In a world dictated by economic forces and military regimes, the conceptualization of soft power as an alternative power structure is requisite for constructive international relations. The discourse of soft power came to light when Joseph Nye described it as “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments.” Based on these lines, a country uses soft power to extend its influence and present its cultural richness by combining different elements of art, literature, education, media, tourism, sports, all blending to enrich its social capital.
Lately, Turkey has harnessed the essence of soft power and has embedded it in its foreign policy. Reaching beyond military and economics, it has transformed its internal and external dynamics by reconnecting with its history and geography through the idea of time and space. The historical and cultural depth that lies in Turkey’s foundational core provided the opportunity for a geopolitical sphere that had the potential to exert a global influence in the international media. The inherited Ottoman heritage played a significant role in Turkey’s rise to soft power. It allowed it access to the intangible sources of culture and values, releasing them in the field of academia, journalism, print, and visual media by shaping the world public opinion through changing its regional dynamics. Turkey turned its past into its most strategic asset; it took hold of its narrative and created for itself a renewed image in the eyes of the globe.
Turkey, as a result, had built itself in its past image by rewriting it for the current age. It employed the tools of soft power to depict a powerful narrative of faith, morality, and history. It revived its Ottoman heritage and presented it as a national brand. The popularity of internationally acclaimed drama series Diliris: Ertugrul is an example of how Turkey has been successful in mobilizing its cultural and historical dynamic. The development of such programs based on propounded values sets the stage not just for other Muslim countries, but it also presents an image of humanitarian statesmanship. Ottomans left a mark in history that is not only consistent with the Islamic principles, but it is appealing to believers of other faiths as well. The narrative that Turkey is selling by revisiting its distinguished legacy is advocating its coherent leadership. It has enabled Turkey to effectively distinguish itself by reshaping its image, controlling its narrative, and making it a central ground of its foreign policy.
The image that Turkey has created for itself has not only transformed its cultural and historical context; instead, it has revived the remnant of the Islamic dynasty by shaping it in the form of Islamic modernism. This example provides Pakistan with an opportunity to reinvent its own intrinsic worth by focusing upon its soft power and freeing itself from the shackles of contemporary forces that are working against it. With the FATF threat looming in the background, terrorism and conflicts tarnishing its image, it is now more than ever necessary for Pakistan to build its soft image and dismantle the associated negative perceptions.
In the historical sense, Pakistan has been blessed with a multi-cultural diversified legacy that provides it with tremendous opportunities to build its soft image and develop its national brand unique to its own land. It has been a gateway to the world’s greatest civilizations and host to the oldest religions. Its rich natural landscapes, famous world heritage sites together with all form an appealing image which, if appropriately harnessed, can harbor its potential by providing an opportunity to the public to draw out their own policies and framework. Based on these cultural values, Pakistan can create its very own image of public diplomacy by targeting international audiences and restructuring its foreign policy built on the soft image accordingly. Collective responsibility falls upon both the civil society and the government to present a new reimagined face of Pakistan to the world. The international coverage that Pakistan does get is based on faulty perceptions and does more harm than good. An optimistic projection of Pakistan’s culture is needed both in media and journalism. The content that is delivered to foreign audiences needs to be redefined and restructured to showcase the positive aspect of Pakistan in international media. The government needs to work on restoring the cultural and historical beauty of Pakistan by promoting its literature, sports, music, and drama, tourism aided by the print and electronic media.
The cultural connections between Pakistan and Turkey have never been stronger. The foundational bases for both lie in their historical and cultural context; the only difference is that Turkey, instead of seeing it as a hurdle in its path to progress, has wielded it as a strategic tool and has enriched itself with its strong armour. Learning from its ally, Pakistan needs to brandish its own soft image based on the values that are unique to its own culture that will enable it to enter a new era of transformation shaped by its own narrative, free from its colonized past, the embodiment of its own heritage and legitimized by its own cultural standards.
Dua Sohail is a student of Social Sciences at IoBM. Her interests are Social Change, Modern Philosophy and Politics.