Diplomacy in the present day world is facing unprecedented challenges. The conflict, war and mistrust are slowly and gradually gripping global arena for which millions of people are suffering in one way or the other. In such a scenario, it has become a gigantic challenge to practically move from unbridled hatred to tolerance and subsequently to reconciliation. The promises and treaties contained in the documents cannot yield to peace unless there is mutual good faith and credibility among the peoples who are real stake holders. There is need to add value to traditional diplomacy by brining into effect cultural resources to win hearts and minds.
Traditionally, diplomacy is defined as the activity, skill, aim and attitude of managing international relations. It is an art of dealing people carefully and tactfully. Cultural diplomacy is one of the dimensions of public diplomacy. The public diplomacy is considered a strategic communication tool for “understanding, informing and influencing the people”, whereas the cultural diplomacy is “the exchange of ideas, information, values, systems, traditions, beliefs and other aspects of culture with the intention to forging mutual understanding.” The aim is to promote reconciliation by strengthening intercultural and interfaith understanding and enhance socio-cultural cooperation. Cultural diplomacy is one of the major instruments that a country can use to advance its interests and position in the world.
It has been more or less the practice of certain countries to use their cultural resources as diplomacy to communicate and convey social, cultural, political and economic values through exchange programmes, art, open dialogue, music, traditional cuisine, and heritage, etc. However, cultural diplomacy has remained the less attended part in international relations, and it attracted little attention. Cultural diplomacy is considered as an effective and important tool in foreign policy and is used as a form of soft power.” The term “Soft Power” was first coined by the Harvard Professor Joseph Nye, which means “the ability to persuade others through culture, values and ideas.” It is a power to influence in a sophisticated and gentle way leading to a positive image building as well as advancing economic and political interest. Nye points out that there are three approaches to achieve once goals. Firsts, through coercion or threats. Second, through buying out, and the third one is through persuasiveness and attractiveness. The basic premise of the concept is that in the domain of international relations, the alternative power structure exists alongside economic and military. It is through important attractive assets prominently culture, values, education and language. Soft power is inextricably linked with what is attracted in the eyes of others, and it is potentially through culture from which soft power is produced.
Cultural relations grow naturally and gradually. For instance, through trade and tourism goods, book circulations, music and art, migrations, media access, intermarriage and millions of daily cross-cultural encounters. It is seen as an effective tool to develop in the realm of international relations. There are many advantages of cultural diplomacy. Firstly, it enhances cooperation among states by bringing people closer to each other, help prevent conflict and pave the way for reconciliation. Secondly, it can help strengthen partnerships, nurture the process of democratization and good governance leading to promote human rights. Third, it offers strong economic potential. Furthermore, culture is considered as a key component of knowledge economy as it can boost and promote particularly cultural and creative industries and tourism.
For successful course of cultural diplomacy, it is essentially required to have an acknowledgement about the fact that mutual respect, peace and justice are core values and key elements in diplomacy and international law. Diplomacy must find its path to evolve and grow on the lines that could achieve social ends to benefit target population by winning their hearts and minds. In this regard culture can play a very important and significant role in socio-economic development, conflict prevention and reconciliation. Cultural diplomacy as a soft power aims to “attract and persuade” other nations by promoting art and culture to enhance closer bonds and create environments of peaceful co-existence.
Pakistan is a multi-cultural country and is blessed with rich cultural resources having beautiful and appealing diversity. We can capitalize this strength and showcase our cultural capital to promote soft image of our country. In all provinces of Pakistan, there are several artistic monuments, rich landscapes, important heritage sites, foods, music and welcoming and hospitable people. Among these, the culture of Balochistan is one of the most interesting and ancient one. The province is home of one of the oldest cultural heritage sites, that is, Mehrgarh located near Bolan river in Kachi district, which according to world fame French archaeologist Professor Francois Jarrige is 7000 BCE and beyond where humanity attained sophistication. Once this ancient town used to be a great cultural settlement. This cultural site has an immense archaeological significance as one of the earliest seats of civilization. Besides that, the province is a place to numerous historical sites such as Chakar Fort, the Kharan Forte, Sussi Punnuh Fort, Shirin Farhad Tomb, Lahoot La Makan Cave, Miri Kalat, Shahi Tump and many more. These sites are of paramount importance and hold significant cultural and historic importance that could attract heritage tourism lovers from all over the world as tourism is becoming an important element and a key driver of mutual understanding and tolerance among cultures in a diverse world. The benefits are further amplified as it helps promote people to people contact, promote positive behavior and improve image and pride of the country. Food is another important part of culture passed down from generation to generation. It not only connects with people and places but brings families and friend closer. Balochistan cuisine such as skewed lamb which is called sajji is very popular all over the country. Rock hard bread which is called Kaak is another specialty which is normally served with Sajji. Khaddi Kabab is another dish in which raw rice is put in the stomach of lamb and cooked over a fire. Apart from that Balochi musical instrument such as Nal, Tambura and Soroz are very inspirational and popular that can potentially facilitate cross-cultural understanding and promote the message of peace. The peculiar treasures, ancient and historical heritage sites, rich folk and traditional music, beautiful embroidery and delicious cuisine of Balochistan are the areas which could be showcased as unique cultural resources of Pakistan.
Presently, countries have started taking their cultural resources as an important element of foreign policy. It is worthwhile to know why soft power is important and in what way it can play an effective role in Pakistan’s foreign policy leading to peace and prosperity. If we see in present-day context, the world becomes increasingly multi polar and hyper connected where the diffusion of information, wealth and power is being widely witnessed. This requires governments to be responsive timely and quickly. This further necessitates enhanced roles of soft power. Pakistan’s cultural resources offer an immense opportunity to this end. As a matter of fact, we have not been able to project our cultural strength fully like other countries do. Pakistan is blessed with unique and numerous distinctions, and there is a huge potential to make effective use of cultural diplomacy for building strong ties with the countries of the world and harness mutual benefits. In this context, our Foreign Office and missions abroad can plan to arrange cultural programme as well as tourism expos on regular basis to highlight rich history, culture, heritage and tourism potential of Pakistan at the bilateral and multilateral platforms. The art and culture not only make us illuminated and enlightened but could be a potential and effective source of building bridges between countries by enhancing and supplementing traditional course of foreign policy. It is an established fact that cultural diplomacy softly plays with the heart. It could provide means for Pakistan to persuade countries to change priorities to align with Pakistan’s interests through building shared cultural understandings and promoting cultural links among people. This is an opportune time when our foreign policy is confronted with myriad of challenges both internally and externally we need to project and advance our soft image by capitalizing our rich cultural resources as a tool for diplomacy.
The writer is the secretary of the Department of Culture, Tourism & Archaeology, Balochistan.