Pakistan’s Pursuit Of Reviving Soft Power Policy In Afghanistan

Pakistan’s Pursuit Of Reviving Soft Power Policy In Afghanistan
Recently Pakistan’s minister for foreign affairs garnered considerable attention, when she flew to Kabul, not only to de escalate border tensions but also to hold bilateral talks on various security issues, regional connectivity, and economic cooperation between both countries.

At the same time the minister for foreign affairs renewed Pakistan’s, “continual commitment and support” for Afghanistan’s peace and prosperity in days to come. This meeting comes amidst intensified security situation in areas along the border of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, thus creating an atmosphere of mistrust.

According to the Foreign Office, Pakistan has repeatedly requested the Afghan government to secure the Pak Afghan border region, which the terrorists have been blatantly using to launch attacks inside Pakistan. Deadly clashes have been witnessed recently in border areas after TTP called off the ceasefire deal which was unanimously agreed upon by tribal leaders from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the TTP. The Afghan Taliban leadership have also been acting as a bridge by facilitating talks between militants and Pakistani authorities.

In search for peace and security, the role of trust between two states is a central concept and a major concern. Keeping in mind that there lies a close connection between trust and cooperation, the Pakistani delegation made a point to discuss on various issues such as trade and investment, education, security etc.

As per the official statement of the Foreign Office, “A range of bilateral issues of common interest including cooperation in education, health, trade and investment, regional connectivity, people to people contacts and socio-economic projects were discussed.”

In today’s world states need both hard and soft power to frame their long-term preferences. The use of soft power in particularly holds the capacity not only to attract comprehensive strategic partnerships but also genuinely encourages general goodwill between countries.

Minister Of State Hina R Khar’s visit highlighted the use of soft power to not only de-escalate tensions between the two countries but also positively influence our hardline neighbours. Pakistan today is focusing on not only sustaining and developing its valuable strategic assets alongside maintaining its military prowess but at the same time strongly believes in the relevance and importance of soft power in order to effectively harness its potential besides making advancements towards significant de escalation strategies. Similarly, communication is also regarded as a key element in developing relationship and trust between countries, therefore a strong representation is inevitable. For this purpose, Pakistan’s minister for foreign affairs actively engaged the Afghan government team with issues like regional security, trade, and transit etc.

Minister Hina Rabbani Khar also stressed on the un freezing of Afghanistan’s financial assets which would help in keeping the country stable. At the moment Afghanistan is facing dire economic and humanitarian crisis which has been exacerbated by the Taliban takeover. Any monetary relief at this point would not only help the post moribund economy back to work but at the same time prove to be a huge relief for the common Afghan people. Pakistan also offered its services by scrapping tariffs and also easing visa rules for people coming from Afghanistan. The visit of the Pakistani delegation comes at a time when there is heightened international criticism against the Taliban regime with regards to the restrictions imposed on the fundamental rights of women.

Due to extremely unfair social standards, women in Afghanistan are confronted with daunting challenges which include deprivation of education and recurrent denial of economic freedom. Since the US troop withdrawal, the Taliban have almost reversed the progression achieved by the Afghan women over a period of time and have left no stone unturned to erase women from everyday life in Afghanistan.

Here again Pakistan efficiently used soft power to inspire equal women participation by arranging an official visit headed by a woman lawmaker which gave a very clear message that gender parity is critical for economic prosperity and societal cohesion. Khar, by leading discussions in various conference rooms alongside Afghan officials lead to inspire inclusion of female representation in a rather subtle way.

During her one-day official trip, the minister for foreign affairs also met with the representatives of the women chamber of commerce and assured them that Pakistan would certainly prioritize imports, particularly from women run businesses. Hina R Khar exhibited keen interest in building up linkages between women entrepreneurs of both countries. At the same time both Pakistan and the international community have called upon the Taliban regime to fulfill its promises regarding women rights.

Afghanistan today is a much more uncertain place then before, facing complex security issues, humanitarian crisis, growing extremism, inability to prevent terror attacks and at the same time its ongoing violation of human rights making it one of the most egregious woman rights abuser. The attack by the Islamic State group on Pakistan’s chief diplomat and the latest attack of cross border firing incident, where heavy artillery was used, resulted in killing six people and injuring seventeen is an obvious reminder of the threat terrorism poses to the peace and stability of Afghanistan.

Although the spokesman for Taliban government assured that the authorities were investigating the deadly clashes but the emerging picture of Afghanistan’s security landscape under the Taliban regime clearly shows that they are struggling to address the insurgencies and growing militancy, who although seem to remain dormant most of the times but could pose graver risks in the future.

Given realities on the ground, the significance of soft power in Afghanistan cannot be overlooked in order to counter the root causes which are directly responsible for the rise in extremism. The role of shared languages, religion and culture between both countries can be further explored to influence and effectively employ soft power strategies.

Pakistan has diligently used various diplomatic tools to approach and influence the Taliban regime, simultaneously realizing this as baby steps towards a rather more practical approach. Hence Pakistan’s soft power approach of forging cooperation in education policies, humanitarian and economic sectors would thus initiate an atmosphere of general goodwill. It would also help to create a favorable image in the hearts and minds of our neighbours ensuring peace, thereby hoping for a clear shift by pursuing the use of soft power.