Diplomacy, a delicate and yet a demanding mission, difficult to be accomplished


The Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary defines “diplomacy” as the activity of managing relations between different countries; the skill in doing this. Diplomacy, in another definition, is the art, science, or practice of conducting negotiations between nations. It is the business or art of the diplomatist. And according to Sir Ernest Satow, who had the experience of a long and distinguished career in Her Magesty’s Diplomatic Service of the United Kingdom, “diplomacy is the application of intelligence and tact to the conduct of official relations between the governments of independent states. In brief, he defined diplomacy as the conduct of business between states by peaceful means”.
The very first and normal method of diplomacy is a general attitude of friendliness and persuasion; the way of polite argument of approach based on reason and interest. The second one is compromise. So, we can say that in diplomacy, there is a general attitude of friendliness and persuasion and polite argument but no confrontation at all. Thus, we can also mention that diplomacy should be taken as an endeavour, culminating in a win-win achievement. If there is a dispute between two states, only when all the utmost diplomatic efforts for peaceful settlement of a dispute are exhausted, the use of force should be selected as the last resort. Therefore, since from time immemorial, diplomacy has been and is still universally accepted as the first line of defence. Till to this day, and in this technology age, I believe that there is not a single state which does not accept, nor agree to this long-cherished and well-preserved doctrine that diplomacy is the first line of defence.
Well, now, please permit me to present to you my knowledge and experience of diplomacy as I simply understand it. To be honest, I was not a career diplomat. I was a member of Burma Civil Service (B.C.S) serving under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Thanks to the blessings of His Excellency, the then Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, I was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, simply because of my legal knowledge and experience, as I was then serving as a special power magistrate and also as a legal advisor to some special criminal tribunals. After, serving for about three or four months in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was called into H.E. Deputy Minister’s office and he said, “U Khin Maung, you are the late comer to our ministry. You must go the extra-mile in improving your knowledge of law and your standard of English. So, while the career diplomats study 2 hours a day, you must study at least three hours a day, with effect from today onwards.” I obeyed H.E. the deputy minister’s order and without question.
As advised and guided by my peers and patrons alike, I came to know that a good diplomat must have a negotiating skill. To achieve this skill, a diplomat must be a well-read and knowledgeable person. In this connection, may I quote Francis Bacon, an English scholar’s words of wisdom, “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man writing an exact man”. And, I would also like to present to you the consistent policy and practice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, adopted in regard to promotion prospects of its staff. The MOFA staff cannot hope and expect promotion just because of duration and length of service. A staff member has to prove his or her worth by presenting a thesis or a research paper in English, on a subject he or she chooses. So, we can say that promotion, in our Ministry, is awarded on merit. Merit is of vital importance in deciding staff promotion and foreign assignment. MOFA trains and encourages its staff to develop a learning habit or in other words, it trains its staff to become a keen learner and to become a man with a drive and determination to go on learning.
I have presented to you my understanding of diplomacy as a means of peaceful settlement of disputes using art, science or tact and intelligence. Since from the recent years till today, the international media has mentioned one of the top news items every now and then. It is about the territorial dispute in the South China Sea. As regards the South China Sea, there are five rival claimants, or overlapping claimants reclaimed namely China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Asserting its sovereignty over the South China Sea, China has reclaimed 2,000 areas, more than all other claimants combined. Therefore, the United States of America has come to challenge China’s reclamation and urged China to stop its unilateral action and solve the dispute according to law and through diplomacy. In this particular case, I believe, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is applicable.
Well, my dear reader, I am not in a position to render my service to help solve this issue nor have authority to give comments. But with malice towards none, with charity for all and with firmness in the right, many I humbly submit my opinions and views that if there be any dispute it should be settled by no other means than peaceful means, through diplomacy and in accordance with law well in time. Concerning justice I remember a legal maxim which reads, “He, who seeks justice, must do justice. Justice delayed is justice denied. Justice rush is justice crushed.” Diplomacy, one point of view, is aimed at seeking justice.
As already known to you all, there is no good war and bad peace. Diplomacy is always for peace, it always stands for peace. Diplomacy is conducted or used in relation to international politics. In other words, diplomacy is used as a means to an end, and on this point we should take a great care and caution not to adopt the policy or concept: i.e. the end justifies the means. It is outdated especially in this day of globalized world. In short, diplomacy is a delicate mission that demands diligence.
1.    Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
2.    Diplomatic Handbook (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
3.    Significant terms and their meanings in international law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,     International Law and Treaties Division Volume (I)
4.   The Strait Times news paper, 31-5-2015
(To be continued)

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