Twitter diplomacy is a double- edged sword | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Twitter diplomacy is a double- edged sword

nothing can take the place of in-depth diplomacy where personal equations and what is often not said makes all the difference. A dumbed down diplomatic route may be attractive with its instant public responses, but the old fashioned method still wins the day in India, at least for now

editorials Updated: Nov 13, 2017 19:38 IST
Hindustan Times
The fine art of diplomacy with its subtle nuances has clearly been given short shrift by many world leaders today and not all of this is bad news
The fine art of diplomacy with its subtle nuances has clearly been given short shrift by many world leaders today and not all of this is bad news(REUTERS)

On an average day, US president Donald Trump would have fired off at least four tweets before the business of the day begins. Typically, they will rail against his own senators, followed by a savaging of fake news, a rant against political correctness and a pat on his own back. He has now found an ally in North Korea’s Kim Jong Un who has, throwing all diplomacy to the winds, called Trump’s speech in South Korea the reckless remarks by an old lunatic. This has led to a characteristically insulting riposte from the leader of the free world. Trump wondered why the dictator would call him old when he would never refer to the portly Kim as short and fat.

The fine art of diplomacy with its subtle nuances has clearly been given short shrift by many world leaders today and not all of this is bad news. Prime minister Narendra Modi, for example, uses Twitter to effectively reach out to people with his messages on development and cleanliness among other things, ensuring that nothing is lost in translation. In a way, Twitter has cut through official red tape and people can speak directly to their leaders. Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s example shows how useful this can be. But the downside is that the medium of Twitter is such that it encourages instant responses which can be a double-edged weapon. In the case of Trump, the world’s Twitter-in-chief, it has almost always been negative. Never one to balk at giving ugly monikers to rivals, crooked Hilary being an example, to displaying an astonishing lack of empathy for fellow citizens, Trump lets it all hang out whatever be the occasion. Twitter cuts through the political verbosity that many leaders favour. This again often results in tasteless, harmful one liners which do more damage than good. Trump’s tweet about how a dead soldier knew what he had signed up for when he joined the army is an example of how careless tweets can wound people deeply. In this instance, the soldier’s widow was deeply hurt.

However, nothing can take the place of in-depth diplomacy in which personal equations and what is often not said makes all the difference. A dumbed down diplomatic route may be attractive with its instant public responses, but the old fashioned method still wins the day in India, at least for now. Trump’s Twitter disasters in his role as agent provocateur will at least serve as a cautionary tale to other world leaders on exactly how Twitter can not be the medium of first choice when it comes to matters of great import.