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Harnessing smart power

KUDOS to Pakistan Army! Exclusively to Air Force for shooting down two Indian aircraft violating Pakistani airspace; it was, for sure, an exemplary display of hard power that Pakistan has earned through the indefatigable industry and selfless devotion of our defence forces which they cherish for the noble cause of defending the frontiers of our country under all circumstances. Undoubtedly, Pakistan possesses one of the best defence forces of the world which is equipped with modern and sophisticated weaponry and equally efficient command and control system. Above all, it is a nuclear power — a capability that always deters its adversaries to launch an all-out war against it. Surprisingly, Indian Premier Modi also admitted the superiority of Pakistan’s military in recent confrontation between India and Pakistan. All this suggests that Pakistan maintains hard power to an unprecedented level.
But in today’s world, the enemy is not wholly vanquished only through the hard power; the soft power is fairly necessary to outshine the rivals in the realm of global perception warfare. Joseph Nye, renowned US academic defines soft power as “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payment”. He adds “it includes culture, values and foreign policies”. Soft power is, therefore, used to influence and change the behaviour of the other nations through attraction rather than coercion. But soft power does not exclude hard power; it supplements and augments it. This is why more current term today is smart power—which is an amalgam of soft and hard power. This is what our country Pakistan is in dire need of.
On the contrary, our chronic adversary India realizing the importance of the soft power has worked a lot to enhance its soft power and thereby succeeded in projecting its soft image to the world. Its success story can be traced back to the 90s when Indian Finance Ministry, the Reserve Bank of India and Planning Commission of India jointly formed a strategy (under the guidance of Manmohan Singh and Monty Singh) to support Indian corporation in developing a global vision and in turn making their presence tangibly felt on the corporate map of the world. To this end, a meeting of big wigs of Indian corporate world was convened at the famous Ritz Carlton, London. This gathering resulted in the emergence of what is referred today as the London Club—to be supported by the Indian Government and its institutions in the singular task assigned to them: create a world of Indian Multinationals. In pursuance of this goal, big professional business houses such as Tata, Mahindra and Mahindra, Birla, Reliance, Godrej, DCM, Infosys and the others kicked out an international shopping spree to create economic and corporate linkages and undertake mergers and acquisitions of everything and anything that they found fit to their overall business model and strategy. As a result, today India, to name a few, owns Jaguar, Land Rover, Tetley, RHT, Slazane, Favre, Leuba, Arcelor and holds large stakes in every field that one can think of. In IT alone, Indian firms in US provide jobs to half a million Americans.
At home, these Indian Multinationals provided extensive financial support to Indian academic institutions to bring them at par with the best academic institutions in the world and also connect India with the leading western universities and colleges. Consequently, today in the job market, the graduates from IIT, NIT, Banglore Institute of Technology are at the same level as MIT, Harvard and UCLA etc. Apart from this, Indian professors, lecturers and researchers today also dominate the western campuses. More importantly, academic campuses where ideas and opinion-making takes place and with Indian academia controlling the campuses, there is little to wonder that India’s image today in the world finds itself in an envious position. These academicians are the real fighters in the perception warfare. To add, Indians also hold key posts in leading corporate multinationals giants of the world; CEOs of Microsoft, Google, Adobe, Softbank internet, Cognizant, and NetApp are Indians. To counter this, we need to enhance our soft power by highlighting our softer fields like culture, literature, tourism, cuisine and sports. Regrettably, despite being blessed with a rich archeological, cultural and ancient heritage, pristine natural beauty, Pakistan instead of being distinguished as a tourist haven, now stands demonized as an extremist haven. Responding to the allegations of extremism, we should have presented the teachings of our great sages of the ages and Sufi saints whose teachings contain message of love, peace and respectful co-existence. To add, we also abjectly failed to carry forward precious legacy of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jalib, Ashfaq Ahmed and Bano Qudsia.
Another source of soft power which ranked low on our national priorities was Music and our great singers, composers and maestros like Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Late Alam Lohar, Noor Jahan, Mehdi Hasan who ruled over the musical kingdom of Indian-subcontinent. Similarly, our film industry and TV dramas are another source of soft power that remains neglected. Compared to the golden age of Pakistan film industry in the 60s and 70s when a score of super hits were produced, our present status is only a shadow of what we used to be. And when compared to India, our arch rival, has greatly capitalized on its film industry called” Bollywood “. The ground realities of India in terms of tolerance, secularism, peace and pluralism are strikingly different from what is portrayed in its movies. Bollywood is used to hoodwink world opinion in order to clinch favorable deals and economic benefits. To cap it all, Pakistan requires systematic efforts to improve its soft image. The release of Indian pilot as a gesture of peace is laudable and it will certainly add to country’s soft power but we should not sit on these laurels. There is a lot needs to be done to achieve smart power. Each national institution has its role in projecting its soft power, because it is the sum total of all those institutions that embodies the national image. At the same time, we need to incorporate the inspiring stories of Abdul Sattar Edhi, Malala Yousafzai, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoi and late Arifa Kareem, who define our real Pakistan, in our quest for smart power.
— The writer is a Legal practitioner-cum-columnist based in Quetta Balochistan.