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Diplomacy

Transcending Borders

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Usually the term of diplomacy is equated with a complex governmental framework with extended missions, official proceedings, treaties and much more- all part of a professional and complex system. It is generally thought that maintaining or restraining from relationships between two states is purely a state owned and worked mechanism – a faulty induction indeed.

Diplomacy works under a multilateral framework of nine tracks, known as the multi-track diplomacy: a conceptual way to view the process of international peacemaking as a living system. It looks at individuals, institutes, and communities that operate together for a common purpose: a world at peace.

Diplomacy can well be played by the citizens of democratic states as effective as the government of the state itself. Nine tracks include working relations through professional conflict resolution, business, private citizens, research, training and education, activism, religious, funding, and public opinion/communication other than the government can be exercised.

The government of Pakistan has been unable to untangle matter of maintaining cordial relations with its immediate neighbor- India since the past seven decades.  The framework of governmental diplomacy somehow has never been favorable for the political environment of the both countries, usuallyacting opposite to the intended outcomes of governmental diplomatic proceedings.

Yet, it is a noted and proven fact that the societies of both the nations have a strong will to connect to each other in a cordial bond keeping aside the politics that plays between their respective governments. Particularly the newer generation, the educated millennium have given multiple examples of how this idea can be lived to a reality if the societies are bond through ties within themselves.

Both the nations are proceeding with a democratic system that pertains influence of the society in shaping policy and decision making extensively. The society shares multiple examples of how they respectively have a wish to discard the long-lived hate and cherish a long-wished relation building up on similar arts, culture, society, language, traditions, festivals etc. Some of which are shared herein through personal experience and interviews:

Tourist in Pakistan

A case of an Indian tourist visiting Islamabad for the second time where she fell in love with Pakistani hospitality. She visited multiple areas including Lok Virsa where she was gifted a bracelet just because of belonging from India. She shares her thoughts about Pakistan in her article saying:

“I witnessed a physical similarity and a sense of great familiarity, while travelling along the straight road that disconnects yet connects the two nations”.

When asked about the relationship, she exclaims:

“Such is the relationship between India and Pakistan, between the states and between the people — a dichotomous relationship of conflict and cooperation, of hatred and curiosity, of suspicion and trust”.

When asked about her experience in Pakistan:

“My experience in Pakistan, for the second time, majorly comprised the latter set of emotions. It was a Track II Bilateral Dialogue that brought me to Islamabad, Pakistan, that I had often heard being referred to as ‘one of the world’s most beautiful capitals”.

She commented on the bilateral relations as:

“We often ponder about the role that common people can play in international relations when the deliberations often limit their role. It is important that the people understand how the conflict is tearing both our countries apart and how it is affecting each one of us. People of India and Pakistan not only share a language, a culture, love for Bollywood movies or Coke Studio, but (unfortunately), they also share the same socio-economic challenges”.

“It is important that we pressurize or support our states to talk, despite the hurdles. We need to support the voices of peace, for it is the only path to sanity”.

Tomato Soup

A local journalist from Pakistan had the experience to travel to multiple states of India during her professional career. She took a train after crossing the Wagah Border in Lahore to Amritsar. She describes the journey to be one of the best experiences of her life. She met amazing people who welcomed her in Indian land as her own. Travelling from a train and stopping at each station till Kerala, she had an in-depth experience with the Indian culture.

What she cherishes the most about her journey is the taste of tomato soup she had during her train journey. She says it was one of the best tomato soups she has ever had and has never tasted something similar to it. She fell for the Indian cuisine, which was very similar to her own. She has been an advocate of a bilateral cordial tie since her return. She fell in love with India, being from Pakistan.

A UAE love story

There exists a sense of hatred between the two countries, but remains an odd fact that when abroad, both nationals are the bests friends of each other. Particularly the UAE, which seems to be providing a unique opportunity for people from the neighboring countries to truly live like neighbors.

Danish Syed, an Indian living with a Pakistani roommate in UAE comments on his roommate Mohammad Haris as:

“He has been with me through good and bad times. Last year, my brother came to Dubai for a trip and to him, Haris was like a brother as well. Among the three of us, we didn’t feel there was any distance, it was just brotherhood.”

“It doesn’t matter where you are from, whether India or Pakistan. It’s just friendship that matters”.

Today, not only has his own perspective on people across the border changed, his family also loves his roommate like a son.

Haris, an aspiring vlogger, decided to create a short film on how Indians and Pakistanis become the best of friends in a country far away from the political climate back home.

A Way Forward

The above mentioned are a very few of millions of stories that exist as a pact of a cordial relationship between India and Pakistan. The sense of similarity pulls both of the societies together, indifferent of the stance of their governments.

It is high time where societies intervene to bridge the gap by bringing up their stories of cordial relationships with the other as a sign of  mutual peacemaking. Hatred, war and conflict that has been a prevalent part of the nature of this relationship has brought nothing to both the nations except skepticism, loss, blame-game and hate for each other. It is high time when the term of diplomacy is taken out of its cliched governmental prospects and is handled by societies towards peacemaking while transcending the borders that separate them.

Bilateral relations are not the sole responsibility of the governments through official track of diplomacy. Societies, education, culture, arts, business and multiple such non-governmental settings can play a tremendous role in bridging gaps- which is not only the need of the hour but is also a way forward in solving many problems faced by South Asia as a region. It is a win-win game where South Asia can be a stable, prosperous and interconnected region, like some other integrated regions of the world.

Researcher at Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad and student of International Relations and Politics at Quaid-I-Azam University, Islamabad.

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Diplomacy

Cutting Distances with a Cricket Stump

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Sports are the common threads that bind people and countries together. The interlocking rings of the Olympics rings symbolize the coming together of all nations. The former US President Nixon successfully used “ping-pong diplomacy” to open the US-China relationship leading the US to lift embargo against China on June 10, 1971. Cricket has been used in a similar manner to bring together the people of different countries, especially South Asians. Sport in South Asia is a significant part of culture. For South Asians, it is not only a sport but part of their collective identity. Some legends of Cricket in South Asia like Imran Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Waseem Akram, Sunil Gavaskar, Kumar Sangakkara, Shahid Afridi, Shakaib Al Hasan, Shoaib Akhtar and Virat Kohli are the household names. Though, Pakistan is known as the manufacturer of the official FIFA World Cup ball, football is not popular in Pakistan. Pakistan has remained world champions in Squash, Hockey, Cricket, Snookers, Kabaddi and many other individual events of athletics, yet cricket is the most sought-after sport in Pakistan despite bottlenecks like terrorism and COVID-19.

While the overall sports spectrum went down, Pakistani cricket maintained its presence in cricketing world. Since last few years, Pakistani cricket team has been able to revive and reinvent itself internationally. I remember one of the slogans during Independence Cup 2017 in Lahore that said “It is not Pakistan vs. World, it is Pakistan vs. Terrorism”. In Pakistan, cricket is also a measure of national strength. Pakistan’s cricket teams take part in domestic competitions such as the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the Patron’s Trophy, ABN-AMRO Twenty-20 Cup, and the ABN-AMRO Champions Trophy. In 2015, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) organized a franchise based T20 cricket league known as the Pakistan Super League (PSL). The two seasons of PSL, 2020 and 2021 are held entirely by PCB. Additionally, Mr. Imran Khan, incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan has conceived the new basic structure of the game in country.

Pakistan-World Champion

Pakistan has won international cricket events, which include the 1992 Cricket World Cup, the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 and the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy besides finishing as runner-up in the 1999 Cricket World Cup and the 2007 ICC World Twenty20. Women’s cricket is also very popular, with KiranBaluch holding the current record of the highest score in a women’s test match with her innings of 242. Mr. Imran Khan has the honour of leading Pakistan national cricket team which won the 1992 Cricket World Cup. In 2010, he was also inducted into International Cricket Council’s Hall of Fame.

Hitting Balls not Borders

In South Asia, cricket and politics are interwoven. Wars have been fought and conflicts have been de-escalated alongside the bat hitting ball. The history of India-Pakistan relations did not inspire confidence in rebuilding relations through non-political means. However, the cricket matches between them are loaded with deeper political and diplomatic meaning.

From 1947 to 1965 only three test series were played between India and Pakistan. The 1965 and 1971 wars led to complete stoppage of cricket exchanges between two countries and there was a very little window to use cricket as a tool to maintain goodwill. After a gap of 17 years, cricket was resumed between them in 1978. The first instance of cricket diplomacy was in 1987 when General Zia-Ul-Haq visited India to attend a test match in Jaipur, and the resulting diplomatic dialogue cooled relations. In 2004, Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, went to Pakistan to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit. He also allowed Indian cricket team to visit Pakistan to play and advised the cricketers to not only win the matches, but also the hearts of Pakistani public. Over the next three years, the two countries played each other three times. Cricket diplomacy again emerged when then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani, met each other for the World Cup 2011 semifinal between India and Pakistan. Peace talks started again and Pakistan toured India in December 2012 for a T20 and three One Day Internationals (ODIs). The efficacy of cricket diplomacy in Indo-Pak relations can also be gauged from the fact that it brought both states to the negotiating table to manage the issue of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).

All for One and One for All

Any major international sporting event like a World Cup gives one a sense of belonging to a larger global community. Sportsmen have always been successful goodwill ambassadors for any country and have admirers across borders. Fans’ love for cricket break all barriers that is why the peacekeepers see cricket as a tool to bind people together. Despite tensions, Pakistani fans recently celebrated India’s historic win over Australia. Nelson Mandela also believed that “Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”In short, a link between international cricket’s revival and national resilience need to be established. Restarting international cricket in South Asia would enhance the opportunity to establish aspired will of peace and prosperity.

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Diplomacy

Can diplomats be proactive online without becoming “wolf-warrior”?

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Photo: camilo jimenez/Unsplash

With the increasingly important digital world, traditional, offline tools and approaches are becoming less and less sufficient and effective in shaping the public conversation, influencing the global or national public opinion, and obtaining trust.

As a part of reform that veers towards revolution in a domain well known for its adherence to norms, today’s diplomacy is also experiencing functional changes in terms of what strategic communications means in the digital environment. As we are witnessing lately, the emerging diplomatic virtual presence has become a significant part of public diplomacy and policy.

Today, the undeniable power of social media lies in its fundamental role of linking the public and political sphere as part of a worldwide conversation. It is notable that the general reason behind its effectiveness and the steep rise of adoption lie in the power of this environment of building strong brands and credibility. This certainly is today’s Zeitgeist and involves the systematic cultivation of the attempt to influence the public opinion with every single action and to boost social legitimacy, in a more and more interconnected world that seeks to turn individual gestures and actions into symbols.

However, does this fully explain why social media is becoming an emerging playground for sarcasm and open battlefield for a digital war of accusations and threats? 

One of founders of today’s Twiplomacy phenomenon is the former US president, Donald Trump, who proved to be, for better or worse, one of the most vigorous and captivating presences on social media among world leaders.  What is striking in this is the gradual increase in the adoption of the new diplomatic style, known as the Wolf-warrior approach, which gained prominence in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and Chinese presence in the social media. This approach, which originated from a Chinese patriotic movie, in which the main mission of the warrior is fighting back foreigners, is characterized by a more aggressive and assertive style of conducting foreign policy.

It is argued by some that this approach is not being adopted in order to display authoritarian tendencies and to project but rather it is more often adopted by Chinese diplomats as a defense response to the repeated attacks and accusations. It seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Drastic times call for drastic measures?

Either way, the US-China digital war leads to questioning the adequate behavioral approaches to addressing the continuous global power competition and diplomatic tensions. Assertive and offensive or proactive? What makes a wolf-warrior and where do we draw the line?

When credibility and national identity are under threat, assertive approaches seem to come in handy when defending one’s stance and strengthening confidence. We know it very well from the Chinese ancient wisdom: project strength when you are weak. This general principle applies to political stances and authority in advancing agendas, as well as preserving independence in hegemonic environments. However, when increased assertiveness is taken down the wrong road, the world ends up being divided into conflicting blocs. While proactiveness is certainly the adequate modus operandi to overcome such blockages and prevent escalating disputes from bouncing back, the line is certainly crossed when it reaches bullying and propaganda levels.

What is the smart and well-balanced dose of actions when interests and sovereignty come first? Assertiveness or smart power? 

Proactiveness and high reliance on social media can also be channeled into advancing one’s objectives and consolidating strategic gains through smart use of power or through soft power. One of the best examples of this strategy is India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who’s presence on Twitter proves that, most of the time, the tone defines the effectiveness of the message and that balance is to be preferred to unhinged assertiveness. In the end, the art of persuasion is not limited to the right choice of words and actions here and now but also includes the challenging task of building trust in the long run. 

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Diplomacy

China-India Vaccine Diplomacy – Will Pakistan Learn From Neighbors?

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Modern infectious diseases and viruses have stimulated anew war and conflict along with poverty, counterurbanization (deurbanization), and climate change that need freshassessment in international relation arena. International cooperation for objective of infectiousdisease control goes back to atleast the 14th century, and to the later date of 1851, when Europe held its first International Sanitary Conference for multilateral cooperation to prevent the spread of cholera and yellow fever. Beginning in 2000, vaccine became cohesive as key tools in helping developing countries to achieve MDGs. In 2007, foreign ministers from seven countries issued the landmark “Oslo Ministerial Declaration” that formally linked health to foreign policy. Yet,in the past, there have been very few moments, as CoVID19, that assimilated such a huge number and variety of the world’s state actors at diplomatic front. The coronavirus vaccine – one of the world’s most in-demand commodities – has become a new currency for “Vaccine Diplomacy”. Vaccine diplomacy is not only the use of vaccine to increase diplomatic relationship and influence other countries but also, from a strategic perspective, vaccine access opens the door to expand long-term health security provisions.

China, one of the first countries to make a diplomatic vaccine push, promised to help developed and developing countries.Since the start of the pandemic, China used medical supplies to pursue foreign policy gains, sent masks and protective equipment to hard-hit territories,at present distributing vaccine.The vaccine diplomacy is a expansion of China’s endeavors to frame itself as the solution to the pandemic. Since the early days of the CoVID19 outbreak, China’s President Xi Jinping has focused on publicizing Chinese efforts  to supply medical aid worldwide. China’s planeloads of CoVID19 donations including hospital gowns, nasal swabs, and surgical masks etc. – were regardedoptimistically, especially in developing countries. In addition, Chinese government sent experts to support medical personnel across the continent.Correspondingly, the Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest vaccine producers,produced Covishield, developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca. India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said it plans to supply CoVID19 vaccine to 49 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. So far, the country has been distributed 22.9 million doses under its “Vaccine Maitri” (Vaccine Friendship)initiative. Mr. Jaishankar also announced a gift of 2 lakh vaccine doses for about 90,000 U.N. peacekeepers serving in numerous hotspots around the world.

The vaccine race has become a new domain for China-India strategic competition. China’s whole state apparatus is behind the drive and Beijing sprang into action “Health Silk Road” through the cooperation channels of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Moritz Rudolf (German Institute for International and Security Affairs) says, “Health was one of the many subtopics of the BRI. With the pandemic, it has become the main focus”. On the other hand, C. Raja Mohan, (Director, Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore) said, “There is no way India can match China on a lot of issues, but in this particular case, because of India’s pharmaceutical infrastructure, India is in a good position”.In reality, both countries arecontemplating vaccine diplomacy as a matter of national pride and soft-power projection.

In Pakistan, the power of vaccine diplomacy has been underexplored despite the successful facts that included promoting peace between the Cold War powers of the 1950s and 1960s.The historical and modern-day track records of vaccine diplomacy are impressive. But, it has not yet led to an overarching framework for its expanded role in foreign policy of Pakistan. At the moment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, and National Command and Operation Center should establish vaccine diplomacy framework and play an imperative role in promoting international health agreements between Pakistan and governments throughout the world. Vaccine diplomacy will not only enhance Pakistan’s reputation in international arena but also blunt the propaganda of anti-Pakistan forces within boarder and abroad. Consequently, vaccine diplomacy activities should integrated into the foreign policy of Pakistan.

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