February 8, 2007Foreign Affairs

Poor reporting (Anand Giridharadas edition)

Where we use a Brad DeLong refrain

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Vivek Kumar points out an article in the International Herald Tribune

A question hovers over the United States’ blooming friendship with India: How good a friend will India be should it emerge as a great power?

Will it be a Britain — a loyal ally, a partner against terrorism, a fellow evangelist for free markets and democracy? Or will it be France — sharing Washington’s bedrock values but ever willing to pursue its own interests at the expense of American ones?

Or will it be China — a competitive threat to the U.S. economy, using its influence to thwart American diplomatic pressure on nations like Sudan and Iran? [IHT]The correct answer—if there can be one at all—is that India will be India. Sui generis, to use a term that Bibek Debroy used to describe India (in another context) today.

But the really inexcusable bit is this one:

Around the time that deal was struck, American officials often talked up India as the new Britain, a natural ally whose growing clout was an unmitigated good for the United States. But a year and a half later, India has shown a tendency to chart an unpredictable diplomatic course, whether by cozying up to the rulers of Myanmar, Sudan and Iran or by stalling on its promises to open its economy fully to American corporate giants like Wal-Mart, AIG and Citibank. [IHT]

The reporter’s failure to understand India’s diplomatic course does not automatically make it unpredictable’. India’s cozying up’ to those countries predates the India-US nuclear deal by a stretch. If Giridharadas wanted to be accurate he should have noted that India has continued to maintain its diplomatic course despite the deal with the United States. And it is bizarre that he should link economic reforms to foreign policy. The phrasing of that sentence suggests either that US firms were supposed to receive special entry which they did not, or that they were singled out. Another gem—towards the end of the article— citing the views of the ONGC chairman as representative of India’s foreign policy. Very poor journalism indeed.

As Brad DeLong would put it, why oh why can’t we have a better press corps?

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