Indian opposition seeks probe into security leak after TV anchor’s messages emerge

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Indian opposition parties called on Monday for an investigation into chat messages from a top TV anchor that they said showed prior knowledge of
air strikes carried out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government against Pakistan in 2019.

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Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic TV network, told the head of a TV ratings agency that India would launch a “bigger than a normal strike” on its arch-rival -- three days before Indian combat jets struck alleged militant targets on Pakistani soil.

The raid brought the two nations to the brink of war.

“On Pakistan, the government is confident of striking in a way that people will be elated,” a transcript of the messages sent by Goswami said. “Exact words used.”

Read more: Indian police arrest and charge TV news anchor for suicide abetment

The messages, reported by Indian media and seen by Reuters, are part of a charge-sheet filed by police in Mumbai investigating alleged fixing of ratings by Republic -- charges the network denies.

Goswami denied prior knowledge of the air strikes, that were carried out weeks after an attack by Pakistan-based Islamist militants on an Indian paramilitary convoy in the Pulwama district of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

“India’s intention to hit back at Pakistan after the Pulwama attack was an officially-stated position,” he said in a statement released by Republic.

“There was no doubt in any nationalist Indian’s mind that we would hit back,” he added, accusing opposition parties of acting as a “mouthpiece” for Pakistan.

Spokesmen for India’s defense and foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the transcripts.

Republic has often adopted positions supportive of the Modi government and Goswami is known for his aggressive attacks on the opposition in his prime-time nightly program, one of the country’s most watched.

India’s main opposition Congress party, as well as Shiv Sena, a regional party that governs Maharashtra state where the TV channel is based, have both called for a government inquiry into the messages.

Shashi Tharoor, a Congress lawmaker, said the messages required “serious inquiry” by the Modi government, which has made national security a top priority.

The messages have reignited tensions with Pakistan, with Islamabad’s foreign ministry saying the transcripts showed the strikes were engineered to coincide with a general election that Modi won by a landslide a few months later.