The nuclear diplomacy has become one of the most crucial issues of the modern international relations.
Accordingly to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the total number of the nuclear warheads in the world today is estimated to be over 20 million. More than half of this amount belongs to the Russian Armed Forces, then goes USA, and the remaining percentage is made up by other nuclear states.
The “mutually guaranteed security” of the United States of America
The US nuclear strategy is most precisely formulated by a doctrine of “mutually guaranteed safety” by the Minister of Defense W. Perry during World War Two. Until now it has not lost its significance for the American military ideology. And it means that the United States is still holding firmly the memories about the bipolar epoch even though the nature of the U.S. nuclear threats radically changed. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the annulment of the Warsaw Pact have sharply reduced the chance not only of the global nuclear confrontation, but even of the large-scale regional wars. Nevertheless, the Russian remaining nuclear capabilities continue to evoke fear of the American national security. In reality, the concept of the “mutual assured security” became a national program called “Cooperative Threat Reduction from the former Soviet Union”, which is also known as the Nunn-Lugar plan financed from the budget of the American Ministry of Defense. The program was intended to assist the former USSR republics in the rapid and secure nuclear disarmament. William Perry stated: “there is no better opportunity to spend funds predestined for the national security than to help the destruction of the nuclear weapons and nuclear industry of the former enemy … This is also defense, however, by other means.” By the beginning of 1995 the Nunn-Lugar initiative allocated around 900 million US dollars on the implementation of the disarmament programs.
The U.S. modern nuclear strategy consists of two chief principles. First of all, it has to “convince” the rest of the world of its power, which is achieved by maintaining a high level of the combat readiness of the strategic offensive forces. Secondly, it must create the state of the greatest uncertainty about the Washington’s possible reaction to a nuclear threat emanating from its opponent. That is why the U.S. authorities refuse to make a commitment not to use nuclear weapons first, in contrast to other nuclear countries. At the same time, the United States is an active party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The American administration promotes persistently a program on the combat against the weapons of mass destruction fixing it as a priority for their own diplomatic, economic and military purposes. The Ministry of Defense is entitled to develop a complex of purely military measures to prevent the proliferation of WMD on the international level. Some specific tasks are assigned to the intelligence services that can easily obtain the updated information about the possible development and the production of weapons of mass destruction in any part of the world.
Thus, the revision of the nuclear policy of the Pentagon at the end of the “cold war,” in fact, did not bring about any radical changes for the U.S. nuclear strategy. The “nuclear deterrence” still remains the cornerstone of the national security of the United States.
Russian nuclear ambitions non-stop
The modern Russian military doctrine states that “The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are in constant readiness as well as other troops to deter and prevent an armed conflict in accordance with international law and international treaties of the Russian Federation … The prevention of the nuclear armed conflict, as well as any other military conflict is the most important task of the Russian Federation“.
The use of the nuclear weapons is defined in the following terms: “The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to an attack aimed at it, and (or) its allies with the nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, as well as in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation with the conventional weapons when under threat”.
In the statistical numbers the dimension of the Russian nuclear arsenal is inferior only to the American. During the nuclear talks Russia tends to defend the position of the U.S. missile defense system in the Eastern Europe. When the United States announced the suspension of the deployment of a missile defense system in the Eastern Europe, Russia declared that it “would steadily move towards the verifiable and irreversible reductions in the nuclear weapons.” However, Moscow aims at the preservation of the balance of the strategic offensive arms between Russia and the United States, and thus, exercising a strict control over the export of the nuclear materials and technology, promoting the denuclearization of the post-Soviet space, and improving the existing international nuclear non-proliferation documentary basis.
“The sub-strategic strike” of the United Kingdom
In its nuclear policy the UK adheres to the principle of the minimum nuclear deterrence for selective use of nuclear weapons in the framework of the so-called sub-strategic mission. In the lexicon of the British military and political leadership there even exist the special concept of “sub-strategic impact”, which means that the “sub-strategic strike is limited to the extremely selective use of the nuclear weapons. This gives a strategic blow, and on the level of its capacity it is sufficient to reassure the aggressor to afflict a strike upon UK, which should stop even the thought about the aggression, otherwise the aggressor risks facing a devastating nuclear attack”. That is to say the Russia’s nuclear forces are designed for nuclear retaliation as retaliation for a nuclear attack on Russia and the opponent (or) its allies.
With the reduction in the number of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, Great Britain pledged to “develop and implement” a future agreement on the reduction of the nuclear weapons and nuclear forces to maintain it at a minimum level. To prevent the terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons and to avoid the risk of contagion Britain called upon the nuclear powers to achieve a “global compromise”. In accordance to this plan, all non-nuclear states are ought to guarantee not to develop nuclear weapons under any circumstances. In return Britain is ready to provide those countries with the access to peaceful nuclear technology.
French balanced containment
Since DeGaulle`s times France has been in favor of maintaining its nuclear forces at a minimum, but duly supervised level of the vigilance. In the field of promotion of the international nuclear non-proliferation, the French government has made significant proposals to the United Nations, calling upon all countries to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to begin the negotiations on an international treaty banning the production of fissile material without extension preconditions as soon as possible.
The Chinese philosophy and nuclear weapons are incompatible
China is the only great power, which has a commitment the official level not to use the nuclear weapons first, without any reservations.
All throughout its history, the military-political leadership of China has been realizing its necessities of a huge country, such as the possession of the highly drilled and fully equipped with modern weapons, including nuclear, armed forces. Therefore, the official Chinese doctrine is interpreted as mainly a political and propagandistic tool and it does not show the real operational planning of the strategic nuclear forces, which are in fact aimed at a pre-emptive strike. The Chinese first nuclear program, adopted in 1951, had purely peaceful purposes. However, afterwards it was supplemented by a secret amendment allowing the creation of its own nuclear weapons. China took the path of the preferential production of the nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and land-based aircraft bombs. Nowadays it is no secret that China has got both strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons.
The Chinese tactical nuclear forces include: strategic missile forces (CDR), the strategic air (SA) and the nuclear missile fleet. On January 1 2007 the total number of the nuclear weapons of strategic purpose counted 244 units.
In comparison with other nuclear states, the Chinese nuclear forces have low combat readiness. The reason for this is the technical imperfection of the Chinese nuclear missile potential. Besides this, the nuclear weapons, as a weapon of war, are considered as the extreme last step by the Chinese defense policy. This willing killing is in direct contradiction with the Chinese philosophy of war and victory. Therefore, the Chinese philosophy of war and the use of nuclear weapons are incompatible. Furthermore, the use of the weapons of mass destruction is completely meaningless for China. As the population of China is one of the biggest in accordance to other world military powers, which already gives it an overwhelming advantage over the other countries in the world. The use of the weapons of mass destruction may be beneficial to any other party to the conflict, much is inferior to the population of China. For Beijing, the initiative in the use of weapons of mass destruction means depriving its population of one of the main advantages that they already own.
Indian “strategy of regional deterrence”
If the India declares that it does not intend to use its nuclear power, why, then, wouldn`t New Delhi abandon it? The truth is that even the fact of the possession of the nuclear-country status can have its strategic benefits. The Indian “peaceful atom” means:
– Control over the U.S. influence in the Indian Ocean. India sees itself as a regional power in the Indian Ocean becoming more and more suspicious towards the naval presence of other powers there. The fact that India’s nuclear weapons intend to deprive the U.S. of any possibility to exercise pressure upon India in the ocean space, even if it will worsen the US-Indian relations.
– Another means to deter Pakistan. Numerous collisions in the diplomatic Indo-Pakistani relations still exist on the general background of the religious intolerance, which in turn adds fuel to the mutual hatred leaving no room for compromise. If Pakistan is decisive to possess nuclear weapons, then India will move in the same direction.
– A strategy to contain China. The test of the China’s atomic bomb in 1964 became another blow to the Indian security. In November of the same year, the Indian Prime said that his country would consider the possibility of testing of nuclear devices for peaceful purposes. Still the Indian military believes that the Indian nuclear weapons are the most effective deterrent against China and Pakistan.
– Great-power prestige, which would help New Delhi to take place in the UN Security Council. It is for this reason that India has been refusing to abandon its “nuclear option” for decades. India is well aware that it gained its own nuclear arsenal with big costs and it will force other powers to listen to its opinion.
The India’s nuclear strategy is evolving at a slow pace in the absence of the clear systems of the political leadership of the country. Currently the Indian nuclear weapons are under the civilian control, and the means of their delivery are under the supervision of the militaries. In the operational terms India is reiterating that its nuclear strategy is based strictly on the peaceful principles.
Pakistani “nuclear bomb at all costs”
In 1965 Pakistan made an unsuccessful attempt to oust India in Kashmir. Pakistan lost that war, and the U.S. imposed the arms embargo on the country. As a result, Pakistan was deprived from the U.S. military support and a sense of security, the army began to show dissatisfaction with the current situation and the country’s political crisis started evolving. In 1972 after the defeat in the war with India and the dismemberment of Pakistan, the new president of the President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, declared: “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own”.
So, what are the advantages for Pakistan to keep its nuclear bomb?
First of all, so that to keep distance with India. Now it is already more than half-century that the Indo-Pakistan conflict is ongoing. Pakistan believes that India will continue to be a threat to the Pakistan, and that only the fact that Pakistan acquires the nuclear bomb can make India keep distance with its neighbor.
Secondly, it is an issue of reputation. The military potential of India in the field of conventional weapons is higher than the military capacities of Pakistan. A direct comparison of the nuclear power is not in favor of Pakistan: India has 2 times more soldiers to 1.5 times more tanks, 2.5 times more artillery, a factor of 2 – planes, and 4 times – warships. So, Pakistani nuclear weapons are intended to end this imbalance by making the Indian armed forces helpless in the face of the threat of unacceptable damage to the opponent.
Thirdly, it is a matter of the Pakistani status in the Islamic world. On the international stage, Pakistan and India are in different weight classes. At the same time, the Pakistani government believes that the possession of the nuclear weapons would allow the country to take a more prominent place in the world. Unlike India, Pakistan does not have pretensions to adhere to the club of the great powers and obtain a seat at the Security Council of the UN. The Pakistani ambitions are basically limited to the Islamic world, so the fact of possessing nuclear power rises Islamabad up on the region. The leadership in the Islamic world has always been crucial. In this situation, a Muslim country with nuclear weapons automatically becomes a strategic center of the Muslim world. In 70s ex-President of Pakistan Z.A. Bhutto described the Pakistani nuclear status as an “Islamic bomb”, which proves the modern reality.
Last, but not the least, Pakistan has not yet announced publicly its nuclear strategy. In theory and practice it follows the principles of minimum nuclear deterrence and defense by conventional means. Pakistan was the second country after India to have refused to make a commitment not to use nuclear weapons first. From this it can be concluded that some actions of Pakistan at the international arena, especially those manifested during the previous Indo-Pakistani crises prove that it may use the nuclear weapons in certain situations. Such a situation may occur as a war fought with the conventional weapons, where Pakistan might threaten to use nuclear weapons.
North Korean “nuclear escalation”
The North Korea’s leadership is considering nuclear shield as a guarantor and protection against the regime and the dynasty change. The North Korea has already observed how easily the regimes were eliminated during the Arab Spring. None of them had the nuclear weapons, so they were quickly overthrown by the rebels. So, the North Korea will be avoiding at all cost the repetition of the same scenario on its territory.
The North Korea has not yet entered into the range of the strategic nuclear powers, because, apparently, it has not created yet the compact nuclear warheads for missiles and aircraft carriers. Its potential can largely be described as “provocative” or ” international sabotage”.
In this situation Washington is trying by all means to avoid the escalation of the current crisis into war. At the same time, the U.S. is actively building up its military forces in the region. The “hawks” in the Pentagon urged the administration of the President Barack Obama to abstain from any unnecessary contacts with the dictator. However, the fact is that a war with the North Korea can lead to the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of the South Korea and some parts of Japan if the White House abandons the tempting idea of pre-emptive strike. For the North Korea the preventive strikes mean war, and this war can become a local disaster. It is high time for the North Korea to change its nuclear strategy.
Iranian “nuclear intimidation”
Currently Iran has the most developed research and production base in the nuclear field among the Islamic states and in the whole Middle Eastern region.
Firstly, the acquisition of the nuclear energy is national pride for Iran, as there is only limited number of the countries, which are, indeed, able to master the nuclear fuel cycle. The progress in the development of the nuclear energy, as well as advancing technologies in the space program are highly valued by the Iranian administration, and not only because it raises its international weight, but also because it proves the effectiveness of the Islamic regimes in general. The Iranian nuclear program is more than a key part of its ideology, it is the most crucial period of its history. The Islamic Republic for such a long time has been fighting hard for its right to use the nuclear energy, so that now it feels itself as a full-fledged master at its house.
Secondly, the Iranians believe that the world concerns about the possibility of the double-use or the misuse of the Iranian nuclear potential cannot be a sufficient reason for the constant international intervention into their nuclear program.
In a summary, as it has been presented above, each country being a part to the nuclear club, has got its own purposes for maintaining the nuclear program, as well as its own goals and strategies that such global schemas might require. In the military-political plan each nuclear country associates with the nuclear weapons five main advantages: the prestige and status in the world policy; prevention of a nuclear attack; containment (six countries except China and, with reservations, the U.S. and India), security guarantees and impact on its allies (Russia, USA, UK and France), “trump card” to exchange for concessions on other countries negotiations on other topics in the multilateral negotiations (Russia and North Korea). However, each nuclear program has got its own specificities. In what it concerns the use of nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear strike attack of the enemy, it all nuclear states respond positively. The states are prepared to use nuclear weapons in response to an attack, which is afflicted upon them with the nuclear weapons. Moreover, such powers as U.S. and Russia intend to resort to the nuclear weapons even if a nuclear attack affects their allies. Russia intends to use nuclear weapons in case of an attack on its allies by using other weapons of mass destruction. The new U.S. nuclear strategy, edited in 2010, does not foresee the usage of the nuclear weapons in response to the usage of other weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. and its allies (except, apparently, to protect Japan and South Korea, which are worried about the threat of such aggression emanating from the North Korea). Russia and Pakistan are ready to use their nuclear weapons under the threat of a catastrophic defeat in the war with an adversary that uses only conventional arms and armed forces. Whereas, the United Kingdom, France and later the United States in “The strategy of NATO” adopted in 2010 allowed the use of the nuclear weapons so that to prevent the destruction of their conventional forces. The new U.S. nuclear doctrine does not permit the usage of the nuclear weapons in such a case. All powers except China and India, allow the use of nuclear weapons in a preemptive strike “by default” so that to destruct the missiles and other weapons of mass destruction of an enemy. It is worth noting that the USA earlier allowed the selective application of the nuclear weapons against the terrorist targets in other situations in a discrete way.
So, as we can see, the fundamental principles of the nuclear strategies are evolving extremely slowly preserving the basic approaches taken on during the Cold War, which, above all, aim at the mutual nuclear deterrence. And the modern common strategy of the nuclear club is to keep in fear the rest of the world, which has mainly the psychological basis. In the communication with non-nuclear states their behavior fits into the following schema: playing with time come to negotiations achieve no substantial results gaining time. Sometimes the nuclear countries agree to come to some concessions, and then, one of them wouldn`t agree (like Iran) and all the process starts from the beginning. Only bilateral negotiations may bring solution to the current nuclear challenges. The negotiations are vital in this case, even if they lead to no results so far, it is fundamental even the fact that they are going on.
- http://www.sipri.org/media/pressreleases/2011/yblaunch11– Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
- http://www.defense.gov/news/Defense_Strategic_Guidance.pdf–US Department of Defense
- http://www.sinodefence.com/strategic/–The online source on China’s military development
- http://www.economist.com/node/10424283 – The journal “Economist”
- http://www.kremlin.ru/ref_notes/461 – The web-site of the President of Russia
- http://thediplomat.com/the-pulse/2013/01/17/india-in-need-of-a-new-pakistan-strategy/– The Journal “The Diplomat”
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/apr/11/obama-north-korea-nuclear-threat – The Journal “Guardian”
International Relations Amid the Pandemic
We could rest assured that COVID-19 will be defeated, sooner rather than later. The excessive angst and fear we currently feel will gradually subside, while our science will find effective antidotes so that people could look back on the pandemic years as a ghastly dream.
At the same time, it is also clear that a post-pandemic world will be quite different to the world we knew before. The argument that the world needs a massive shake-up to move to the next stage of its development has been quite popular ever since the end of the Cold War. Some prophesied that this would come as a result of a profound economic crisis, while others argued that a large-scale war may well be on the cards. As often happens, though, what turned the world on its head came as if out of nowhere. Within a short span of just a few months, the COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on all the many contradictions and setbacks of our age. It went on to outline the trajectory for economic prosperity, scientific breakthroughs and technological advancements going forward, opening up new opportunities for self-realization and fulfilment. The question pertinent today is: Who will be able to best exploit the new reality and take advantage of the opportunities that are opening up? And how?
COVID-19 has also left its mark on the current architecture of international relations.
At the turn of the century, it was mired in crisis. The end of the Cold War towards the late 20th century effectively signaled the beginning of the transition from the bipolar world order established in the wake of the Second World War to a model that had yet to be created. A bitter struggle would unfold as to what the new world order had to be, with the issue still unsettled today. A number of states, as well as non-state actors, willing to take advantage of this uncertainty in global affairs and redistribute the spheres of influence in the world is what it ultimately boils down to. In a sense, such a scenario should have come as no surprise since the contradictions between the profound changes encompassing the public domain and the rigid model of international relations established in the mid-20th century by the powers victorious in the Second World War had continued to grow in recent decades.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be a stern and unprecedented test of strength that has revealed the limits of the current architecture of international relations. Previous crises—be they financial turmoil, struggle against terrorism, regional conflicts or something else—were, in fact, temporary and rather limited in their implications, however severe they were. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected each and every country in the world, regardless of their political regimes and social conventions, economic prosperity and military might. The pandemic has exposed the fragility of the modern world as well as the growing risks and challenges; and if ignored, they could plunge the world into a descending spiral of self-destruction.
The pandemic continues, which means we are yet to draw a final conclusion on its consequences for the system of international relations. That being said, a number of tentative conclusions are already taking shape.
Point 1. Globalization, despite its obvious side effects, has already changed the face of our world, irreversibly making it truly interdependent. This has been said before; however, the opponents of globalization have tried—and continue to try—to downplay its consequences for modern society. As it happens, they would like to think of globalization as little more than an episode in international life. Although it has been going on for quite some time now, it is nevertheless incapable of changing the familiar landscape of the world. The pandemic has lifted the curtain on what the modern world truly looks like. Here, state borders are nothing more than an administrative and bureaucratic construct as they are powerless to prevent active communication among people, whether spiritual, scientific, informational or of any other kind. Likewise, official borders are not an obstacle to the modern security threats proliferating among states. The waves of COVID-19 have wreaked havoc on all countries. No nation has been able to escape this fate. The same will also happen time and again with other challenges unless we recognize this obvious reality to start thinking about how states should act amid the new circumstances.
Point 2. The international system withstood the initial onslaught in spite of the incessant fearmongers prophesying its impending collapse. Following a rather brief period of confusion and helplessness, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, G20 and other global and regional organizations got their act together (albeit some better than others), taking urgent action to contain the pandemic. This proves that the system of international relations that was constructed after the Second World War still functions, although it is far from perfect or devoid of shortcomings.
In a similar vein, the fight against the pandemic has demonstrated that many international structures are increasingly out of step with the modern reality, proving incapable of mobilizing quickly enough to make a difference in our ever-changing world. This, once again, pushes to the fore the issue of a reformed United Nations system (and other international institutions), while the issue is progressively getting even more urgent. Moving forward, the international community will likely have to face challenges no less dangerous than the current pandemic. We have to be prepared for this.
Point 3. As the role of international institutions in global affairs weakens, centrifugal tendencies gain momentum, with countries—for the most part, global leaders—starting to put their national interests first. The global information war surrounding various anti-COVID-19 vaccines is a prime example of this. Not only has it seriously upset successes in the fight against the pandemic, but it has also added a new dimension to mutual distrust and rivalry. The world has effectively fallen back to the “rules” of the Cold War era, when countries with different socio-political systems were desperate to prove their superiority, with little regard for common interests such as security and development.
Pursuing such a policy today is fraught with grave consequences for every nation, since new security threats care little for borders. The recent events in Afghanistan should serve as a lesson for us all, showing that any serious regional crisis, even in a most remote corner of the world, will inevitably have global implications. Therefore, we are all facing a stark choice: either unite against these new challenges or become hostage to the various extremists and adventurers.
Point 4. Some political leaders have been quick to use the challenges of the pandemic as a pretext to strengthen the role of the state at the expense of fundamental democratic principles and binding international obligations. This may be justified or even necessitated at a time of the most acute phases of a severe crisis, when all available resources need to be mobilized to repel the threat.
However, one gets the impression that some politicians are increasingly in the groove for these extended powers and would very much like to hold onto them, using the likelihood of new crises as a justification. This line of thinking could prove to be an insurmountable obstacle to a new model of international relations to be established in accordance with the modern reality, where states would be expected to pool their efforts in the interests of global security and development.
Point 5. As always happens in times of profound crises, the international community is looking to major powers and their leadership for guidance. The future course of history in all realms of life, naturally including international relations, will hinge on what these countries choose to do, deciding whether solidarity prevails over national egoism. President Putin’s initiative to hold a meeting of the heads of state of the permanent UN Security Council members could be a good starting point to foster understanding and seek new ways of moving forward. We cannot keep putting off a frank and thorough conversation about the future world order, as the costs of new delays could be too grave for everyone to handle.
From our partner RIAC
Relevance of the Soft Power in Modern World
In modern days, the relevance of Soft Power has increased manifolds. At times, the COIVD-19 has hooked the whole human race; this concept has further come into the limelight. The term, Soft Power was coined by the American Scientist Joseph Nye. Soft Power is the ability of a country to get what it wants through attraction rather than coercion. By tapping the tool of Soft Power, a country can earn respect and elevate its global position. Hard Power cannot be exercised exceeding a territory, and if any country follows this suit, its image is tarnished globally. However, it is Soft Power that can boost the perception and create a niche of a nation. Soft Power is regarded as the essential factor of the overall strength of a country. It can increase the adhesion and the determination of the people in a realm to shape the foreign relations of any nation. Nye held that the Soft Power arsenal would include culture, political values, and foreign policy.
After the Cold War, many nations pumped billions of dollars into Soft Power initiatives, and the US mastered this concept. The US has sailed on the waters of Soft Power by harnessing the tool of media, politics, and economic aid. The US boasts globally recognized brands and companies, Hollywood, and its quest for democratic evangelization. Through movies, the US has disseminated its culture worldwide. American movies are viewed by a massive audience worldwide. The promotion of the US culture through films is a phenomenon (culture imperialism) where the US subtly wants to dominate the world by spreading its culture. Through Hollywood films, the US has an aspiration to influence the world by using Soft Power tools. Hollywood is considered as the pioneer of fashion, and people across the globe imitate and adopt things from Hollywood to their daily life. Such cultural export lure foreign nations to fantasize about the US as a pillar of Soft Power. Educational exchange programs, earthquake relief in Japan and Haiti, famine relief in Africa stand as the best example of the US initiatives of Soft Power. Now, the American political and cultural appeal is so extensive that the majority of international institutions reflect US interests. The US, however, witnessed a drop from 1st place to 6th on the Global Soft Power Index. This wane can be attributed to the attack on the US Capitol Hill sparked by former US President Donald Trump. In addition, his dubious decisions also hold responsibilities that curtailed the US soft power image, that is, particularly the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.
Beijing is leaving no stone unturned to ace this area. China, rich in culture and traditional philosophy, boasts abundant sources of Soft Power. China is contemplating and exploring an innovative strategy in its rise in international politics. There have been notable elements in the Chinese diplomatic practice, including softer rhetoric, promotion of its culture abroad, economic diplomacy, and image building. Beijing, amid an ongoing pandemic, has extended vaccine help to 80 countries. Such initiative taken by China has elevated its worth globally during difficult times of the pandemic. According to the Global Soft Power index 2021, China stands in the 8th slot. China is an old civilization with a rich culture. China has stressed culture as a crucial source of Soft Power. In a bid to enhance its cultural dominance, Beijing has built many Confucius Institutes overseas. However, this has not been whole-heartedly embraced by the Chinese neighbors due to territorial disputes on the South China Sea. Moreover, International Order, dominated by the West, is wary of Beijing. China’s authoritarian political system is not welcomed in Western democracies. Therefore, China finds it hard to generate Soft Power in democracies. In recent times, Beijing has witnessed tremendous extension in its economy; thus, it focuses on harnessing economic tools to advance its Soft Power. Consequently, Beijing has driven its focus on geoeconomics to accelerate its Soft Power.
Unfortunately, Pakistan, in this sphere, finds itself in a very infirm position -securing 63rd position in the Global Soft Power Index. In comparison with Pakistan, India boasts a lot of Soft Power by achieving the 36th position in the Global Soft Power Index. Its movies, yoga, and classical and popular dance and music have uplifted the Indian soft image. In the promotion of the Indian Soft Power Image, Bollywood plays a leading role and it stretches beyond India. Bollywood has been projected as a great Soft Power tool for India. Bollywood stars are admired globally. For instance, Shahrukh Khan, known as Baadshah of Bollywood, has a fan following across the world. Through its Cinema, India has attracted the attention of the world. Indian movies have recognition in the world and helped India earn billions of dollars. However, the Modi government has curtailed the freedom of Bollywood. Filmmakers claim that their movies are victim of censorship. Moreover, the anti-Muslim narrative has triggered in India, which has tarnished the Indian image of secular country and eventually splashing the Indian Soft image. Protests of farmers, revocation of article 370 in Kashmir, and the controversial Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) have degraded the Indian Soft Power.
Pakistan is not in the tier of the countries acing the Soft Power notion. In Pakistan, expressions of Soft Power, like spiritualism, tourism, cinema, literature, cricket, and handicrafts, are untapped. Pakistan is on the list of those countries having immense tourism potential and its culture is its strength. Unfortunately, no concrete steps are taken to promote the Pakistani culture and tourism. The Pakistani movies are stuck in advancing Pakistan’s narrative worldwide due to lack of the interest of successive governments in this sphere. In addition, these movies lack suitable content, that’s why people prefer watching Bollywood or Hollywood movies. It is the job of the government to harness the expressions of Soft Power. Through movies and soap operas, we can disseminate our culture, push our narrative, and promote our tourism. Government-sponsored campaigns on electronic media can help greatly in this sphere. Apart from the role of government, this necessitates the involvement of all stakeholders, including artists, entrepreneurs, academics, policymakers, and civil society.
Planetary Drought of Leadership
The Tokyo Olympic Games, just concluded, were a spectacular success and grateful thanks are owed to our Japanese hosts to make this event so, at a time when we were in the middle of a global pandemic. There were many doubts expressed beforehand by many people over the Games going ahead during the pandemic, but the precautionary measures put in place were well handled and not obtrusive.
For anyone who had the opportunity to watch the Games via TV they must have been struck by the wonderful sportsmanship and friendship shown by the competitors of all nations taking part, whatever race and ethnicity. It prompted me to think and ask why the countries of the world cannot exercise some of the same degree of friendship when dealing with one another rather than push forward with agendas that are antagonistic. The world holds a number of dysfunctional states as well as oppressive dictatorships where the resident population is subjected to mental as well as physical torture. Belarus is a typical example, where the leader of the country stole the election to give himself yet another term, and quashes any dissent, with some paying the ultimate price. He has the arrogance to divert a commercial flight so that he can arrest someone who opposes him and then beats him up, before parading him in front of the cameras to say an apology, which everyone can see was forced out of him.
The Middle East is a complex problem and has been for centuries, the home of some of the oldest civilisations and the divergent monotheistic religions, which add a complicating factor. It surprisingly has been relatively quiet for the last period. Until the next flare up.
Myanmar has also been quiet, or so it seems. The military patrols across the country, particularly in states that offer some resistance and tough guerrilla opposition. The military behave badly, continuing the practice of killing, rape and pillage if not total destruction of small communities which cannot offer any resistance. Corruption is thriving. The military government have ‘promised’ fresh elections next February, 6 months hence, but it is most unlikely that these will be ‘fair and free’. The troubled conditions will continue. It will be an issue of continuing concern for ASEAN and more widely. A recent visit for a documentary had to be carried out illegally in case the military had discovered that the local people had been welcoming and helpful. The repercussions would have been appalling.
The latest situation that has arisen is the Afghanistan blitz takeover by the Taliban, a medieval group promoting the fundamental sharia doctrine, which is out of date and treats women as ‘non-persons’. They have also harboured terrorists, one group pulling off the infamous 2001, 9/11 strike on the NY Twin Towers, which awakened the US to take strong retaliatory action in Afghanistan, and forcing the Taliban out for 20 years. Their 5-year, 1996-2001, rule of Afghanistan was brought to a close after the NY happening, when the US with Allied forces took charge and ousted them.
But now the Taliban are back following a direct meeting with the then president Trump in 2017, no Afghan government present, and they saw him coming! Shades of North Korea. He said he would withdraw completely without proper assurances, leaving the country’s development less than half finished. President Joseph Biden completed the task of withdrawal, somewhat hasty, upsetting nearly all Americans in the process. The British were caught flat-footed and there is considerable anger expressed by MPs, not least because they realise that they no longer have the ability to resolve such issues themselves. They feel embarrassed and rightly so.
As one of the Afghan luminaries and most quoted intellectuals, prof. Djawed Sangdel, reminds us: “Afghanistan is a graveyard of empires. Even Alexander the Macedonian realised – 2,300 years ago – ‘it is easy to enter the country, but lethal when exiting it’. This especially if you do not respect domestic realities.” Indeed, the situation on the ground is chaotic.
The leader, Ashraf Ghani, of the weak ‘legal’ government has fled, not without rumours about bags full of cash, and that is one reason that the country has not progressed as well as it should, endemic corruption. Women, quite rightly, are fearful, as to what lies in store, as the Taliban’s record on treatment of them is brutal. They have promised to give emancipation within sharia law – which in their case was the combination of twisted and oversimplified Islamic teachings with the tribal nomadic pre-Islamic culture of the central Asian hights.
Looking at the country as a whole, one worries about its future; the Taliban have no track record of governing a country, particularly not one as complex as Afghanistan. They would have to greatly modify their approach to life, separate religion from state (affairs). However, there are credible doubts; once more the Northern Alliance will get together and the country will lapse into civil war. Will the Chinese see an opportunity and risk what others have failed to do? My heart goes out to the people of Afghanistan.
In reviewing the past few decades, it would seem that western led democracies, when they have engaged with a country, which is in trouble, have only entered it without full humanitarian understanding of the problems and not sought a proper sustainable solution. Inevitably it takes longer than one thinks, and there are not strong enough safeguards put in to avoid financial losses to development projects, sometimes major.
The UN has a major part to play, but one must ask if today’s remit is fit for purpose, or should they be reviewed, and the countries that make up the UN should look at and ask themselves if they are fair in what they give and expect, not just monetarily.
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