February 22, 2020
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The Stiff Upper-Lip

The Stiff Upper-Lip
If reports in much of the British media are anything to go by, that pseudo-summit in Agra was something of a PR setback for India. That nothing happened in Agra was only part of the story. That something was happening in Kashmir as a result of which nothing happened in Agra was the rest.

Kashmir as news, which had run itself to boredom over years, woke up to produce about a week's diet for foreign desks. So The Guardian again called for self-determination since there's "no other long-term solution" and The Times ran a little saga over bitterness in paradise on earth. The backburner had lit up.

But the degree of unexcitedness the Brits brought to viewing the Agra summit was refreshing. Distance felt like perspective, a change from the hysteria in black and white and colour all over the Indian media. Also reassuring was that the Brits were not making a president of a general as the Indian government so eagerly had. The Times spoke simply of "Pervaiz Musharraf" on the day of his arrival as "the general who organised the Kargil infiltration and who is now arriving today in the heavily fortified city of Agra to pose with Mr Vajpayee in front of the world's most famous monument to love". Odd, hearing that sort of thing louder from The Times in London than from the government in Delhi. Nor were there any takers in the British media for so much of that synthetic drama scripted by a bunch of South Blockheads. Those red carpets rolled to those black cars, the guns with all of 21 booms at Rashtrapati Bhavan, a walkabout in a haveli, the marble shadows of the Taj, and finally the exchanges of the almost-agreed. Everything was agreed except everything that mattered.
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