New York Times

Enemies Try to Explain

At a time when India and Pakistan are worrying the world's diplomats with contradictory signals -- one moment scheduling tit-for-tat nuclear tests, the next having their prime ministers embrace at the border -- an unheralded public television program in New York managed to bring the Indian and Pakistani ambassadors in the United States together last week to be interviewed. It is believed to be the first time officials of the two countries have appeared on one program.

The program, "Asian America," is seen on NYC Life Media, the New York City Board of Education's public television station and syndicated nationally by PBS. It appears on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. in New York.
Although they arrived at the same time and even shook hands, the two ambassadors, Naresh Chandra of India and Riaz H. Khokhar of Pakistan, refused to be interviewed together. Each spent 15 minutes being questioned by William J. Holstein, a senior writer for U.S. News & World Report and a veteran reporter on Asian affairs who also serves as a guest host for "Asian America."
"The depth of their antagonism is so great, they can barely speak to each other," Holstein said. "Although the prime ministers have exchanged visits now, there are five decades of hostility at work here and three wars fought in the last 51 years. This is one of the world's most dangerous conflicts, and very few Americans understand it." That is how he persuaded the two ambassadors to appear on the program, Holstein said. "They both want the U.S. to understand they are capable of rational discourse and aren't nuclear hot-heads ready to shoot off missiles," he said, although India did test fire a missile just last Sunday, angering Pakistan. "The one thing they both agreed to was the need for Americans to develop a deeper understanding of the subcontinent."
Holstein said "Asian America" contributed to that understanding, being the only American television program on Asian issues that is broadcast in English. It is produced by two Korean-American sisters, Jung Sook Koh and Hwi-sook Taylor, who started it five years ago and still work unpaid, raising money for the program from grants.
"They're trying to do something on a shoestring budget that is very valuable," Holstein said. "That's why I got involved."

LAWRIE MIFFLIN [Mifflin, Lawrie "TV Notes" New York Times 14 April 1999, E7]
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CLARIFICATION:

Asian America is pleased with the tremendous attention that its show on Indian-Pakistani Relations has generated. The show, hosted by William J. Holstein, was aired in major metropolitan markets beginning last Wednesday (April 14) and concluding Sunday (April 18.)

However, two clarifications are necessary in response to the articles in The New York Times and Washington Times. A statement by Mr. Holstein about antagonisms between the two countries and two governments was construed as reflecting personal antagonism between Indian Ambassador Naresh Chandra and Palistan Ambassador Riaz Khokhar. The two ambassadors did shake hands and exchange pleasantries at the recording studio, and have socialized together. The statement about antagonisms was directed at the broader relationship between their two countries, not the two men.

Secondly, the Pakistan government has objected to a statement that the two ambassadors refused to appear together. It's true that in negotiating the appearance of both men, Mr. Holstein agreed to defer to the wish of the Indian side that the two men appear separately. However, at the studio, Mr. Holstein and the show's producers offered to have the two men appear together but were not able to secure their agreement. The show stands behind its stated position that the two men declined to be interviewed at the same time.

Updated: 4/21/99

 

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