Tag Archives: Nirupama Rao

Definitions, definitions, definitions

By Maya Babla

Welcome to INDIA: INSIDE OUT. To learn more about what this project is all about, please click here.

This project conceives of public diplomacy as being conducted by governments, but also by NGOs and the private sector. That said, “official” definitions offered by governments provide a useful starting place for discussion.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) writes in its Mission Statement that,

“The Public Diplomacy Division seeks to create a better understanding of India and its foreign policy concerns. We intend to put in place a system that enables us to engage more effectively with our citizens in India and with global audiences that have an interest in foreign policy issues.”

As defined by the Department of State, the mission of American public diplomacy is:

“to support the achievement of U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives, advance national interests, and enhance national security by informing and influencing foreign publics and by expanding and strengthening the relationship between the people and government of the United States and citizens of the rest of the world.”

There are two key differences between these definitions:

1. While the US definition privileges the achievement of US foreign policy goals, Indian public diplomacy is primarily focused on articulating who India is, and what her role is on the global stage. This is what Indian MP Shashi Tharoor called for last year: “a positive and forward-looking strategy that projects a vision of India in the world, that helps define and shape what is increasingly being called Brand India.”

2. Secondly, the MEA definition includes both foreign and domestic audiences, a signal of what Tharoor cited as the “need for an informed, engaged citizenry to face up to the responsibilities of being a global player in the 21st century.”

Nirupama Rao, when she was Foreign Secretary, suggested that as an emergent power, and as the world’s largest democracy, India must be heard—and if it does not communicate itself in a compelling and clarion way, it will be drowned out by other voices. The first few minutes of her remarks, below, are worth watching:

In advancing that “public diplomacy is a public good, for the public good,” she gets towards the definition that I will use in approaching this project.

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