Saturday, June 8, 2013

Guest Commentary: Diplomacy is an evolving art

by Ambassador Rodney Charles,
Ambassador/ Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Rodney Charles

In the front page of today’s (June 5 2013) New York Times it states that last week, President Xi Jinping met with President Obama’s national security adviser in China to discuss his upcoming visit to the US.

The meeting did not involve diplomatic talking points and as pointed out in the article “….as if to underscore the message, President Xi ignored the notes sitting in front of him.”

When they meet on Friday this week, “Mr. Obama will make his own symbolic gesture, welcoming him amid the olive trees and artificial lakes of a 200-acre California estate.”

Two points are worthy of note. Firstly we had a Head of State meeting with a “lowly” national security adviser.

That in old school diplomacy is a major breach of protocol. Hierarchy must be maintained at all costs.

In the second place the meeting between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies will be largely unscripted.

According to the Times “it is a chance to escape the stifling protocol of state visits and establish a rapport.”

In other words the art of diplomacy is evolving as world leaders seek to break through the stultifying straight jacket of yesterday’s diplomacy and find new ways to enhance the power of personal diplomacy “in a setting carefully chosen to nurture a high-level friendship”.

I could imagine old school geriatrics turning in their graves as they behold two world leaders deliberately moving away from yesteryear’s ossified protocols.

I have been invited to dinner at the home of a former UN diplomat. He also had as a guest, and sat next to, an ambassador from a country technically at war with his. These two countries had more than 100 nuclear weapons and half a million soldiers with guns aimed at each other. Here they were attempting to make sense of the challenges facing their countries and giving me a lesson in new aged diplomacy.

My understanding is that protocol is not a fixed art. It is contextual, subject to mutually discussed objectives, ever changing, somewhat subjective, culturally relevant and subject always to realities on the ground. It is, as one definition states, “the generally accepted system of international courtesy.”

What do we mean by “generally accepted”?

So the Chinese are totally satisfied with their visit to Trinidad and Tobago. Minister Moonilal has explained to the satisfaction of our guests why the PM temporarily took front stage to introduce her Cabinet.

And the old school diplomats are catching fits.

And while they lament, the world is beginning to understand that Trinidad and Tobago is now living up to its potential of greatness on the global stage.

And like the US in planning for President Xi’s visit, Trinidad and Tobago is once again at the cutting edge of international diplomacy. Or as Minister Winston Dookeran says we are evolving a new foreign policy of diplomatic engagement complemented by the development of a CARICOM model of convergence.

Things are happening domestically and in our foreign policy, I quote no less a person than President Xi last week, “In recent years, under the leadership of the national government and Madame Prime Minister, Trinidad and Tobago has vigorously responded to the international financial crisis, ensured political stability and achieved quick economic recovery.

At the same time, it has taken an active part in international and regional affairs and enjoyed a notable rise in international standing and influence.”

Trinidad and Tobago, I am proud of you.
Rodney Charles

No comments:

Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai