Pakistan: A neglected Soft Power
Soft power is a newly established mean in international power politics, exercised as an instrument to attract others and thus, influencing the behaviors of others to achieve the desired outcome.
Having its roots in thousands of years of human experience, soft power is being used in the contemporary international politics to restructure the manner and approach in terms of resolving issues while synchronizing the agenda.
It is distinguished from ‘hard power’, which is generally associated with payment and coercion or intimidation. It is regarded as the “second face of power” so as to attaining the preferred consequences.
Originally coined by Joseph S. Nye, today soft power is being exercised by states and other actors of international politics alike. According to Nye, a country’s soft power depends on three resources: “its culture (in places where it is attractive to others), its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad), and its foreign policies (when others see them as legitimate and having moral authority).
We are living in an era in which nation-states, in pursuit of economic and vital strategic resources, are striving to balance hard power capabilities with soft power in order to achieve preferred results. The idea of attraction rather than coercion has produced tremendous results for countries who have exercised soft power lately. For a country like Pakistan, it has become imperative in today’s security environment to undertake a more steady approach by sufficiently equipping and training the civilian instruments to project its soft power.
Pakistan is blessed with a vast pool of ingredients that constitute an ideal platform to project its soft power. Although mired with challenges to overcome violence, mismanagement and corruption, Pakistan still has a lot to offer to this world.
Home to one of the oldest known civilizations, the Indus Valley Civilization, Pakistan has always had an opportunity to promote its rich heritage and culture before the world. Pakistan’s society is very vibrant and diverse which aptly shows in its arts and culture.
It is believed that when nations fail in politics, their geography works. Strategically, Pakistan is located in a unique part of the world where civilizations have met. In fact, the remaining of past civilizations – MahinjoDaro, Harappa, and Taxila still manifests the glorious past and enriched present preserved in the rich culture of the region.
Tourism can become the foremost tool for Pakistan in its endeavour to achieve greater soft power. Pakistan already possesses the raw material, natural beauty, but the refined product is lacking. Pakistan’s unique geographical location means it can attract tourists throughout the year. Deserts, mountainous valleys, coastal areas, thriving cities with their traditional markets, and general feeling of hospitality towards guests makes Pakistan an ideal tourist resort.
We cannot ignore the example set by Sri Lanka which despite going through a bloody civil war for a good part of its existence, still managed to attract foreign tourists to its sandy beaches even during troubled times.
Pakistan has vast reservoirs of gas, precious stones and jams, minerals, coal etc. The latent sources of energy in Pakistan are still untapped. Furthermore, sports also play an important role in projecting a country’s soft power. There is no dearth of talented athletes in the country but lack of infrastructure and system impedes the development of sports and sportspersons in the country.
Despite having many positive characteristics to its credit, Pakistan still faces image problem since 9/11. Pakistan has been portrayed as a hard power country. The role of strong military influence on the state of affairs of Pakistan has remained a subject of severe criticism. However, the hype towards Pakistan’s military-centric approach does not take into consideration its security compulsions relating to tackling terrorism, regional security issues, and strategic competition in South Asia.
In this regard, the world in general and the West in particular has been voluble in terms of ‘doing more syndrome’. It is due to these reasons that Pakistan hardly ever gave importance to soft power and image building process of the nation. Pakistan needs to promote its domestic and international performance with regard to its efforts in Global War on Terror to alter its image in the eyes of foreign media. Pakistan needs to revamp its defence and foreign policy to meet the existing challenges pertaining to its security in the contemporary era.
Pakistan has successfully demonstrated its ability to ensure the safety and security of its nuclear assets by having a robust command and control with dedicated security and intelligence support. Despite these measures, the Western media continues to create doubts through propaganda campaigns with regard to Pakistan’s competence in safeguarding its nuclear assets.
Facing one crisis after another, Pakistan fell short of balancing its hard power with soft power even though the state had ample opportunities to project its soft power through diplomacy, cultural values and overseas export potential. The country’s recently evolved media has also failed to counter negative propaganda by other media outlets around the world with regard to terrorism, lawlessness and corruption.
As a matter of fact, it is clear that building and expanding soft power is more important than to create hard power, since hard power is necessary for deterrence; however it is also imperative to use diplomacy and the projection of positive image to acquire economic prosperity. This is a recognized reality that most countries are currently employing such tools in their foreign policy. Therefore, the foreign policy should not focus on just one dimension of power rather it should be a multifaceted strategy to achieve goals.
For Pakistan to formulate a comprehensive strategy, Islamabad has to devise all means to build Pakistan’s ‘smart power’ by combining both hard and soft power. Pakistan can continue to remain a security-centric state while also focusing on projecting its soft power at the same time. However, there is an urgent need to bring political stability in Pakistan as well as to improve the deteriorating law and order situation.
There is a lack of coordination among law-enforcement agencies in addition to successive governments having a lenient attitude towards the issues of terrorism and sectarianism. Pakistan can emulate strategies as adopted by China and India, who despite retaining their hard power in regional context are successfully projecting their soft power around the world – owing mainly to stable economic conditions.
Pakistan should properly project its soft power through a policy formulated by a committee comprising of experts on foreign relations including senior politicians, diplomats, academics, journalists, media executives, and members from the civil society.
Pakistani missions all around the world must be proactive with regard to engaging on societal level. Efforts should be made to hold small scale functions to inform the masses about the culture of Pakistan. Lectures should also be delivered about what Islam says about terrorism to negate the erroneous belief that the havoc caused by militants in Pakistan has anything to do with the religion. The embassies should also make more of an effort to celebrate the religious/cultural days of the respective countries in which they are based. If need be, just like other nations, Pakistan must consider hiring a lobbying firm that could assist in projecting the country’s soft power globally.
Asim Hamza is a Postgraduate scholar of International Relations from National Defence University. Ahmad Khan is a freelance Columnist, Blogger and Opinion Maker.