“In a globalized world economy, whoever has the technological edge will dominate the world” – Alfred Thayer Mahan.

Science and technology (S&T) are at the same time symbols and engines of modernization. They are therefore subjects of importance and controversy for developing countries. Science is valued for its close relationship to technology and shorthand phrase “Science & Technology” has become so embedded in the vernacular of international discourse that it is almost impossible to avoid.

In international relations, S&T, economics and diplomacy are the most important tools for any nation. Historically, S&T has been one of the main currencies for exchange and dialogue among human societies and sovereign nations. In modern times, it is emerging as an important instrument of techno-economic power that will shape the changing dynamics of international relations. For every sovereign nation both S&T and diplomacy are essential tools for managing international relations, the essence of which is protecting national security and projecting national power. More recently, S&T has not only been effectively used by nations for soft-power projection and establishing the power-balance dynamics between sovereign nations but also, offering unconventional channels of engagement amongst countries that may have political differences. In this changing paradigm, it is highly desirable to understand the importance of S&T dimensions of international relations and the changing dynamics of diplomacy among nations.

In recent past, economic globalization and volatile escalation of Information Communication Technology (ICT) has subjugated the political and corporate agenda that is defining a new prototype where competition and cooperation must coexist among most sensible societies and nations. This will call for skilful ambassadorial strategy of different priorities in future that will have to be based on sound understanding of the role of S&T in international relations. Our world is far more interconnected today, where no nation can afford to be isolated, no matter how powerful or self-sufficient. Technologies of global reach are changing the reference lines and timelines of the geopolitics of international relations, diplomatic perceptions and global affairs.

Since independence, S&T development in Pakistan has been need-based and not really driven by any ‘National Action Plan’. Pakistan also performed very poorly in implementing the National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (ST&I) 2012 and Science, Technology & Innovation Strategy 2014-18. While there have been many pockets of excellence in scientific research and technology innovation, the nation as a whole still fares rather poorly in S&T in comparison to most other comparable nations. As a result, there are no long-term plans for synchronizing S&T development or technology acquisition with the objectives of foreign policy or diplomatic agenda. Considerably, the government, S&T specialists and foreign policy makers may perform the following role:

  • Government must get its own house in order; leaders should exhibit good moral character and exceptionally eliminate corruption and nepotism from ST&I Policy and from society as-a-whole.
  • Establish the coordinating office for S&T based foreign policy and clear position to science and technology diplomacy (STD) as the new axis.
  • Utilize science and technology personnel in diplomatic activities/missions and scientific knowledge in formulating and implementing diplomatic policy.
  • Promote strategic joint research and development with partner countries with high diplomatic importance.
  • Strategically target influential S&T related organizations and promote intellectual exchange. Set a diplomatic agenda based on scientific evidence, and lead international efforts.
  • Proactively convey the message that Pakistan will take leadership for the solution of global challenges by using S&T to achieve desirable international circumstances.

In the modern world of today, S&T is so intimately rooted in national priorities and international equations that it has become an inseparable component of international relations. In the future, S&T will play a role greater than any other factor in shaping relations among nations. Science and technology diplomacy (STD) will not only play the final defining role but also a central role in building and strengthening relationships with other countries. Today is high time for the scientists, scientific and technological communities of Pakistan to play a progressively more visible and critical role as knowledge brokers, creators and disseminators. In these efforts, science and technology diplomacy can and should be central to each of our nations’ focus on foreign policy and our role in the world.