Diplomacy — Important Instrument in the Making of Foreign Policy

Diplomacy is an instrument used by nations to promote their national interest in the international arena. It may be referred to as a process of representation and negotiation by which states deal with one another in times of peace. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, diplomacy is “the management of international relations by negotiation”. In simple terms, it is the application of tact and intelligence in the making of international policies through negotiation, persuasion and compromise. Since it is an instrument for building peace, the outbreak of war among nation states is perceived as a failure of diplomacy. According to Hans Morgenthau, it makes peace more secure and stable. The profession of a diplomat thus requires men with the skills of intelligence, knowledge, prudence, a balanced mind and the ability to withstand stresses and strains. It is an elaborate process that requires keenness of mind, and involves no shortcuts.

The making of foreign policy is a continuous process in the choice of ends and means by a nation state in the international scenario. To give a foreign policy a sense of direction, a broad set of goals need to be delineated. These goals or objectives keep evolving over time, and strategic or diplomatic methods play a key role in achieving the ends desired. The making of foreign policy differs from country to country on the basis of various factors, which can be broadly classified into internal or domestic and external determinants. The former includes the geographical location of a state, its climate, history, culture, demography, political structure and public opinion within the country, while the latter consists of the foreign policies of other states, the world public opinion as a whole and various other international regimes and organisations. In modern times, 5 major functions can be attributed to diplomacy. The first one is information gathering which refers to the attainment of key and vital information with regard to world affairs, which would help in the shaping of policies internally and deciding the course of action and implementation of these policies. Next comes policy advice, which basically refers to the interpretation of crucial data, leading the government towards a constructive method of policy formation. Third is representation, which highlights the important aspect of representing one’s own country outside, followed by negotiation which entails tactful deliberation and negotiation of policies in favour of the diplomat’s home country. Lastly, there is the function of providing consular services; maintaining peaceful relations with other governments for the pursuance of own national interest.

The golden age of diplomacy along with the balance of power system existing prior to the First World War was replaced by popular or new diplomacy in 1918, especially because the system of balance of power was identified as the main cause of World War I. A number of other changes have been factored in, primarily due to technological improvements and speed in communication, thereby reducing the authority of a professional diplomat in making decisions, and enabling public opinion to play a bigger role in the making of foreign policy. Thus, a democratic character has been added to the conduct of international relations. With the change in the structure of the international system, following the decolonisation of Asian, African and Latin American countries post World War II, the number of sovereign states on the global stage have increased. This has led to an increase in the influence of non-Western powers. Diplomacy has shed its traditional character and has undertaken new forms such as those of multi-lateral diplomacy as opposed to the bilateral method, and diplomacy by parliamentary procedures. This is being termed as the democratisation of diplomacy, which is a significant development in the transformation to its new forms. The United Nations has become an important international organisation, which represents the new genre of diplomacy in its true spirit.

Critics have however espoused certain shortcomings with regard to the practice of new diplomacy, since with its emphasis on negotiations, concessions and counter concessions, it may lead the policy towards the wrong direction. Multi-lateral diplomacy may suffer because politicians may not always be competent to handle diplomatic negotiations. And with regard to public opinion, the common man may not be able to comprehend the complexities and sensitivity of foreign policy making. Still, new diplomacy is the order of the day, and is popular owing to certain characteristics in terms of its structure, process and agenda.

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