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Russian Diplomacy: Trying to go from the Small Stage to the Big Screen

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One of the Russian government’s worries that propelled it to face the conflict in Syria against DAESH was the probability of it morphing into issues within the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The role that Russia has been increasingly playing as a diplomatic partner in the region is entrenching Russia and President Vladimir Putin as the go-to players for security concerns. It was not that long ago though that Russia was in the Western limelight because of its own involvement with Ukraine over the Crimean peninsula, cast as the villain. Is Russia trying to recast its role in Syria, shifting from villain to diplomatic envoy? Some think that Putin is trying to affirm the military’s glory to the Russian people and show the world that Russia cannot be pushed into the background. This strategy, though, is continually stretching the limits of the Russian military, its economic burdens, and the lines of acceptance from the international community.

One region potentially impacted by this is Nagorno-Karabakh, the self-proclaimed autonomous region between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia has been trying to find a diplomatic solution to the dispute, but has been largely unsuccessful in its attempts. Overall, Russia has always remained somewhat closer to Armenia, with Armenia hosting a Russian base within its borders. The contract for that base was recently renewed until 2044. Russia also invited Armenia to be a part of the Eurasian Union. Russia has also started to shift closer to Azerbaijan too, however, selling heavy weapons that it can use to fortify and strengthen its military. The presence of a Russian military base on one side of the conflict and the sale of weapons from Russia to the other side of the conflict is not, however, creating momentum for solving the region’s dilemma. More likely it is further exacerbating the issues of insecurity between the two old rivals in the Caucasus.  

While Russia has tried to play a part in the diplomatic process between Armenia and Azerbaijan regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict it also has given contradictory support (to Armenia by placing troops within the country and to Azerbaijan by selling weapons to the Azeri government), leading to an increase in the spread of violence and discord. The violence is spreading beyond the Nagorno-Karabakh region and is now travelling along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Where skirmishes previously consisted only of small-arms fire, today it is more common that exchanges consist of larger-arms fire and rockets.

There are six main obstacles to overcome in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and they all give Russia tremendous difficulty in proving its diplomatic strength. The first is the deep rooted mutual distrust between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The second is that the Azeris and the Armenians think that the conflict should not involve outside forces: they actually believe that outside forces are doing nothing more than aggravating old tensions. The issue of refugees from the region is a third obstacle that must be addressed. Without having a settlement in the near future it will be near impossible to repatriate any of the 800,000 to1,000,000 refugees spread across the region. Fourth, deep mistrust creates security issues between the two countries that extend far beyond the single disputed region. Azerbaijan is incensed that Armenia is ‘occupying’ nearly six of its provinces, but any move to retake those provinces would provoke further feelings of insecurity for Armenia and could be the spark to set off a full-blown war. Trying to get the two sides to release their claims on various parcels of land has been futile. This deep sense of insecurity and impending dread of renewed militia engagement is keeping hundreds of thousands of refugees from returning to their homes.

This leads to the fifth complication: getting either side to agree to a deal or to at least agree to a timeline for renewed diplomatic engagement based on substantive promises and negotiations. The problems in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are deep-rooted. All sides request concessions that must be in place before they will move forward with any plans to reengage. The concessions are not unreasonable, but the timelines in which they are requested cause continuous issues and arguments. Armenia requests that the Nagorno-Karabakh region is left solely in its care, the Azeris request that the Armenians withdraw from the region and return it to Azerbaijan’s control, and the Nagorno-Karabakh region itself will not concede anything unless it is recognized as an autonomous state. These issues continue to boil under the surface, waiting to erupt.

The last and final obstacle that must be overcome in order to find peace in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is that the parties represented in the negotiating process must come to an agreement on being equal participants at the table. This may seem simple but is in fact arguably the most problematic. There are three parties concerned in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: the Armenians, the Azeris, and the Karabakh Armenians. Even though the region has declared itself an autonomous state, the reality is that such declarations are not recognized by the Armenians or the Azeris. This has subsequently left the self-installed government of Nagorno-Karabakh out of the negotiations entirely. Russia has also shown little support for the autonomous government of Nagorno-Karabakh, further excluding it from the negotiations. This likely has to change if real progress is to be made.

With all the major diplomatic/military operations and maneuvers that Russia has become a part of in the last year, it leaves one to wonder how it will continue to spread resources so thin and still hope to find success. Putin is playing a strategic but potentially risky game in his effort to reestablish the power and glory of Russian international significance.   Indeed, the effects of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh reigniting have implications that would affect not just Russia but also Turkey, Iran, and Syria. The conflict needs a great deal of time and attention to stop festering problems from erupting into an all-out war that would devastate the region far beyond the Caspian. The Russian government needs to seek solutions that would aid in keeping peace, repatriating refugees, and providing relief for the diverse security issues at hand. If it does manage this incredible feat, then it may just be successful in its impassioned desire to be seen as a force for diplomatic good on the world stage. That may seem far-fetched at the moment, but they are still the largest stakes at play.

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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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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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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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