Starting a new thread as I could not find an appropriate thread for this topic. There is widespread acceptance that in the new age, perception carries more weight than during any other time in the past and countries and their agencies are spending increasing amount of resources to shape perception.
It is critical for India to get ahead of this perception game and work to shape the discourse than be reactive. In the past 18 months of NDA 2 rule, we have observed how easy it was for media and vested interests to shape the discourse, be it intolerance or curb on freedom of expression, or about enforcement of ideaology on educational institutions, or twisting the narrative of world culture festival (from soft power projection by India to dubious claims on environmental impact).
Last week, I attended a panel discussion in Global Leadership Forum (as part of World Culture Festival) in Leela Convention Hall, New Delhi. The panelists included Suresh Prabhu (Minister for Railways, India), Piyush Goyal (Minister of State for Power and Coal, India), Gen V.K.Singh (Minister of state for external affairs, India), former PM or deputy PM of Norway and a Norwegian Bishop who serves in Nobel Committee and influential member of Norwegian government.
The Norwegian delegate was mildly condescending in view of NDA and was giving gyan about being inclusive, embracing dialogue and how true democracy is about including minorities (religious and political) in the decision making process and execution. Piyush Goyal gave a fantastic rebuttal by calling out that it is old way of thinking to view the population as majority and minority as it has religious or political labelling at its core and tends to divide people. He went to the extent of saying that the old notion of majority vs. minority has resulted in minority appeasement and ghetto culture, preventing minorities from full integration (ex: Blacks in US or religious minorities in many countries).
Shri. Goyal's solution was that we should focus more on equality (or eliminating inequality), and ensuring that justice prevails for all in a uniform manner. Going further, he also called out to eliminate economic inequality in the world where some nations (hint: Norway) have per capita income of close to 100K USD while some nations (say in Sub-saharan africa) struggle to get few hundred dollars per capita income per year.
I felt it was a fantastic way of shaping the discourse - from inclusion and minority vs majority debate to eliminating inequality and ensuring consistency and equality for all citizens. The earlier debate puts India in the defensive while the later puts India in a good position. Very very few leaders are capable of shaping perception that way or even perceiving the effect the topic being debated has on the overall perception battles.
I believe it will be good to have an ongoing discussion where we can debate how to shape the perception and shape the debate when it comes to matters that impact India's image in the world stage. Mods, please move it to appropriate forum as you deem fit.
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