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The ‘Pawri’ diplomacy

The “almost” blasphemous has happened. An Indian music composer Yashraj Mukhate gave music to the Pakistani “Pawri girl” video. Banned, no. Arrested, no. Social boycott, no. Condemned, no. Maybe I speak too early. But it has been two weeks since this “happening” and instead of this video disappearing from all Indian channels, Facebook, YouTube being shut and Yashraj being arrested, it is trending in millions in India. This is hard to believe, thus just keep your fingers crossed. Even if a late reaction does come from India it still gives hope against hope. India has decided that Pakistan and Pakistanis and anything Pakistani will be rejected and ejected from their country and the minds and hearts of Indians. The seeds of hatred have been sown so deep that anti-Pakistan phobia has enveloped even the most liberal and intellectual minds in India.

With the National Security policy of India revolving around “Hate, Blame and Ban” Pakistan, it is next to impossible to develop diplomatic relations at any level. The EU DisinformationLab report is an evidence of the amount of work, money and effort that India has made for almost two decades to paint Pakistan as the villainic/terrorist country. That is why hard power is the only power they are using against Pakistan. In better times Indians and Pakistanis have come together through sports, music, culture, etc., to get out of the bygone history of enmity, wars and deaths. However, the Modi government’s prime strategy is of dominance through aggression. This has not just been visible through their war attempts at Balakot but by the nearly weekly violation and firing across the Line of Control. The recent recommitment by DGMOs to ceasefire is almost déjà vu. Being a Modi DNA design of expansionism, even during the pandemic he tried to encroach the Chinese territory and impose on Nepal too.

As they say “the power of the people is far greater than the people in power”. That is why Soft Power has more enduring impact than hard power. Soft power diplomacy is now the way to transcend egos and boundaries. The “Pawri HoRahi Hai” joint trend in India and Pakistan is a big indicator of how when something wins over the hearts and minds of people, no power can stop it. Soft power has a whole range of diplomatic tools but let us see some less used ones:

1. Digital diplomacy-This is a virtual world and the onset of Covid has made it an online reality. Work from home, direct home deliveries, online meetings and Zoom family gatherings are the new norm. That has made distances irrelevant. Confined to their homes youth all across have discovered to connect and commute on social media. That is why the “Pawri girl” video became viral across age groups and across border. From filmstars to cricket stars “Pawri horahi hai” became the most memed hashtag. Indian actors and celebrities are normally very weary of any Pakistani origin content. Despite the Modi fear, Indian filmstars like Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ritesh Deshpanday have posted their memes on Instagram. Uttar Pradesh police have used Pawri in their Ads. This instant liking across all work and life has made the Modi government a bit perplexed on how to deal with it. The connectivity is that India Pakistan speak the same language and have almost the same slang use of English. That is why this innocent video has caught the fun-seeking imagination of the subcontinent people. A digital platform creating a Meme Fest inviting people from the two countries to partner in preparing memes on common fun issues can be introduced that does a public opinion rating on them. This will create a pressure on the Indian government to tone down its belligerence.

2. Sports diplomacy- Cricket diplomacy has always been a great way of bringing the two countries together. General Musharraf’s visit in 2005. The fact that even Virat Kohli memed the Pawri girl is a clue. The next T20 cricket World Cup is in India this year. Had it been in Pakistan, India would not have come. Pakistan has asked the BCCI of the assurance that their players, staff and fans will be given visa and security. If the assurance comes then this would be the opportunity for breaking the ice. Imagine nothing in the world can be more powerful than Pakistanis fans seeing Virat Kohli playing in Gaddafi Stadium and Indian fans seeing Babar Azam play at Arun Jaitley Stadium.

3. Diaspora diplomacy- Another very strong platform is overseas Pakistanis and Indians in the UK, USA, etc. They are an example of peaceful co-existence. There needs to be a movement in professional associations of doctors, etc., to bringing the countries together. Again social media is a strong point. Zoom meetings in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic have made the unconnected connected. Forums need to take up this space to create debates and discourses on how the deadly virus has made it necessary for countries to collaborate or evaporate.

4. Religious diplomacy- The Kartarpur diplomacy has done wonders for developing strong ties with the Sikh community across the globe. With restoration of Hindu temples under way like Ketas Raj and many others this diplomacy needs to extend further to Indians to put pressure on India to respond.

It may seem impossible. Modi has decided that suppression of liberties of minorities in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir and in India, is the only way. He has a reason for that. Indians buy the ‘hate Pakistan’ theme. Economic development comes second to Hinduvta superiority. Even during the disastrous handling of the pandemic and severe economic hardships Modi’s popularity was over 70%. This was due to his persistent anti-China and more so anti-Pakistan adventurism. But as they say you cannot push your luck too far. After the students’ protests in Delhi, the farmers’ protest has really pushed the government hard. The reactions of Indian government to file cases against Rihaana for supporting the protest and closing down twitter accounts has created outrage in the western world.

For India and Indians there is a need for a human makeover. That makeover will be only possible if a joint community cross-border and overseas develops a voice too loud and strident to be ignored. That is why “the Pawri horahi hai” fusion is a lead to a new type of diplomacy that is neither a backdoor diplomacy nor a front door diplomacy, rather a side-by-side collaborative diplomacy. Such diplomacy seeps past political and legal barriers to appeal to the basic human instinct of having “harmless” fun and “Pawri” together.

Andleeb Abbas, "The ‘Pawri’ diplomacy," Business Recorder. 2021-03-01.
Keywords: Political science , Economic development , Pawri girl , National security , Modi government , Sports diplomacy , General Musharraf , Deepika Padukone , Shahid Kapoor , UK , USA

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