There is an important lesson that the Indian government can learn from the Dalai Lama—how to build popular support overseas for your cause.
The cause in question right now, as far as India is concerned, is convincing the world that terrorist camps in Pakistan are a threat to the civilized world. Much of the hard negotiating and persuasion will involve ministers, senior officials, paid lobbyists and overseas Indians. They will all speak to Western leaders and lawmakers sitting at the very top of their respective countries.
But we think it is time to reach out directly to the people of the major democratic powers as well. The Tibetan movement has mastered this art.
Media Tenor, a global media research institute, has this week decided to give a special award to the Tibetan movement for the way it effectively used communication tools to draw global media attention to its goal in the months leading to the Beijing Olympics. The protests each time the Olympic torch reached a city ensured that people along the route kept being reminded of the Tibetan cause. The Dalai Lama has also been able to reach out to all sorts of people around the world: kings and commoners and Hollywood stars.
In an opinion piece originally written for The Wall Street Journal and published in this newspaper on Wednesday, Christian Whiton and Kristopher Harrison say US President-elect Barack Obama should carry out information warfare against global jihadis. Such a strategy was part of the Allied offensive against fascism during World War II, as well as during America’s long war with communism through most of the second half of the 20th century.
India should start thinking along these lines as well. There is tough negotiating work to be done in closed rooms, but there is also a case for a battle of ideas on the streets which ordinary people use. It could be a special case of soft power. Voter pressure from below to help the Indian fight against cross-border terrorism would be welcome.
Of course, there is still the question of how government machinery that cannot effectively communicate with its own citizens can do so with citizens of other countries.
Should India have a better communication strategy? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org