Journalism, Nationalism, and Multiperspectivity: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Media Coverage of Kulbhushan Jadhav Case in Pakistani and Indian Media

Authors: Sameen Shah

Journalism, Nationalism, and Multiperspectivity: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Media Coverage of Kulbhushan Jadhav Case in Pakistani and Indian Media


This paper uses Multiperspective Critical Discourse Analysis to highlight how mainstream print media of India and Pakistan have reported the case of Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, an alleged Indian Spy arrested by Pakistan security forces in March, 2016. The objective of this paper is to understand the differences between linguistic and structural aspects of news reporting by two main newspapers from each country. The headlines covering the incidents from May 18, 2017 to May 20, 2017 have been analyzed to draw contrasts and parallels in the news contents and what they try to communicate.    

Keywords: Multiperspectivity, India, Pakistan, Media, Headlines, Discourse Analysis


While narratology or narrative theory has had its due share of attention, the paradoxical edge of it, as one might call it, is plurality of perspectives or “Multiperspectivity” which has been under-theorized (Campbell and Boltz, 2016). Multiperspectivity as a term has been present in the fields of history and education since early 1970s preceded by the wave of New History, Multiculturalism and Academic Development (Stradling, 2003). Especially in the case of Academic Development much emphasis has been placed on understanding the history of marginalized groups within a broader mainstream category as multiperspectivity essentially incorporates a more inclusive rather than exclusive approach (Fontana, 2017). The use of this paradigm to understand contrasting view points of different players sharing a single episode in time helps develop an extensive version of incidences. In today’s world where political correctness is becoming more relevant and crucial for multicultural societies, it is important to find common grounds from the narrative of different interest groups to promote an environment of peaceful coexistence (Makriyianni and Psaltis, 2007).

A more commonplace use of multiperspectivity has been found in the current mediascapes where the engagement of people with media and different forms of it can be viewed as new avenues for socio-cultural and linguistic approaches to create, interpret and understand their local and global identities (Blomaert, 2005). Such efforts to bring forth different sides to the same reality representing different interests groups has been made easy through the use of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) (Weiss and Wodak, 2007; Wodak and Meyer, 2015). A CDA differs from other types of discourse analysis techniques in that it deals with the social inequity, power and dominance that are a part of a discourse and how the discourse analyst is a part of creating meaning of their relationship (Van, 2015). A discourse is typically meant as texts that communicate the ideas of the author and what they mean to the readers to whom they are subjected (Fairclough, 2013; O’Hallloran, 2004).

This paper applies the method of CDA to the field of Journalism. In mediascape language is used as a powerful tool and the words with peculiar angles and meanings are used to communicate with the readers / viewers (Manning and Greshon, 2014). Headlines from different Pakistani and Indian news sources have been collected regarding the case of Kalbhushan Jadhav to understand how both countries’ media engage in creating their own narrative.


Ever since their independence in 1947, Pakistan and India have been warring relentlessly over issues that range from diplomatic strong handing to the never ending dispute of Kashmir. With the exception of Arab-Israel tussle, no other conflict has had more devastating effect on respective nations than the unsolvable conflicts between India and Pakistan (Ganguly, 2002). Both countries have had their fair share of wars and troubles at the borders with many incidences of tense political confrontations almost resulting in armed engagements.

One such incident recently created ripples and brought the two countries in the international media spotlight when an Indian national was arrested in Baluchistan on March 3, 2016 in a counterintelligence raid carried out by security forces. Kulbhushan Jadhav was alleged to be an Indian spy working with Indian intelligence organization ‘Research and Analysis Wing’ (RAW). He was believed to have been aiding sectarian violence and separatist movement in Baluchistan along with other terrorism related activities. After his on video confession was made public, on April 10, 2017, he was sentenced to death by Field General Court Martial, Pakistan. In response to that, India approached the International Court of Justice against the sentence which then resulted in ICJ staying the death of Kulbhushan Jadhav on May 18, 2017.   

Kulbhushan Jadhav Case in Pakistani Print Media

Dawn and The News:

The news sources / organizations that have been chosen for this discourse analysis are The News and Dawn newspaper. Both of these newspapers are the most circulated and widely read English news sources of Pakistan.

News headlines from May 18, 2017

“ICJ to hand down ruling in Jadhav case today” (Dawn)

“ICJ announces verdict in Yadav spy case today” (The News)

Both sources report a neutral and factual statement marking the day that ICJ announces the verdict on Jadhav’s case. However, The News adds the word ‘spy’ loading the statement with a value judgment, reflecting the general sentiment of the public in Pakistan.

News from May 19, 2017

“Setback as ICJ ‘stays’ Indian spy’s execution”

“Court rules it does have jurisdiction in dispute between neighbors”

“ICJ decisions are binding, even though it has no means to ensure compliance”

“Islamabad to appoint ad hoc judge to world court for further proceedings” (Dawn)

“ICJ stays Indian spy’s execution” (The News)

As the case progresses and takes a direction, Pakistani newspapers express antagonizing disappointment as ICJ’s verdict goes against Pakistan. Jadhav’s execution has been given a stay as Pakistani newspapers continue to call him an ‘Indian spy’ in their headlines. The sub headlines in Dawn outlines the fact that ICJ has a compulsory jurisdiction for all the signatories and its decisions are binding on these parties. It also alludes to Pakistani government’s future policies for this case, giving a complete picture of the scenario to its readers.

 News from May 20, 2017

“Pakistan recognized ICJ remit in ’60: AG” (Dawn)

“Government manhandled Kulbhushan case at ICJ: Khursheed” (The News)

Dawn puts in its headline the remark of the Attorney General of Pakistan as he mentions how Pakistan signed the March 29 declaration with the ICJ to create firewalls for the first time and national security concern was among the reservations listed by Islamabad over the world court’s jurisdiction in the case of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav. Apparently, he dismissed the impression that it was only this year in March that Pakistan agreed to the jurisdiction of the ICJ in such cases. He restated that Pakistan had already signed an unconditional declaration to agree to the jurisdiction of ICJ in September of 1960. It appears to be an attempt at pacifying the public anger against Pakistani government to let the case go to ICJ in the first place.

            The narrative created by The News, on the other hand seems to be quickly taking the undertones of politicking as the opposition leader’s statement takes to the headlines, blaming the government for mishandling the case and showing a diplomatic failure at an international forum. It is a classic example of newspapers benefiting from a bad news and stealing away from the focus on real matters to give politics a flare.

Kulbhushan Jadhav’s Case in Indian Print Media

The Indian Express and The Hindustan Times

For the purpose of discourse analysis of Jadhav’s case as represented by Indian Print Media, I have taken headlines from two widely read and circulated newspapers representing big news  corporations in india; namely, The Indian Express and The Hindustan Times.

News from May 18, 2017

“ICJ verdict in Jadhav case today” (The Indian Express)  

“Jadhav verdict today” (The Hindustan Times)

Both newspapers give a fairly neutral news about the ICJ verdict due on that day while a Pakistani newspaper calls Jadhav a spy In its  headlines, Indian newspapers steer clear of any such connotations.

News from May 19, 2017

“Round One to India, Jadhav”

“ICJ tells Pak to ensure he is not executed until final verdict, backs access plea”

“To obey or not? Stung Pakistan is divided over answer” (The Indian Express)

“ICJ order Pakistan not to execute Yadav, India heaves sigh of relief”

“ICJ order diplomatic victory in India but Kulbhushan Jadhav’s life still under threat in Pakistan”

“ICJ order on Jadhav: Pak case faltered as court rejected its two key arguments” (The Hindustan Times)

Indian newspapers seem to be clearly rejoicing at the verdict of ICJ. The use of “Pak” instead of “Pakistan” is a lexical cue for a derogatory tone which is used by both newspapers. Other terms like ‘stung’ Pakistan, ‘Round One to India’ etc reflect the emotions of the readers of the newspaper, The Indian Express. The Hindustan Times repeatedly questions Pakistan’s intentions to adhere to the ICJ’s verdict. The term ‘obey or not to obey’ by The Indian Express also shows the same mistrust towards Pakistan. The Hindustan Times goes to the extent of declaring that Jadhav’s life is under threat in Pakistan without citing any statement or proof from Pakistan that might have triggered that response. Both newspapers have declared the order to be a victory for India. They seem to be capitalizing on the hostility that has long existed between the two countries to develop a consistent narrative for the general public.

News from May 20, 2017

“Round one lost, Pkaistan looks at getting its judge on the bench at the Hague” (The Indian Express)

“India uncertain if Pakistan considering mother’s appeal against Jadhav execution”

“Do not get excited by ICJ ruling on Kulbhushan Jadhav, let him come home first, says Shiv Sena”

“ICJ verdict on Kulbhushan Jadhav: Pakistan interior minister says case will be taken to its ‘logical conclusion’ “ (The Hindustan Times)

Both newspapers seem apprehensive as to what Pakistan might do after the ICJ verdict. The Indian Express takes to the headlines Pakistan’s strategy of handling this case, at the same time, it uses the same analogy of the game of boxing where in this competition it maintains that India won the first round. It also signifies how India looks at it from the power politics perspective. The Hindistan Times makes Shiv Sena statement a headline. This organization’s anti-Pakistan extremis stance is a well known fact. The use of the term ‘mother’s appeal’ is carrying multiple connotations and has dual meaning as it seems to refer to both the public appeal made by Jadhav’s mother and the assertiveness of ICJ’s position and order. It also quotes Pakistan interior minister statement mentioning that Jadhav’s case will be taken to a logical conclusion. This also is undertones with suspicion and mistrust as to whether or not Pakistan will comply with ICJ’s order. This is painted with so much anxious suspicion despite of the fact that a leading Pakistani newspaper highlight Pakistan Attorney General’s remarks n how Pakistan has signed an unconditional declaration with ICJ back in 1960, making it quite probable that Pakistan might uphold the verdict of ICJ. Especially when it can potentially ascertain the establishment of a precedent case that can lead to a shift in Pakistan’s foreign policies related to Kashmir and other issues with India.



Considering news headlines as relevance optimizers, it is quite transparent that news organizations from both Pakistan and India are actively creating a narrative that is not only driven by their respective sociopolitical agenda but is also in line with their overall policies towards each other. However, keeping in view how Jadhav’s case has been building up in favor of India, their newspapers have blatantly used emotion coated journalism to appeal to the public sentiment and thereby  affectively influencing their opinion of Pakistan and its handling of an Indian national. Pakistani media on the other hand has an inconsistent and vague stance as it shifts from being offensive to defensive and from being action-oriented to being submissive. It will be interesting to see what shape the respective country’s media gives to the narrative as the ‘logical conclusion’ of Jadhav’s case draws closer.



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