In 2006, India’s Ministry of External Affairs established a new Public Diplomacy Division aimed to “educate and influence global and domestic opinion on key policy issues and project a better image of the country commensurate with its rising international standing.” The overarching goal of the division corresponds with India’s efforts to earn a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and aims to ultimately portray the nation as a rising power of undeniable international significance and influence.
Why is it important today?
The 21st century is characterised by globalisation, assertive public opinion, an ever present 24x7 media and Web 2.0 technology. This combination lends increased significance to public diplomacy.
Although the Indian govt has recognized the importance of public diplomacy, there is much work to be done. In a recent conference on the issue some ideas of relevance were agreed upon:-
- public diplomacy and “new public diplomacy” (which uses social media tools for reaching younger audiences) need to be situated in the post-Cold War context- with a clear trend towards multipolarity.
- the message nevertheless retains its significance: if it is not clear and credible, it will not get through. The former Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, suggested that while “Incredible India” has been a great campaign, what we needed was to project a “credible India.”
- the link between public diplomacy and foreign policy formulation is inextricable. If policy is flawed, projection alone cannot help. Therefore, senior public diplomacy officials should have a seat on the policy-making table.
- thinking about how to put across one's message has undergone a fundamental change. The advice now is to transcend government-to-public communication and, instead, focus on two-way communication, on “advancing conversations.” Perhaps this perspective led the MEA to establish an interactive website, a Twitter channel, a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, a BlogSpot page and a presence in online publishing sites like Scribd and Issuu.
- the concept of nation branding is highly relevant to the task of projecting India.
- the striking disconnect between India's self-perception and the world's view should be addressed. The MEA would do well to use all its weaponry of public diplomacy to increase our awareness of the world and India's place in it. It must sustain its initiatives to project India's soft power.
Involved Agencies of GOI
ICCR- The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), established by the government in 1950, is responsible for augmenting India’s international reputation through cultural promotion and exchange. It manages cultural centers in twenty countries, and its activities include:
§ Administration of scholarship programs for overseas students
§ Exchange of cultural exhibitions and performing arts groups
§ Establishing and maintaining Chairs and Professorships for Indian Studies Abroad
§ Organization of lectures, seminars
§ Distribution of a publications including six quarterly journals in five different languages and a number of books on a wide range of subjects relating to Indian culture. The Council also produced media material, namely DVDs and CDs, on Indian dance and music.
§ Hosting the Incoming and Outgoing Distinguished Visitors Programs, and facilitating their interaction with institutions and audiences.
Particular emphasis is placed on “developing and maintaining contacts with the local citizens, particularly students, teachers, academicians, opinion-makers and cultural personalities to project a holistic picture of India’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.”
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting – manages the govt’s strategic use of media. Important media outlets are All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan (DD). All India Radio is one of India’s most visible media initiatives, broadcasting both nationally and abroad. Reflecting the nation’s diversity, AIR’s internal services cover 24 languages and 146 dialects. Its external services, which aim to project a positive political and cultural image of India abroad as well as to connect with India’s international Diaspora, reach over 100 countries in 27 languages with daily broadcasts.
The Ministry’s Films Division and Directorate of Film Festivals. Film diplomacy has been particularly important in improving India-Pakistan relations.
The Directorate of Field Publicity is responsible for the promotion of government policies and participation within India through film shows, song and drama, photo exhibitions, group discussions, seminars, symposia, rallies and various competitions like debates, drawing, rural sports etc. The DFP is also mandated to promote the people’s participation in the development activities, particularly at the grassroots level, and to provide a forum to the people to express their views and reactions on the various national programs and project the feedback to the Government.”
The Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) produces multimedia advertising and publicity for the government and its policies. The DAVP’s campaigns largely focus on issues of local and national importance such as national unity, health care, rural development, and social welfare, among others.
Press Information Bureau- Handling of press relations to present the policies of the Government of India and to get feedback on government policies.
Brand India, is managed by India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), a partnership between the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, and the Confederation of Indian Industry.
The Foundation's “primary objective is to build positive economic perceptions of India globally. It aims to effectively present the India business perspective and leverage business partnerships in a globalizing market-place.” To this end the Foundation has developed a number of promotional campaigns, including brochures, films, print ads, and panels which emphasize India’s strong economy and encourage national and international investment.
With an estimated 30 million Indians living abroad, particular attention has been paid to efforts aimed at encouraging dialogue in the international Indian community for the benefit of the nation’s interests. Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is major annual event that encourages the involvement of the Diaspora community in the development of their homeland. The government also hosts the Know India Program (KIP) through the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. KIP focuses on connecting the younger generation of Indians living abroad to Indian heritage and culture.
India’s use of sport as a diplomatic tool garnered particular attention in its relations with Pakistan. The two nations, which had long sparred over religion, ideology, and military conflict, engaged in what was quickly labeled “cricket diplomacy” during the 2004 India-Pakistan test cricket series. More recently PM Singh invited PM Gilani to watch the India vs. Pakistan semi-final of the Cricket World Cup. This was the first meeting of the two teams after the Mumbai attacks and imparted a positive note to the ongoing discussions between the two governments.