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Modi-Sharif ‘secret’ meet: Why now, Barkha?

So renowned journalist Barkha Dutt’s much-awaited debut book is out wherein she has reportedly made some startling revelations about an hour-long secret meeting in Nepal between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in 2014.

The secret rendezvous was allegedly facilitated by Indian steel magnate Sajjan Jindal, brother of former Congress MP Naveen Jindal, in the former’s hotel room in Kathmandu during Saarc summit in November 2014, or so claims Barkha Dutt in her book ‘This Unquiet Land — Stories from India’s Fault Lines’.

Dutt writes Modi called up Jindal from Nepal and asked him to take the earliest flight to Kathmandu. “Jindal was asked to discreetly reach out to his ‘friend’ across the border”. The two leaders then met quietly “in the privacy of Jindal’s hotel room”, where they spent an hour together, reported The Hindustan Times.

All this happened while the two leaders publically ignored each other or pretended to do so during the public events of Saarc 2014.

At this juncture, we are not in a position to confirm the veracity of the claims made by Dutt as neither Modi, Sharif or Jindal have denied nor confirmed the meeting yet. Assuming that their tête-a-tête actually did take place, it was an important issue of national importance and the public had every right to know what was happening behind the closed doors.

Dutt, being a well-known Television journalist with NDTV, was in the know of the secret encounter between the two premiers in 2014. It’s been over a year since the meeting. Did she have to wait for her book to reveal this issue of national security and importance? That’s the question worth pondering over. I understand controversy sells and people do all kinds of stuff to publicize their books. The more the sensational claims, the more controversy it is likely to generate.

Most of these books by noted personalities are published around elections and in the times to float or support an existing agenda.

Sanjay Baru’s book is an apt example in this regard wherein a lot of muck was hurled at former PM Manmohan Singh in an apparent bid to damage his reputation. Shiv Sena smeared Sudhendra Kulkarni with ink at former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book launch function in Mumbai. Kasuri also made ‘startling disclosures’ in regard to backchannel Indo-Pak talks.

I can understand a politician like Kasuri would want to reveal this information in a book considering his constraints. But for a reputed journalist to withhold the information of national importance from the public seems unethical to me. Allow me to elucidate why.

One year is a long time and much water has flown under the Indo-Pak bridge since then. People should have been informed that despite public hostility, PM Modi was secretly meeting with Sharif and all talks were being facilitated by Indian businessmen, as claimed by Dutt.

However, Dutt chose to hold back the information for her book, an apparent disservice to the profession of journalism. Besides, this episode reveals the futility of all these books written by noted journalists and bureaucrats. People do not understand what these people are trying to achieve by making ‘startling revelations’ in their books. This story of such a secret meeting could have made headlines and impact on the national political discourse had it been revealed last year itself.

What has Barkha Dutt achieved by denying this ‘news’ to the public? Increased book sales, probably.

(Image: NDTV)

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