In a revolutionary step to make Indian diplomacy more people-centric, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has launched a smartphone mobile app to become the first foreign office in the world to integrate all its public services on one digital platform.
The MeaIndia app, available for free download on the Apple and Android app stores, is your virtual Alladin’s djinn that could lift your sprits in time of passport/visa distress or just keep you mentally stimulated with latest info on myriad initiatives and activities of the country’s proactive diplomacy.
Imagine losing your passport in a far-off foreign land, and you didn’t know whom to contact. Or you just want to follow the foreign visits by Indian prime minister and external affairs minister. Or, maybe you are planning a journey to the stunningly beautiful Kailash Mansaovar in Tibet, and didn’t know where to get reliable information.
You get answers to all the above queries, and much more on the MEAIndia app. “It’s a work in progress. It’s a giant leap of faith in the digital world,” says Syed Akbaruddin, joint secretary and the official spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry. “Not only will you be able to check the status of your passport on your mobile, but very soon you could apply for the passport, using the app,” he says. The app has been developed by a team of young techies under the stewardship of the external publicity division of the ministry.
It’s a watershed moment in India’s diplomacy, which was once known to be preternaturally secretive, but has now agilely adapted to relentless demands of the 24×7 news chatter and the brave new world of social media. India’s outgoing Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai conjured up the spirit of this hinge moment at a launch function organised at a hotel in New Delhi to introduce the smartphone app to the media.
“When I joined the Foreign Service in 1974, conventional wisdom had it that diplomats were not meant to be seen or heard in public. We were told to do our vital work of communicating messages to our interlocutors discreetly, quietly and in a detached manner.”
“In short, we were required not to be visible and encouraged to work in anonymity. As this function demonstrates, all this has now changed,” he said July 29.
Diplomats are still required to be discreet and master the art of equivocation, but they are also now mandated to be more communicative without giving too much away. This explains multifarious social media initiatives launched by India’s external affairs ministry. The official spokesperson’s twitter account boasts of more than 40,000 followers. The new-look website of the external affairs ministry, revamped a year ago, is on course to get a million visitors.
The new smartphone app is part of the ministry’s overarching strategy to expand its digital presence to connect to the new generation of tech-savvy youth and a globally wired world which is hungry to know more about the positions and modulations of Indian diplomacy on key global issues. The broader thrust is to forge a common digital identity by integrating the websites of India’s 124 missions under one common template by 2014.
Since communication is the name of the game, the external affairs ministry has also moved beyond its image as English-fixated to reach out to the proliferating media in Indian languages. In an innovative step, the ministry recently backed “Foreign Policy Classroom” broadcast on CNBC Awaaz, which aimed at taking Indian foreign policy beyond the English-speaking elite to a Hindi-speaking audience. In this programme, a huge hit on the social media as well, India’s external affairs minister and a battery of diplomats explained finer nuances of Indian foreign policy on issues ranging from multilateral trade to nuclear proliferation in Hindi. The ministry now provides press releases in a host of Indian languages, including Malayalam, Bengali, Tamil and Urdu. Press releases in Assamese and Telugu, too, are soon to be initiated, says Mathai.
As India sharpens its pitch for a bigger role in the international arena, including a long-coveted permanent seat in the UN Security Council, the focus on intensifying communication is going to come in handy. In a wired world, as Harvard guru and the progenitor of soft power Joseph Nye says, it’s not just hard power that matters. In this new-age communication war, the victory belongs to those who tell the story best.
All ABOUT MEAIndia app….
MEAIndia acts as “a single window source of all information related to Ministry’s citizen centric services and outreach activities.” Here are what you can get on this app:
Avail services……passport, visa, consular assistance
Ask your Minister…….on the go, anytime, anywhere
Follow your PM……on his visits abroad
Find the nearest Indian Mission/Post……for emergency consular assistance
Be informed…….about India’s Foreign Relations on the move and form your own opinions
Know more…….about how to undertake Kailash Manasarovar Yatra and Haj Pilgrimage
Download and watch……pictures & documentaries on India
Play and Personalize…….what you need, when you need
Share and contribute…….your views, pics & suggestions
‘MEAIndia’ provides you all the information you need on
1) How to apply for Indian Passport
2) Locate nearest Passport Seva Kendra
3) Download requisite forms
4) Calculate the fees, and
5) Track your application status …
6) Coming soon – online application…..
…..all on your mobile device.
You are travelling abroad and are in need of emergency consular assistance? ‘MEAIndia’ helps you find the Nearest Indian Mission/Post and establish contact with Indian officials there. Consular help is now just a click away.
You plan to travel abroad for work or study and need to legalize your documents? ‘MEAIndia’ simplifies the steps involved for you and helps you identify the authorized agencies for attestation/apostille of your documents.
Whether you are travelling to India or from India, ‘MEAIndia’ provides you useful information on Indian Visas as well as on visa requirements for Indians.
Mobile Media Centre
Be the first one to know the latest developments in India’s external relations and make your own opinions. Get the latest press releases, speeches and statements, agreements, videos and photographs of all the major events on India’s foreign policy right on your smartphone.
Follow News from Indian Missions…..
Follow more than 120 of our Missions, get news updates and participates in their diverse activities.
Know the Do’s and Don’ts through the latest travel and business advisories issued by our Missions while travelling abroad.
Follow your PM
Follow your Prime Minister on his official visits abroad on ‘MEAIndia’ and get updates as they happen on his programme, meetings, outcomes etc.,
ASK, SHARE AND MORE
ASK YOUR MINISTER…..
Now ask your External Affairs Minister on the go, anytime, anywhere and get answers to your queries directly from him on foreign policy issues that matter to you most.
Participate in “mobile democracy”- Post your queries (or) vote for the queries posted by your friends.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.