BROOKE GLADSTONE: From WNYC in New York this is NPR's On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. The war against terrorism is momentarily quiet, but looming on the horizon is a far more volatile conflict between India and Pakistan mainly over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Troop deployments by both nuclear powers are ominous, and the media rhetoric bellicose. Joining us once again to discuss the foreign coverage of that region is Martin Walker, chief correspondent for United Press International. Martin, India's stated rationale for its hard line on Pakistan is its belief that Pakistan is at a minimum giving aid and comfort to terrorists in the disputed territory of Kashmir. In the Pakistani press, is there any acknowledgement of that relationship between terrorist acts and the Pakistani government?
MARTIN WALKER: Yes, yes there is. The Frontier Post which is published in Peshawar -- that's an independent daily newspaper -- actually says that the Pakistani government really, you know, has to meet this demand. "After the 9/11 episode," it says, "the world has been transformed dramatically. Our government has to come to grips with the militant groups working on their own agendas under the guise of the Kashmir cause, not because the Indians want it nor because the Americans want it, but because Pakistan's own national interests and the Kashmir cause demand it." I find that a strikingly moderate statement from, from one of the main Pakistani papers, and it contrasts with an editorial in The Times of India which is the establishment newspaper of India which actually sent chills down my spine when I, when I read it. And it says: "A cross-border military strike is fraught with all manner of consequences including the possibility of a nuclear exchange. While this alone need not deter India [Eek!], the global conjuncture suggests a new policy of relentless non-offensive actions could pay dividends. Chief among these ought to be the issue of withdrawing from the Indus Waters Treaties whose sole purpose was to guarantee the waters of the three northern rivers to Pakistan." In other words, if we're not going to nuke them, we'll-- we'll kill them with thirst.
BOB GARFIELD: Cistern-rattling.
MARTIN WALKER:It is very much indeed more than sabre-rattling. This Indian policy is one which the European press has really spoken about with almost one voice in saying only America can now act, and I've been reading this in the Italian, in the German, in the Spanish, in the, in the French press and in the British press, the liberal Guardian stresses "A nuclear doctrine must now become part of America's long-term vision. With billions of lives at stake, the onus is on America to ensure that all sides start talking again."
BOB GARFIELD: [LAUGHS] Do they have any ideas for what the United States can do to defuse the tensions?
MARTIN WALKER:Talk a lot. And also in a sense re-adjust its thinking. In Frankfurter Rundschau which is a, a left of center German daily, the editorial said: "As long as President George W. Bush allows the analysis of the new global situation through the, the crosshairs of the Pentagon and not through the wider angle lens of critical observers and diplomats, there is not even a diplomatic approach from America to formulate the Kashmir question anew. America has to do better than this and only it can." Even in, in the Middle East we're getting the same call. From Qatar's Al Watan: "The irresponsible acts of Pakistanis and Indians unfortunately justify calls by the West for not allowing Third World countries to own nuclear technology, but that must be a secondary consideration to the need for America to step in to prevent this war getting out of hand."
BOB GARFIELD:This strikes me as such a wonderful example of the world's ambivalence about American hegemony. They hate the world that harbors but one sole superpower and yet they seem to at the same time embrace it. Am I obsessing about this too much?
MARTIN WALKER: No, you're not. I mean I think you're absolutely right. I mean it, it seems that America is damned if it does intervene in the world's affairs and even more damned if it doesn't when people get frightened. I, I think the, the reason why people are now desperate is something that I've picked up both in the British press and in the German press is-- as the Times put it: "The immediate danger is perhaps similar in character to that which existed in July 1914 after Serbian terrorists had murdered the Austrian archduke. No one will succeed in preventing the war in which both India and Pakistan public opinion seem to support. This was what led Europe to the trenches in 1914." There is a real sense that this could be the most dangerous war of all.
BOB GARFIELD: Well that's sobering because-- in 1914 there were no nukes.
MARTIN WALKER:There weren't, but it was the suicide of the old European civilization anyway. It saw the end of the German and the Austrian and the Russian empires.
BOB GARFIELD: Martin, once again, thanks so much.
MARTIN WALKER: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: Martin Walker is the chief international correspondent for United Press International.