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How media invented ‘bilateral talks’ controversy between India and China

On Monday, Congress found itself in an extremely embarrassing situation when in a series of flip flops, Congress first denied Rahul Gandhi meeting Chinese ambassador and had to retract later when Rahul Gandhi’s office clarified that Rahul Gandhi had indeed met Chinese ambassador.

What is also noteworthy is that, the Chinese embassy, which had released a press note briefing their meet with Rahul Gandhi has deleted the page after Congress’s denial.

What exactly was their motive and why they wanted to hide this is something that should have been dissected and debated. But, instead of discussing this, media houses like The Hindu tried to deflect the situation by putting Indian government in the same situation.

It insinuated that Government of India has also done similar flip flops in the recent past vis-a-vis China, thereby trying to monkey balance the issue, further implying that Rahul Gandhi or Congress was not the only organisation to be blamed.

Let us look at the facts of India-China issue.

G-20 summit for 2017 was scheduled to be held in the German city of Hamburg starting 7th July. As, all leaders of all BRICS nation were already attending the G-20 summit, they decided to hold an informal meeting as a run up to the official BRICS summit to be held later in October in China. China being the host country this year, the informal meet was held under the chairmanship of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Here is the official press release of MEA, India on the proceedings of the meeting that was held.

As, the border situation in Doklam, Sikkim is tense, situation was not conducive for a bilateral talk between India and China. Both Indian and Chinese official clarified the same in no unclear terms.

To quote, “And the official spokesperson of Indian Ministry of External Affairs did not mention any Sino-India meeting while listing out PM Modi’s bilateral engagements on the sidelines of G-20 Summit.”

MEA has also officially denied reports of China “cancelling” any bilateral talks with India. Something which was not scheduled to begin with can not be cancelled.

Indian media however have invented something which never existed. Consider the below tweet from Vijaita Singh, Senior Assistant Editor of The Hindu:

Now here is the fun fact: the entire assertion of Vijaita Singh is based on imaginary lines.

Vijaita begins her tweet by saying “India says”. Any sane minded person will comprehend that someone from MEA or PMO has officially said this when a quote begins by “India says”.

Irony is, the article neither quotes nor has any press briefings by any Indian official. All that it has is a tweet by the official handle of MEA, India which in clear and no ambiguous terms says that it was an “informal” gathering of BRICS leaders:

So no where it states that there was a “bilateral” meeting. It also doesn’t suggest that Xi and Modi met for a “meeting”, however informal that was. It was an “informal gathering” of leaders where Modi and Xi had a conversation on a range of issues.

So, where is this “India says bilateral meeting took place between Xi and Modi” coming from? Why the headline suggests that China denies bilateral meeting. For someone to deny, one has to assert something which will be denied. When India has not said that any bilateral meeting took place – and that has been the stand from the beginning as we saw earlier – where is the need or scope to deny it?

When questioned on, where in the article, MEA, India says that there was a bilateral meet, this was what Hindu’s Senior Assistant Editor replied to me on Twitter:

While I give her full marks for politeness and for responding, unfortunately I will have to give zero for comprehension and logic. As you can see, the highlighted part (highlighted by Vijaita) is no proof of India saying or claiming that a bilateral meeting took place.

Also, she may not be the only one spreading this misinformation about the incident. Here is the Executive Editor of NDTV trying to paint as if the situation was all messed up, when the only thing that appears messed up here is the comprehension of journalists:

We have seen various ways in which media creates controversies that never existed. In this case, the modus operandi was – first create an imaginary claim that Modi and Xi are going to have a bilateral talks, even when both countries have categorically denied it, then ask questions whether the bilateral talks took place, and conclude that “China denied any such meeting took place” as if India had requested and China denied. Of course any person will deny your imaginary claims.

Whether it is the comprehension of journalists, who mistook “an informal gathering of BRICS leaders” as a “bilateral meeting” or there is a malafide intention behind such cleverly worded articles and tweets is something I leave for the readers to decipher.

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