WHAT IS LIKELY TO BE THE MOST INTERESTING DEVELOPMENT IN INTERNATIONAL POLITICS OVER THE NEXT DECADE?
SOFT POWER THE GLOBAL LIASION
The Dalai Lama once wrote, ‘We have been all the way to the moon and back, But have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor!’ The clairvoyant statement of this eminent individual of the world holds ground today more than ever.
Anita Borg cited that ‘Leaders of the future will have to be visionary and be able to bring people in who are real communicators.’ According to me, the word ‘visionary’ in this statement is one of prime importance. A visionary is one who possesses some fore sight regarding a phenomenon. As an aspiring diplomat and as a Global Citizen I too possess a vision for the role that the countries around the globe will play in International Politics in a decade from today. The world of politics is one very different from other fields such as economics, history, sociology, etc. It is complex and not everyone’s cup of tea. Today, politics has been highly restricted to the limits of the criticism and cynicism of the media of picayunish issues of the political arena and the judgments that the misinformed common man makes on the basis of this information. It is quite disheartening, that today each person believes that Politics on a National and International level are nothing but a stigma to the society. Politics is now perceived as nothing but a platform for Shame, Lies and Scandals.
Although many readers would agree to whatever has been stated above, seldom do we realize that it is easy to stay out of the system and expound on its gloomy side but it is equally difficult to become a part of the system and introduce reforms. Each one shrugs this responsibility on the other. Thus, it is essential that before we visualize the world ten years from today, we need to rewind to the past. It is the past that ultimately sets the course of the present and shapes the future.
The origin of politics is said to have been an off- shoot of the development in the art of warfare. Slowly but steadily the nation states felt the need for a ruler who would consolidate the problems of the people and handle the affairs of the state and abroad. The monarchy gained paramount position in the existing society and the Rulers assumed their powers as second only to God. Before long the three strongholds of Royalty, Religion and Rule of Law became the Pillars of Politics. This was true till the onset of the French Revolution of 1789 and the subsequent overthrow of the ancient ‘Divine Right Theory of Kings.’ The Art of Diplomacy became pivotal in the working of all governments. International politics has changed a lot from then. The fundamentals of International relations underwent a slow refurbishment with governments using various tactics of establishing inter-state relations through Marriage Alliances, military alliances, colonization, and finally International trade. Although the above mentioned alliances cease to exist International trade continues to be a stronghold of the political sphere. Colonization has spiraled down but nonetheless continues to exist.
Having laid the mise- en- scène of the essay, I can now delineate the framework of the World in a decade from now. Although it would be mighty easy for me to paint a fanciful picture like a ban on use of Nuclear weapons or the framing of policies to fulfill all the needs of a material world as major changes, I believe that harboring unrealistic expectations of a Utopic existence is frankly a little too much of a waste. For me we have to be the change that we wish to experience. To begin with, for me the world has moved on from the traditional Alliances to more informal ways of building strong inter- state relations between countries. This is what we term as ‘Soft Power.’ Soft power is a term coined by Joseph Nye of the Harvard University in a book published in the year 1990, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. This term was further modified by him in his 2004 book, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. Dr. Shashi Tharoor, former Indian Minister for External Affairs observed that countries of the world should not be judged according to their Political, Military and Economic strengths solely. He continued to say that the mettle of the country can be exhibited to the world through a combination of all this and the ‘Power of example through bridging of the gaps between citizens of the nations through Cultural exchanges.’
Soft power is capable of working with and without governments which is something that is quite different from the rather boring work of a bureaucrat working tirelessly to make ends meet between two unfamiliar lands to get friendly on paper and all this when the citizens of the same two countries maybe friends on a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter!
Connecting people through such informal means could lead to phenomenal increase in providing stability to foreign relations of countries which maybe otherwise suspicious or doubtful of the other’s intentions. An excellent example would be the Indo- US Nuclear deal which did not receive as much opposition externally as it did from within the Indian nation. The pact paved a way for India to be recognized as a Nuclear power and allowed to erase the disillusion of the country. Through the ‘Power of Communication’,
pre- concepts, stereotypes and prejudices that result in international conflicts between different countries can be effectively wiped out.
The International Diaspora would improve as International policies would no longer be summarized as a ‘Signed sealed and delivered Paper Agreement’ between two countries. Instead it would be an MOU to agree to disagree on certain issues and still maintain a strong friendship with each other. At this time I am forced to realize that all is not well with the world at large with the growing unemployment rates that has crippled millions of people. An estimated thirty per cent of the world is reeling in abject poverty today. The fact that the governments have been unable to reduce these figures depicts a less than hopeful picture. However, it is said that, ‘Hope springs eternal’ and hence these problems can be eradicated by the means of Soft Power. Although it sounds impossible, one would be shocked to know many
Non- Governmental Organizations like the Gates Foundation for example are working for the impoverished cities in Asia and Africa and are appealing to the ‘netizens’ to donate money to help these families. Even families hit by natural calamities are receiving aids through various modes of communication. In fact, many families have gained respite from the financial crunch of the economic recession.
One of the major threats that the world is battling out is the War against Terrorism. Quite surprisingly Soft Power can help in this sphere as well. What is expected right now is a unified support against these anti- social miscreants. This unified support could be promoted by having Cultural Exchanges rather than military missions.
The actual benefit of the Soft power is that it can be propagated by anyone. Whether individual or NGO or a government it can be used as an International weapon to combat almost any problem. Soft power is rapidly developing as the strongest link in world politics. An excellent example of this lies in the fact that it is probably the first time that even renowned international world leaders and politicians including President Barack Obama, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, David Miliband and many others have actually begun to interact directly with people around the globe through Networking sites like Twitter. This has brought the Politics to the people on a more personal level. Unlike Hard power which consists in using coercion and brawn rather than brain, ‘Soft Power’ believes in uniting people with each other through attraction and co-option.
My vision of International politics in the next decade is actually quite simple. I envisage the world to be united as a whole politically with no Indo- Pakistan or US- Iraq issues resulting in political estrangement. I conceive a picture of a world free from the horrors of 9/11 or 26/7. My dream is to be able to see an educated populace free from the fear of being shot down in broad daylight or losing a loved one in a fight that would bring no peace to any man living.
All I wish is to see my country and every country on this planet growing politically and allow it to be woven into a Global System that will connect every nation, cast, creed, race and eradicate the term ‘discrimination’ from the history of mankind, enveloped solely by freedom and a peaceful co- existence in every sense of the term.
Thus, according to me ‘The Development of Soft Power’ is likely to be the most interesting Political Development over the next decade.
Definition of Soft Power:
Information on International Relations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_relations
www.foratv.com – Talk by Dr. Shashi Tharoor on ‘Why nations should adopt Soft Power.’
The Paradox of Our Age – His Holiness, The Dalai Lama