The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has fuelled a spike in social media and interest in his government and its policies, including foreign policy.
With a robust foreign policy agenda and some well-publicised diplomatic engagements, the Twitter handle and Facebook page of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has seen a quantum jump of 400 percent since the Modi government came in over four months ago, while its website has more than doubled its viewership.
The Twitter handle of MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin @MEAIndia is chockful of information, constantly being updated by the spokesperson – something on the lines of the refurbished and smart Prime Minister of India (PMO) website and Twitter handle that are constantly giving blurbs of information.
Akbaruddin, who has over 140,000 followers, is prompt with tweets on any latest happening – from posting links to the video of the media briefing, photos with links on Minister Sushma Swaraj’s diplomatic forays, about any visiting dignitary, and also on the latest visit of the prime minister.
He said since the Modi government came in, there has been “enhanced interest in the website” while social media interest has “increased by 400 percent”. This has particularly happened after Modi’s recent visit to the US, where he got almost celebrity treatment from the affluent and influential Indian community, as well visit to Japan and visits to India by leaders of China and Australia.
The MEA website – www.mea.gov.in – in its attempt to reach a wider global audience is now available, besides in English and Hindi, in Spanish and Arabic, with the latter introduced a few days ago. “It will be available in French and Russian by early next year,” Akbaruddin told IANS.
Two months ago it was named among the 40 best government websites in the world for Design Inspiration, along with websites of the US House of Representatives and Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Though devoted to foreign policy, the MEA website is not just for the high-brow or those interested in international relations.
Colourful photographs on the latest diplomatic events are constantly uploaded as are interesting photo features and articles on any major event. It has seen a more than doubling of visitors since Modi came to power, with the figure at present standing at more than 26 million.
Its section on documentaries is gaining in popularity, with a new documentary uploaded every week by the Public Diplomacy Division of the ministry. The current documentary ‘Bridging Worlds: A Meeting of Minds: The Story of Indians in The United Kingdom’ has got over 1,400 views on its YouTube channel.
“Social media has added to the conventional utility of the website, the links posted on Twitter and Facebook have expanded our outreach,” Akbaruddin said.
During Prime Minister Modi’s major visit to the US, the spokesperson’s Twitter handle was a constant source of news and updates of what the prime minister was doing or who he was meeting. The twitter handle and the website saw a huge number of visitors during this time.
“Whenever we cover the prime minister’s events on social media, we get a huge number of hits, including from people not interested in foreign policy,” he added.
The MEA page has a section devoted to its flagship magazine, India Perspectives, with the latest issue on Durga Puja, while there is another section ‘Distinguished Lectures’ where lectures by retired diplomats are posted.
It has a separate section on Minister Sushma Swaraj and also links to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s latest ‘Make in India’ campaign, Swachch Bharat and not forgetting the most important Consular, Passport and Visa division of the ministry.
The MEA has from earlier this year also started issuing all its press releases in different regional languages – Assamese, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam – to meet the demands of a growing band of regional language media personnel who cover the briefing.