Tuesday

CPD Blog: Integrating India's "NEIGHBORHOOD-FIRST” strategy into the South Asia satellite

The following is the text of a post I contributed to the CPD Blog. It was published on June, 26, 2017 :

South Asia Satellite
Photo courtesy of the Indian Space Research Organization

India’s space diplomacy got a major boost last month with the launch of the South Asia Satellite, envisaged in June 2014 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “India’s gift” to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The prime minister’s vision was to increase regional cooperation among SAARC countries by leveraging India’s capabilities in space technology. The satellite was launched by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on May 5, 2017.

Significance of the South Asia Satellite

The satellite is intended to support communication, broadcasting and Internet services, disaster management, telemedicine, tele-education, and weather forecasting in the whole of South Asia. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, along with India, stand to benefit from it and have welcomed the initiative, while Pakistan, acting as expected, aligned with its raison d'ĂȘtre of opposing India and opted out of this partnership. Most importantly, the satellite may achieve the objective of maintaining strategic ties with neighbors by catering to their economic requirements.
The South Asia satellite is funded entirely by India with the intention of benefitting all eight SAARC member countries. The launch represents India “walking the talk” and making a difference to the region using its abilities, successes, and resources. India’s success in space technology is commendable, and its stature as a serious player in space technology is already established. Also, India’s science and technology workforce have the reputation as being among the best in the world. South Asia now stands to benefit from the gains that India has made in these two areas, hopefully ushering in a new era of regional cooperation.
Immediately after the launch, Narendra Modi tweeted:

From Attraction to Influence

The launch of the South Asia satellite represents a wonderful integration of India’s “neighborhood-first” strategy with its traditional strengths and desired narrative. India is dominant in South Asia, but ironically the most pressing issues facing the country are those in its very neighborhood! This is true even though South Asia is culturally very close to the Indian nation-state. Surely, India’s story needs something more in addition to the current narratives that overwhelmingly focus on India’s culture, heritage, or economic promise, and it looks like the launch of the satellite provides the Indian public diplomacy necessary to create that.

One of the biggest gripes among certain areas in the region is the perception of India as a bully. Will this launch be considered an attempt by India to assert its dominance?

For the longest time, the narrative shaped by India’s established policy focused on “attraction” attributes like Indian culture and heritage. I have argued in the past for the need to move the needle and adopt “influence” attributes if India wants to project power and be perceived as a serious geopolitical player. Influence attributes that could work in South Asia include foreign aid, bilateral cooperation, leveraging Indian media conglomerates, non-state actors, and dominance in the sphere of ideas. It would be fantastic if India’s successes could be viewed as South Asia’s successes. This region has a population of 1.6 billion and presents an opportunity for India to lead these masses to realize their potential and move towards better lives. India’s achievements in human resources, governance, science and technology, media, and defense are great examples for the emerging world to emulate.
Speaking at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in 2014, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi echoed this sentiment when he said,
“Nowhere in the world are collective efforts more urgent than in South Asia; and, nowhere else is it so modest. Big and small, we face the same challenges - a long climb to the summit of development. But, I have great belief in our boundless potential…
 “India's gift of a satellite for the SAARC region will benefit us all in areas like education, telemedicine, disaster response, resource management, weather forecasting and communication.”

Challenges Ahead

A few years from now, when the world looks back at the launch of the South Asia satellite, it should vindicate India’s position and strengthen India’s story. The policy establishment would do well to plan for certain perception challenges such as:
  1. One of the biggest gripes among certain areas in the region is the perception of India as a bully. Will this launch be considered an attempt by India to assert its dominance?
  2. Pakistan and China. How are they interpreting the satellite, and how will they project it? I am sure the foreign policy and public diplomacy establishment in India have anticipated this and would be ready to counter it. I also hope they have factored in the Indian agenda which should be consistently maintained on this topic.
  1. The successes of the South Asia satellite need to be shared aggressively, especially using digital media, and ideally would spark the same interest that is generated when the media reports on inspiring space projects like the Mars Rover. These projects may not be similar, but stories of effort and impact should generate tremendous interest.
The South Asia satellite is a significant development in India’s quest to lead South Asia towards progress and development. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after the launch, “With this launch we have started a journey to build the most advanced frontier of our partnership. With its position high in the sky, this symbol of South Asian cooperation would meet the aspirations of economic progress of more than 1.5 billion people in our region and extend our close links into outer space.”

Wednesday

5 Public Diplomacy trends to watch out for in 2017

The world indeed looks very different as we start into the New Year. The rise of the conservative narrative across the world culminating in the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of United States ushers in very interesting times. 2017 might also be seen as the 'Big Crunch' of globalization. For PD enthusiasts, I have identified the following trends to watch out for:


1. Rise of RHETORIC:This year will be a year of competing narratives. Rhetoric will take centre stage as debates in the international stage would be fueled by nationalism than anything else. The focus of PD would be to secure validity for a certain school of thought more than "attracting" audiences.
2. POWER will take centre stage: This year might be turn out to be the best year for the PD profession. Instead of being seen as a 'good to have' function within foreign offices, PD might emerge as a major player in enhancing 'power'. As states vie for legitimacy and influence in a world that would be fragmented, instruments of PD and tools would be used in a more strategic manner instead of doing it adhoc. Among other things, it might mean more budgets. This will be an interesting puzzle for PD theorists to examine and how it would influence the evolution of the discipline.
3. PAID MEDIA will be the new normal: States will find ways to increasingly use paid media to create influence. There might be some ethical considerations in here, but what I am trying to say is instead of relying on 'earned' or 'owned' media, PD Divisions will be more proactive and rely increasingly on paid content. The 'post truth' era demonstrated to all of us the power of 'fake news'. More advanced media societies are more vulnerable to such influence and the reliance on paid media by the minor powers might be an increasing trend.


4. RISE OF THE OTHERS: The others, I mean the 'Non State Entities' would emerge as a significant instrument of PD policy. In some cases, they might want to create narratives and engage audiences on their own that would help their cause and may compete with state narratives.
5. Change in TONALITY: The 'feel good' will give way to the 'feel strong'. We will see a marked difference in the tonality of communication. 'Impress' will give way to 'Influence' and 'logic' will trump (pun intended) 'sentiment'. 2017 might be a year of great debates!

This year is going to be interesting. Trust me on that one!

-Suggestions/Critiques welcome.
Madhur

Thursday

"Culture is there, to be Shared - Not Sold" - SIMON ANHOLT


"... international public opinion favours countries that contribute to the common good of humanity, rather than countries which are merely successful, beautiful or powerful..."

- Simon Anholt

The recent Good Country Index had a surprise. India's rank under the category of "Culture" was a lowly 119 among the 163 countries that were surveyed. For India watchers like us this was indeed interesting given the huge interest in government and policy circles to promote Indian culture overseas as a component of Indian soft power. 


The Public Diplomacy Blog spoke to Simon Anholt on this aspect trying to understand why India ranked low on "Culture". Simon brings to the fore an important distinction between promotion of 'culture' versus 'cultural contribution' and there seems to be a good opportunity for India's creative economy to be internationally 'participative'.


The following is what Simon Anholt had to say:


How is 'culture' defined in the survey?

Simon: We follow the UNESCO definition of culture that incorporates cultural production, the creative industries and expressions of national/regional culture; we also consider how each country facilitates freedom of movement and freedom of expression in order to allow the production, sharing and dissemination of culture. As explained on the website at https://goodcountry.org/index/source-datathe way we ‘sample’ a country’s cultural contribution to the world in the Good Country Index is by combining the following datasets:

  • Creative goods exports: Exports of creative goods (UNCTAD's Creative Economy Report categorization) relative to the size of the economy.
  • Creative services exports: Exports of creative services (UNCTAD's Creative Economy Report categorization) relative to the size of the economy.
  • UNESCO dues in arrears as % of contribution: UNESCO dues in arrears as percentage of contribution (negative indicator).
  • Freedom of movement, i.e. visa restrictions: Number of countries and territories that citizens can enter without a visa (according to Henley & Partners).
  • Press freedom: Freedom of the press (based on mean score for Reporters without Borders and Freedom House index as a negative indicator).

Of course these five indicators don’t give a complete or exhaustive account of a country’s cultural output – it’s just a sample – but they’re the best and indeed the only suitable datasets we were able to find. 

Cultural expression just isn’t very fully measured internationally, and obviously we need data that’s collected in a consistent way, every year, in at least the 163 countries we cover in the Index. These five datasets were the only ones we could find that fitted the bill.

2. Indian government does a lot in promoting Indian culture and there is a tacit acceptance in policy and media circles that it is India's biggest soft power - and we see a lower rank for India as a whole. What is your comment on this?


Simon: I think they’re doing the right thing (although I would argue that simply ‘promoting’ one’s national culture isn’t a very Good Country thing to do: culture is there, after all, to be shared – not sold to people as a way of enhancing the country’s image). Of course a lot of this activity is 'unmeasurable' in a comparative survey like the Good Country Index, and this is one of the reasons why we are hoping to start producing more qualitative, in-depth, country-specific surveys in the near future: this will enable us to cover a lot of the activity in all seven categories that the Good Country Index is unable to measure.


3. Does the ranking reflect a perception by people of "culture" in the country or the state of culture in the country ?

Simon: Neither: the Good Country Index isn’t an opinion poll, it’s a measurement of reality; however it doesn’t directly reflect the state of culture in the country, it attempts to measure how much of that culture is shared internationally.
4. How do you think the ranking would impact India's perception?

Simon: My research over the last 15 years has consistently demonstrated that international public opinion favours countries that contribute to the common good of humanity, rather than countries which are merely successful, beautiful or powerful. So whilst a high ranking in the Good Country Index on its own is unlikely to affect public perceptions of the country, the good behavior that gives rise to that ranking certainly will. 

Simon Anholt


Suggestions/Critiques welcome.
- Madhur





Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...