Anger in diplomacy: On Indian reaction to MNC Kashmir tweets

The advent of social media has no doubt changed how diplomacy is conducted between countries. Even so, it was surprising that the MEA and the Commerce Ministry put as much energy as they did into ensuring that several multinational companies retracted social media posts their Pakistani distributors had put out last week. The posts, that appeared to be part of a coordinated exercise sponsored by the Pakistani establishment, were put out on February 5 — marked in Pakistan as “Kashmir Solidarity Day” — and contained what New Delhi termed as highly offensive messages calling for “Kashmiri liberation”. The Government’s outrage was valid, given that these companies, including Hyundai, Toyota, KFC, Pizza Hut , and pharma major Schwabe, also have flourishing businesses in India, and it was strange that private MNCs would post such politically charged messaging at all. However, where a sharp word or even a short statement of disapproval would have sufficed, the Modi government decided to go the whole distance: even summoning the Korean Ambassador while ensuring that Indian embassies took up the issue with other governments. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also raised the matter with his Korean counterpart, who apologised to the Indian people. Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal added in Parliament that the original apology by Hyundai India was not adequately “forceful or unequivocal”, even as social media consumers in India threatened to boycott products made by the companies concerned.

While the Government might feel it has achieved its purpose by ensuring the companies and governments involved were contrite about the posts, it must also consider the big picture of how its actions, that appear to be at some variance with those of a secure and powerful global player, are viewed in the rest of the world. India’s claims over Jammu and Kashmir are strong, and widely acknowledged, and not so fragile that a few social media posts, that appeared only in Pakistan, can dent in any way. Second, holding foreign governments in democratic countries to account for the actions of the local distributors of their private companies could have unforeseen repercussions. It is also worth considering whether the Foreign Ministry’s resources are better spent in furthering India’s interests than on expending diplomatic capital on short-lived controversies such as the MEA’s objection to pop star Rihanna’s posts on the farmer protests last year. The apologies and statements thus extracted may prove to be a pyrrhic victory, if one considers that the intentions of those behind the obnoxious posts in Pakistan, aimed at drawing attention to their propaganda on Kashmir, were also met. A quiet word with the MNCs might have worked better than a public display of diplomatic opposition.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2022 11:03:11 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/anger-in-diplomacy-the-hindu-editorial-on-indian-reaction-to-korean-mnc-kashmir-tweets/article38403860.ece