A couple of weeks after Kashmir became news, it’s possible to take stock of messaging.
What is not working for Pakistan?
Twitter: What is not working for Pakistan, except to its domestic audience, and British Pakistanis, are PM Khan’s tweets calling PM Modi a ‘fascist’, ‘Nazi’ and the situation in Kashmir one of ‘genocide’. This is failing because unlike Trump using Twitter to call the North Korean President ‘Rocket Man’ when any other Head of Government does it, it just reinforces the unprofessional perception of the PM of Pakistan as someone who as a former sportsman is out of his depth, and not in control of his media messaging – especially as everyone on the internet you disagree with is a Nazi nowadays.
RSS Rants: PM Khan in an op-ed in the New York Times, used it as an opportunity to draw parallels between the RSS, Hindutva and the Nazis. This fails for several reasons. First, it was a boring article. Second, to the neutral, it stretches incredulity. Third, Pakistan, not recognising the State of Israel, using Nazi parallels appears opportunistic and hypocritical. Finally, the article came out the same week that PM Modi is bear-hugging Muslim leaders of the most devout Islamic countries in the world.
Palestine, Human Rights and BBC: Pakistan is trying to portray Kashmir as Palestine. The problem here is that BBC journalists investigating ‘alleged Indian Army brutality’ go up against several problems. First, the BBC itself, through it monitoring service notes that Pakistani journalists are manufacturing such stories. Second, BBC journalists are roaming freely to tell their stories. Third, the Indian Army, like the British, is known to be one of the most professional in the world, whereas Pakistan’s Army is known for the rape and genocides in Bangladesh back in 1971 and so now well documented by historians independently.
So the messenger lacks credibility as such stories smack of the ‘victim’ projecting their own way of operating on the alleged perpetrator. Add to that, that Indians, this writer included have holidayed many times in the past decade in Kashmir. But no one says that about Palestine.
Terrorism: Famously, an English King asked ‘who will rid me of this man’ and there soon, the man in question was soon murdered. So PM Khan’s equally uncryptic messages stating how he would not be surprised if terrorism increased, is simply a call for terror, only reinforces the belief the neutral public has that Pakistan is a State sponsor of terrorism. People see through it. Pakistan needs a more modern communications advisor.
Nuclear Blackmail: Pakistan may have a positive self-image as land of the pure, but to move the world in the month when unfortunately for them Brexit, Brazil wild-fires, Hong Kong protests are all jostling for headline space, means it had to be more shrill – so PM Khan tried to insinuate in his tweets and articles that Pakistan is being forced into a war with nuclear repercussions. He is ill-advised. The world is not as naïve to nuclear blackmail threats as his social media and communications advisors think.
They are not being out-manoeuvred by India, but instead, hanging themselves by their own words. The Indian strategy of non-engagement is the right one. It’s beneath the Indian PM.
British Labour MPs are definitely working (overtime) for Pakistan. The call for protests, albeit in the case of Lord Ahmed (now ex-Labour) by a man going through a paedophile trial like many other British Pakistanis. Oh boy, have you got the worst possible messenger. Sadly, just as Parliament is focussed on Brexit, such Labour efforts to talk about Pakistan-India smacks of a lack of concern for your own country (Britain) by British Pakistani MPs. The Labour leadership falls into the oft-stated accusation they have a knee-jerk extreme left-wing sympathy for terrorists such as Hamas, Hezbollah, IRA and never for the democratic state protecting law and order which are seen as ‘right-wing’ values.
What is Working for India?
America: The messages from the likes of the US Congress’s powerful Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, Eliot Engel, a Democrat, stating that this is a matter for India and Pakistan to resolve and before dialogue Pakistan has to dismantle its terrorist infrastructure, is stronger than any message from a comparable European voice. This follows Republican President Trump’s Tweet of January 1st last year where he condemned Pakistan for their lack of help in the war on terror. It seems India has done what no other issue has done in this US Presidency – united Democrats and Republicans.
United Nations: Also, the Indian Ambassador to the UN – in his speech at the UN, where he answered questions from Pakistani journalists and hitting them back on issues of Human Rights – revealed authenticity and reinforced what neutral observers believe about India – it’s a democracy respecting human rights. But like all such democracies may fail in practice at times.
Brand Equity: In the end, it is the people and history. The world has interacted with Indians and India and the country has a certain positive brand equity and Pakistan has a negative brand equity score. Unfortunately Pakistan, even if you were not crying wolf, you would still be seen as a Cassandra. What to do? It’s the price of past ills. Start the long journey to redemption.