIndia and argue thatIslamabad has still not abandoned the option of armed militancy to stir trouble inKashmir’. he follows that until there is a major shift in the attitudes prevailing on both sides, the current thaw may just be a passing phase, with the real focus being on preparing to fight another day.
 In Pakistan, Ayaz Amir in the Dawn, Irfan Hussain, Ejaz Haider, Zaffar Abbas and Ahmed Rashid of the English press remain fairly critical of state policy on Kashmir, without committing the cardinal sin of appearing to posture as Indo-philes although the state and security establishment regularly demonises them as such. Coloumnists like Praful Bidwai and Prem Shankar Jha in contemporary India have pioneered non-establishment thinking in the mainstream while voices like Gautam Navlakha and Bose have become relegated to the margins as advocacy journalists.
 Voices from the Periphery, Report on Local Media in Pakistan.
 An article in the Hindustan Times on “Media’s role in the Indo-Pak Thaw” brings together the positives of an active media. Since it is some months after the new chapter on the Indo-Pak peace process unfolded, it is time for stocktaking. Given the bitter past, the two governments are moving cautiously. The mutual suspicion of governments is understandable; the circumstances of the Partition, creation of Pakistan, the tangled Kashmir issue, 1965 war, the creation of Bangladesh, Siachen dispute and the Kargil war are only some of the prominent milestones in this painful journey of the past five decades. It is in this context that the increasing cooperation between journalists of the two sides assumes special significance. Unfortunately, the media, that was in a fledgling stage during Partition, crumbled in the face of the madness that raged then in this part of the country. Since then, most of the media has primarily focused on the differing perceptions, as indicated by their respective governments, there is need for caution; the media while highlighting the commonalities of language and culture must not try and fit the two sides in the same mould. It must keep the divergent interests and finer sensibilities of the two countries and their people in mind.
 This point brought into sharp relief by Anil Athale in ‘The Art of Media Warfare’, “what we have is a group of amateur military and civil bureaucrats playing ‘mandarins’ unless India wakes up and realizes the importance of media warfare, we pay have to pay a very heavy price”.