Chinese whispers on Vikrant spooks MoD

On the evening of August 11, the day before India was to showcase her shipbuilding might by launching the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) at Kochi, came two phone calls which set the alarm bells within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) ringing. The caller, claiming to be a representative of the Chinese state broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), employed ‘dubious’ means to get the footage of the warship, a move that has not gone down well with the government.

Appeared in the Mail Today on September 22, 2013
Appeared in the Mail Today on September 22, 2013

One among the two calls was made to a reporter from the Doordarshan (DD) seeking the footage of whatever had been shot of the ship by the correspondent. “I was informed by the caller, who sounded like a heavily-accented Chinese person introducing himself as a reporter from CCTV, that a captain of the Indian Navy had provided him the number with direction to seek the footage from DD,” the correspondent mentioned. Unfortunately, for the caller, the same naval captain was present with the correspondent. “On the spot, I checked with the captain who denied it. As such there was no question of providing footage to anyone unless my own superiors inform me,” the correspondent mentioned.

A few minutes before, the same caller spoke to the naval captain concerned. “He said it was the DD reporter who gave him my number and he wanted access to the ship which was firmly denied as he was late. Journalists who went for that event were cleared in advance,” said the captain.

Both of them, when contacted, said they had never spoken to the person earlier and have not heard from him again.

When reached for a response, Captain PVS Satish, Public Relations Officer of the Indian Navy said, “Yes we got these calls but there was no question of allowing such attempts through.”
While the purpose behind these moves remained unclear, the MoD, on its part has ‘flagged’ the issue. “One can understand this urgency for access for private news broadcasters but why CCTV? It is very intriguing. Once this event got over, we took note of how the Chinese were trying ‘too hard’. All the three services and their PROs have been briefed about these dubious ways deployed,” said a senior MoD official. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) which controls access for foreign correspondents, though not informed by the MoD as yet, said such incidents ‘are not acceptable’.

Though not officially but sources indicated that the effort is to shield sensitive issues from nations which are not exactly ‘friendly’.

After initially denying the occurrence, a CCTV representative based in New Delhi and registered with the MEA, admitted that their colleague had approached the MoD on this issue. “Yes our colleague from Mumbai had tried. There may have been some misunderstanding,” he said.


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