From the age of city-states to nation states, one of the preoccupations of the rulers had been to project a positive image (or at least desirable) outside its own realm aimed at foreign public. This practice, which differed from the more private engagement with the designated representatives of other realms, was considered a valuable requisite for creating a positive atmosphere in which the foreign policy goals of the State can be pursued and realized vis-a-vis the other states. Public diplomacy can be described as the process by which direct relations with people in a country are pursued to advance the interests and extend the values of those being represented. As the states began to realize the importance and potential of they started paying closer attention to Public diplomacy. It was used brilliantly by Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in a video released on Sunday. The video was directed towards the people of Iran. Almost the whole of Iran is facing acute water shortage while the regime in Iran is helpless at this point of time.
Iran and Israel do not share a good relationship at diplomatic levels. Iran has countless times raised cries of ‘Death to Israel’ and is against the idea of Israel’s existence. PM Netanyahu’s message was directed not towards the Iranian rulers but towards the citizens. He targeted the problem which every farmer and general people in Iran are facing. This message directed towards the people will strike the right chords and PM Netanyahu is sure about that. He is under no delusion that the Iran government is going to soften its approach because of this offer of help. On the contrary, he wants the image of Israel to improve in the eyes of the common people of Iran. The portal which will be made in a few days will have information related to water savings and optimal usage all displayed in Farsi, the lingua franca of people of Iran. He pointed at the contrast between the Israeli mentality and that of the Iranian government by saying, “The Iranian regime shouts, ‘Death to Israel! In response, Israel shouts, “Life to the Iranian people!” PM Netanyahu also said that the Iran government cannot stop the warmth and friendship between the Israeli and the Iranian citizens.
This short video message will go a long way in changing the image of Israel amongst citizens in Iran. The best way to force a government to change its stance on any given topic is to sway the public opinion. This is precisely what Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech after terror attack in Uri addressed. He invoked the people of Pakistan in a direct dialogue, urging them to fight common socio-economic ills that afflict both neighbours, while warning that country’s leadership that any threat to India’s security will be strongly countered. India’s support to the oppressed people of Balochistan from Pakistan region too comes under the same approach.
Public diplomacy works on an horizontal level with multiple actors involved and where objectives are broader, loosely defined and focus on ‘capturing hearts and minds’ instead of limited bargain. In this form of diplomacy, the most challenging task is to find the right ‘connectors’ which are not only consistent with the image that the nation wants to project but also should be compatible with the belief system of the target audience. PM Modi and PM Netanyahu are doing a wonderful job in attracting people from hostile neighbours to their side. Better sense should prevail in the end and we hope Israel and India succeeds in their wish to improve quality of life for the people of all countries.