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Paper: The role of global media and how governments can strengthen Australian–Indian relations through strategic communications

The following is an abstract of a paper I recently presented at an international PD conference  - "Public Diplomacy in Theory and Practice: Culture, Information and Interpretation in Australian-Indian Relations" - at the India International Centre, New Delhi, on April 8th. Do email me your observations/critiques, if any.


An analysis of the role of global media and how Governments can strengthen Australian–Indian relations through strategic communications

Australian-Indian relations were severely tested recently over unprovoked violence against Indians in 2009 and early 2010. The issue revealed the central role of media in international relations today. Indian newspapers - Mail Today, The Times of India etc., - aggressively reported on the issue and made the Australians defensive, and, Government of India to react as per media’s analysis of events. This reflected a lack of
 - Media relations strategy &
- Realization by both governments about pervasiveness of “conversations in media” today.
This paper argues how governments need to be imaginative, strategic and adopt a campaign approach to media relations when it comes to public diplomacy.
Be it the angry rebuttal by Victoria Police or India’s foreign minister’s veiled threats to Australia, the official reactions lacked direction. The problem was further exacerbated by inherent limitation in government communications which are mostly “one way” and seen as “less credible” and “defensive” vis-a-vis media in democracies. Besides, both governments failed in communicating effectively to domestic audiences on the issue. The solution lies in governments understanding role of
- Global media relations,
- Diverse players in a “conversation economy,” and,
- Adopting a “campaign approach” with tools used effectively by the private sector 

There is a convergence of strategic interests between both countries. Bilateral relationships, trade, people to people contacts have never been so good. Both have an interest in the stability of Asia and preventing Chinese dominance of Asia.Keeping in mind the synergies, it is a cause for alarm when The Times of India recently reported that there has been a 46% drop in the number of student visa applications to Australia.While certain sections in India may feel vindicated, it holds significant implications when it comes to building a strategic partnership with Australia as student exchanges are a key to building “generational flesh and blood linkages.” Hence, it is important for governments to shape the debate successfully in the media to encourage people to people exchanges.

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur
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