Is digital diplomacy an effective foreign policy tool? Evaluating India’s digital diplomacy through agenda-building in South Asia

Abstract

A question often raised in digital diplomacy literature is whether it is an effective tool in advancing a nation’s foreign policy agendas. Studies exploring this aspect have either taken a theoretical approach or analyzed only government-generated content. Very little attention has been paid to the content receivers. To address this literature gap, this study considers the digital diplomacy of India toward South Asia. Based on the agenda-building perspective, the study examines the following: (i) the agendas the Indian government builds on social media and (ii) the rank-order of these agendas with the agendas of its South Asian followers. Quantitative content analyses of 6000 tweets and status updates published on the 15 Indian diplomatic accounts along with a survey of 387 followers were conducted. Content metrics were also considered to assess prominent agendas. Results showed that a few prominent Indian policy agendas on social media correlated with the agendas of their ‘foreign’ South Asian followers—indicating an agenda-building function. The prominent agendas on social media also aligned with India’s foreign policy priorities in South Asia—indicating effective digital diplomacy at work. A few prominent agendas in terms of content metrics aligned with the foreign followers’ agendas, but none matched with the priority agendas of the Indian government on social media.

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Correspondence to Nisha Garud-Patkar.

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Garud-Patkar, N. Is digital diplomacy an effective foreign policy tool? Evaluating India’s digital diplomacy through agenda-building in South Asia. Place Brand Public Dipl (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41254-021-00199-2

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Keywords

  • Engagement metrics
  • Content analysis
  • Social media followers
  • Indian embassies