Saturday, March 26, 2016

India's Public Diplomacy and Our Media

Misha Rahman,

image (not from article) from

Realist dictum suggests that the struggle for power between states dominate their relations with each other. And for soothing this clash of national interest and the relations full of fractious factors, states use diplomacy towards each other. More precisely, if we talk about the case of India, it had already struggled a lot to show its huge potency in the field of military and defense as well as economic power, yet it is somehow keenly inclined to show its power to the whole world. There is a limit to what “hard power” can achieve, so the mixture of hard and soft power, a newly emerging concept known as “smart power” is highly needed indeed.

In the contemporary IR, the most vital tool for the implementation of soft power has been “Public Diplomacy”. And a lot of it has been done for the enhancement of cultural diplomacy between Pakistan and India by the governments of both countries, in order to ease the tensions and frictions which both countries are holding, because of the fact that both are known as arch rival states since the time of their independence. Both countries have been accusing each other more after the nuclear posturing, with the rising number of complaints for supporting the cross border terrorism and in turn destabilizing the rest of the region.

One of the most important and successful techniques of “public and cultural diplomacy” catching even more attention is the potential of the bollywood films in nourishing the ties between Pakistan and India. Indian cinema has got a tremendous fame in Pakistan and has almost replaced the Pakistani cinema, whereas the films are very much famous among the citizens of the counter side and have been watched with interest. Due to the poor performance of Pakistani film industry, the actors and singers in order to get work and focus on the future of their work turned them towards India, thus giving the Indian film and music industry a chance to enter in the cinema’s of Pakistan.

Same is the case with Indian music. Indian music has a strong influence on the people and is very much liked by them, and the songs of Indian artists and singers can be heard in most of the Pakistani households, in the public transports, in everyone’s personal mobile phones, shopping malls and nonetheless in the backward areas of country. Due to this factor of eminence many Pakistani’s have inclined towards India in order to secure their future, on the same time increasing the interaction in the fields of entertainment. Moreover exchanges of artists and actors have also added a lot to it.

The Pakistanis and Indians share a common culture since the time they were together in the subcontinent under the British rule and it further goes centuries back. Yet there exists a fact that most households in both countries represent the large families, which are populated with the elders having the rigid memories in their minds of the cruel behaviours towards their side by the other one on the basis of ethnic and religious differences. That’s the reason why Muslims in Pakistan are still jumpy not only because the leaders or the ideology are anti-Indians but for the horrible memories and the putrid image they have in their minds.

The same Indian culture is depicted in the dramas which are mostly seen in the Pakistani public on the daily basis and are very much influencing the daily lives of large number of population of Pakistan. On the other hand, media of both countries has played exceptional role in the promotion of negative image and feelings of hostility among both sides. Many Indian and Pakistani dramas and films are based and focused on the building of negative image of the other side, which has played an important role in provoking hatred among the people.

Perhaps the religious diplomacy and the interfaith dialogues between the both sides at the higher levels of the states could be more hopeful as well as helpful. By reducing the hatred towards each other on the religious basis they could find more ways to compete in the economic race and could have more chances to utilize wisely their human capitals.

A long history of mutual distrust, one crisis after another and persuasion of devastating arms race have been determining the relations between both countries for decades. Whereas, official diplomacy has been a failure always due to vague resolutions, without any concrete statements, leaving no room for the strong bilateral ties. Moreover the authorities remained unable to find any common ground to agree upon. On the other hand, people to people, unofficial dialogues between the populations of both countries have emerged in order to establish mutual understanding and for promoting peace on the grounds where governments have failed to make efforts. Citizens of both countries are seen to be more inclined towards building a future free of tensions that are existing currently i.e. peaceful future, while throwing a light to the prominence citizen diplomacy has gained. Any individual can be a citizen diplomat acting as an informal and unofficial representative of the country. Citizen diplomats take part mostly in the activities such as cultural exchange programmes, educational exchange programmes or else engage themselves in the humanitarian activities abroad.

In an ongoing decades-long conflict between the two countries, the diplomacy of citizens has the potential to correct the negative image that has embedded in the minds and to change the thinking about each other through face to face interactions. Citizen diplomacy can be promoted with the help of government through decreasing the visa restrictions, enhancement of public transport for the citizens between Pakistan and India, increasing art, musical, sports and media exchange programmes.

Media is a very strong tool in persuasion of public diplomacy. It can help in promoting the positive image, solidarity and peace among the stacks. But so far unfortunately, media as a whole – either electronic media or print media – is working far away from reality and in a constant struggle to enhance the friction, and thus it is playing a major role in devastating the relationship between the two countries.

Misha is the Fatima Jinnah Women University student doing masters in Defence and Diplomatic Studies)

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