Saturday

Expat Insider Survey 2017: India among 10 worst countries


The Expat Insider 2017 survey is out. The results for India are not flattering. Expats have ranked India among the 10 worst countries to live in. India secured the 57th position among 65 countries surveyed. Bahrain is the topmost destination for expats and ranks first. Interestingly, US ranks 43rd.




The Times of India dedicated space to this news today and for a change the publication decided to focus on the reasons behind the low ranking.

The primary reasons are:
  • Lack of work life balance
  • Lack of quality healthcare
  • Lack of quality education
  • Concerns of safety
  • Gender Insensitivity
  • Environmental Pollution
Some of the findings can be debated, especially the ones related to healthcare and education. But expats more often than not, bring their own experience as a frame of reference in evaluating standards in another country. Given that tendency we can maybe overlook that. Also the credibility of InterNations as an organization to reliably conduct such a survey needs to be examined as well, especially for research rigor.

But those are not the issues. The issue here is how surveys are now everywhere on everything under the sun. As all marketers would agree, it is one of the most popular tools to grab eyeballs, spark off a conversation and initiate a debate. Media loves it - especially online newsrooms - because the format works well with such content. What results is the shaping of perception - in this case the perception of nearly 188 countries.



What I like about the findings of the above survey is that in the context of India, it can possibly make us introspect a little bit. There's a long way to go and there are real issues that the country needs to address. Brings me back to a question I repeatedly raise in this blog:
  1. Can soft power make up for the lack of progress on fundamental issues? 
  2. Also, is soft power, in fact a by product of power and development itself? Do we give it more importance than it deserves?
There is merit in looking at the Expat Survey above in the context of an HSBC Survey published earlier this year which found that expats in India are among the highest paid in the world. Despite the high salaries and compensation, the environment in which they live made the Indian expats rate the country low in terms of experience. True - money isn't everything!



Wednesday

Soft Power Index 2017 leaves few questions unanswered



The Soft Power 30 Index of 2017 was released in July 2017. As per the report, when it comes to Soft Power, France is the most powerful nation in the world. The report states: 

"France’s vast diplomatic network, its cultural richness and the promise of Emmanuel Macron have contributed to the country’s No 1 position. While France leapfrogged, the US has fallen from first place in 2016 to third in 2017. As per the report this may be due to President Donald Trump’s "America first" policy, that “played poorly abroad, alienating allies and damaging links with the rest of the world.” This is too simplistic.

The report raised more questions than providing answers. If we look at Soft Power, from the context of 'influence,' it's hard to accept France at the top spot. US would still be at the top.
That brings us to the polling that was conducted in 25 countries. While Asia and Europe seems to have bigger representation, a major portion of Africa and Middle East wasn't polled? We also need to contextualize the fact that the opinions or votes received are deeply conditioned by historical experiences. While North Africa may feel a tug towards French culture and institutions, South Asia may lean towards the Anglo Saxon model it would be interesting to see such trends reflected as well.

While Trump's "America first" policy might have hurt the image of US in the short term, what needs to be understood is that the interventionist policy approaches of past administrations contributed immensely to a decline in a favorable perception of US. Have we forgotten Colin Powell lying at the United Nations in 2003? If we have this only goes on to prove how good the US propaganda machinery is in replacing collective public memory with newer issues and 'delink' old ones.



The report cites BBC as the most trusted media institution but does 'trust' necessarily translate into 'influence'? The pervasiveness of American media is hard to challenge and along with it the influence they can peddle for their country. Silicon Valley is doing it's bit too with the social networks, OTT content platforms and giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime.


The report cites that China's One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative will boost it's soft power. This may turn out to be a perception nightmare for China as OBOR and it's terms are not really admirable and one of the many reasons why countries such as India are abstaining. Without India there's no silk road or OBOR - it would not just be the real deal! Besides, with OBOR gaining visibility China might have to become accountable for it's trade and development aid practices that are pushing lesser countries into debt trap sort of scenarios (Eg. Sri Lanka).



I tried reaching Portland Communications for a discussion on questions such as above. But my emails went unanswered. The initiative to release such a report is great especially when it leads to questions such as above. Soft Power translates into an attraction for a 'way of life' and viewed in that context "Power and Influence" is central to any understanding of soft power. It goes beyond culture, cuisine and 'feeling good'. How much will the elements considered in the report eventually shape the future of our world is what remains to be seen.



Sunday

No discussions in India on US State Department's 'Country Report on Terrorism'

       The US State Department’s ‘Country Report on Terrorism’ received considerable news coverage in India media last week. The reason being, the report's finding that India witnessed the third highest number of terrorist attacks in 2016, which is just behind Iraq and Afghanistan. To the surprise of many, Pakistan was behind India in the fourth position. Almost all media outlets in India carried this news. While the news was covered, discussions on the issue following the news were few and far between.

The report stated that India registered a total of 927 terror attacks in 2016 with the highest percentage, not surprisingly, were from Jammu & Kashmir (19%) which is fast sliding towards becoming the latest haven for Islamic fundamentalists in South Asia.


The country reports on terrorism can be found here.

          This is not something new. Different research findings in the past, including that of the Global Terrorism Index have consistently put India among the top 10 countries most affected by terrorism. While such reports and consequent reportage in news media is a more recent phenomenon, the scourge of terror has been mainstream news in India since 1989. If there is a country that can be considered a repository of knowledge on dealing with terrorism, it is India - not something to be proud of but - this is how it has been.

           While the release of the 'Country report on Terrorism' received good visibility in news media, it was disappointing to note that there were not many follow up informed discussions on the topic. Developments such as these are great proof points for the Indian state to strengthen it's own point of view in the international fora with regards to terrorism. We haven't seen it happen yet. It is also of strategic advantage on issues pertaining to internationalization of bilateral disputes such as that of Kashmir. Indian media, can be a great ally, given its dynamism, reach and influence worldwide to give shape to this debate. 

Hopefully soon!



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