YFK art and cultural diplomacy on Kashmir widely appreciated

Arif Qureshi

YFK-International Kashmir Lobby Group an International NGO working with the Government of Pakistan and the United Nations hosted a colorful ceremony to highlight the importance of art and cultural diplomacy on Kashmir.

A painting exhibition titled “Kashmir through Art” was organized by Youth Forum for Kashmir (YFK) to highlight the plight of oppressed people of Kashmir during lockdown through creative and high-quality artwork.

Over 150 Pakistani young artists from Punjab, Sindh, KPK, Balochistan and Azad Kashmir participated and sent their artwork portraying daily miseries, lockdowns, human rights violations, lack of health facilities, hurdles in basic educational institutions in Indian Kashmir. The three top position holders were awarded cash prizes at the end of the ceremony.

Senior journalist and activist Ahmed Quraishi hosted the event, with artists, civil society representatives, human rights activists, and diplomats in Islamabad.

In his opening remarks Ahmed Quraishi said the main target of the art & culture diplomacy initiative was to strengthen traditional diplomacy on Kashmir. He stated that among the paintings there are some very high quality artworks that may add new dimensions to Kashmiri lobbying and activism across the globe. Qureshi stated that unfortunately we have not done much on art and culture diplomacy as compared to the Palestinians.

Palestinian people have used art, public and culture activities as a diplomatic tool across the globe and they successfully conveyed their message to the western masses and inclinational capitals of the world.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari who was chief guest of the event highly appreciated the YFK initiative and called for moving away from traditional diplomacy. She stressed on the need to spread the Kashmiri culture, poetry and their heart-touching music so that the Kashmir issue could be highlighted in the world.

Dr. Shireen Mazari suggested that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should leave the traditional and outdated policy regarding Kashmir and adopt modern methods.

In international relations, art and culture has been described as the most important component of a nation’s soft power.

Interestingly although many European Union (EU) countries did not endorse the Palestine armed struggle but The European Union (EU) and European governments provided a huge funding to a number of Palestinian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for promotion of art and culture related activities. In 2017, the EU budgeted €400,000 for Palestinian cultural NGOs for “support to Euro-Palestinian cultural activities.”

Detailed research and analysis of this funding reveal that many of the supported organizations utilize cultural activities to promote peaceful atmosphere in conflicted Palestine. Various forms of resistance can be described as a large mosaic where each stone represents a different form.” In other words, cultural resistance results in the use of art as a vehicle for indoctrination, incitement, hatred, and sympathy to terrorism. As such, organizations involved in promoting cultural resistance directly contradict European values.

Apart from European Union (EU) a UK based Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) published a study having title Two Stories for Two Nations: Public Diplomacy in the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict. The main focus of the study was media importance and public diplomacy.

The study of the CREST examines the circumstances that explain the degree to which political actors successfully promote their preferred frames regarding the conflict in which they are involved in the foreign press.

The study examined Israel and the Palestinians’ ability to promote their messages in various events over the last decade. Seven factors were examined, divided into three groups: focal event factors, political context factors, and message context factors. Separate examination of each predictor, followed by analysis of their shared effect, reveals that most factors have an impact on how successful political actors are at promoting their preferred frames to the foreign press.

In the findings CREST study suggested that the media place greater emphasis on focal event factors when covering conflicts and those events have a greater impact than cultural assumptions in terms of how foreign media frame news stories.

One should not wonder that YFK introduced a new idea; Pakistan’s foreign ministry has remained such kind of Public and Cultural diplomacy in some other context in the past. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood engaged with members of the Arts & Culture communities across Pakistan as part of his FM Connect initiative.

But it is not enough; we have to increase our efforts in this regard to portrait a peaceful image of Kashmiri nation through their culture, heritage, fine arts, literary work and etc.

According to analysts over the years it has been noted that traditional diplomacy in the context of current political realities and the structural weaknesses of the Kashmir diplomatic apparatus have demonstrated its failure to resolve the Kashmir issue on equitable terms.

YFK-International Kashmir Lobby Group’s recent Art and culture diplomacy produced an alternative approach. They presented a concept of art, culture and public diplomacy, as alternative along with traditional and political diplomacy.

Arif Qureshi is Editor Daily Online “The Fortress” he can be reached at arifqoreshi@gmail.com





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