I still remember my professor Iqbal Tajik who during a lecture on diplomacy in the postgraduate class back in late 90s, compared it with nations’ chess-board meant to play power games based on calculations. His brilliant definition calling “diplomacy as the art of saying good doggie till you have time to pick up the stick” depicts conventional wisdom towards globalisation, developing global governance and promoting international peace and security while preferring and protecting national interests. It actually is the mechanism of representation, communication and negotiation through which states and other international actors conduct their business.

Contemporary diplomacy is engaging an increasingly wide range of actors alongside professional diplomats. This reflects the growth of civil society and their claims for participation in the processes of world politics. The global financial crisis has re-awakened long-standing concerns with commercial diplomacy and hence relations between diplomats and the business community. How to accommodate these interests, whether in multilateral or national diplomacy, is one of the key challenges facing diplomacy. This phenomenon has given rise to a number of images that seek to capture the ways in which international processes are changing such as ‘soft’, ‘multi-stakeholder’, and ‘network’ diplomacy. These acknowledge the growing interaction between the agents of the state and international organisations and non-state actors, whether located in civil society or the business community. Whilst the network image has received a good deal of attention, there has been relatively little discussion of the implications for the practice of state-based diplomacy, the impact on its norms and the demands it places on the professional diplomat.

The question arises as to why Pakistan has not learnt the art of diplomacy by engaging its neighbouring India in peaceful settlement of their longstanding issues especially the Kashmir, the answer is not as easy as should be. The diplomatic environment of the 21st century is marked by change and uncertainty. First there is a remarkable expansion in the number and variety of international actors empowered by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and social media which are now extended beyond traditional NGOs to more amorphous civil society groups. Secondly the development of a new international security agenda focuses on the security of the individual within the state and include issues such as climate change or pandemic disease that go well beyond traditional concepts of international security. Likewise, the resurgence of more traditional geopolitical agendas as states compete for power, resources or territory; expansion of regulatory diplomatic agendas, enhanced by the global financial crisis and demands for more effective banking regulation; and the progressive fragmentation of the rules and norms governing international political and trade relations. These all features maintain one basic idea that gatekeepers guarding the borders of the foreign, should instantly become boundary spanners integrating the different landscapes and actors of the diplomatic environment.

Kashmir has been the bone of contention between Pakistan and India since inception. The two states have fought time and again over this, both through direct means of war and through diplomatic means. This dispute and differences between the two states had created a serious lack of trust as one of the first key factors affecting bilateral relations since they became independent in 1947. The post 9/11 scenario of terrorism also put its weight in heightening the differences, with Indian-backed insurgencies in Balochistan, supplying arms and funding to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and much more. The Sir Creek, another unsettled dispute, relating to the un-demarcated boundary of the coast of both countries dividing Gujarat in India and Sindh Province in Pakistan, a water body that comes under disputed territory, and of which poor fishermen on both sides of the country are often victims. The dispute over Siachen glacier located in the mountainous area of Himalayas, over which both India and Pakistan claim sovereignty. Both the states continue to deploy thousands of troops in the vicinity of Siachen and attempts to demilitarise the region have been so far unsuccessful.

Indus water treaty protects the rights of Pakistan on water being a lower riparian while India is the upper riparian in the flow of five rivers to Pakistan. Non-implementation of the treaty, on many occasions, has led to serious differences and tension between the two states. India uses more than its due share of water and at times, through the dams constructed is said to release more water that the river can regulate downstream. Nuclear and technological arms race by India, followed by Pakistan, is another hurdle in diplomatic development. Within the framework of foreign policy and political relationship, trust between Pakistan and India reflects a half-hearted engagement with a zigzag peace process that moves back and forth with statements that are at times positive and at times negative, although with no results or movement towards peace. Media being a measure of public diplomacy, has terribly failed, on both sides in maintaining journalistic principles while covering the relations of these two states by presenting only the jingoistic and hyper-nationalistic assertions. Unless both the states restrict their armed escalation on the Line of Control, resort to the 2003 ceasefire agreement, improve economic and trade relations through two-way energy connectivity, commercial exchanges and investments, the art of diplomacy will remain dormant. The role of ‘non-state actors’ is most important in achieving the ‘all is well scenario’, as otherwise if not curtailed by both sides, it will keep triggering a war like confrontation between the two states, resulting in diplomatic failure on both sides.


The writer is Ph.D Political Science, Civil Servant based in Islamabad. His area of specialization

is political development and social change.