Public Diplomacy and Anti-War

Alvin Toffler in his fascinating book "War and Anti-War" talks about how conflict prevention will be of crucial importance to countries in the 21st century. He believes the end of the Cold War has made the world more dangerous and talks at length how nations, advanced powerful economies would strive for "peace through "technology, communication & human innovation." In an increasingly networked and interdependent world prevention of conflicts has become more important rather than gaining geo-strategic advantages by means of force.
Public Diplomacy has become an important strategic tool for countries to prevent conflicts and maintain a status quo in international relations. Case is point is maybe China. Recent news stories on China feature Chinese leaders harping on the "peaceful rise" of China. This is an idea that is communicated again & again. A rising China is not a threat to anybody. Once a country's influence expands beyond its traditional sphere, conflicts are bound to arise as it competes 'within' the spheres of influence of other countries. Chinese Public Diplomacy efforts are increasingly geared towards negating this perception. Recently the country has also launched the news paper Global Times, which many critics feel is nothing but a propaganda tool.
A more "moral" approach might be of the UN which through its aid programs and peacekeeping operations has long been an advocate of strengthening Public Diplomacy for conflict prevention. India has always played a significant role in UN's peacekeeping operations. The country however needs a strategic roadmap to conduct a "charm campaign" in its turbulent conflict ridden neighborhood & Indian Ocean region.
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Communicating Security & Territorial Integrity - India's Public Diplomacy Challenge

India's image as a safe destination has taken a beating recently post 26/11 Mumbai attacks. We saw the IPL shifted out of India, Australian Davis Cup team cancelling visits to India, travel advisories being issued by countries against India. I am sure common people from other countries cancelled/temporarily suspended trips or businesses with India too.
Terror, insurgency, political violence and militancy has been a part of India's history. Be it the Naga insurgency (oldest in the country), Kashmiri separatism, Naxal movement, Islamic terrorism - India has been bled continuously all these decades since independence. Apart from the economic, social and political costs it severely dents India's image as:
  • A country at peace with itself
  • A secure place to live and conduct business in
  • A country that has successfully managed to preserve its territorial integrity and will succeed in the future by successfully accomodating diversity and regional demands
  • A stable democratic polity that 'listens' and is capable of ensuring liberty and prosperity for all

While these movements may or may not be results of genuine grievances, what goes without saying is that it affects India's standing in the world. We get to read in the news regularly about countries raising issues about India's human rights record in Kashmir, don't we? How can a country claim a larger role in international relations if it's own house is not in order? This is a message that might go out through the news media . Take for example the recent Maoist attacks in Lalgarh. It got space in media outlets all over the world, almost conjuring up an image of India as a 'disturbed' state:

Read the coverage in the following:

BBC World, Al Jazeera, Daily Times of Pakistan, Xinhua, Global Times -Chinese propaganda machine

Public Diplomacy initiatives should definitely need to measure the impact of such messages and also have active plans/crisis communications network in place to neutralise the impact of such messages. A strategic approach should also look at how India can get mileage of out such messages and explore possibilities to leverage it for geo-political advantage. The US, for example, successfully used 9/11 imagery and coverage to it's advantage and continues to do still.

It's interesting that there is a wikipedia page on Lalgarh conflict. Hope South Block Mandarins monitor information in the social media sphere regarding domestic developments as well.
-- Madhur
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New Zealand Education - Perspectives in Public Diplomacy

India is a lucrative market for the international education industry. For institutions of higher education from Australia and New Zealand, growth depends on the influx of students from India and China. All these countries (primarily English speaking nations) have set up representative offices across Indian cities to aggressively promote their education among Indian students. US remains the first choice, now New Zealand too has joined the bandwagon.

A friend of mine, publicist of one such education promotion agency, asked me over breakfast what can New Zealand possibly do to promote itself among Indian students. While I am not sure about the capabilities of NZTE and the resources they have to undertake a branding exercise, I think the following pointers might be useful:
  • New Zealand is clubbed with Australia by Indians. There is a need to "de-link"/differentiate itself from Australia. NZ can provide a more enriching student experience given the great outdoors and being a relatively 'uncrowded' place.
  • There is a perception that it's easier to get admissions in NZ compared to say US. This might result in bright students keeping away. This is potentially negative.
  • US is considered by Indians the nerve centre of the's 'happening'... while New Zealand is "Down Under." This is an image constraint and the truth needs to be told. Messages should focus on the "international nature" of the education.
  • A media audit of newspapers in New Delhi showed that media exercises are limited to publicity for education fairs and trade shows. A media relations campaign that is sustained should be carried out to occupy mindshare among Indian students. At this moment I think they would be better off if they focus on nothing but a PR campaign.
  • A media relations campaign should take account of the fact that, rarely there have been stories about successes from New Zealand education. Rutherford who split the atom was from Auckland University. I think very few Indians know it. There should aggressive demonstration of successes that New Zealand education has produced, and these should be primarily Indian examples. Not just testimonials but media stories.

I am curious about the country myself and look forward to visiting it someday. Had there been no cricketing ties I am sure Indians would have known absolutely nothing about the country.

-- Madhur

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