The rules of the game for diplomacy are changing, thanks to frenzied technological advancement that the world has witnessed for the last three decades or so. According to a New York based communications firm, Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW), social media has morphed into a modern center for diplomacy as per the findings in its 2018 Twiplomacy Study. Audiences around the world waits with bated breath on Twitter news feeds for daily dose of news and in some cases, it is their only source of information. Social media is being taken much more seriously and has become the go-to hotline in making a statement on a global platform. Hence, Twiplomacy emerged as “the use of Twitter by government agencies and officials to engage with the public, disperse information and even leverage global influence. The term emerged from an August 2012 report from Geneva based public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, which studied world leaders on Twitter and attempted to illustrate how social media is closing the gap between these leaders and the public they serve”, according to Technopedia.
Twitter easily eclipses other social media venues for diplomatic muscle flexing. Almost 97 percent of all UN member states are currently active on Twitter. American President Donald Trump tops the Twiplomacy ratings with almost 66 million followers, while our Prime Minister Imran Khan is at number 9 with over 10 million followers.
However, for some diplomacy gurus the public nature of twitter has affected the quality and efficacy of diplomacy. They maintain it corrodes traditional values of diplomacy that priorities measured and calculated responses, subtlety, and substance. Others, nonetheless, are sold on the new medium as a much swifter channel for diplomatic engagements. To be fair to its detractors, Twitter, much like the rest of social media, gives ready access to a host of conspiracy theorists, fascists, and extremists of all persuasions. Fake news, fallacious and curated propaganda coasts leisurely on such public platforms. If truth and national interests matter to a country, they will have to master this new tongue of twiplomacy to have a fighting chance at succeeding in the technology driven 21st century.
Balochistan province has traditionally been at the receiving end of well-coordinated smear campaigns and foreign agents of evil feast on venues like twitter to further their nefarious designs against it. There has been a mushroom growth of cyber fanatics and other anti-state mercenaries who abuse this new medium with their sponsored hate content. India has made no secret of its fascist geographical motives and expansionist designs.
In view of the above, it is rather commendable that Balochistan government has realized the gravity of the situation and mounted a befitting response in effectively curbing these tendencies and setting the record straight. The footprint from the provincial leadership on Twiplomacy has been steadily growing and it signals a step in the right direction. The Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan keeps an active presence on the platform along with some other prominent names i.e. Balochistan National Party’s Chairman Sardar Akhtar Mengal, assembly member Sanaullah Baloch and Sarfaraz Bugti from Balochistan Awami Party. They are some of the more vocal voices on Twitter and engage in debate from all corners of the political spectrum. However, the written expression of these accounts are often criticized as they seem to use unofficial language at times.
Given the public nature of this micro blogging site, it can be quite a challenge for political leaders to get to the heart of socioeconomic concerns of common people while keeping malicious anti state trolls at bay. Government officials need to realize that Twitter is not immune to disinformation and can become an easy prey to Indian propaganda. As it happens, Twitter arbitrarily removed over two hundred Pakistani accounts in August 2019 for condemnation Indian atrocities in Kashmir. Even verified accounts of some journalists, government officials and common grief stricken Pakistanis were blocked for exhibiting their consternation and sheer horror at Indian state tyranny on helpless Kashmiris. This mind boggling Indian hegemony on the micro-blogging site caused a huge uproar and led to the trending of hashtag #StopSuspendingPakistanis. This scary episodes succinctly captures the dynamics of e-diplomacy and being left out can have long term repercussions.
If tweeting on the human right abuses blatantly perpetrated in Indian occupied Kashmir is ‘belligerent content’ then something must be seriously wrong how these platforms function. Balochistan has remained a fertile ground for Indian hegemonic goals in the past as well. Twitter constitutes an integral component of its foreign charade masquerading as diplomacy. Unfortunately, not every twitter user can see through these supplicated malicious crusades run by the current fascist government in India. Many so called enlightened users unconsciously get trapped in furthering the enemy’s mission.
Keeping in view the fast digitizing world, the leadership of Balochistan government needs to consider the emerging trends and prepare effective mechanisms to counter anti state elements on social media in general and Twitter in particular. They have to be wary of the ever evolving nature of twiplomacy and need to prepare accordingly. This platform will only get stronger in time and redefine traditional the behind-the-doors diplomacy. It is about time our leadership recognized that modern dominant narratives on diplomacy own a lot to active ‘hashtag-ism’ and the inability to respond in kind would be akin to gross negligence that may threaten national security.