Projecting soft power or building a soft image of a country through cultural and public diplomacy initiatives are accepted as crucial domains of modern diplomacy. This is because soft power is immensely important in building influence and pursuing national interest objectives amongst nations in a contemporary era. In fact, in many situations, it is even more important than the projection of hard power. The American dominance of the world since the second world war is a prime example. While the former Soviet Union was almost as powerful militarily as the US, it was the American soft power that won the Cold War. In the post-WWII era, which is marked by the triumph of neoliberalism, only a few states have managed to achieve wonders in this domain. Others have either struggled or have had limited success owing to various reasons. The US, the UK, Japan, France, Canada, the UAE and India are some countries whose public diplomacy has achieved their desired foreign policy goals to a large extent. In terms of pop culture, America and the UK have consistently remained a pioneering success for several decades since global audiences can easily recognise them via the commonality of the English language. Whereas, for other mentioned countries, their industrialisation, as well as business and tourism potential, has helped define them on the global stage. The new joint initiative between the Foreign Office and Coke Studio could go a long way in showcasing Pakistan’s extraordinary musical heritage Perception plays a pivotal role in assessing a country’s standing. Whether through its films, literature, music, technological prowess, cuisine or educational projects, a favourable perception does help bring in much-desired trade and investment opportunities and strengthening tourism. Has this been a success story for a country like Pakistan, which has had its fair share of natural resources and talent in certain fields like culture and arts? Well, not that much, when compared to those discussed above, since the potential remains untapped regardless of what some would claim. While mountain peaks, cuisine and some well-known names within and outside the country may have defined Pakistan globally, the question remains: Are they enough on their own, given the tumultuous history that led to an image problem? The fact that there is still a weak justice system, an unfortunate culture of ‘might is right’ and issues of extremism and militancy despite notable successes by the armed forces continues as a big blight on our face. What Pakistani diplomats across the world strive to achieve is all thrown out of the window by one incident that sometimes happens back home. This span of few moments causes quite a few problems in achieving the soft power traction required to achieve foreign policy goals. For a long time, the Foreign Office regarded soft diplomacy as a peripheral subject. There are some notable exceptions amongst diplomats such as Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi and Ambassador Jauhar Saleem, who worked wonders in projecting Pakistan’s soft power through cultural diplomacy by organising noteworthy events. In recent years, the Foreign Office has finally recognised the due importance of projecting soft power and started working on it. Though in its inception, the new joint initiative between the Foreign Office and Coke Studio is laudable. It could go a long way in showcasing Pakistan’s extraordinary musical heritage and, thus, help project its soft side. However, if soft power was to be projected effectively, a multifaceted initiative needs to be launched; employing the experience of veteran diplomats mentioned earlier. It is important to mention in this regard that an archaic 20th century’s thought process will not work in the 21st century when it comes to public diplomacy. The Foreign Office’s hard work should be highlighted for playing a crucial role in projecting a much-needed softer image of the country. Yet, it cannot substitute the ground realities, which, in some cases, are rather harsh, no matter how much the state tries to sugarcoat them. As such, addressing those core issues within the country is equally, if not more, important. The writer is Associate Editor (Diplomatic Affairs), Daily Times. He tweets @mhassankhan06.