Historically, after the invention of the printing press in Europe; the communication with the foreign publics was potentially altered. At the end of the Middle Ages, the Venetians had already introduced the systematic dissemination of newsletters inside their own diplomatic service. Under ancient regimes, the French started rebuilding their country image abroad than other European powers. Identity creation and image projection as well as nation branding became peak under Louis XIV and similarly in other countries like Turkey had also followed it aftermath of the Ottoman Empire.
Public diplomacy (PD) is a ever expanding field. PD doesn’t have a one line definition. However, according to Nicolas Cull; he had mentioned 5 elements of PD: Listening, Advocacy, Cultural Diplomacy, Exchange diplomacy and International Broadcasting (IB). According to Center on Public Diplomacy “PD has been widely seen as a transparent means by which a sovereign country communicates with publics in other countries aimed at informing and influencing audiences overseas for the purpose of promoting the national interest and advancing its foreign policy goals.”
These 5 elements has been now effectively conducted via use of internet; famously known as digital diplomacy. When British Prime Minister Palmerston had reported reaction of “My God, this is the end of diplomacy” after receiving the first telegraph message in 1850’s from Foreign Ministry. Such reaction was obvious when diplomatic letters used to travel manually from country to country in longer period. And, Telegraph invention had made long distance transfer of textual message easier rather than physical exchange of an object bearing the message. PD from the time of Telegraph to the time of Social Media; it has changed drastically. Before the audience was generally a specified person of foreign service but today PD has been targeted to pro-grassroots overseas. These grassroots are probably a university graduates, local entrepreneurs or veteran who get influenced and impressed by the specific country’s image and ultimately wants to visit, study, work, or migrate there.
Underlining these realities, today digital platforms are widely used to conduct PD. It is being used because it has a wider coverage and message can be transmitted within a second-minute than traditional PD method like meeting people, organizing cultural show, events. PD implementation via digital platforms is cheap and very less time consuming than traditional PD conduction method. In the case of Nepal, the US Embassy is using Social Media(Twitter & Facebook) widely comparing to any Embassies based in Kathmandu, Nepal to conduct PD.
PD by the US Embassy in Nepal via Twitter
The US Embassy in Nepal is forefront in conducting PD via use of digital tools. The US Embassy in Nepal regularly uses Embassy’s Facebook page, Twitter and Ambassador’s Twitter handle to conduct PD. The US Embassy in Nepal has around 4.1 Million Likes on Facebook (till date)whereas Indian Embassy in Nepal has around 100k likes(till date). Also, British Embassy in Nepal has around 76,000 likes(till date) on Facebook. Similarly, the US Embassy in Nepal has 402.5k(till date) followers on Twitter, and Indian Embassy in Nepal has 67.4K(till date) followers. The US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry personal Twitter handle has 187.8k(till date) followers whereas Chinese Ambassador to Nepal personal Twitter handle has 22.3k(till date) followers. Interestingly, the Facebook likes of Nepali Embassy USA has 4956 likes(till date) and 850 followers(till date) on Twitter. This shows, the US PD implementation via digital tools is very much effective comparing to Nepali Embassy in DC. The one who engages more on PD gets more chance to promote its national interest. And, in this front the US is getting more grounds than Nepali Embassy in DC. Despite the fact that, developing world like Nepal should have to engage more on digital platforms to promote its national interest in the Washington D.C(which is the apex location for formulating the US foreign policies affecting globally).
American Ambassador/Embassy in Nepal not only promoting PD via Twitter but also showing indirect symbol of proxy war in Nepali land between the US & China. After Chinese president Xi visit to Nepal on Oct 12, 2019; American Ambassador(Amb.) had Tweeted “It’s almost been a year since I’ve returned to Nepal, & along with amazing culture & natural beauty, Nepali food never disappoints! My two faves are momos in Boudha and DalBhat in Mustang! #WorldFoodDay.
Interestingly, Amb. Randy Berry rightly pointed the names of these two places which has a geopolitical importance for Nepal. These are the places where there is the strong secretive presence of China and America—whether it is a perceived CIA backed Khampas movement of Mustang in 1960’s or Free Tibet Movement protestors arrested in Boudha, Kathmandu. Both places are interest area of the US & Chinese foreign policies. Amb. Randy Berry had used Twitter in multiple occasions to conduct PD in Nepal. His Tweet is generally from promoting Nepali culture, festivals, Traditions, the US signature strategy known as Indo-Pacific Strategy(IPS) to the issue of women empowerment. He had even started communicating with general public in Twitter despite reservation from Nepal’s foreign ministry. He acts like a Nepali political leaders who visit places of Nepal and receives public warm welcome. Being a political man from Washington; he had hit the right nailed on PD to impress and influence Nepali public.
His few popular Tweets are as mentioned below:
What is the Indo-Pacific Strategy? It is our broad approach to economic, security & governance engagement in this region. In short, it’s our way of saying that we’re committed to this region & that we will always uphold & support a free, fair, & rules-based international order.
What was the best part of my Nepalgunj trip? Tough question! But the most delicious part was definitely my visit to Mubarak Biryani!
To support the #VisitNepal2020 campaign, I announce a month-long initiative across all @USEmbassyNepal social media platforms to promote tourism in Nepal through pics/stories of US staff & families traveling across the country, joining 78K Americans who visited during Jan-Oct 19.
I really enjoy interacting with you all on social media, but I realized that I will probably never meet all 4 million of our @USEmbassyNepal social media followers…so I am beginning “राजदूतसँग गफगाफ” to hear from & answer questions from you all. Stay tuned
I joined Nepali & American women from the US Mission family to experience the excitement of Teej festival celebrations! Wishes for an exciting, happy, colorful & empowering Teej to all of you! #HappyTeej
The US Embassy in Nepal has been using Twitter to promote its PD. Its Social Media presence in Twitter & Facebook is much more larger than UK, China or India. Even Foreign Ministry of Nepal(MOFA) Twitter handle has a 130.2k followers(till date), Nepali foreign Secretary has 1918 followers(till date) and Nepali Foreign Minister has a 248.9k followers(till date). This means, MOFA has been less engaging comparing to the US Embassy Twitter handle whereas Nepali Foreign Secretary is lagging behind in promoting Nepali diplomacy comparing to the US Ambassador. Nepali Foreign Minister has less Twitter followers than the US Embassy Twitter handle. This openly says, Nepal’s institutional and dignitaries Social Media presence is negligible comparing to the US. In this hyper digital age, Nepal is lagging behind to promote its diplomacy via digital platforms—which is not so much expensive and doesn’t require expert human resource. At this time, Nepali Foreign Ministry doesn’t need a radical shift but very simple renovation.
This simple renovation can be digitalizing Nepali foreign affairs. Overall these signifies that; the US wants to engage with Nepali public in much more comprehensive way. Pivotal Example is : The Amb. Randy Berry “ Chat with Ambassador” shows that, he is using the soft power to influence and impress Nepali public ultimately to promote the US vested interest in Nepal. Whether it is the case of Tweeting/posting on any Nepali festivals or promoting IPS—all proves that the US wants to counter influence of immediate neighbors of Nepal i.e. India & China. PD promotion(digitally) by super power countries in developing country like Nepal is not new. It is an enlarged strategies in the form of soft power to gain, retain and expand their influence. So, the key message is: Nepal need a win-win strategy by altering this perceive American zero-sum strategy conducted via digital platform.