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The Common Touch

New technology has made public diplomacy easier and more perilous.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: April 28, 2015 12:00:21 am

In modern times, forging a connection with the people has become integral to the practice of leadership. Politicians are at pains to show us the myriad ways in which they are people like us; even Britain’s lofty royals are vulnerable to the impulse. Back in 1969, they sought to puncture their own mystique by releasing a home video that, scandalously for that time, recorded them eating in front of the television. For diplomats, creating this bond is part of their job and new technologies like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube offer them a whole new toolbox.

So heads of state are tweeted and retweeted cooing over cuddly koala bears or chasing after kangaroos, such as at the G-20 summit in Australia last November.

Leopard-petting Russian President Vladimir Putin is unsurprisingly an old hand at using every opportunity to burnish his crowd-pleasing macho man credentials; in February, his gift of a Kalashnikov to Egypt’s president was pointedly circulated on social media. Now, in a tribute to Bollywood that is also meant to showcase the famed Teutonic sense of humour, the German ambassador to India, Michael Steiner, has released a shot by shot remake of the title song from the immensely successful Karan Johar-weepie Kal Ho Na Ho — with help from former Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid who essays the part played in the film by Saif Ali Khan. Evidently, Germany, too, is hopelessly in love with Shah Rukh Khan.

But creative diplomacy has its perils. As a thank-you to French President Francois Hollande for his troops’ role in driving back militants in Mali, a grateful local official presented him with a camel. Unfortunately, the quadruped was noisy and ill-mannered, causing Hollande to bequeath it to a family in Timbuktu. Much to the embarrassment of Malian officials, the caretakers promptly ate it.

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First published on: 28-04-2015 at 12:00:18 am
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