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New Era Newspaper Tuesday August 15, 2017

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12 INDIAN INDEPENDENCE

12 INDIAN INDEPENDENCE Tuesday, August 15 2017 | NEW ERA `Social Media’ The Indian Success Story/ Twitter Diplomacy • VINEETA PANDEY Senior Editor, The Pioneer The world has discovered fast and furious ways of communicating and social media is prime among them. The Indian government has not only quickly adapted to the new technological revolution in connecting with people but has also taken the lead, which is why five of its Twitter handles figure among the top 10 most followed in the world. These are of Prime Minister Narendra Modi (@NarendraModi), his office (@PMOIndia), External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj (@ sushmaswaraj), Ministry of Eternal Affairs (@MEAIndia) and President of India (@Rashtrapatibvn). Modi has the third largest following on Twitter in the world and he is the highest following on Instagram. Swaraj is the most followed foreign minister in the world. MEA is among the top most followed government • CONSTANTINO XAVIER The emerging concept of India as a “first responder” reflects the country’s growing capability and increasing willingness to assume the role of a leading power. By contributing its resources to prevent or mitigate regional and international crises, India is demonstrating its commitment as a responsible actor in the international order. Beyond narrow self-interest, such contributions help project India’s soft power abroad and portray India in a positive light. They also reflect India’s expanding sphere of influence and capacity to shape events abroad. The international order is facing a variety of transnational challenges that occasionally erupt into acute crises. Whether it is a natural catastrophe, an Internet disruption, or a sudden financial shock, the repercussions are often massive, with regional and global implications. This is where individual states must take immediate action, to mitigate the crisis impact and avoid further escalation. By taking the lead, they are providing a public good to the international order, supporting smaller or less capable states in dire need of assistance. As the Indian economy surges on and the country emerges as one of the key actors in the international order, expectations are consequently growing about India’s capacity to provide such support as a first responder to crises beyond its borders. Commenting on this rising role, Foreign Secretary, Dr S. Jaishankar, thus emphasizes that India’s foreign policy dimension is “to aspire to be a leading power, rather than just a balancing power ... (and) a willingness to shoulder greater global responsibilities.” While the concept of “first responder” has generally been interpreted quite narrowly, focusing on humanitarian disasters, a broader offices in the world. Be it connecting with its citizens in a distress situation, facilitating documentations, visas, helping foreign nationals, or a means to connect with foreign leaders – the Indian government has made the most use of #Hashtag Diplomacy. In fact, in order to bridge the gap between government and people, Indian leaders and diplomats have perfected the art of speaking in 140 characters (on Twitter). India is one of the few countries that has all its missions and top diplomats highly active on Twitter, disseminating diplomatic news, information giving details of its initiatives and efforts apart from providing support to Indians abroad. In India, the revolutionary shift by the government and diplomacy to the social media platform took place in May 2014, when the NDA government under Modi took charge. Not only is PM Modi himself active on social media but his entire definition illustrates how India has played a crucial role in assuming these “global responsibilities” by responding to a variety of crises in its neighbourhood and beyond. This is particularly apparent in seven issue areas. NATURAL DISASTERS When the forces of nature unleash their fury on South Asia, the Indian government and military forces have played a critical role in supporting neighbouring countries in relief operations. After the 2004 tsunami, India deployed 14 Navy vessels, nearly 1 000 military personnel and several dozen helicopters and airplanes to Sri Lanka. In 2007, in the aftermath of cyclone Sidr, India was one of the few countries allowed to provide relief to Myanmar and provided critical rice supplies to address food emergencies there. In 2015, less than six hours after Nepal was rattled by a tragic earthquake taking almost 9 000 lives, the Indian Air Force flew in National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) rescue team. Over the next days, India lead on the ground, landing 32 flights with 520 tonnes of relief and more than fifty medical, Army engineering and other rescue operation teams. In 2014, the Indian Navy was the first to arrive in the Maldives to provide fresh drinking water to more than 150 000 of its citizens facing an acute supply crisis. More recently, in response to Cyclone More (2017), India was the first to respond to the devastating floods in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. As reflected in relief provided to Pakistan in 2005 and 2010, Indian support transcends political considerations and is driven by a deep humanitarian drive. EXPATRIATE EVACUATION OPERATIONS When crises erupt abroad, India is often the first on the ground to protect the lives and assets of its nationals. government has strong presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. PM terms use of social media as `Direct Dialing’ where the government interacts directly with its citizens and gets their response immediately. In a short span of three years, Modi has become the third most followed leader on Twitter (after Pope Francis and US President Donald Trump), with 32.1 million followers. According to ratings by Twiplomacy, Modi is the top most followed leader in Asia. He is also the most followed and effective world leader on Instagram with 6.8 million followers, closely followed by Trump (6.3 million). Each of Modi’s posts received on average 223 000 interactions, highest for all Instagram users. Modi’s Facebook (FB) page has 42 119 451 followers. PM effectively uses the platform to announce his visits to foreign countries and discuss the issue he By mobilizing its consular officers, New Delhi has also provided safe evacuation to citizens from other countries. In 2015, for example, India extricated almost 2 000 nationals from 48 different countries, including many from the European Union, the United States and neighbouring countries. The Ministry of External Affairs, Air India, and the Navy and Air Force have emerged as key actors in conflict zones, especially in the Indian Ocean and Gulf region, normally operating as first responders coming to the rescue of thousands of foreign nationals in distress. NON-TRADITIONAL SECURITY CHALLENGES The Indian Navy has emerged as the Indian Ocean’s default first responder to non-traditional security challenges. To combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden since 2008, it deployed almost thirty warships that have escorted more than 1500 ships and thwarted around thirty piracy attempts. India was a founder member of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) and has taken a lead role in coordination efforts among different naval forces in the region. When airplanes or ships go missing in its extended neighbourhood, India has often been among the first responders to participate in search and rescue missions. In 2014, the Indian Coast Guard deployed around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in initial efforts to locate the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. POST-CONFLICT RELIEF AND REHABILITATION India has often taken the lead in supporting countries going through post-conflict processes, which require expert resources and significant funding. After the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, in 2009, India provided more than US billion worth in lines of credit and grants for projects in education, health, plans to take up. He happily takes suggestions from people on their concerns. During his conversation with FB CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, Modi explained the importance of social media for his government saying he finds it as a guide to know about things, how it allows for accountability and provide governance instantly. Modi added that it helps government connect directly with its people, and get feed back on a real-time basis. Indian diplomacy that has traditionally lived a conservative, transport connectivity, and training. Focusing on relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction, India’s early efforts played a crucial role in facilitating Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan’s return to normalcy years of violent conflict. As one of the largest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping missions, India’s “blue helmets” have also served as first responders to mitigate dozens of conflicts around the world, leading efforts on the ground to facilitate stabilization and reconstruction. REGIME SUPPORT Whenever friendly governments face the risk of a coup or instability threatening regional security, India has often stepped in as a first support responder. In 1988, for example, in response to a request from the Maldives, India activated Operation Cactus to deploy its military and ensure regime continuity in Male. Located in one of the world’s most conflict-ridden regions, whenever requested by neighbouring countries, India has also played a constructive role in offering its mediation services to ensure peaceful and inclusive settlements. New Delhi is also a democratic first responder, deploying expert technical support to assist transitioning democracies to design their new constitutions and hold free and fair elections. FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE India plays a little-known but crucial role as a first responder in the region to support friendly governments facing financial crises. Under a special currency swap mechanism instituted in 2012, the Reserve Bank of India has provided critical assistance to the governments of Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka whenever they face foreign currency liquidity shortages. By coming to the rescue of their respective monetary authorities, New Delhi has demonstrated its commitment to financial stability protected life, has transformed itself to be the most active and interactive. Starting from Foreign Minister Swaraj, all Indian missions and embassies are actively present on the social media. EAM Swaraj is the world’s most followed foreign minister (8.75 million) while MEA’s Twitter handle remains the third most popular foreign ministries in the world on the social media with 1.42 million followers. MEA’s Public Diplomacy another Twitter handle @IndianDiplomacy has touched 1.3 million followers in a Responding First as a Leading Power and economic growth in the region, strengthening governance to wither crises. REFUGEE FLOWS Whenever people fear for their lives in South Asia, they often look up to India first. India has consistently provided an emergency safe haven for refugee and minority populations from across South Asia. Whether they are affected by violent conflict or any type of persecution, most displaced people’s routes to safety pass through India, taking advantage of its default open-door policy. Since 1947, this includes people from Tibet, East Pakistan, Afghanistan, Burma/ Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, leading the current UN Secretary General to speak of India’s refugee policy as a model for other countries. India’s contribution as a first responder in these areas above will continue to increase as its economy grows in size and openness. In his message to the heads of Indian missions abroad, in 2015, Prime Minister Modi thus “urged them to use this unique opportunity to help India position itself in a leading role, rather than just a balancing force, globally.”1 As India expands its horizons, it will keep stepping up to take the lead where other countries are reluctant, unwilling or incapable to do so. This first respondent tradition must be further studied and promoted, because it reflects India’s deep commitment to assume a driving role in the international order. And it will also have to be endowed with adequate resources and capabilities for India to move even quicker and farther beyond its borders. * (Constantino Xavier is a Fellow at Carnegie India and can be contacted on cxavier@ceip.org)

Tuesday, August 15 2017 | NEW ERA INDIAN INDEPENDENCE 13 short span and together @MEAIndia and @IndianDiplomacy have 2.7 million people actively engaged with Indian diplomats, taking digital diplomacy to a new height. MEA’s passport division’s Twitter handle @ passportsevamea and @CPVIndia (belonging to senior official handling passport division) is another major hit among people to resolve delays and other issues relating to the travel document. Besides, the two Ministers of States – VK Singh and MJ Akbar too remain highly active and popular on the Twitter having 1 million and 90 000 followers, respectively. MEA’s activities on other social networking sites are equally impressive. On FB, Swaraj’s has 2 853 852 followers and MEA’s is followed by 2 030 480 people. MEA particularly has created a mechanism where action begins in less than 24 hours on all grievances and issues are usually sorted out within the next few hours. All messages are handled with a sense of urgency, acknowledged and resolved in no time. This has not only generated a great deal of confidence among the citizens, but also created an environment for effective governance, empowered people, removed red-tapism, and made grievance redressal faster. Besides, a clear message has been sent that an Indian stranded on foreign soil, or needing the help of the government will not be left alone at God’s mercy. “People feel empowered about the thought that if you find yourself in a difficult situation abroad, you can send a tweet to your foreign minister, embassy asking for help — with the very real expectation that they will respond and help you,” Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center told the Quartz India magazine. Swaraj’s Twitter handle is an active 24x7 office in itself where a lot of activity takes place. She effectively uses Twitter to help Indians and foreigners who need help. She is swarmed with requests for visas, passport, rescue calls not only from Indians but sometimes foreign nationals. The minister has a record of responding in no time, sometimes even at odd timings like 02h00 and 04h00. Be it rebuking Amazon to withdraw the flip flops and doormats having Mahatma Gandhi’s picture, or processing last-minute passport [applications] for a honeymooning couple – India has an #active FM. Possibly that is why some use Twitter to resolve their household problems. One person tweeted Swaraj to help him with a faulty fridge. Swaraj responded: “Brother, I cannot help you in matters of a refrigerator. I am very busy with human beings in distress.” Another humoured: “I am stuck on Mars, food sent via Mangalayan (987) days ago is running out. When is Mangalayan II being sent?” Pat came her response: “Even if you are stuck on the Mars, Indian Embassy there will help you” – a statement that has now become the catch word for Indian diplomacy. Swaraj also uses the platform to deliver political messages to foreign countries – sometimes extending a hand of friendship and sometimes rebuking them like she did to Pakistan Foreign Advisor Sartaz Aziz recently. The Indian success story is evident not only by the increasing number of followers but also the increasing number of issues addressed effectively and in a faspaced manner. Social media was the most effective way to reach out to the government, whether it was the humongous rescue mission in Yemen, or saving stranded Indian seafarers in UAE, rescue operations against sea pirates, or bringing back abducted Indians, responding to earthquake in Nepal, helping out Indians in distress. “Diplomacy in an age of social media is beginning to leave its ozone chamber, its protected past, to become interactive, better networked and more people-centred and peoplefriendly… Indian embassies and diplomatic missions across the world are active on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter these days and what was considered as a no-go for Indian officialdom until a few years ago is now de rigeur,” former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said at a speech delivered at UNESCO in Paris, [France]. An active Indian government on social media has also kept people updated about foreign relations. From sending naval ship to Maldives, swift response during Nepal earthquake, supporting Afghanistan in its development and reconstruction, forcefully putting forth India’s concerns at diplomatic fora and so on. Social media is also a fresh way to connect with world leaders breaking typical diplomatic protocols. PM Modi uses the platform to directly connect with other foreign partners in a more informal setup. Modi used Weibo to connect with the Chinese President Xi Jinping. He tweeted in Japanese to connect with its leader Shinzo Abe. Congratulated Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Hebrew and got response in Hindi. Besides, there were selfies with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull in Delhi Metro, Chinese PM Li Keqiang, and with Fiji PM Frank Bainimarama shared on social media that made complicated body language in diplomacy easier for a common man to understand. Thanks to social media, Twitter Diplomacy or #Hashtag Diplomacy is the new face of Indian Diplomacy: Fast, furious and effective. • PALLAVA BAGLA New Delhi, India has a rich tradition of using outer space as a tool for national development. The poorest of the poor have always been the beneficiaries of India’s space technologies, from farmers to fisher folk Indian satellites touch the lives of almost the entire 1.3 billion population. As India celebrates its seventieth birthday it has already entered the golden era of space technology, sectors like satellite television, banking, smart city development, weather forecasting, smart phones, e-governance, satellite aided navigation are all catering to India’s unending appetite to deploy high technology to ease the life of the common man. India’s quest for space has been pioneered by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) set up in 1969 and today has an annual budget of about US.4 billion. The country has a constellation of 44 satellites in orbit and can now on its own launch up to four tonnes of communication satellites into orbit. This gives India end-to-end capabilities in space technology from making its own satellites to launching its own rockets and has even sent an Indian-made satellite Mangalyaan or the Mars Orbiter Mission all the way to the Mars travelling a distance of over 200 million kilometres. The journey for ISRO began from the humble fishing village of Thumba on the coast of the Arabian Sea where the scientists used the premises of a church to set up the first rocket launch facilities and the first rockets were carried on bicycles and first satellites pulled in on bullock carts. Today India’s heaviest rocket the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III (GSLV MK III) also lovingly named `Bahubaali’ weighs a whopping 640 tonnes or the weight of more than 200 fully Reaching for the stars, India’s quest for the outer space: Aryabhata to Mangalyaan grown elephants. This elegant rocket had its maiden launch on 5 June 2017 when it launched a communications satellite GSAT-19 into orbit and promises to become the mainstay for all heavy lifts. The first satellite to be launched by India was way back in 1972 when the 360 kilogram Aryabhata satellite named after India’s legendary mathematician was lifted into orbit from the erstwhile USSR. This space science satellite paved the way for ISRO to reach for the stars. In the next few months this year India hopes to launch its heaviest ever satellite GSAT-11 that will weigh about 5 725 kilograms. By launching `Bahubaali’ the Indian space agency entered into a bold new world muscling its way to make its mark in the world’s heavy weight multi-billion dollar launch market. ISRO chairman Dr A S Kiran Kumar a man of modest words said `we pushed ourselves to the limits to ensure that this new fully self-reliant Indian rocket succeeds in its maiden launch’. This heavy lift rocket is capable of placing up to 8 tonnes in a low Earth orbit, enough to carry India’s crew module. Incidentally, what may please Prime Minister on India Narendra Modi a known space buff is that this launch has `made in India boldly written all over it’. ISRO has already prepared plans of hoisting a 2-3 member human crew into space as soon as the government gives it a sanction of about 3-4 billion dollars. The expectation is that the ISRO friendly Modi may want to leave his own stamp on history by initiating the human space flight program before the end of his first term in 2019. India would become only the fourth country after Russia, USA and China to have a human space flight programme. Incidentally ISRO asserts the first Indian to go into space could well be a woman! Kumar confirms “in principle it will be the GSLV Mk-3 or its variant that will be human rated in future”. India already has two operational rockets the workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) that can hoist satellites of 1.5 tonnes into space and was the preferred vehicle for India’s maiden mission to Moon and Mars. The second the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark II can hoist 2-tonne class of satellites. Between them, ISRO has done 50 launches and recently even earned a world record by successfully placing 104 satellites in orbit, beating an old Russian record of hoisting 39 satellites in a single mission. This year, India embarked on space diplomacy like never before. For the first time New Delhi flexed its prowess of space technology by embarking on an unprecedented and un-chartered `stratospheric diplomacy’ through a special Rs 450 crore gift for south Asians. India carved a very unique place in the universe, when New Delhi `gifted’ a heavy weight bird in the sky to its neighbours through the `South Asia Satellite’. India opened its heart out by extending its neighbourhood first policy beyond the stratosphere. This `gift’ of a communications satellite for use by neighbours at no cost has no parallels in the space fairing world, all other current regional consortia are commercial for-profit enterprises. The `South Asia Satellite’ is a 2 230kg satellite is purely a communications satellite costing Rs 235 crores. The uniqueness of this satellite is that it has a footprint that extends all over South Asia and India gifted this heavenly messenger to its neighbours. The South Asia Satellite has 12 Ku band transponders which India’s neighbours can now utilise to increase communications. Each country will get access to at least one transponder through which they could beam their own programming and there could be common `south Asian programing’ as well. Each country is developing its own ground infra-structure though India is willing to extend assistance and know-how. According to the government, the satellite will “enable a full range of applications and services to our neighbours in the areas of telecommunication and broadcasting applications viz. television, direct-to-home (DTH), very small aperture terminals (VSATs), tele-education, telemedicine and disaster management support”. The satellite also has the capability to provide secure hot lines among the participating nations in addition since the region is highly prone to earthquakes, cyclones, floods, tsunamis it may help in providing critical communication links in times of disasters. In this unusual message of peace, India’s most hostile neighbour Pakistan has fully opted out. Rest of the seven countries part of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are part of this mission. Experts say, “Pakistan has missed an opportunity” since its own space programme is currently in a primitive stage as compared to India’s. Hopefully friendly skies can result in reduced hostilities on In 2013, India launched the Mangalyaan the country’s first mission to Mars and it hit Bulls Eye when on 24 September 2014 it entered the orbit of Mars and India made global history by becoming the first country to reach the orbit of Mars on its maiden attempt, a fact that eluded global giants like USA and Russia. Made for a nominal mission life of 180 days this year the Mangalyaan completed 1 000 days in orbit and continues to beam back data and some of its images like those of the full disc of Mars are so good that they featured on the cover of the venerated National Early next year, India plans to hoist its second mission to the Moon, Chandrayaa-2, which will include landing its flag on the lunar surface on an indigenous rover. Continuing missions are also planned for Venus Human space flight is also in the offing, India’s latest rocket the GSLV Mk III could be India’s vehicle of choice to launch “Indians into space, from Indian soil using Indian rockets”. This is only the beginning, reaching for the stars and exploring the wonders of the universe are all on the horizon but whatever it does India’s common person will continue to reap the (Pallava Bagla is a globally recognised Indian science journalist and author of book `Reaching for the Stars: India’s Journey to Mars and Beyond’ published by Bloomsbury. He can be reached at namely Afghanistan, Nepal, Earth. Geographic magazine. with inter-planetary exploration and a re-visit to Mars. maximum benefits of India’s capabilities in space. Pallava.bagla@gmail.com)

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