New Rules of Engagement

Recommended reading at the Times of India: New Rules of Engagement by Ramesh Thakur.

Today's global environment is more complex and demanding than in 1947. Consider the vocabulary and metaphors of the new age: Srebrenica, Rwanda, DRC, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, East Timor, Darfur; child soldiers, ethnic cleansing, blood diamonds, 9/11, regime change, Islamophobia, HIV/AIDS, climate change; Microsoft, Google, iPod, Blackberry, Facebook, Twitter; metrosexual, heteropolitan, localitarian the list is endless.

New issues and preoccupations raise new expectations for action and standards of national and international conduct. The number of actors in world affairs has grown enormously, the types of actors have changed substantially and their interactions have grown. There has been a corresponding threefold change for diplomats: in levels of diplomatic activity, from the local to the national, bilateral, regional and global; in the domain and scope of the content, expanding to a broad array of different sectors of public policy and government activity; and in the expanding numbers and types of actors, from governments to national private sector firms, MNCs, NGOs and regional and international organisations. …

The matching core task of diplomacy is to engage in "network diplomacy" that has more players than club diplomacy, is flat rather than hierarchical, engages in multiple modes of communication, is transparent rather than confidential, and its "consummation" takes the form of increased flows of tourists, students, labour, credits, investments, technology and goods and services. …

Ambassadors' lives no longer consist of equal parts of protocol, alcohol and geritol. They must engage with the host society in which they live, not merely negotiate with the government to which they are accredited. No longer is the ambassador an honest man sent abroad to lie for the good of his country, in the famous epigram by Sir Henry Wotton; prime ministers and presidents do that quite well themselves. Instead, the diplomat must cultivate all relevant constituencies in home, host and sometimes even third countries. That is one key to network diplomacy.