Just like you, I am also wondering why a clutch of Gujarathis and Marathis along with a Kashmiri lady made a bid for the IPL Kochi team when the prospect of Sreesanth turning up for them was more than real.
But when a master diplomat acts as the mentor this is what eventualy happens: You end up getting involved in matters in which you have no earthly connection. After all, international diplomacy itself is founded on the sterling principle of delicate negotiation and mediation, which of course, is more realistically defined as poking your nose in places that are not your’s. Remember Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky? Sorry, wrong example. What I meant was George Bush and Iraq.
Anyway, in the light of nasty exchanges between Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor, it will be tempting to ask: why is there no difference between a career diplomat and a career crook? But we will not pose this question and, we also request you to not read the previous line.
Diplomacy, as you can see, is about the nuanced art of taking a firm stand without taking any stand at all. This is eminently possible when you speak in sentences that nobody understands.
This is also technically attainable on matters in which you have no stakes.
Let me explain with a specific example: India shares no boundary with either with Israel or Palestine. Then again, there aren’t very many Indians residing in that area of conflict. India also does not have historical connection with that zone of trouble. So, taking all these vital parameters into account, New Delhi has adhered to a very strong Palestine line and is always vociferous in important fora like the UN and Rotary club meetings.
India’s steadfast stand, in case you’re interested, is: ‘The conflict should end through a negotiated settlement’. This reasoned and balanced approach doubtless takes into consideration the larger UN-laid global peace formula that the words ‘negotiated settlement’ be used without fail in all press releases issued by the External Affairs Ministry.
The Middle-East peace process itself is a testimony to what a negotiated settlement actually is. In school you would have encountered this typical arithmetic problem that made you to give up on mathematics itself: ‘5 people work for 5 hours a day for fifty days to complete task. How much will it take for 50 people working for 20 hours a day to complete the same task?’ The question is a no-brainer as the five people have already completed the work, why should 50 people be employed to do the same job? The 50 people obviously would gather around and talk endlessly, enjoy themselves and eventually claim that they have finished the work. This is roughly the philosophy behind the Middle East peace process, or for that matter, any other diplomatic initiative.
The history of Indian diplomacy too is replete with instances of such smart work and adroit approach aimed at preserving the country’s sovereignty and integrity and the diplomats’ prosperity.
The first stone of India’s external affairs policy was cast by that eternal peacenik Jawharlal Nehru, who despite not being the country’s Foreign Minister, took upon himself the challenge of laying a credible roadmap for diplomacy and international relationships that primarily involved dense prose and long-winding sentences not dissimilar to the one that you have just read.
In the tumultuous days following India’s dramatic Independence, Jawaharlal Nehru took the momentous decision of steering India’s foreign policy on the path of Non-Aligned movement keeping in mind the larger reality that air travel to foreign countries had not fully taken off from New Delhi in those days. Much of international diplomacy, needless to say, still hinges heavily on enduring business class travel in jazzy jets. Norway managed to solve the vexatious ethnic strife in Sri Lanka, by having its peace ambassadors fly ceaselessly to Canada, Thimpu and many other such places where they had not heard about the existence of a country called Sri Lanka.
Getting back to Nehru, a liberal to the core and a humanist at heart, he could not escape leaning towards Russia as because they served the best vodka. Oops, sorry this is a ungainly gaffe, something which has no room in the careful and the calibrated world of international diplomacy. Tharoor himself is a good example of this. He never speaks a word out of place. But when he tweets, well, that is a different story. And one of these days World War III is going to happen because of his tweets. And, I am afraid, diplomats may have to put themselves to more French wine and Swiss cheese in club class travel and mountain resorts.
Anyway, after Nehru, subsequent Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers have built upon his equity and enlarged it to reach the stage where the country’s affairs are now global, and India, on the whole, has emerged as a respected player in the international political league.
If you think with the words ‘equity’, ‘global player’, ‘international affairs’, I am lining up for killer punch-line involving Sunanda Pushkar and Middle-east peace, well, you’re wrong.
Diplomacy is, eventually, about saying things without saying it. You can tweet this.