Cooking up a relief race in Burma

Reporters or imaginers?

“Tiger vs Dragon again, this time to help Myanmar” announces a headline in DNA. Seema Guha, who wrote that article, ‘reports’ that India and China are competing to send relief to cyclone-hit Burma.

It’s a very good example of very poor journalism.

First, it is undeniable that countries can use their participation in international humanitarian relief efforts, in part, to boost their stature. It is also undeniable that Burma is among the countries in the region where the geopolitical competition between India and China manifests itself. But to link these together and claim that there is some kind of a humanitarian relief race on is absurd. Perhaps Ms Guha could point out cases in the neighbourhood where India did not intervene because there was no geopolitical prize. She can’t, because there isn’t one. India would have participated in humanitarian relief efforts even if, and perhaps especially if, no other country had come forward. So, what ‘race’?

Second, the report presents facts that contradict its conclusions. It announces that “China was first off the block when it pledged $1 million as initial aid for relief and rehabilitation. On Wednesday, a Chinese Boeing 747-400 landed in Yangon carrying 60 tonnes of emergency relief material.” But it then goes on to say that “Earlier on Monday, two Indian Navy ships, INS Rana and Kirpal, were dispatched with initial aid from Port Blair. The ships reached Yangon Port early on Tuesday morning and anchored four miles from the harbour, awaiting offloading.” So how is it that China was “first off the block” when its aircraft arrived a day after the Indian ships?

Third, Ms Guha forces her own conclusions down your throat, despite the people she quotes saying the very opposite. Both the people interviewed—a JNU professor and a foreign ministry official—emphatically denied that India’s relief operations are motivated by a “race”. Yet, Ms Guha and her editors saw nothing out of place in publishing the report as they have.

It might even have been excusable if Ms Guha’s article had appeared as an op-ed. But it’s being offered as reportage. What a shame.

3 thoughts on “Cooking up a relief race in Burma”

  1. Nowadays, there is a lot of stupidity on display in the Indian media. One hopes blog postings such as these serve to embarrass the concerned journalists into thinking their articles through.

  2. Heh. Ms. Guha draws a really incredible conclusion. Or let’s say a stupid conclusion.

    When they should be reporting how the relief operations are taking place in Burma, the journalists are cooking up silly conspiracy theories like these. What a shame!

  3. Sorry to be OT, but talking of stupidity in the media, take a look at this gem from CNN-IBN which has huge blunders.

    First up, Sharad Yadav is from JD(U) not JD(S). Agreed that with lots of JDs popping up, one cant keep up with it, but isn’t this what the reporter is being paid for ?
    Then it refers to NDA allies, forgetting that the A in NDA stands for alliance. Or is the reporter referring to allies of the NDA ? Later in the same sentence it, refers to non-NDA allies like SP, BSP and Shiv Sena!

    I commented on this shoddy piece of reporting on the website, but apparently my comment was censored and the article allowed to remain uncorrected. On a previous instance, my comment on CNN-IBN was censored, but the article was corrected.

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