Even as the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan began their discussions on contentious bilateral issues, people across the border have also been keeping an eagle eye on another of the External Affairs Ministry’s initiative.
Pakistanis now account for the biggest chunk of subscribers to MEA’s public diplomacy Facebook page (facebook.com/indiandiplomacy). Out of the over 62,000 Facebook ‘likes’ to the page, nearly 13,000 are from Pakistan.
Similarly, when analysed, according to number of subscribers in cities, Lahore and Karachi are on the second and third position of the list, with over 3,200 and 3,000 subscribers respectively. Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka has the highest concentration of subscribers to the MEA’s Facebook page, with 6,200 subscribers.
Interestingly, the second highest subscribers to the page are from Indonesia, which is not a surprise to social media watchers, as Indonesians are known to be the highest users of various social media platforms. Indians are only the fourth biggest group, pipped to the post by more than 6,000 Bangladeshis.
For the ministry, July 8 will mark the anniversary when the foreign office debuted on a social media platform with its first tweet.
In fact, ministry officials acknowledge that its two-year foray has been remarkably successful, despite initial scepticism.
“We are very open on who we are. But even then to find so many people on so many platforms to ‘like’ us, that’s significant. It shows that there is prima facie a lot of interest in India,” said MEA Joint Secretary (public diplomacy) Navdeep Suri.
India’s digital diplomacy drive is only a two-men show, with Suri supported by a young undersecretary, Abhay Kumar.
Besides, the main flagship page of Indian diplomacy, the MEA public diplomacy division operates two more pages, India is and Indiafrica. All three together have now total subscribers of over 160,000.
While ‘India is’ was a ministry initiative for a global video and photo competition, Indiafrica is a platform for collaboration and competition for young Indians and Africans.
“We have been able to grow so fast that we have got strong corporate interests. ‘India is’ is being partnered by Google, Conde Nast group, Taj Group and Incredible India. We are also in advanced talks with corporate groups for Indiafrica,” said Suri.
He pointed out that besides the weekly eyeball figures, all these pages had a staggering potential reach of over 50 million.
Almost over 70 Indian embassies and consulates also have now migrated onto their own dedicated Facebook pages, informing the networked indian community of regular and special event in their regions.
The twitter account, indiandiplomacy, has got over 30,000 followers. In fact, MEA officials have been rather efficient in using the platform, with the MEA official spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin quick to take advantage of the ‘real-time’ nature of the platform.
Interestingly, after observing the success of MEA’s digital diplomacy, other government organs have now become enthusiasts of social media, from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Press Information Bureau.