Monday, June 14, 1999 Published at 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
World: South Asia
Battling it out on the Net
Indians are following the Kashmir conflict on the Internet
By BBC Correspondent David Willis
Cricket is one battlefield for arch-rivals India and Pakistan, but a more serious battle is currently taking place between the two countries over Kashmir.
But the present conflict is different to many others that have taken place between the two countries, because it is being fought not just on the battlefront, but through the media - and particularly through the Internet.
Many young Indians have been stopping by to send e-mails to troops on the frontline.
Harry Herren, the manager of this cyber café, says other customers are simply seeking the latest information from the battlefront.
"It is like being there. They can see better photographs, the kind that are not available in newspapers are easily published on the web," he said.
There are other uses as well.
"A lot of Indians living in the US have started collecting money for people affected by the war, all through the Internet," he said.
Information is power
India has been holding Nato-style daily briefings to drive home its version of events.
They are chaired by senior civil servant Raminder Singh Jassal, who has become well aware that Information is power.
"It is a weapon depending on how you use it. You can abuse it for purposes like Pakistan has done. Or you can use it to reiterate the actual situation and to reassure the people that this is what has happened and this is how we are dealing with it," Mr Jassal said. "Information is important."
Battle of the airwaves
The audience for news is phenomenal across the vast country. State broadcaster Doordarshan reaches up to 600 million people, whilst newcomer Star - which recently launched a 24-hour news channel on cable - is gradually building its own audience.
Senior Star TV correspondent, Vikram Chandra, says presenting one's case on television is going to become more important in the next few years.
"Indians have always been information junkies to some extent and even in the smallest villages you will find people surprisingly well-informed, not just about local issues but state issues, national issues and once in a while even international issues," he said.
In the Intemet café, more messages were tapped out to the troops in Kashmir. "We are praying that you'll return victorious and make us proud to be Indians," read one.
For the first time in the long history of the conflict between these two nations, the electronic media - and particularly cyberspace - may well make all the difference.