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Let's look at four US actions in the last couple of months. Are these things you would expect from an ally? One country is treading this fine line with India. Washington sees India as a key ally in the Indo-Pacific.

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Kissinger was not only just a phone call away for Chandra but was willing to respond instantly and favourably. He knew that one day or another India would conduct such tests and declare itself a nuclear power. After all both its neighbours, China and Pakistan, had nuclear capability. Pakistan had not yet tested but both the US and India were aware that it had acquired nuclear capability. India did what it had to do.

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Chandra wondered if Kissinger would be willing to go on record to say that to the US media. Kissinger was willing. The journalist jumped at the opportunity and within minutes Kissinger was on CNN making supportive statements.

How to make friends: delhi needs to invest in systematic and sustained outreach to opinion-makers

That is top class diplomatic outreach. I am reasonably certain that institutional memory within the government about such precedents is limited. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar would certainly be aware of the Chandra-Kissinger-CNN story but very few other diplomats would be and, therefore, unprepared for such contingency.

It is not surprising that on his arrival in the US, more than six weeks after the August 5 decision of the government to revoke Article of the Constitution, Jaishankar discovered that the US media was still very critical of the decision. It is worth checking what effort had been made to secure media outreach in the intervening six weeks, not just in the US but in other countries that mattered.

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There would have been considerable effort, to be sure. But that is besides the point. How many Indian diplomats around the world have that kind of access and influence in their respective stations? During my time as Media Advisor to the Prime Minister, I was dismayed to discover how limited was the reach of Indian diplomats within the opinion-making community of the countries they were serving in. Most diplomats assumed their work was only to deal with the host government.

Over the past couple of decades many, not all, have devoted time to reach out to local business leaders. Jaishankar was the first Indian ambassador in China to establish friendly relations with top Chinese business leaders.

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There has been effort at reaching out to think tanks and media, but both the time and funds devoted to that effort is limited. Embassies of many countries based in Delhi have had a far more active outreach effort. Some even fund think tank activities and research. Many keep in regular touch with senior journalists and make sure they are invited to their home countries and well looked after. Amusingly, I have found some in government criticise Indian media for being available to such outreach. Journalists have been attacked for attending receptions at the home of the Pakistan high commissioner.

What is not recognised is that it is the business of media to reach out to anyone who wishes to seek them out.

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Lend an ear, but be professional in what and how you report. I have found most Indian diplomats face two constraints. First is a cultural constraint.

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Many are neither attuned to nor professionally trained to deal with the highly opinionated opinion makers. Second is financial. The government does not provide adequate funds to diplomats to conduct such outreach in an adequately suitable and subtle manner. Media outreach is not conducting a press conference.

It requires systematic relationship building that requires considerable investment of time and money.

India needs to be a better friend

I am aware of some very good examples of such diplomatic outreach by some of our best diplomats, but there is very little institutional effort. Indian big business, especially those with business interests abroad or with investment in the media business, are equally to blame.

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Consider the investment multinationals investing in India make in reaching out to Indian public opinion. How many of our big companies do that in countries where they have business interests? Very few.

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Most are quite happy operating below the radar. In canvassing support for the US-India civil nuclear energy agreement, the Manmohan Singh government used American and Indian business leaders to step up and secure support for the deal, especially in the US Congress.

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One of them even secured a Padma Bhushan despite a criminal case pending against him! Going beyond such one-off efforts, the kind that could be mounted in support of issues like the Article decision, Indian business needs to invest more in creating firmer and professional platforms for national outreach. All the more why it needs a strategy and the capacity to shape global opinion. Home Opinion Columns How to make friends: Delhi needs to invest in systematic and sustained outreach to opinion-makers How to make friends: Delhi needs to invest in systematic and sustained outreach to opinion-makers What is not recognised is that it is the business of media to reach out to anyone who wishes to seek them out.

Written by Sanjaya Baru Updated: October 23, am.

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