Amid worsening tensions, US and Pakistan announce they will only speak to each other on Twitter - Michael KugelmanAmid dangerously deepening tensions, Washington and Islamabad have announced they will be downgrading their diplomacy to Twitter-based communication only.
“Given the recent difficulties in our relations, and given the ability of President Trump and many of our ministers to interact adroitly via Twitter, we have decided to restrict our communications to that medium only, for the time being,” according to a statement issued by Pakistan’s foreign ministry.
Meanwhile, the White House released the following statement: “Until Pakistan demonstrates that it is doing more to take out the terrorists that target our troops in Afghanistan, we will limit our relations to rapid-fire bursts of 140—sorry, 280 (yay!)—character tweets.”
In interviews, officials in both capitals pledged support for the decision, which one White House staffer referred to as “tough love, Twitter style.”Tough love, Twitter style: Exhibition 1.
“We have repeatedly conveyed the need for Pakistan to step up its game when it comes to terror,” said a US official reached by phone who demanded anonymity for reasons that are unclear, other than the fact that Americans like to make demands.
“We have conveyed this demand repeatedly through every communication channel known to humanity, including in-person meetings, public statements, emails, faxes, Morse code, smoke signals—the frequent smog in Islamabad helps with that—and much more. But it hasn’t worked.
“We’d like to push it more on Twitter, a platform the President already uses so frequently and which enjoys the multiplier effect of social media. We can get through to many folks. Just watch.”
When asked why the US would expect to be any more successful on Twitter than off it, the official had a quick answer: “The power of replication.”
Pressed further, the official said, “The magic of Twitter enables us to say ‘do more’ many times in a single missive.” The sound of a pen scribbling on paper could be heard in the background.The list was too long for a screenshot but if you're curious, Pakistan is on 16th spot.
Then the US official continued: “I’ve just done the math. With the new 280 character limit, the President can say ‘do more’ 40 times in a single tweet. That’s remarkable.”
At the State Department, where it took numerous attempts to get someone to answer the phone, several officials acknowledged that restricting diplomatic relations to Twitter—notorious for its toxic environment—could further poison bilateral relations.
“That may be true,” one State officer said, sighing, “but then again, it’s not our call.”
Several staffers at the State Department looked on the bright side. “Our diplomats’ access to Pakistanis is often limited due to security considerations.
“Now, via Twitter, we’ll have instant access to the highly strategic demographic—young, urban-based, tech-savvy, English-speaking—that dominates the Pakistani Twittersphere,” one opined.
When told that Pakistan’s roughly three million Twitter users may also include many boisterous bots that are not terribly inclined to engage cordially with US officials, the staffer did not respond.TBT to rosier times
On the Pakistani side, policymakers cast the move as inevitable. “They often don’t speak nicely to us in person,” reasoned one official, “so why not just give in and take to Twitter, where no one ever seems to talk nicely to anyone.”
Pakistani officials, like their American counterparts, looked on the bright side. “Twitter-based ties shall promote democracy,” said one.
“We will be speaking directly to the people, while being fully transparent in our deliberations. We have the option of doing Twitter polls.
“And if there’s a need to opt for the back channel route, or if the Americans need a quiet and private space to conduct that audit we’ve invited them to undertake, then we’ll simply resort to DM.
“Does President Trump have an open DM policy?”
“Also,” the official continued, “US-Pakistan Twitterplomacy will provide open channels for dissent. The Insaafians and Ghairat Brigade can weigh in angrily with their awkwardly worded hash tags.
“And ISPR will surely step in with inputs when necessary, and when not necessary as well.”To be honest ...
Asked why Pakistan would settle for an arrangement that could presumably lead to more abrasive treatment, the official replied:
“We’re used to it, we can deal with it, and best of all Twitter allows us to mute or block the invective if we wish. In effect, we can easily deflect their demands.
“When they tweet ‘do more,’ we’ll tweet ‘no more.’ We’ll mute them if they persist. This constant dynamic, so onerous and uncomfortable offline, is a quick and painless 280-character process on Twitter.”
There may be something fitting about US-Pakistan relations being relegated to the Twittersphere. “Twitter and US-Pakistan relations, improbably enough, are like two peas in a pod,” according to a sideburned South Asia analyst in Washington who seemingly opines on everything under the Subcontinental sun.
“Pundits have long forecast the demise of both, and yet each manages to survive. And now we have these two resilient forces coming together as one.”“Poetic, isn’t it?”