Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Diplomacy Evolves As A New Vocation

Yuba Nath Lamsal

Diplomacy is said to be the second oldest profession, which has been in practice since ancient times. With the birth of human civilisation, more particularly urban civilisation, followed by the formation of the city state in ancient Mesopotamia, diplomacy has been a part of statecraft to indulge nations in communication. But the nature and scope of diplomacy have undergone a sea change over the years.

Originally diplomats used to be sent only for negotiation on specific topics and would return home after accomplishing the mission. The Mahabharat epic states that Lord Krishna went to the court of Dhritarastra or Kauravas as a peace envoy of the Pandavas to prevent a possible war between cousins, implying that diplomatic practice as a peace mission prevailed in South Asia even in the prehistoric period. Kautilya’s Arthasastra (economic theory) and Nitisastra (statecraft theory) advocate the realist theory of foreign policy and diplomacy, providing a basic outline for the conduct of foreign policy and diplomacy in present South Asia.


Diplomacy was in existence even during the Biblical period. The Old Testament mentions that Israel once sent messengers to Sihon King of the Amorites (Egypt) asking for permission to pass through  Egyptian territory saying, “We will not turn into the fields or into the vineyards; we will not drink the waters of the well: but we will go along by the King’s highway, until we be past thy borders”. This was evident of the practice of diplomacy between the states in the prehistoric period in both the eastern and western world.

But nowhere in the world had there been the practice of establishing a permanent diplomatic mission and deploying diplomats on a permanent basis until the 19th century, except in the case between the Byzantine Empire (Turkey) and the Papal State. Under the arrangement between the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Sea, the Papal State had Apostolic Nunciature in Constantinople (Istanbul) as its permanent diplomatic representative. But the protracted disputes and animosity between the Byzantine ruler and the Pope led to the breakdown of this tradition.

The tradition of establishing diplomatic missions and deploying diplomatic agents in other countries on a permanent basis started in the early Renaissance period. Francesco Sforza, the founder of the Sforza dynasty in Milan of Italy, first established permanent embassies in the neighbouring city states in the 13th century. With this, several traditions of modern diplomacy, including that of presenting credentials to the head of state by ambassadors, also started.

This practice later spread from Italy to other European powers. As stated on, Milan established diplomatic missions in other European countries, including France, but it, in the beginning, refused to host French representatives on a reciprocal basis fearing espionage and intervention in its internal affairs. However, the Italian states, including Milan, later, agreed to host ambassadors of the European powers, paving the way for full diplomatic exchanges. By the late 16th century, permanent missions became the standard of diplomacy in the world, and nations began developing uniformed codes and rules as well as amenities and privileges for the diplomats. According to John M. Mun-Ranking and Moshe Weinfeld, codes of international conduct were established in Western Asia throughout the second and first millennia B.C. and prepared a foundation for the diplomacy of future civilisation.

The Peace of Westphalia, a series of peace treaties signed between May and October 1648 in the Westphalian cities of Germany ending the ‘Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) and the ‘Eighty Years’ War’ (1568–1648) in Europe, was another historic marker in the world of diplomacy. The peace negotiations involved 109 delegations representing European powers of that time. It not only restored peace in Europe but also created a basis for national self-determination, establishing a norm against interference in another state’s domestic affairs. As European influence spread across the globe, the Westphalian principles became central to international law and the world order.

After the Peace of Westphalia, diplomacy slowly evolved in Europe, West and South Asia. Around the same time, the French Revolution took place, which proved to be a landmark in  world history, changing the shape and form of politics, social and intellectual faculties as well as practices of international relations and diplomacy particularly in Europe. As Jean–Robert Leguey-Feilleux says, while Italian Renaissance developed many of the practices that underlie the modern system in diplomacy, the French reforms set a totally different tone based on the conviction that diplomacy required the creation of confidence in which knowledge and experience were given more importance. Until then, diplomacy was the sole privilege of the nobles, knights, elites and aristocrats. The French Revolution broke this tradition and brought the game of governance to the hands of the people. In post-revolution France, the commoners took over the diplomacy of the French state and, accordingly, the ranks of precedence were abolished.

Napoleon, who declared himself as the Emperor of France in 1799, and boasted that he gained the ‘Crown of France with the power of the sword’,  also brought about a seeming impact on politics, governance and diplomacy in Europe. This period marked  an era of rule-breaking in diplomacy as Napoleon had ‘no patience for the slow-moving process of formal diplomacy, thus, refusing to acknowledge diplomatic rules, precedence and immunity, which had until then become almost universal rules’. However, post-Napoleon France and Europe saw the return of the rules.

The Congress of Vienna, held from November 1814 to June 1815, in which representatives of European states gathered to hammer out a peace deal following a protracted war in Europe, set the rules of the game in international relations and diplomacy in the form of a set of treaties called ‘The Final Act’.

The 19th century saw a flurry of diplomatic initiatives in Europe in which Britain and France took the central stage. They contributed to the development of diplomacy in the world. Until 1815, Britain had 14 resident diplomatic missions abroad. The 19th century also saw many diplomatic conferences in Europe that set new principles and standards of diplomacy, some of which are still in practice.


Until then, the United States was not visible in the scene of international power politics. But the US had its diplomatic presence in different countries and was slowly enlarging its diplomatic presence. Around the same time, Japan in Asia and Brazil in South America were diplomatically active. By the 1870s, Japan sent its missions abroad while China refused to take part in the new diplomacy until it was militarily compelled to accept representatives in Peking from Britain, France, the United States, Russia, Prussia and Japan, although Chinese diplomatic tradition had a long history dating back to the dawn of civilisation. By the end of the 19th century, international diplomacy had become mature and had expanded all over the world.

International diplomacy witnessed a new and innovative approach in the 20th century. However, the first half of the 20th century saw the breakdown of international diplomacy that gave rise to two devastating world wars causing untold miseries in human civilisation. World War I began in 1914 and ended in 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. The war brought about a key change in the perception of the rulers as both victors and vanquished alike realised the need to devise a permanent mechanism to avoid future wars and settle all disputes peacefully through the use of diplomacy. This led to the creation of the League of Nations in 1919. But the League of Nations failed to prevent another war, and the world witnessed the outbreak of World War II (1939-1945). The devastation caused by the war gave another step towards more effective diplomacy in the international arena to avoid another World War. This realisation gave birth to the United Nations (UN), giving a new momentum to international diplomacy.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Realm Of Realism In Diplomacy

Yuba Nath Lamsal
In the realm of foreign policy and international relations, diplomacy is an art that involves negotiation and all other forms of tactics and tools to achieve the set foreign policy goals of the concerned country without resorting to force. Scholars and statesmen, alike, may have their own but divergent views and definitions on diplomacy, its functions and apparatchiks. They, however, agree on the core premise that the objective and functions of diplomacy are to safeguard the national interest. Sun Tzu, a military general as well as philosopher in ancient China, says, in his book, ‘The Art of War’, that diplomacy is the “supreme art of war to subdue the enemy without fighting.” According to this definition, diplomacy is an alternative and the best alternative to war as it is an appropriate and morally justified approach to win over adversaries without using force and fatal weapons. Former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai said, “All diplomacy is the continuation of war by other means”, which defines diplomacy as a part of a country’s overall strategy to achieve its foreign policy goals. In this definition, all tactics and tools including the use of military force cannot be ruled out to conquer one’s enemies.

Peaceful Approach
However, diplomacy is not a war but a peaceful approach to end the war. The war begins only when diplomacy fails. It is an effective diplomacy that prevents war. Even if a war breaks out for some reasons, the hostility comes to an end through diplomatic initiatives and negotiations. War is something in which none wins but both warring parties lose. More importantly, humanity at large will be the ultimate losers when a war breaks out and escalates. But there is always a win-win situation in diplomacy, which seeks to settle disputes through negotiations based on compromise and ‘give and take’ game. Diplomacy is, therefore, a device to restore and maintain peace and a just international order through a negotiated settlement, which ensures the victory of all sides.
Diplomacy does not always carry virtue. At times, diplomacy is defined in a negative connotation as it may not always seek wise and decent behaviour and handling as at times it may require means other than peaceful negotiations and decent diplomacy, more particularly, when one has to deal with rouge countries and leaders. In such circumstances, any tactics and tools of diplomacy at one’s disposal may have to be applied to bring the unprincipled regimes and rulers to the terms of international rules and values. Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had, thus, to say about diplomacy as being “the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions”, vindicating that diplomacy demands the tactics of lying and deceiving others with sugarcoated words to have an upper hand over enemies and serve the national interest of the country.
Niccolo Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ is perhaps the oldest and the most comprehensive book on statecraft, which also deals with diplomacy as an important branch of statecraft. Machiavelli  advocates realism in statecraft, international relations and diplomacy, similar to South Asia’s Kautilya’s notion on statecraft and international relations.  Machiavelli’s master pieces “The Prince” and “The Discourses” have had tremendous impact on the study and pursuit of international relations.  He is of the view that “domestic affairs dominate the priority of the state and without domestic stability the state cannot focus on international relations”. In addition, for Machiavelli, a former diplomat himself, diplomacy is essential for the state to maintain power and build a reputation at the international level. It is no surprise that he advocates diplomacy as an essential practice of the state, and in an age of intrigue that depends on skillful diplomacy for a state’s survival, he and likens the role of the diplomat to that of a fox ‘to recognise traps and a lion to protect itself from wolves”. By implication, Machiavelli meant that the role of diplomacy and a diplomat demanded the understanding of the tricks and intrigues of the enemy and also the ability to apply measures to counter such tricks and moves. In such a situation, it may sometimes necessitate the use of  the three Cs’ (convince, confuse and confront) to win in diplomacy.
 In the conduct of diplomacy, one is required to convince and bring the adversary to one’s terms. If one is not convinced, the other shrewd method is to confuse him/her. A confused person cannot harm others—a situation which may be as good as having one being convinced. This tactics of diplomacy seeks to at least neutralise the adversary or competitor if it is not possible to totally overcome. Failure in both of these techniques— method of convincing and confusing-- alone will require confrontation or the use of force. Confrontation or the use of force is the last resort in diplomacy, and use of detente and negotiation for peaceful settlement of  disputes are the preferable options in the ambit of diplomacy.
However, not all diplomats and diplomacy theorists believe in the notion of using tricks and deceit in diplomacy. Diplomacy is the domain which always should seek to build peace, ensure cooperation and good order in the neighbourhood and in the international arena. Gone are the days of secretive and traditional methods of conducting diplomacy.  In the present modern era, in which trust building and public diplomacy play an important role, open and frank diplomacy is in vogue. In this connection, American journalist Isaac Goldberg says, “Diplomacy is to do and say the nastiest things in the nicest way.” This is, therefore, an art of convincing friends and adversaries alike in the international arena through good communication, body language and use of other peaceful methods to convince the other side across the negotiating table, which may create a situation wherein the use of other coercive and confrontational methods of diplomacy may not be required.

Citizen Diplomacy
Success or failure of foreign policy often depends on the way diplomacy is handled and conducted. Effective diplomacy contributes, to a large extent, to the success of foreign policy, while a government may fail in handling international relations and foreign policy in the absense of shrewd conduct of diplomacy. Diplomacy, in a way, has direct bearing on the conduct of  state policy and governance, and thus success of the foreign policy of a state largely depends on  effective diplomacy, while a clear state and foreign policy is the fundamental requisite for vibrant and successful diplomacy.
Diplomacy is a fundamental basis and approach to international peace, friendship and cooperation. But its approaches and tactics have changed with the changes that have taken place in the world, especially, due to new turns of events in the political arena. More importantly, the tremendous revolution seen in the field of information and communication that has reduced the world into a small global village has had a greater impact on every sector, including the conduct of diplomacy. With the growth of new and social media, the domain of diplomacy has also widened, marking a kind of departure from the old concept in which diplomacy used to be a domain of the privileged class or group. In the modern technologically-driven era, each individual can play a diplomatic role in a different manner, setting in motion the rise of the concept of citizen diplomacy as a key feature of public diplomacy, in which multiple forums and channels may be utilised and mobilised as unofficial and voluntary diplomats in building a better image of the country and promoting national interest. In a poor country like Nepal, which glaringly lacks hard power to protect its national interest and make its presence felt in the international arena, the use of soft power and diplomacy is the only instrument, for which public diplomacy, more particularly, citizen diplomacy will play a key role. It would therefore be more imperative for Nepal to focus on citizen diplomacy as there are Nepalese nationals of different capacities in many countries with which Nepal has vital interests.