New Delhi: The Press Trust of India (PTI) has been receiving scathing criticism for its recent interview with Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong, in which the diplomat squarely blamed India for the ongoing border crisis in Ladakh and the violent face-off in Galwan Valley that killed 20 Indian soldiers.
The news agency however said the backlash was “unwarranted, unjustified and unfair”.
“Interviews with newsmakers are routine business for media organisations during which a range of questions are asked. Some of the comments make news. It is clear that the one-sided criticism of the PTI interview has been generated by the truncated version put out by the Chinese Embassy,” the agency told ThePrint.
In the interview published on 25 June, Sun said the onus to resolve the tensions was not on China.
“The incident was completely instigated by the Indian side and the responsibility does not lie with the Chinese side,” he told PTI.
A truncated version of the interview was posted on the Chinese embassy’s official website, in which Weidong delves into detail regarding China’s stance on Galwan Valley and how the current situation can be controlled if India meets China halfway.
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Three questions for China
In the interview, Sun said it was India that resorted to violence to “create a stand-off” between the two armies.
“First, the incident happened on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and the Indian side crossed the LAC first … On May 6, the Indian border troops crossed the LAC in the Galwan Valley by night and trespassed into China’s territory. They resorted to violent means to create a standoff between the two sides and built infrastructures in an attempt to maintain a permanent presence,” he said.
He further went on to list all the commander-level meetings and conversations that have taken place between the two countries. He said China is “ready to work with India to properly deal with the border stand-off while noting that ‘suspicion and friction’ was a wrong path that goes against the fundamental aspirations of people of the two countries”.
Gave interview to PTI on #GalwanValley Incident. Onus is not on #China. We are willing & able to properly manage differences. Mutual respect&support is sure way. Suspicion&friction is wrong path. Will jointly uphold peace&stability in border areas, ensure sound&steady relations.
— Sun Weidong (@China_Amb_India) June 25, 2020
Describing the current situation on the border as “stable and controllable”, he added that New Delhi must not take actions that may further complicate the situation.
The copy of the interview on the Chinese embassy website lists just three questions — “Thank you for accepting my interview. How do you see the face-off in Galwan Valley?”, “How do you think the current dispute can be resolved?” and “What do you think is the prospect for solving the current border face-off?”
Agency faces backlash
Many critiqued the news agency for the interview, with some saying it had given China a platform to peddle its propaganda in India.
Senior journalist Kanchan Gupta described the interview as “a propaganda handout that paints #India as villain”, while Ishaan Prakash, a journalist with leading wire agency Asian News Agency (ANI) said, “What a hard hitting interview with a whopping three questions.”
ThePrint reached ANI’s editor Smita Prakash through text messages, but she refused to comment on the interview.
BJP’s Dr Vijay Chauthewala commented on how the interview appeared “scripted”.
“Why no counter questions asked to this one-sided narrative? Why no question of casualties from Chinese side? Does PTI explore a merger with Xinhua?” he asked.
Senior fellow at Brookings Institute Tanvi Madan also raised a similar issue with the interview.
“U hv an opportunity to interview the Chinese amb. in India & u don’t press him on any of his claims. So he gives you essentially a press release. What exactly is the point? (sic),” she posted.
Another example of China using/exploiting the tools of democracy & openness that are unavailable to its own people.
I wouldn't want democracies to be like 🇨🇳 or change because of them, but I think 🇨🇳 should be called out every time they do this stuff. https://t.co/73nHE22nTA
— Tanvi Madan (@tanvi_madan) June 25, 2020
JNU professor Amitabh Mattoo called PTI “an instrument of Beijing’s propaganda and info warfare”, while digital entrepreneur Akhilesh Mishra made some staggering allegations of PTI “spreading fake news, tweeting photoshopped images, creating misleading headlines (and) deliberately misquoting people”.
Outrageous that the PTI has let itself become an instrument of Beijing’s propaganda and info warfare!!!!
Chinese Ambassador to India H.E. Sun Weidong Gave Interview to Press Trust of India on Galwan Valley Incident https://t.co/ZxCZqKckwk
— Amitabh Mattoo (@amitabhmattoo) June 25, 2020
PTI has been infamous for spreading fake news, tweeting photoshopped images, creating misleading headlines deliberately misquoting people. It wants to be adversarial to Modi government – fine.
But it’s PR for Chinese ambassador, in garb of interview, crosses all boundaries. 1/2
— Akhilesh Mishra (@amishra77) June 25, 2020
PTI says criticism unfair, has written to Ambassador Sun
The national news agency said the backlash was unwarranted, and that PTI is an “independent media organisation” known for its “objectivity and unbiased news coverage”.
Responding to the criticism on just three questions being asked, PTI said, “In fact, there were a number of questions put to Ambassador Sun, including many that challenged his narrative. However, the embassy has conveniently ignored them and published only three answers as ‘main points’. PTI has written to Ambassador Sun to protest in the strongest terms their lopsided presentation of the interview.”
“It is also interesting to note that among the critics quoted in your story is a member of the family that runs a rival private news agency,” the PTI said in its response to ThePrint.
(This copy has been updated with PTI’s response.)
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