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Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Govt seeks to project a new Brand India image abroad

  • The idea is to push diplomats to think of themselves as a network of information disseminators, rather than working in silos

NEW DELHI : New Dehi: The Indian foreign ministry—traditionally seen as conservative, reticent and media shy—is to have a new communications strategy that will see diplomats proactively promoting India’s interests and points of view on the world stage.

The outreach will encompass not only traditional media but also new-age platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Reddit. Indian missions abroad have been told to develop content—such as video clips that can be tweeted or posted on Facebook—for specific constituencies. These include countries in the Muslim world, developing nations and those with strong democratic traditions such as India, Mint has learnt.

Embassies in some countries —France, for example—will also look at creating content that can be used by Indian missions in Francophone countries. The idea is to push diplomats to think of themselves as a network of information disseminators, rather than working in silos.

“I think this is a great thing," said Ashish Patkar, founder of the Mumbai-based Monk Media Network, specializing in social media strategies. “What was happening is that earlier a lot of people, even non-resident Indians (NRIs), didn’t really have an opinion on anything that was happening in India. But that has drastically changed over the last couple of years. So you have NRIs participating in all kinds of debates. So it makes sense for the government to put its own view out there... It makes sense to be the first bearer of information so you can control the narrative."

This is in contrast to India’s previous practice of commissioning short films or coffee table books on subjects like culture, common links between India and a particular country or profiles of Indian leaders.

The number of Twitter posts by Indian missions has shown a marked increase in recent months, as has publicity on activities and events hosted by embassies on the missions’ Facebook pages. To gauge the impact and effectiveness of the new steps, the ministry conducted an internal appraisal, whose findings are expected to be placed before Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The new framework was the subject of discussion at a video conference call meet on Tuesday, chaired by foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla with the heads of Indian missions around the world. Foreign minister S. Jaishankar is one of the key people encouraging the major shift in perception management.

The new communications strategy comes against the twin backdrops of an increasing awareness that India is now operating in an “information warfare landscape", with the need to take on Chinese and Pakistani propaganda, and the aim of using soft power to build up ‘Brand India’.

The emphasis is on projecting India and its views without being aggressive or confrontational. The move also follows the government’s focus of positioning India as a “leading power" seeking a greater role in world affairs.

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