Soon, Foreign Ministry to be on Facebook

The Indian Foreign Ministry is shortly coming to a social networking tool near you.

New Delhi: The Indian Foreign Ministry is shortly coming to a social networking tool near you.

The public diplomacy division of the External Affairs Ministry will soon launch a new portal, which will be the springboard for entry into social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter, officials said.

This will probably be the first effort by a government ministry to harness the new age Internet tools.

The first sign of this new strategy was a Twitter account created on Thursday, which had only two posts so far. But through word of mouth, it has already got scores of followers.

Officials were not keen to publicise the effort, as they termed it still a "work in progress".

They said the new portal would be "interactive" through the links to social networking sites, but refused to give further details.

The ministry`s publicity division had so far been involved in organising seminars on aspects of foreign policy in different parts of the city, with a view to take the foreign policy-making process closer to the people.

Former minister of state Shashi Tharoor was an enthusiastic user of the tool, often using it for talking about foreign policy issues related to less glamorous aspects, like a visit to African nations.

But certain tweets of Tharoor generated controversy.

While several Indian government departments and ministries have had comprehensive websites, they have been all wary of using social networking tools, with one notable exception - in what has become a runaway success, Delhi Traffic Police started Facebook and Twitter accounts two month ago.

The use of Facebook and Twitter for public diplomacy is not a new phenomenon, especially with the US and Britain even having created a code on the usage of this tool.

It has also become the subject of academic treatises and discourses on what has been termed "public diplomacy 2.0".

In the US, not just institutions, even ambassadors and diplomats are on Twitter. Recently, there was a brouhaha over certain chirpy tweets sent by State Department officials while on an official trip to Syria.

Similarly, in other Western countries, both Facebook and Twitter have been used extensively in public diplomacy efforts, networking multiple platforms like YouTube for videos and Flickr for photographs, besides the two ubiquitous sites.