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Diplomatically cutting costs

26 September 2012 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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EVER SINCE nations began sending diplomatic representatives to distant lands from the 15th century onwards, the might of colonial powers was gauged from the number of permanent missions that they maintained around the globe.
Many of the leading powers of the 18th and 19th centuries invested a lot of money in running such overseas missions that stretched across continents, flaunting their wealth and power in remote colonies.

But maintaining overseas diplomatic missions cost money and in these days of economic slowdown it’s difficult to justify deploying an army of diplomats, consular and trade officials across the globe. Cost-cutting, a phrase that has got embedded in modern corporate lingo, but which was unheard of in diplomatic jargon, is now quietly creeping into such esoteric circles. Britain and Canada have just announced plans to open joint diplomatic missions abroad in a bid to save costs. Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague is meeting his Canadian counterpart John Baird in Ottawa, where the two will unveil plans to share embassies or high commissions in countries where either one of them has a presence.

Prime Minister David Cameron told the Canadian parliament last year that they were two nations united by one set of values. “We have stood shoulder to shoulder from the great wars of the last century to fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and supporting Arab spring nations.... We are first cousins,” said Cameron. Britain now plans to share diplomatic buildings and even staff with Canada. Of course, the move has not gone down well with critics both in the UK and in Canada. But with Cameron facing pressures from the likes of the UK Independent Party, which wants Britain to withdraw from the EU, it was inevitable that he would agree to his Euro-sceptic foreign secretary who wants closer ties with Britain’s ‘first cousins’.

And even in Canada, whose economy is in a much better shape than Britain’s, many feel that the republic should be seen to maintain its distance from both the US and the UK. But Canada already has similar arrangements with Australia in over two dozen countries, where the two nations share their diplomatic missions and services.
Khaleej Times
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