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Foreign policy hijacked on social media

These are indeed unprecedented times in more ways than one. Call it the power of social media: it brought out such a penchant for instant opinion-making that at times the old structures are struggling to keep up.

Published: 29th August 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th August 2018 01:08 AM   |  A+A-

These are indeed unprecedented times in more ways than one. Call it the power of social media: it brought out such a penchant for instant opinion-making that at times the old structures are struggling to keep up. US President Donald Trump’s decisions are often to be discovered on everyone’s favourite micro-blogging site than in White House briefings. Our own PM is also active on Twitter, though he has not gone down the route of indicating policy decisions on social media.

External affairs, the only domain where the Centre has exclusive purview, is most at risk in this changed environ. One does not have to wait for artificial intelligence to pose a real threat, as the ex-RAW chief Vikram Sood warned in his new book; one can see the country’s diplomacy getting hijacked on social media. Maldives has not taken kindly to a prominent voice from the Indian ruling dispensation issuing an ‘invasion’ threat on Twitter.

The fact that Subramanian Swamy met Mohamed Nasheed, the ousted Maldives leader, in Colombo just prior to his inflammatory tweet added to it. Not that Maldives has not been acting up of late, denying work permit to Indians etc. But Swamy’s rather sharp messaging had the MEA running for cover and Ambassador Akhilesh Mishra was left firefighting. 

Earlier, the BJP’s garrulous and not always well-informed IT cell head Amit Malviya was found muddying the flood waters in a tweet, where he not only called the UAE offer of `700 crore to Kerala ‘fake’ but described it the sign of a ‘Communist-Islamist’ nexus! Thankfully, bilateral ties have not been hit, beyond a few sarcastic but tangential tweets by the UAE ruler.

This laissez-faire market of opinions is an unnerving place. Not that opinions should not be expressed, but unnuanced articulation is becoming the norm. Witness how Rahul Gandhi thought it fit to discuss Doklam and Sino-Indian ties while in the UK. Maybe it’s time for collective introspection. Perhaps the PM should call the leaders of his own party and the Opposition for a meeting to draw a line somewhere.



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