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Face to Face with Vishal Arora

…but that silence, to me, was a statement that Bhutan has little strategic interest in the dispute, apart from its relations with India

Vishal Arora is a New Delhi-based independent journalist. He travels, writes, and produces video features on life, politics, culture and foreign affairs in South and Southeast Asia. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Bangkok Post, World Politics Review, Nikkei Asian Review, The Diplomat and many other outlets. He was formerly the features and political editor at The Caravan magazine and an editor at Indo-Asian News Service.

Business Bhutan reporter  Lucky Wangmo talks to him about the recent Doklam issue and mobile
journalism of which he is a pro.

1. How do you view the recent Doklam issue in the historical context as a journalist?

A. The Doklam issue has little to do with Bhutan. It’s a manifestation of the India-China competition in gaining more influence in the region. Thimphu would have resolved the issue long ago had it not been for India’s strategic interests in the disputed area.
Bhutan largely remained silent during the peak of the tensions, but that silence, to me, was a statement that Bhutan has little strategic interest in the dispute, apart from its relations with India.
The dispute is not new, and it will keep emerging from time to time depending on developments in India-China relations.

2. Seeing the discussions and deliberations that followed the Doklam face-off and its aftermath, how would you view the whole incident/issue?

A. I’m worried that some racist and divisive voices within Bhutan that were marginal until the Doklam issue are now apparently beginning to be seen as mainstream. Speaking against India by such voices is understandable, but what is unacceptable is raising suspicions about the loyalty of people from certain ethnicities.
I observed that since Bhutan maintained silence during the Doklam issue, some foreign media began to quote bloggers and social media users as Bhutan’s view. As a result, those bloggers sort of gained credibility within Bhutan. That can be dangerous.

3. On Thursday, you conducted a one-day informal training on mobile journalism or mojo. Can you tell us briefly about this latest form of visual storytelling?

A. To deal with the shrinking advertising revenue, all media houses – be they online, print, radio or television – are required to cut the cost of production drastically, while at the same time, they also have to use videos for their websites and on social media. Video is fast becoming the language that youth around the world want to receive news in. So mobile journalism alone can help media houses in the current scenario.

4. How can mojo change journalism and journo trends in the country?

A. From the point of view of journalists, mobile journalism can instantly make them relevant and employable internationally.
Mobile journalism improves the quality of reportage, too. Have we ever wondered why cinema, and not television news, does a fantastic job in storytelling? The answer is simple. Commercial filmmakers use equipment that are “mobile.” They invest in equipment to move the camera to follow the protagonist of a story. Now, the technology has made it possible for journalists to be almost equally “mobile” with their cameras, as mobilephones can shoot high-resolution footage.
However, mobile journalism, too, requires certain technical skills and the art of storytelling. This is why a workshop on mobile journalism can immensely help media houses and journalists in telling better stories and doing better business.

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