Looking back at the history of nations, it can be attributed that diplomacy at the very beginning originated in the system of conducting relations between the states of classical Greece. However, it revived, expanded and strengthened in medieval Europe and grew in importance in the relations between the city states of Renaissance, Italy. Further, it proved its sustainability in the emerging states of Post-Reformation Europe.
The Congress of Vienna, held in 1815, laid a strong foundation for its continuity and expansion. In fact, it paved the way to establish a comprehensive system of permanent diplomacy between states. The great powers took the initiatives to exchange embassies and ambassadors, while relations involving other states were manipulated through legations and ministers. Step by step and gradually a meaningful diplomatic profession developed to take care of varied relations between states, highly and predominantly dominated by members of ‘elite’ classes.
With the completion of the First World War diplomatic affairs became more open or transparent and this state of affairs flourished for a short period. Then came the League of Nations, strongly advocated by US President Woodrow Wilson. The end of the Second World War saw the formation of the United Nations Organization and the emergence of new states in Asia, Africa and Latin America forming a front line in international affairs resulted in remarkable changes in the diplomatic world. The distinction between embassies and legations was abandoned and appointment of ambassadors and High Commissioners came into being.
The Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations of 1961 determines the status of diplomats. Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Envoys, Ministers and Charge d' Affaires are duly recognised as diplomats.
A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organisation. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and friendly relations.
The main functions of a diplomat can be classified as follows.
One of the main functions attributed to a diplomat is the handling of Consular Services.
If there are disagreements and differences of opinion on vital and politically sensitive matters between his government and the government of the host country, the diplomat will take the initiative to resolve these matters, taking into consideration the global scenario and the national interests of both governments. He will certainly fulfil these obligations by conducting comprehensive dialogues with leaders of both governments and if necessary with ‘pressure groups’, local community leaders and other VIPs if he considers that their contributions and considered opinions will help to resolve the sensitive issues and ease the prevailing situation.
He should build and improve relations with his host country.
A diplomat is expected to submit comprehensive and fact finding reports to his/her home country regarding the political, social and trade developments of the host country.
A diplomat is also expected to build up the Image of his own country.
A diplomat is never expected to interfere in the domestic affairs of the host country. These interferences are uncalled for under any circumstances and a direct violation of the charter of the united nations organization.
There is a difference between a bureaucrat and a diplomat. Naturally, the bureaucrat has the mandatory power and other resources at his disposal to get his orders implemented. He has a well organised machinery to attain his objectives. On the other hand, the diplomat has at his disposal only power of persuasion and ability to work out compromises to make a foreign government accept his position. He cannot force a foreign government to comply with his proposals.
In formulating and exercising all these assignments in the interest of his own country and host country, the intelligence, integrity, cultural understanding, initiative and enthusiasm of individual diplomats are critical and important. Diplomats should have exclusive qualities such as the ability to remain calm under stress, being dedicated to public service, enjoying challenges, open-mindedness, being culturally adaptable, working well with others, objectivity, leadership and strong communication and analytical skills.
Three years back the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa was able to eradicate the No: 01 terrorist organisation in the whole world and establish peace in every corner of the island. Many massive development projects have been launched in the Northern, Eastern and Southern Provinces. Former LTTE members have been rehabilitated. Some have joined the forces after undergoing various courses of rehabilitation. Civilians are moving freely in the Jaffna Peninsula. Schools are opened and universities are functioning. Food is available. Non Government Organizations are active and participate in development projects. Members of the diplomatic community have free access to these areas.
Of course, there had been isolated incidents.
The maintenance of peace and security of the country is the No: 01 obligation of the government to the people of this country.
The foreign diplomats, who are making an attempt to interfere in the internal and domestic affairs of our country, should try to learn the ABC of diplomacy from their state department or foreign office or should refer the KISSINGER ASSOCIATES INC and try to learn, WHAT DIPLOMACY IS.
(Henry Kissinger, served as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and has advised many other presidents on foreign policy. He is the author of numerous books and articles of foreign policy and diplomacy and is currently chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc, an international consulting firm)