Is diplomacy dead? No; Lost effectiveness? May be

New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS) Diplomacy is not dead as yet but it has lost its effectiveness to smoothen international relations and prevent conflicts and genocides in the 21st Century, according to experts.

In this age of technology, rise of non-state actors, a changing world order and rising populism, the role of professional diplomats has shrunk and may be in danger of getting sidelined, experts said at a panel discussion “Is Diplomacy Dead?” here on Tuesday evening.

“Diplomacy is going through a sudden strain. Yes, we are living in troubled times. Some countries are not following the rule of law. But at the end of the day we will have to overcome this (through diplomacy). There are no other options,” said an “eternal optimist”, Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s former Permanent Representative at the UN and a career diplomat of over four decades.

He said his optimism stemmed from the fact that the “absence of diplomacy may often mean….a state of war”.

The event was organized by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, as part of its centenary and campaign celebration, in association with the Society for Policy Studies (SPS) think tank.

Puri said Britain’s exit from the European Union and US President-elect Donald Trump taking to twitter to make strategically crucial diplomatic announcements “signify the old order has failed” and that the world was now witnessing a “reorientation of diplomatic order”.

“Diplomacy also means you don’t give up,” said Puri.

Alexander Evans, Britain’s Deputy High Commissioner in India, oscillated between what he called “cynical optimism” and “positive pessimism” to make a point that traditional diplomacy may be “on the way out” as technology has made it “redundant”.

But wait a minute, he said, with “renewed pacifism diplomacy becomes more relevant” in an age of technology.

“Traditional diplomacy may have been replaced by a new form of diplomacy (called) tweeplomacy,” said strategic expert C. Uday Bhaskar, Director, SPS, adding that everything may not be lost as yet for diplomatic traditionalists.

“Despite all kinds of innovations, there is a currency for the traditional practice of diplomacy. (But) a certain organ of it is dead,” Bhaskar said, citing the changing world order in the post-9/11 confrontation, toughness and inflexibility.

“Let’s admit it. Diplomacy has not been as effective as it ought to be in the last 15 years,” Bhaskar added.