Modi unfollowed by White House: Action by new Pakistani lobbyist?

Why Narendra Modi was unfollowed by White House? Indian media first claimed that Trump was upset on Indian refusal to export chloroquine to the US and then that White House had temporarily followed Modi during the Indian visit. Both explanations may be "Damage Control Exercise" - GVS Special Report explains.

White house unfollows Modi

GVS Special Report

The White House unfollowed the only world leader that it had been following on micro-blogging platform Twitter – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India media first reported that Trump is punishing Modi and India for their refusal to allow export of anti-malarial drug, chloroquine, to the US. Later a new explanation emerged, courtesy White House, claiming that Modi, Indian President and embassies were followed due to Trump’s trip to India. However both explanations are part of damage control – GVS reliably learnt.

GVS learned through reliable sources that the White House does not follow any world leader but the Indian lobby through its ingenuity was able to get PM Modi followed to boost the latter’s profile. And a US lobbyist firm, recently hired by Pakistan, was able to point out this discrepancy to White House media team thus compelling them to fix the mistake.

Linden Government Solutions, a subsidiary of Linden Strategies, a government relations firm providing strategic analysis and advisory to international clients, now working for Pakistan, helped bring the matter into consideration of the relevant authorities in Washington. GVS has reliably learnt.

This appears to be an interesting diplomatic coup for Imran Khan government – because Pakistan has always remained at the receiving end of Indian lobbyists in Washington. And this appears to be the first event in recent history where Islamabad seems to be paying back New Delhi in its own language.

White House unfollows Modi: Changing Indian Explanations

On Wednesday, 29th April, outlookindia.com reported that “The official Twitter account of White House, the residence and workplace of the president of the United States, doesn’t follow Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi anymore on the micro-blogging site.”

This was a huge shocker across India – and damage control efforts were immediately set into motion. The first explanation that emerged in the Indian media was that Trump and White House team are expressing displeasure with PM Narendra Modi and the Indian government for refusing exports of anti-malarial drug, chloroquine, to the US. Trump wanted the US hospitals to do clinical trials with chloroquine to treat patients suffering from corona virus. Here is a link from Indian portal, News 18. that seems to be peddling that theory.

The Real Reason Why Donald Trump Unfollowed ‘Good Friend’ PM Narendra Modi on Twitter

It was true that on April 4, the Indian Directorate General of Foreign Trade had issued a notification putting a complete prohibition on the export of hydroxychloroquine and its formulations. India is one of the largest manufacturers of the anti-malaria drug, and this sudden move by an Indian department, clearly subordinate to Modi government, may have been a kind of diplomatic brinksmanship, a crude attempt, to show importance and structured to extract an American request.

Apparently this worked and soon the world learnt from Trump: “I spoke to him (PM Modi) on Sunday morning and I said we appreciate it that you are allowing our supply (of Hydroxychloroquine) to come out, if he doesn’t allow it to come out, that would be okay, but of course, there may be retaliation, why wouldn’t there be?” However soon after this Modi personally intervened and the ban was lifted. All this was in the first week of April 2020. But White House unfollowed Modi, Indian President, Indian Embassy in Washington, and Indian Ambassador to the United States only on 29th April. Does not look like a retaliation – or does it?

Then came the second explanation from Delhi when a White House official explained – apparently off the record – that when POTUS (President of United States) visits any country – as Trump recently visited India – then White House Twitter follows the key officials of that country so that welcoming tweets can be retweeted. Here is a link with that detailed explanation:

Here’s why White House ‘unfollowed’ Twitter accounts of India’s PM, President, PMO

This explanation sounds pretty convincing, that White House was following Trump and other Indian institutions because of Trump’s Indian visit and then unfollowed them. However there are two problems; this is a new story of Indian state controlled, “Press Trust of India (PTI) story being faithfully produced by all Indian media. And the White House official being quoted by PTI had spoken strictly off the record. Is this some kind of secret  which could not be explained by a White House staffer on record? As of now, there is no official explanation from the White House or any US government official.

Indian media, News18.com had reported that, It was only three weeks ago when the White House followed PM Modi, President Ram Kovind and other Indian handles. PM Modi was also the only foreign prime minister to have been followed by Trump”. The fact that it was only in the first week of April that White House had started following Modi could not escape attention of Indian media – as this news report, (April, 11) in India Today, proudly titled, “PM Narendra Modi only world leader White House follows on Twitter” reveals. Here is a link: 

PM Narendra Modi only world leader White House follows on Twitter

The Real Reason Why Donald Trump Unfollowed ‘Good Friend’ PM Narendra Modi on Twitter

White House waited 9 weeks to unfollow Modi?

And it is difficult to hide the fact that Trump visited India in the third week of February 2020 – almost 9 weeks ago. White House Twitter apparently (according to published reports) had started to follow Modi and Indian institutions only three weeks ago, in April 2020. And then these were unfollowed on Wed, 29th April.

Notably, Modi – till 29th April 2020- was the only world leader who was being followed by the White House. None of the key world leaders or institutions are being followed by White House. So PM of Britain, Chancellor of Germany, Presidents of Russia and China and Secretary General of the United Nations are not being followed by White House.

The White House now once again follows just 13 accounts; all US personalities and offices, including that of President Donald Trump, his official Twitter handle, the First Lady, the Vice President, the Second Lady, the new Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, the National Security Council and the former White House Press Secretary, Stephanie Grisham, among others, and has 22 million followers on Twitter. As a strict policy, White House is not supposed to follow any world leaders – so why then Indian leaders?

Read More: Sanctions be imposed on Indian government: US Commission

Besides the Indian prime minister, the White House was – till 29th April – also following the official Twitter handles of the president of India, the Indian Prime Minister’s Office, and the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C. However, all these accounts have now been unfollowed by the White House.

The development caused a huge diplomatic embarrassment for the Modi-administration which is already in troubled waters – across the United States media, academia, and civil society organisations – due to its anti-Muslim policies. It also created the impression in some circles – especially in parts of Pakistani media – that White House is expressing its disapproval on Modi’s policies towards Muslims and minorities in India. However, GVS has learnt, this is not correct.

Reacting to the development, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had said he was “dismayed” at the development. “I’m dismayed by the ‘unfollowing’ of our President and PM by the White House. I urge the Ministry of External Affairs to take note,” he said on Wednesday.

Modi unfollowed by White House: Work of Pakistani hired Lobbyist

GVS has learnt from reliable sources, from within the US, that White House does not follow any world leader. Following Modi, Indian President and Indian Embassy was an anomaly. When it was properly pointed out by the US based lobbyist firm then White House had no option but to unfollow the Indians.

So how was Modi being followed in the first instance? It appeared to be the work of Indian lobby in Washington. Modi being followed by White House clearly created the impression that Indian PM Modi is now very close to the powerful US establishment, and enjoys unique treatment for being a ‘strategic partner’.

GVS learnt through different sources that Pakistan’s foreign office, the diplomatic community, and diaspora in the US are now actively playing their role to counter Indian propaganda. Atif Khan, a focal person with the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis, also spoke to GVS, to explain how Pakistani diaspora in the US are asserting themselves. “I would encourage you to recall how did Pakistani Americans welcome Prime Minister Imran Khan? How did they take up the Kashmir issue? This was a huge success for all of us,” he said. He also maintained that PM Khan is personally interested to encourage overseas Pakistanis to be able to present the real images of their country to the world- and this is making the difference.

read more: Hybrid War and Challenges For Pakistan

Pakistan recently signed a contract with Linden Government Solutions, a subsidiary of Linden Strategies, a government relations firm providing strategic analysis and advisory to international clients, to have its services for effective lobbying to counter India’s anti-Pakistan propaganda. Reliable sources told GVS that the key firm headed by Stephen Payne played a role to let the American decision-makers know how Indian lobby got PM Modi followed by the White House contrary to the formal protocols.

Powerful Indian lobby at work?

Indian lobby has historically been powerful in the US. Indian origin diasporas – business networks, academia, and now growing local political representation – exert growing influence inside the United States. It is believed that Indian establishment, intelligence agencies and covert financing of different initiatives also plays a role. Goal is to influence America’s policy towards South Asia.  Prime Minister Imran Khan has also pointed out the fact that the Indian lobby is very influential in the USA.

During his visit to the USA, while speaking at a meeting of the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA), PM Khan said, “India’s lobby in America right now is far more powerful than Pakistan’s. India’s point of view always overshadows that of Pakistan and American policies for Pakistan are affected by that viewpoint.”

It is important to note that the Indian lobby in the west has been using Islam as a pretext to produce anti-Pakistani public discourse. Prominent political commentator, Ingrid Therwath, noted that “With the post 9/11 American emphasis on the axis of evil and on the dangers of Islam, it seems the Indian lobby is using Islamophobia as a political strategy.”

Recently, the EU DisinfoLab, a European NGO tackling disinformation, published its findings on a vast network of fake local news sites in over 65 countries serving Indian interests by repeatedly criticizing Pakistan. The websites which are more than 265 in number, are designed to influence the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) with the objective of damaging Pakistan, according to the report.

Read More:European NGO uncovers India’s Anti Pakistan Propaganda

The group’s Internet Protocol (IP) address was home to an obscure online media outlet, New Delhi Times, as well as the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS), both of which were tracked to the same location in the Indian city of New Delhi.

Atif Khan, an active member of American Pakistani community in Houston, suggests that Pakistan should continue to work engaging with public intellectuals, think tanks, and policy centres in the US to be able to have its say in the decision-making process. “We cannot remain aloof from what is going on in Washington,” he maintained.

GVS Special Report compiled by the Editorial Desk with input from Farah Adeed and Fahad Taherani. 

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