By: Maryam Iqbal
Improving people-to-people contacts
On several issues, ties between the United States and Pakistan have been fragile for decades. Notwithstanding that, both the states resorted to public diplomacy through various channels like cultural exchange programmes and Fulbright Scholar Program that is sponsored by the United States. The US has, however, been denounced for its hegemonic nature by different countries around the globe. Occasionally, whenever the US comes to pursuing only its own interests in a country, it draws flak by the scholastic section of the society at the receiving end. Usually, the US uses certain tools to lure others; for example, by providing funds, granting loans and offering many other opportunities for the students and youngsters but once its interests are fulfilled, it abandons all that and its administration starts criticizing the policies of that nation. And, that’s exactly the case with Pakistan.
The year 2018 may be the worst for the US-Pakistan associations and diplomacy. After President Donald Trump’s entry into the White House, the situation has changed dramatically. Incendiary speeches and diatribes as well as the curbs the Trump administration has imposed on aid to Pakistan have alarmed the Government of Pakistan. The US criticizes Islamabad for providing safe havens to terrorists. It is due to this fact that Pakistanis see the US negatively – a recently-conducted survey has portrayed a clear anti-America sentiment in Pakistan as it revealed that about 90 percent of Pakistanis have a very bad image of the US. On the other hand, the US incessantly labels Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The image of Pakistan as a terrorism-sponsoring country should be countered with prudent policies. And, the trust deficit between Pakistan and the United States should be bridged. For this, both the states should use the platform of public diplomacy to reconcile the differences between the respective peoples of the two countries. Public diplomacy, indubitably, is a powerful tool to strengthen the image of a state and plays a key role in attracting foreign investment. Pakistan should work vigilantly on using public diplomacy to improve its image of a peaceful state. Pakistan’s top think tanks and political elites should work on the strategy for promoting positive image of Pakistan in the world.
Since India is always bent on at sabotaging Pakistan’s efforts of improving its image, therefore cautious and prudent steps should be taken. Pakistan should promote its image as a soft power and enhance ties with other states, especially the US, on cultural and public settings. Academia from both the states should be involved in these efforts. Different programmes should be initiated for the young people in order to know the values and cultures of each other. Different cultural festivals should also be held in order to promote diverse cultural aspects of Pakistan. Tourism opportunities should be provided and students should be welcomed so as to offer them an opportunity to know Pakistan, and that it is a peaceful and not terror-sponsoring state. The US students should be facilitated to visit different regions of Pakistan i.e. historical heritages like Mohenjo-Daro, Taxila, Rohtas Fort, Takht Bhai, etc. They should be given chance to conduct lectures, conferences and seminars in order to exchange ideas between the publics of two states.