American International School System Uses Soft Diplomacy in Pakistan

$46billion Chinese investment in Pakistani economy highlights need to support creative methods of maintaining influence among America’s traditional allies

LAHORE, Pakistan, April 30, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Last week’s news of the People’s Republic of China’s $46billionpledge of foreign direct investment in Pakistan has sparked debate between top economic and security analysts. As China continues to gain influence through traditional “hard” diplomacy in the form of economic investment, the United States doesn’t seem to be keeping up. What will this mean for the United State’s sphere of influence as one world’s superpowers? We need creative solutions to repair these seemingly strained relationships with America’s traditional allies after a decade of fighting the Global War on Terror

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China and Pakistan share a border, and hope to build an “economic corridor” or import/export superhighway between the Chinese region of Xinjiang and the Pakistani port of Gwadar. Reports indicate that Obama administration hopes that an increased Chinese ground presence and the economic development that comes with it will continue to stabilize the region sandwiched betweenAfghanistan to the west and disputed Kashmir territory in the East. On the other hand, others are worried that this show of economic might could signal China’s desire to supplant the United States’ position as influential ally and powerbroker in the region.

What will be interesting to see is how this battle for influence plays out over the next decade or two, especially in the city of Lahore. Located along the path of China’s planned $46billion economic superhighway, Lahore is Pakistan’s second most populous city, and the capital of the Pakistani Province of Punjab. Lahore is also the home of a uniquely different experiment in American style soft diplomacy. Harvard professor Joseph Nye developed the concept of soft diplomacy in 1990. Nye’s theory was that a country attracts diplomatic influence by building credibility with the citizenry through actions of good will attracting interest in their systems of values and stressing commonalities over differences. This is markedly different than traditional showings of old style “stick and carrot” diplomacy method of influencing world leaders. This philosophy of soft diplomacy was the inspiration behind Pakistani born American philanthropist Dr. Munr Kazmir’s dream to build the American International School System’s flagship campus in Lahore.

At the 12-acre suburban campus, Dr. Kazmir’s team built a world-class educational institution completely unique in that part of the world. Currently the school has 600 students and aims to double enrollment in the next few years. The school features a technology center, a swimming pool and gathering place in the center of campus modeled to look like the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. What is distinctly American about AISS Lahore Campus is not just the American style curriculum, but how the institution embodies Dr. Kazmir’s vision to become a part of the fabric of the community. AISS is a place of equal opportunity for all. Over two thirds of AISS’s students are on some form of financial aid with many receiving full scholarships. The school is non-elitist and promotes gender equality where boys and girls compete academically side-by-side. On weekends local children are invited to use the school’s library whether they are enrolled in AISS or not. What is truly remarkable is that the campus has the look, sound and feel of a normal American elementary school, even though it is located half way around the world. The focus is on the children, and parents are impressed.

While the effects of this soft diplomacy approach may not be as easily or immediately visible as China’s grand commitment for investment. AISS hopes to foster community that produces some of the next generation of Pakistani leaders. AISS was founded to build relationships between Pakistani youth and American children and promote the benefits of a progressive, open and free society with equal opportunity for all who were willing to work for success.

“For all citizens of Pakistan to live in a truly free, modern society, there will have to be a radical change of values. Leading by example will succeed where economic aid has failed in the past.” Dr. Munr Kazmir

Pakistan has been at war with itself over these values for years. In former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was tragically assassinated in 2007, Pakistan elected a woman to hold the highest office in the land. It is also the birthplace of the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who miraculously survived a violent attack by extremists seeking to punish her for the crime of daring to earn an education while female. Dr. Kazmir hopes that his school can make a long lasting impact on this inner struggle in the country of his birth. Dr. Kazmir recently articulated his vision at bi-partisan meeting of American members of Congress, “For all citizens of Pakistan to live in a truly free, modern society, there will have to be a radical change of values. Leading by example will succeed where economic aid has failed in the past.”

Dr. Kazmir went on to say further, “This is why it is so important that we, the American people support experiments like the American International School System. Exposure to American values of religious tolerance and multiculturalism will help breed understanding among the everyday citizens in the region. Most importantly, the value of education and equality amongst men and women could help usher in a new, peaceful, modern Pakistan within this current century.” Chinese investment may bring development along the economic super corridor, but as Malala Yousafzai said in July 2013 at the United Nations Youth Takeover Day, “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution, education first.”

The American International School System Foundation and Advisory Board are headquartered in Leonia, NJ.

SOURCE American International School System Foundation