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A new recipe for being a successful global actor: ‘Soft Power’

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Diplomats have always tried to find ways to ease the painful side of politics, either because they believe they can make the world a better place to live or because they serve certain interests.

In the international political arena, diplomats and scholars have used the terms ‘hard’ and ‘soft power’ to portray the way nation-states exercise politics.

With a brief look at current global politics one would dismiss the term ‘soft power’. It is a term introduced by Joseph Nye, one of the most influential scholars in International Relations and policy makers in the United States. The term refers to the ability to persuade through culture, values and ideas; it is also the capacity to achieve goals through co-option. This is in contrast to ‘hard power’, which we can apply to the latest developments in Libya and the power politics demonstrated between Turkey and Israel, whose diplomatic relations have been bitter of late.  Also, American foreign policy is mainly based on hard power, as for several years U.S. was the key global actor.  ‘Hard power’ refers to the use of instruments like military force, coercive diplomacy and economic sanctions.

On the other side there are countries which employ cultural diplomacy and ‘soft power’ practices, in order to overcome diplomatic problems through productive intercultural dialogue. Cultural diplomacy is a methodical use of a country’s cultural characteristics in international relations. It is also a way to continue exercising foreign policy affairs in a less traditional manner, either because hard power is not enough or because of special problematic situations. An example of cultural diplomacy was the letters that Frederic II sent to Cairo’s sultan Al-Kamil in the 12th century AD. Frederic asked Al-Kamil’s opinion of mathematics, medicine, etc. His interest for the Arab culture together with his peaceful stance helped the bilateral relations at that time. Cultural diplomacy is a form of ‘soft power’ which is not controlled necessarily by governments and can result via social interaction. This process can be guided by governments and various social agents, for example non-governmental organisations, private corporations, social networks.

For some countries the use of ‘soft power’ is the easiest way for achieving long-term and investment goals. This is one of China’s main tools for strengthening its relations with Africa. The construction of infrastructure, like roads, hospitals and water works in Africa is proceeding quickly with China on its side as a strategic partner. Chinese are winning more ground in Africa, as they respect the diversity of Africa’s people.  Culture, political values and diplomacy construct a successful model of this new form of power. Additionally, the Chinese interest in the United National peacekeeping operations coupled with forceful economic strategies in sectors like trade and banking (e.g. cheap loans to Africa) and the low profile demands in international politics make them a global ‘winner’. In his book on China’s soft power, J. Nye says that “success depends not only on whose army wins, but also on whose story wins”.

One of the important aspects in exercising ‘soft power’ is to understand the importance of culture. Culture is at the epicentre of global relations, particularly with geopolitical developments in the last two decades and with revolutionary changes in information technology. Firstly, because international relations have become transnational – there are a plethora of actors playing an important role besides nation-states. This change in the social norms and processes underlines the importance of culture. Secondly, increased global interdependence means not only financial interdependence (look at current financial crisis), but also social and cultural. Commitment to multilateralism desired by most states in the world cannot be achieved, unless culture is taken under consideration. The Preamble to the EU’s treaty on the European Union – Lisbon Treaty clearly states ‘drawing inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law, have decided to establish a European Union’. Thirdly, successful strategies in the sector of international communications are all about cross-cultural strategies in the time of globalisation, off-shoring and rise of new political and commercial powers.

A third way between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power is the so-called ‘smart power’, a term again coined by Joseph Nye, who wrote that it is “the ability to combine the hard power of coercion or payment with the softer power of attraction into a successful strategy”. This term has been used several times by the Obama Administration. For example Hilary Clinton in her appearance at a Senate hearing spoke about the restoration of American leadership through ‘smart power’.  Realpolitik failures especially in the Middle East offer a strong incentive to the U.S to reconsider the values of diplomacy and ‘smart power’.

It is not an easy task for states to leave behind ‘hard power’ and re-evaluate the gravity of democracy, culture and human rights. However, the potential of being a strong actor in the current altered international arena by achieving goals through dialogue is tempting. The results might not be imminent when exercising ‘soft power’ as this kind of strategy is a long-term one. Patience though is the most important virtue for diplomats.

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Diplomacy

Pakistan and India: Changing Minds, Winning Peace

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Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Indo-Pak Peace Calendar

With the emergence of world as a global village, relations between two nations getting more popularity as compared to relations among respective governments. Governments always attempt to communicate with foreign public to export their ideas, its institutions and culture, as well as national goals and current policies. Public diplomacy can be defined as the efforts of one nation to influence public or elites of the next nation for using foreign policy to achieve its targets and cherished goals. Pakistan and India as two rival nuclear powers in south Asia have fought many battles because of their conflicting regional interests and still both states are on the edge of a new war. This leaves public diplomacy as the only option to normalize the situation.

Many efforts have been made in nineties during the democratic government in Pakistan which can offer a wide canvas for interaction such as South Asian Dialogue, Pakistan Peace Coalition and Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy. More recently two media groups one from each country has started a media campaign Aman ki Asha to promote sector-wise cooperation and engagement on both sides and provide a human touch to serious matters of war and conflict.

This campaign has organised several events bringing people of two countries to a common forum including women empowerment, poverty alleviation and basic human rights. Every year many Sikh’s Visit Pakistan to pray their Holy Places and Pakistani people always welcome them and show hospitality. Many civil society organizations and NGO’s are working to promote peace and harmony between Pakistan and India which include South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA),Pakistan Green Circle Organization (GCO),ISSP etc. Both countries also paying much attention in education sector as well.

In present time, the tension is decreased because of human rights, civil society , artists  , scholars role which brought two countries closer to each other and is also providing new ways for a peaceful and democratic relations. Both countries also relaxed their citizens for visas making it more comfortable. Not only this, both countries are also paying attention for releasing prisoners from jail.

We found our many artist like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is working for Indian industry. Rahat Fateh considered as a success symbol for films in India. So media can bring the people of two  nations closer to each other and create harmony between both nations.

Every year, Aaghaz-e-Dosti launches an Indo-Pak Peace Calendar which includes paintings from students of both countries. This calendar exists of shared dreams of peace and friendship. It is a reflection of shared dreams and hopes from both sides for a better tomorrow. In addition to these efforts, there has been a rise in trade between both countries. This multi-layered diplomacy has ensured that during the time of tension, links between both sides were not totally broken

Lastly cricket diplomacy has played and still can play a pivotal role in bringing both nations together beyond anyone’s imagination.

Public diplomacy in its real sense can bring these two rival countries closer to each other as it enables a country to reach out to a large audience in the other country, whether through social media or books or events for a greater good. It can lead us towards social and economic development in which both the countries lag behind from the rest of the world.

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Diplomacy

UK Public Diplomacy: Soft Power games in South Asia

Hajra Batool

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Public diplomacy refers to the ability of a country to attract foreign states through image building rather than using old coercive and stiff methods to forcefully get the things done in one’s own way. One may say that public diplomacy is a public face of traditional diplomacy. In this diplomacy neither a relationship that a state has with other state can be neglected nor the role of public in the government’s policies. States use various ways to stand tall on international forum thus no state ever wants to do anything against their international reputation. This reputation is achieved through huge efforts and then requires consistency to maintain it. Britain with no denying fact is among those states who have been prominent in international society since centuries. It already has a better and strong image in the eyes of world as for as its public diplomacy is concerned. All it needs to do is to maintain this very image by sticking to its various soft power approaches.

In today’s global politics Britain seems much interested on enhancing its soft power image throughout the world. As we know that Public diplomacy of a state is highly linked with state’s foreign policy as well. The steps adopted by Britain in achieving its foreign policy goals through soft power include exchange programs for students and scholars, visitors programs, cultural events and exchanges, language training, radio and television broadcasting etc. Generally, Britain has been carrying out these practices all around the globe for quite sometimes however in South Asia, she has done a lot in recent years. In Bangladesh in 2013, for example, the English in Action project (funded by the UK’s Department for International Development) promoted the learning of English ‘as a route into work and out of poverty’. In Pakistan, British Council has been working in the areas of Arts, Education, English and Youth Engagement in all four provinces as well as in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. For instance Abaseen Foundation is a UK’s 3-year project with UK Aid directly focused on improving maternal health and reducing child mortality through developing health service delivery for a poor and marginalized community in North West Pakistan. Moreover, UK-India Education & Research Initiative i.e. UKIERI is a multi-stakeholder partnership program funded by both Indian and the UK Governments to support educational programs, develop professional capacities and facilitate policy dialogues on areas of mutual interest. Whereas Sri Lanka has the largest British Council Library membership.

In similar manners Nation branding is another technique used by the Great Britain to cash their better reputation. This not only provides an opportunity for states to interact on international platform but also mitigates cultural barriers among their citizens. Brands such as Burberry London, Dove and Sunsilk are acting as sensor that opens diplomatic door for Britain in various states. Actress and Model Humaima Malick is the brand ambassador for Sunsilk in Pakistan, whereas Sunsilk’s brand ambassador for India is currently Alia Bhut. The overall nation branding of Britain is famous owing to six factors i.e. Tourism, Culture, People, Immigration-Investment, Exports and Governance. According to one of the British Council’s report the UK ranked 3rd out of 50 nations for Tourism and 5th for Culture.

Furthermore, British government entities related to public diplomacy are well active in South Asia, for instance British Council and FCO (Foreign and common wealth office). BBC on the other hand is also playing its key role to inculcate right image of United Kingdom in the region.BBC Urdu not only provides its Pakistani viewers with right information of Pakistan in Britain but also shares unbiased analysis on Pakistan’s current domestic as well regional issues. Similarly BBC Hindi has also been so vociferous for the rights of Indian immigrants in United Kingdom and finally gained trust in public masses. Hence these public diplomacy techniques served as binding force between the UK and the region.

To cut the long story short, Britain seems much focused to safeguard its national interests. Its foreign policy is proving as stepping stone for its national interest whereas public diplomacy is acting as lubricant to it. By doing so it is successfully promoting its culture, tradition, products etc. in the world generally and in South Asia specifically. Since decolonization from subcontinent, The United Kingdom has always tried diplomatic ways to build friendly relationship with south Asian countries. Public diplomacy though is considered new in the racks of overall diplomacy yet UK has successfully used it to promote its culture and to keep influence in this region.

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Diplomacy

Italian Culture: An asset for country’s public diplomacy

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Public Diplomacy is important for long term relationship and to create a positive image of a country. Italy, a European country with a long Mediterranean coastline, has left an effective mark on Western culture. Its capital, Rome, is home to the Vatican and also point of interest for ancient remains.  Over the span of 3,000 years, Italian history has been set apart by series of temporary unification and long detachment, of intercommunal friction and failed empires. At peace for more than half a century now, Italy’s inhabitants enjoy a high standard of living and a highly developed culture.

One example of Italian Public diplomacy is the exhibition of “Italian Style dressing body and daylife”, which was organized in Doha (Qatar) by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture, which opened on 12th November, 2007. That day, the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, inaugurated an event about Leonardo, composed by the Ministry of External Commerce. Napolitano presented the Emir’s wife, Moza bint Nasser al Missned, with a Bulgari handbag (a popular Italian brand) as National brands are helpful for attracting people’s attention towards a country and showing its quality.

The Year of Italian Culture in the United States was a phenomenal act of Public diplomacy. The fellow Italians in the United States, among them 26 million Italian Americans – companies, and institutions that worked hardly day and night to promote the “Italian brand” and even the press, which gave many positive articles to the initiative that felt the strong urge to rediscover the charm of Italy’s past, to uncover the best of its present, and to feature the examples of how it is progressing towards the future. This has done to open new doors for the citizens of both countries.  It’s about over 200 events in more than 200 U.S. cities. The main objective of this campaign is to bring the best of the most important country (Italy) which they have to depict through its culture, traditions and the elegance of its ‘Made in Italy’. “Italy inspires U.S.” is the slogan that has been chosen to best enfold the meaning of the Year of Italian Culture in the U.S. what they want to express is that Italy is not just a country, it is a lifestyle.

On December 12, 2012, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Italians inaugurated the exhibition of the popular David Apollo by Michelangelo. On this date, a huge number of visitors, observers and enthusiasts were all ready enjoy their ‘piece of Italy’ i.e. paintings, sculptures, present and past achievements, music and theater. Above all, the Year brought new partnerships between public and private world of two nations: among them, a cooperation agreement between NASA and the Italian Space Agency and in addition various new agreements between museums and cultural institutions, companies, local agencies and universities were made.

The Italian government should organize some more events and undertake nation promoting projects including its territorial and regional brands, with a basic aim of giving guidelines for Italy’s external cultural relations, through the promotion of their single regions and also national language and culture.

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