Saturday

Towards a broader understanding of Public Diplomacy

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The recent controversy between India and China over the alleged intrusions by Chinese soldiers into Indian territory, disregarding the LAC (Line of Actual Control), attracted considerable media attention in both countries. China claimed these were baseless allegations by the Indian media, designed to discredit China and whip up anti China sentiments in India. The Chinese envoy, accustomed to a state controlled media at home, was reported to have asked the Indian media to listen to its leaders (The Hindustan Times). The China Daily is reported to have said in an editorial, "If you are a regular reader of reports in the Indian media, you can be excused for thinking a war is imminent between India and China. For the past few months, the Indian media have been trying to fan passions on both sides." I found another news item in Zee News where Chinese leaders asked Indian media to exercise restraint.

The wide reporting on this issue on both sides of the border highlights the key role of the media in international relations today. State actors are forced to react to situations/opinions formed as a result of media’s reporting and that creates a situation where media relations, media perception audits, media analysis becomes crucial professional skills that diplomats need.

As I had written before, the understanding of Public Diplomacy needs to be broadened and go beyond attractiveness of a nation’s brand, norms and values as explained by Joseph Nye. Perception includes all these and anything other than that. Public Diplomacy is not about charming alone, but also, has a lot to do with shaping and managing perceptions and INFLUENCE.

ATTRACTIVENESS → INFLUENCE

Indian policy establishment also need to move from focusing on “attractiveness” to “influence” if it’s serious about donning a larger role in the international system. Like global media, other elements like business, non-governmental actors, investment diplomacy et al need to co opted into a broader public diplomacy strategy. China is successfully doing it and results are there for all to see.

Suggestions/critiques welcome.

Madhur

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