Track 2 and Level 2 Diplomacy

Shahid H. Raja
6 min readApr 9, 2024


Every state has had one overriding objective: improving the quality of life of its citizens. This, in turn, has three interrelated and interdependent components namely, the standard of living, good governance, and sociocultural development.

To achieve this objective, the government formulates a set of interrelated and interdependent national policies relating to social, economic, and political fields along with suitable strategies to implement them. Foreign policy is one component of this set of national policies.

Consequently, a country’s foreign policy tries to achieve the same objectives of the national interest mentioned above by using a country’s interactions with foreign states and non-state actors. It is an indispensable tool of statecraft, a rational procedure to achieve definite ends within prevailing external conditions involving certain constraints, national and international.

Once a country’s foreign policy is formulated, it is implemented using various tools available to the foreign office. These tools can include diplomacy, foreign aid, military assistance, alliances, threats and use of force etc. Although all these tools are effective means of safeguarding a nation’s national interest, diplomacy has been historically and universally considered the most effective tool of foreign policy

Diplomacy involves dealing with other nations through negotiations, discussions, and communication unilaterally, bilaterally, and multilaterally. Each approach has its pros and cons. Acting unilaterally allows a state to act without compromise but bears all the costs alone. Acting with allies allows for maintaining good relations and sharing the diplomatic burden, but it often requires compromise.

Diplomacy encompasses a wide range of forms and approaches, depending on the context, actors involved, and the issues at hand.

  1. L1 Diplomacy: This could refer to bilateral or direct diplomacy conducted between two primary actors, such as two nation-states. L1 could imply the first level of interaction in diplomacy, involving direct communication and negotiation between the principal parties involved.
  2. L2 Diplomacy: L2 diplomacy, on the other hand, may involve official representatives from international organizations, non-governmental organizations, or third-party mediators who are formally engaged in diplomatic efforts as intermediaries between conflicting parties. L2 diplomacy may have a more structured and institutionalized approach compared to Track II diplomacy.
  3. Track II Diplomacy: This involves unofficial, informal dialogue and communication between non-governmental actors, such as academics, experts, or civil society representatives, from different countries. Track II diplomacy aims to build trust, promote understanding, and explore potential solutions to conflicts or issues.

Track II diplomacy and L2 diplomacy share some similarities as they both involve non-official actors and intermediaries in diplomatic processes. However, there are distinctions between the two concepts:

Purpose and Formality:

  1. Track II diplomacy typically focuses on facilitating informal dialogue and building trust between parties in conflict or disagreement. It often involves academic experts, former diplomats, civil society representatives, and other non-governmental actors. Track II diplomacy is unofficial and operates outside formal diplomatic channels.
  2. L2 diplomacy, on the other hand, may involve official representatives from international organizations, non-governmental organizations, or third-party mediators who are formally engaged in diplomatic efforts as intermediaries between conflicting parties. L2 diplomacy may have a more structured and institutionalized approach compared to Track II diplomacy.

Scope of Engagement:

  1. Track II diplomacy typically focuses on fostering dialogue, promoting understanding, and generating ideas for conflict resolution or problem-solving. It often deals with sensitive or contentious issues that may not be suitable for official diplomatic negotiations.
  2. L2 diplomacy may involve a broader range of diplomatic activities beyond dialogue facilitation, such as mediation, negotiation assistance, or implementing peace agreements. L2 actors may have a more active role in shaping diplomatic outcomes compared to Track II participants.

Visibility and Recognition:

  1. Track II diplomacy operates discreetly and often behind the scenes. While its outcomes can influence official diplomatic processes, Track II initiatives may not always receive public recognition or formal acknowledgement.
  2. L2 diplomacy may operate more visibly and with greater recognition from official diplomatic channels. Intermediaries engaged in L2 diplomacy may be endorsed or supported by governments or international organizations, and their efforts may be integrated into broader diplomatic strategies.

Thus, while both Track II diplomacy and L2 diplomacy involve non-official actors and intermediaries in diplomatic processes, they differ in terms of their purpose, formality, scope of engagement, and visibility within the diplomatic arena.

Pakistan’s diplomatic manoeuvrability, whether through formal channels or informal means like Track II and L2 diplomacy, faces significant constraints due to several interrelated factors.

  1. Firstly, Pakistan’s internal political instability and frequent changes in government leadership hinder the continuity and effectiveness of its diplomatic efforts. Additionally, the country’s economic vulnerabilities limit its ability to leverage economic incentives or aid as diplomatic tools. Moreover, past foreign policy decisions, including alliances and conflicts, have sometimes strained Pakistan’s credibility and relationships with other nations, complicating its diplomatic endeavours.
  2. Secondly, the shifting dynamics of global politics, particularly in the aftermath of what some describe as “Cold War 2,” present challenges for Pakistan’s diplomatic ambitions. As a relatively economically weak nation, Pakistan finds it increasingly challenging to assert a dominant role in international affairs amidst the competition and realignment of major powers.
  3. Thirdly, despite Pakistan’s own internal challenges and policy failures, external factors further constrain its diplomatic options. India’s assertive stance, territorial disputes, and periodic escalations of tensions pose significant hurdles to Pakistan’s diplomatic overtures. Similarly, Afghanistan’s territorial claims and instability, compounded by the frustration of Iran due to its isolation and regional dynamics, contribute to the complexity of Pakistan’s diplomatic landscape.

However, within this limited scope, Pakistan can still explore avenues to pursue its diplomatic objectives. Despite its constraints, Pakistan can prioritize dialogue and engagement through Track II and L2 diplomacy to build bridges, foster understanding, and seek common ground with its neighbours and international partners. Here are some potential approaches:

L2 Diplomacy:

Some of the ways Pakistan can leverage its geostrategic location to safeguard its national interest by utilising Level 1 diplomacy could be as follows

  1. Engage International Organizations: Pakistan could leverage international organizations such as the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to mediate and facilitate dialogue between Pakistan and its neighbours. These organizations often have mechanisms for conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
  2. Utilize Regional Powers: Pakistan could seek the assistance of regional powers such as China, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey to act as intermediaries in diplomatic negotiations with its neighbours. These countries may have vested interests in stability in the region and could use their diplomatic influence to facilitate dialogue.
  3. Engage Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): Pakistan could collaborate with NGOs that specialize in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and Track II diplomacy to facilitate informal dialogues between Pakistani and neighbouring officials, experts, and civil society representatives. These dialogues could focus on building trust, exploring shared interests, and identifying areas of cooperation.

Track II Diplomacy:

At the same time, Pakistan can use the following Track 2 strategies to pursue its foreign policy agenda

  1. Engage Think Tanks and Academic Institutions: Pakistan could encourage dialogue and cooperation between Pakistani and neighbouring think tanks, academic institutions, and experts. These informal channels could provide platforms for brainstorming solutions to regional issues, generating policy recommendations, and fostering mutual understanding.
  2. Cultural Exchanges and People-to-People Initiatives: Pakistan could promote cultural exchanges, educational programs, and people-to-people initiatives with Iran, India, and Afghanistan. These exchanges can help build bridges between societies, foster empathy and understanding, and contribute to reducing mistrust and animosity.
  3. Engage Business Communities: Pakistan could encourage business associations and chambers of commerce to facilitate economic cooperation and trade ties with its neighbours. Economic interdependence can catalyze improved political relations and contribute to stability in the region.
  4. Conflict Resolution Workshops and Training: Pakistan could sponsor workshops, training programs, and seminars on conflict resolution, negotiation skills, and peacebuilding techniques. These initiatives could empower individuals from Pakistan and neighbouring countries to become advocates for peace and agents of change within their respective societies.

By employing a combination of L2 and Track II diplomacy strategies, Pakistan can work towards building trust, fostering dialogue, and promoting cooperation with its neighbours, ultimately contributing to regional stability and prosperity. Moreover, Pakistan can capitalize on its strategic geographic location, cultural ties, and historical connections to promote regional cooperation and stability