According to the tradition, today the Ministry of Foreign Affair is holding the 28th Diplomatic Conference, themed “Proactive and active diplomacy in international integration”. This is an opportunity for the Diplomatic Service to review and assess the implementation of external strategy of international integration as mapped out in the first half of the 11th Party Congress’s term, so as to take comprehensive and effective measures to successfully realize the Congress’ external strategy in the coming years.
The Conference is honored to warmly welcome Comrade Nguyen Phu Trong, Secretary-General of the Central Committee of the Party to attend and chair the Conference. The presence of Comrade Secretary-General is a major inspiration to all the working staffs of the Diplomatic Service, which shows the profound interest and the Leadership of the Party to the external field. We also warmly welcome other high-ranking leaders of the Party, the State, the National Assembly and the Government, distinguished guests representing central ministries, branches, departments and provinces, as well as more than seven hundred Heads of the Vietnamese Diplomatic Missions overseas, diplomatic officials, officials representing local foreign affairs’ offices, members of the press, mass media and a number of economic groups to the Conference. We are also glad to welcome former Ministers and leaders of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as senior members of the Vietnamese Diplomatic Service, who have closely followed the foreign affairs, generating great inspirations to the next generations of our Diplomatic Service.
The 28th Diplomatic Conference is held at a time where many important changes are taking place both domestically and internationally.
Domestically, our country has entered a pivotal period regarding the execution of the Ten-year Socio-Economic Development Strategy of 2011-2020, the realization of the goal of industrialization and modernization by 2020 and the promotion of economic restructure being accompanied by the renovation of our growth model.
Against the backdrop of slow world economy recovery, ongoing financial and public debt crises all over the world, fierce competition among great powers in the region that have made a negative impacts on our country’s socio-economic situations, our country has attained important socio-economic achievements, stabilized the macro-economy, maintained reasonable growth, curbed inflation and ensured social security. However, our economy is still faced with many difficulties and challenges.
Globally, peace and cooperation for development continue to be a major trend, yet prominent problems still persist in an ever more complicated direction. Armed conflicts; disputes over resources, national territory, seas and islands; ethnic and religion-fueled conflicts; interventions, coups, secessions and terrorism; all are on the rise. A multipolar world is now emerging prominently. Major powers are engaged in cooperation, competition with one another, with the Asia-Pacific being the dominant region.
In addition, unconventional security challenges, especially natural disasters and internet security have increased in intensity. Multilateral politico-security challenges are directly affecting on the security and development of our country.
Achievements attained by the Diplomatic Service since the 27th Diplomatic Conference
In the last two years since the 27th Diplomatic Conference, we have actively and comprehensively carried out the 11th Party Congress’ external strategy and attained important achievements.
Political Diplomacy has been actively conducted, bringing our relations with important partners to substance, making them effective and stable and for the first time we have established relation frameworks with all important partners. In 2013 we have established five Strategic Partnerships and two Comprehensive Partnerships, bringing the total number of the former to 13 and the latter to 11, including those with the five permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations; with important partners worldwide like Japan, India, Germany, the Republic of Korea; with the core members of the ASEAN like Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand; while our relations with traditional friends in Africa and Latin America have been strengthened and expanded.
In the international integration, we persistenly hold high the “national interest is the highest” principle, engaging in both cooperation and struggle. The Diplomatic Service has contributed to maintaining a peaceful, stable environment, playing an important part in building a favorable international environment for national development.
Economic Diplomacy has effectively supported the execution of the Ten-Year Socio-Economic Development Strategy of 2011-2020 and the Five-Year Plan of 2011-2015; proactively forecasting major development trends as well as learning experiences from other countries so as to recommend to the Government sound steps in managing and stabilizing the macroeconomy and restructuring the economy. We have also promoted the politico-diplomatic lobbying to facilitate the negotiations on important Free Trade Agreements, the recognition of Viet Nam as a market economy and the attraction of ODA and FDI. Over the last two years we have managed to persuade 14 more countries to recognize Viet Nam as a market economy, bringing the total number of the recognizers to 43, including eight countries in G-20. At present, we are negotiating six Free Trade Agreements with important partners in bilateral and multilateral frameworks, including such largest economies in the world as the United States, China, Japan and the EU. Apart from cooperation, we have also timely struggled against protectionism and discrimination in trade relations, partly protecting our main export products in the law suits regarding anti dumping duties and countervailing duties.
Multilateral Diplomacy has effectively implemented the international integration policy, switching from the simple participation to pro-active participation, making suggestions and contributions with responsibility to common regional and global security and development issues, thus promoting the country’s standing in the region and the world.
In the region, as a responsible member to we have contributed to promoting the building of the ASEAN Community, consolidating regional solidarity and strengthening the central role of ASEAN in regional matters, promoting the execution of the Declaration of Conduct and the joint consultation between ASEAN and China on the Code of Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea.
At the international level, our decision to take part in the United Nations Peacekeeping activities, our being elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council with the highest number of votes and as the president of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and for the first time our being elected to the Intergovernmental Committee on the 1972 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritages, have all promoted the image and the standing of our country in the world. In the long-term, we have step-by-step been building a general plan for the hosting of the APEC Summit in 2017 and a candidacy for the election into the United Nations Security Council in the 2020-2021 term.
Cultural Diplomacy has played an important part in popularizing and strengthening the national image and the standing of Viet Nam in the world, lobbying the UNESCO for the recognition of many Vietnamese material and non-material cultural heritages as world cultural heritages.
Territorial and Border work has been carried out effectively, contributing to protecting national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the country as well as to defending our sovereignty and sovereign rights in the East Sea.
Overseas Vietnamese work has been carried out to support and protect legitimate rights of overseas Vietnamese in difficulty and encourage them to maintain and promote national customs and identities and contribute to building the homeland. Resolution No 36 of the Party Politburo has been implemented with concrete methods and policies to facilitate overseas Vietnamese to return to the homeland to do business, visit relatives, so as to contribute to the construction of the homeland.
Citizen protection work has received much more attention as our country has implemented open door policy and continued to integrate in-depth into the world. We have timely protected our citizens in international hot spots and natural disaster regions. We have also actively combined cooperation and struggle to protect our citizens, fishermen and laborers’ legitimate rights overseas.
Foreign information work has seen many innovations, partly creating social consensus on complicated matters, sending accurate messages to help the international community understand and support the Party and the Government’s strategy and policy while strongly opposing the violations of our maritime sovereign rights and slanderous allegations regarding democracy, human rights and religious matters.
These achievements would be impossible without the extremely important contribution of the work of Diplomatic Service building. Following the 27th Diplomatic Conference, the Ministry of Foreign Affair has focused on the building and training work in compliance with Comrade Secretary-General’s request in the 27th Diplomatic Conference that our army of working staffs must have “sufficient strength of will, capability and morality standards on a par with their new mission, loyalty to the national interest”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affair has implemented many programs and methods for training and retraining working staffs to provide our country with officials who are genuinely professional with high competence and firm political strength, meeting external tasks in the international integration period in an increasingly competent manner.
These achievements in external relations and international integration are attributed first of all to the sound foreign policy of the Party, the close instruction and direct participation of the Party Politburo and high-ranking leaders of the Party, the State, the National Assembly and the Government, the close and timely cooperation among the agencies working on Forreign Affairs, among State diplomacy, and Party, and Parliamentary diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy, among the foreign service-security-defense sectors, among foreign service and external activites of ministries, branches and departments at the central levels and local governments at the provincial level all over the country, forming an united front to bring into play the combined national strength.
These achievements have been very important, yet the road ahead is full of difficulties and challenges, which demand the Diplomatic Service to continue making greater efforts on a par with the new standing of the country.
In the coming years, the international and regional picture will be changing more dramatically, creating for us both great opportunities and challenges. However, we have a very basic strength in our patriotism, a stable socio-political background, and the fact that after nearly 30 years of Doi Moi our national strength and standing have been much improved. The recent years’ external achievements have created new advantages; it can be said that never before in the history of the modern Viet Nam have we had such favorable conditions in our relationship with other countries in the world as nowadays.
Issues to be discussed in depth in the 28th Diplomatic Conference
In order to continue to accomplish successfully the policies of the 11th Congress, the 28th Diplomatic Conference themed “Proactive and active diplomacy in international intgration” will concentrate on the following points:
First, concerning the regional and global situation, forecasting accurately development trends in the short term and within the next five to ten years; improving further research and consultative quality, more assessing and forecasting policy adjustments of neighboring countries and major powers and their impacts on our security and development environment.
Second, concerning political diplomacy, on the basis of partnership framework networks, we need to identify priorities and key methods to bring our relationships with key partners into depth, substance and efficiency.
Third, concerning international integration and multilateral diplomacy, we need to find sound methods and ways to better bring into play our current standing among nations as well as mechanisms and forums to serve the country’s security and development goals; we are not just participating actively but also contributing to the building of mechanisms and frameworks in regional and international organizations in which we have stakes, with the goal of further improving the country’s standing both regionally and internationally.
While we have seven more years to realize the goals of industrialization and modernization and two years to build the ASEAN Community by 2015, economic diplomacy needs to become deeply involved in aspects vital to the country’s development demands, supporting effectively the implementation of the goals of the Socio-Economic Development Strategy until 2020.
Fourth, we need to continue researching and suggesting methods to promote comprehensive, uniform deployment of external activities on the fields of culture, information-propaganda, overseas Vietnamese works, citizen protection works; strengthening close cooperation among foreign-defense-security services to successfully realize the main goal of maintaining peace, stability and development.
Equally important is the building of the Diplomatic Service. The Conference needs to devote due time to review the deployment of professional staff-building activities; there must be breakthrough solutions to improve the training of staff, so as after graduation, officials have been not only endowed with professional, multi-faceted skills but also possessing the ability to cooperate and work in an inter-professional environment in the backdrop of our deep international integration into the world, meeting increasingly high requirements of the building and defending of the motherland and improving our national standing.
It is not easy to come to actual, comprehensive assessment and pivotal solutions to the aforementioned problems within the span of one week. Yet with a deep awareness about the Diplomatic Service’s task in this most important period for the nation, with our high responsibility and dedication, the 28th Diplomatic Conference will successfully complete the agenda, according to the spirit of “Proactive and active diplomacy in international integration”.
I hereby declare the commencement of the 28th Diplomatic Conference. May I wish Comrade Secretary-General, leaders of the Party and the State and all delegates good health and many achievements in the upcoming period.
Posting granted exclusively for the Modern Diplomacy
(*)Speech delivered by HE Mr. Pham Binh Minh, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs at the 28th Diplomatic Conference (from the 16th to 20th December 2013). The title is named by the Journal of International Studies.
Biden-Putting meeting: Live from Geneva
19:00 The places of the flags on the Mont Blanc bridge on which President Biden and President Putin will pass to reach the meeting venue on Wednesday usually hold the flags of the different Swiss cantons. Not today. The American and Russian flags have been placed to welcome the two leaders.
18:00 A day before the Geneva summit: Hotel Intercontinental where the American delegation and probably President Biden himself is staying, how the city looks like a day before the meeting, what are the security measures like, why isn’t the UN involved and are the usual protests expected?
Iveta Cherneva with live video political commentary from Geneva one day ahead of the Biden-Putin Summit
Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?
In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been trying to bolster their ‘Soft Power’ in a number of ways; by promoting tourism, tweaking their immigration policies to attract more professionals and foreign students and focusing on promoting art and culture. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken the lead in this direction (in May 2017, UAE government set up a UAE Soft Power Council which came up with a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of the country’s Soft Power). Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has also been seeking to change its international image, and it’s Vision 2030 seeks to look beyond focusing on economic growth. In the Global Soft Power Index 2021, Saudi Arabia was ranked at number 24 and number 2 in the Gulf region after the UAE (the country which in the past had a reputation for being socially conservative, has hosted women’s sports events and also hosted the G20 virtually last year)
Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?
One other important step in the direction of promoting Soft Power in the GCC, is the attempt to popularize cricket in the Gulf. While the Sharjah cricket ground (UAE) hosted many ODI (One Day International )tournaments, and was witness to a number of thrillers between India and Pakistan, match fixing allegations led to a ban on India playing cricket at non-regular venues for a duration of 3 years (for a period of 7 years from 2003, Sharjah did not get to host any ODI). The Pakistan cricket team has been playing its international home series at Sharjah, Abu Dhabu and Dubai for over a decade (since 2009) and the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League is also being played in UAE. Sharjah has also hosted 9 test matches (the first of which was played in 2002).
Sharjah hosted part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in 2014, and last year too the tournament was shifted to UAE due to covid19 (apart from Sharjah, matches were played at Dubai and Abu Dhabi). This year again, the UAE and possibly Oman are likely to host the remaining matches of the IPL which had to be cancelled due to the second wave of Covid19. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held later this year (October-November 2021), which was actually to be hosted by India, could also be hosted not just in the UAE, but Oman as well (there are two grounds, one of them has floodlights). International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking for an additional venue to UAE, because a lot of cricket is being played there, and this may impact the pitches. The ICC while commenting on the possibility of the T20 World cup being hosted in the Middle East said:
, “The ICC Board has requested management [to] focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East’
GCC countries are keen not just to host cricketing tournaments, but also to increase interest in the game. While Oman has a team managed by an Indian businessman, Saudi Arabia has set up the SACF (Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation) in 2020 and it has started the National Cricket Championship which will have more than 7,000 players and 36 teams at the school level. Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise T20 cricket team, representing the city of Peshawar the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which plays in the Pakistan’s domestic T20 cricket league – the Peshawar cricket league — extended an invitation to the SACF, to play a friendly match against it. It’s owner Javed Afridi had extended the invitation to the Saudi Arabian team in April 2021. Only recently, Chairman of SACF Prince Saud bin Mishal met with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ausaf Saeed, to discuss ways for promoting the game in Saudi Arabia. He also visited the ICC headquarters at Dubai and apart from meeting officials of ICC also took a tour of Sharjah cricket ground.
GCC countries have a number of advantages over other potential neutral venues. First, the required infrastructure is already in place in some countries, and there is no paucity of financial resources which is very important. Second, there is a growing interest in the game in the region, and one of the important factors for this is the sizeable South Asian expat population. Third, a number of former cricketers from South Asia are not only coaching cricket teams, but also being roped in to create more enthusiasm with regard to the game. Fourth, UAE along with other GCC countries, could also emerge as an important venue for the resumption of India-Pakistan cricketing ties.
In conclusion, if GCC countries other than UAE — like Saudi Arabia and Oman — can emerge as important cricketing venues, their ‘Soft Power’ appeal is likely to further get strengthened especially vis-à-vis South Asia. South Asian expats, who have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the region, and former South Asian cricketers will have an important role to play in popularizing the game in the Gulf. Cricket which is already an important component of the GCC — South Asia relationship, could help in further strengthening people to people linkages.
Analyzing the role of OIC
Composed of fifty-seven countries and spread over four continents, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is the second-largest intergovernmental body following the United Nations (UN). And it is no secret that the council was established in the wake of an attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Safeguarding and defending the national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of its member states is the significant provision of the OIC’s charter. OIC charter also undertakes to strengthen the bond of unity and solidarity among member states. Uplifting Islamic values, practicing cooperation in every sphere among its members, contributing to international peace, protecting the Islamic sites, and assisting suppressed Muslim community are other significant features of its charter.
Recently, the world witnessed the 11-days long conflict between Hamas and Israel. In a recent episode of the clash between two parties, Israel carried out airstrikes on Gaza, claiming many innocent Palestinian lives. The overall death toll in the territory rose to 200, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1305 injured, says Hamas-run health ministry. This event was met with resentment from people across the world, and they condemned Israeli violence. After 11 days of violence, the Israeli government and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire. The event of Israeli violence on Palestinians has called the role of OIC into question. The council, formed in the aftermath of the onslaught on Al-Aqsa mosque, seemed to adopt a lip service approach to the conflict. However, the call for stringent measures against Israeli aggression by the bloc was not part of its action.
Likewise, the Kashmir issue, which has witnessed atrocities of Indians on innocent Kashmiris, looks up to the OIC for its resolution. Last year, during the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in Niamey, Niger, the CFM reaffirmed its strong support for the Kashmir cause. The OIC categorically rejected illegal and unilateral actions taken by India on August 5 to change the internationally recognized disputed status of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and demanded India rescind its illegal steps. However, the global community seems to pay deaf ears to the OIC’s resolution. The Kashmir issue and the Palestine issue are the core issues of the world that are witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis. And the charter of the bloc that aims to guard the Muslim ummah’s interest rings hollow. About a year ago, the event that made rounds on electronic and social media was the occurring of the KL summit, which reflected another inaction of the OIC. The move of influential Muslim countries (Iran, Turkey, and Indonesia), to sail on the idea to establish another forum to counter the OIC, manifested the rift in the bloc.
Many OIC countries are underdeveloped and poorly governed and are home to instability, violence, and terrorism. The consequences of the violence and terrorism in the OIC countries have been devastating. According to Forbes, 7 out of 10 countries, which suffer most from terrorism are OIC members. The Syrian conflict is another matter of concern in the Mideast, looking up to OIC for a way out. An immense number of people have lost their lives in the Civil war in Syria.
Several factors contribute to the inefficiency of the bloc. The first and foremost reason is the Saudi-Iran stalemate. Influential regional powers (Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) in the Mideast share strained links following the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Both sides dissent each other on many fronts. Saudi Arabia accuses Tehran of interfering in its internal affairs, using terrorism as a tool to intimidate neighbors, fuelling sectarianism, and equipping proxies to de-stabilize and overthrow the legitimate government. Locked in a proxy war in the Mideast, the KSA and Iran vie for regional dominance. Moreover, Iran’s nuclear program is met with strong resentment in the KSA since it shifts the Balance of Power towards Iran. Such developments play a vibrant role in their stalemate, and the bloc’s effectiveness is hostage to the Saudi-Iran standoff.
Political and social exclusion in many OIC states is the norm of the day, contributing to upheaval and conflict. In OIC countries, the level of political participation and political and social integration is weak. This fact has rendered OIC countries vulnerable to unrest. Arab Spring in 2011 stands as the best example. Furthermore, conflicts, since the mid-1990s, have occurred in weak states that have encountered unrest frequently.
Saudi Arabia has tightened its grip on the OIC. The reason being, the OIC secretariat and its subsidiary bodies are in the KSA. More importantly, the KSA’s prolific funding to the bloc enhances its influence on the bloc. One example includes, in the past, the KSA barred an Iranian delegation from the OIC meeting in Jeddah. Saudi authorities have not issued visas for the Iranian participants, ministry spokesman, says Abbas Mousavi. “The government of Saudi Arabia has prevented the participation of the Iranian delegation in the meeting to examine the deal of the century plan at the headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,” Mousavi said, the Fars news agency reported. Given the Iranian growing influence and its access to nuclear capabilities, the KSA resorted to using financial leverage to reap support from Arab countries against Iran. For instance, in past, Somalia and several other Arab states such as Sudan and Bahrain received a commitment of financial aid from Saudi Arabia on the same day they cut ties with Iran. Furthermore, the summits of OIC, GCC, and Arab League are perceived as an effort by Saudi Arabia to amass support against Tehran.
Division in the Muslim world and their clash of interests is yet another rationale behind its inefficacy. These days, many Muslim countries are bent on pursuing their interests rather than paying commitment to their principles, that is, working collectively for the upkeep of the Muslim community. Last year, the governments of Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that they had agreed to the full normalization of relations. Following this, the Kingdom of Bahrain became another Muslim country to normalize its links with Israel. Such moves by the Islamic countries weaken the OIC agenda against Israel.
OIC’s efficacy would be a distant dream unless the Saudi-Iran deadlock finds its way. For this purpose, Pakistan can play a vital role in mediating between these two powers. Pakistan has always been an active player in the OIC and played its role in raising its voice against Islamophobia, Palestine Issue, and the Kashmir issue. Shunning their interests and finding the common goals of the Muslim ummah, should be the utmost priority for the members of the bloc. Every OIC member ought to play its part in the upkeep of the bloc. Furthermore, a split in the bloc should come to an end since it leads to the polarization of member states towards regional powers. Many OIC countries are rich in hydrocarbons (a priceless wealth, which is the driver for the growth of a country); if all OIC members join hands and enhance their partnership in this sphere they can fight against energy security. And OIC is the crux for magnifying cooperation among its member states to meet their energy needs.
In this era of globalization, multilateralism plays a pivotal part. No one can deny the significance of intergovernmental organizations since they serve countries in numerous ways. In the same vein, OIC can serve Muslim ummah in multiple ways; if it follows a course of adequate functioning.
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