The winds of change have, unlike ever before, cast reservations over the international order of reverence. As each nation scrambles to keep its citizens out of harm’s way, multilateralism, or in simpler terms, unity of nations is neglected. Nations, in such times of uncertainty, must unite. Unite, not for personal enrichment but global welfare. The beacon of hope and the long-standing guardian of united world order, the United Nations must, as it has in the past, act to unite. In this regard, history postures itself as a potent catalyst illustrating the virtues of multilateralism. 1960, like 2020 was marred with political turmoil, unprecedented world events, and an increasingly divided society. On the 3rd day of February in 1960, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s, an evangelist in hopes of reviving multilateralism, addressed the Parliament of South Africa in Cape Town. His speech was titled, the Winds of Change and coincided with the British empire’s decline in comparison to the rise of independence movements within the British colonies.
Before addressing the Parliament, the British Prime Minister traveled around the Union and found a deep preoccupation with what was happening in the rest of the African continent. He said, “I understand and sympathize with your interests in these events and your anxiety about them. Ever since the breakup of the Roman Empire, one of the constant facts of political life in Europe has been the emergence of independent nations. They have come into existence over the centuries in different forms and kinds of Governments. But all have been inspired by a deep keen feeling of nationalism. In the 20th Century and especially since the end of the wars, the processes which gave birth to the nation-states of Europe have been repeated all over the world.
We have seen the awakening of national consciousness in peoples who have, for centuries, lived in dependence upon some other power. Fifteen years ago this movement (de-colonisation) spread through Asia. Many countries, of different races and civilizations, pressed their claim to an independent nation. Today, the same is happening in Africa. The wind of change is blowing through this continent and whether we like it or not this the growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as fact and our national policies must take account of it. I sincerely believe that if we cannot do so, we may peril the precarious balance between East and West on which the peace of the world depends. The struggle is joined and it is a struggle for the minds of men. This is much more than our military strength or our diplomatic and administrative skill. It is, of our way of life at the same time we must recognize that in this shrinking world in which we live today, the internal policies of one nation may have effects outside it. So we may sometimes be tempted to say mind your own business. These days, I would expand the old saying so that it says, mind your own business but mind how it affects my business too.
The population of America like Africa’s is a blend of many different strains. Over the years most of those who’ve gone to North America have gone there to escape conditions in Europe. The Pilgrim Fathers were escaping from persecution, as Puritans were escaping the Marylanders. Roman Catholics, throughout the 19th century witnessed a stream of immigrants across the Atlantic from the Old World to the New to escape. From the poverty in their homelands and now in the 20th Century, the United States have provided asylum for the victims of political oppression in Europe. Thus, for the majority, America has been a place of refuge. Therefore, for many years the main objective of American statesmen, supported by the American public, was to isolate themselves from Europe. Americans, with their great material strength and the vast resources which were open to them saw this as an attractive and practicable course. Nevertheless, twice in my lifetime in the two Great Wars of these 50 years, they have been unable to stand aside. Twice, their manpower and arms have streamed back across the Atlantic to shed its blood in those European struggles from which their ancestors thought they could escape by immigrating to the New World. When the Second War was over, they were forced to recognize that in the small world of today, isolationism is out of date and more than that, it offers no assurance of security. The fact is that, in this modern world no country, not even the greatest can live for itself alone.
What Dr. John Donne said of individual men 300 years ago is true today of my country, of your country, and all the countries, ‘any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls it tolls for thee’. All nations are now interdependent. Yet, they are, one upon another, and this is generally realized throughout the Western world. Russia has been isolationist in her time and still has tendencies that way but the fact remains that we must live in the same world. With Russia, we must find a way of doing. Similarly, the independent members of the Commonwealth do not always agree on every subject. It is not a condition of their association that they should do so.
On the contrary, the strength of our Commonwealth lies largely on the fact that it is a free association. Free, independent and responsible for ordering its affairs. But, bearing in mind that, cooperation, in the pursuit of common aims and purposes in world affairs. Moreover, these differences may be transitory in time. They may be resolved. We must see them in this perspective, in a perspective against the background of our long association. If this, at any rate, I am certain those of us, who by the grace or favor of the electors are temporarily in charge of affairs in your country and mine, we, fleeting transient phantoms of the great stage of history have no right to sweep aside on this account the friendship that exists between our countries. That is the legacy of history. It is not ours alone to deal with. To adapt to a famous phrase, it belongs to those who are living, it belongs to those who are dead, and to those who are unborn. We must face the differences but let us try to see a little beyond them. Down the long Vista of the future but as time passes and as one generation yields to another, human problems change and fade. Let us, therefore, resolve to build and not to destroy. Let us also remember, weakness comes from division and in words, familiar to you, strength from unity.”
As pervasive viruses infiltrate lives on racial, health, gender and sexual orientations. The virus of stigmatization and isolationism personifies the 21st Century and the myriad of global complications. Life, as it was known, is on trial. The inequalities have perpetuated and have fundamentally shifted the world in a stagnant state of paralysis. But, it is worth remembering that only after the Dark Ages was there an Age of Renaissance and only after a crisis would one value the values it espoused. As the turbulent winds of change are blowing throughout the world and the global human consciousness must rise. Otherwise, the ultimate tragedy of humanity will prevail. Thus, to survive, we must unite and hope we can live to fight another day.
The Digital Diplomacy Revolution
The way people communicate with one another has changed dramatically. The term “networked society” is used to describe how society has developed, where data is freely transmitted. Knowledge is obtained, contained, interpreted, controlled, and exchanged in almost entirely different ways than previously done. The use of technology, especially the internet and other ICT-based technologies, in the conduct of diplomacy is referred to as digital diplomacy. Covid-19 has ushered in a new age of digital diplomacy, also known as e-diplomacy. It has evolved as one of the instruments for advancing foreign policy. The days of strict government oversight are long gone. Information has a greater impact in today’s “networked” society because it can spread in a matter of seconds or minutes.
For many people, Twitter has been the go-to platform for modern diplomacy. We’ve seen how social media helped the Arab Spring revolution in countries like Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt. The word “Twiplomacy” was coined to describe diplomacy conducted through Twitter. There are close to 300 Twitter accounts dedicated to heads of state. More recently, during the populist boom, we’ve seen how leaders like Modi and Trump’s Twitter presence aided their electoral performance. Not only governments but also non-state actors, such as terrorists, have used social media to further their goals.
The Rise of Digital Diplomacy
Between March 2020 and the end of 2020, the United Nations headquarters in Geneva hosted 1,200 important international conferences online. The UN has been able to continue its operations on the ground as a result of this. In terms of digital diplomacy, the United States now leads the way. Since 2003, the US State Department has had an e-diplomacy branch, but it was Hillary Clinton who brought it to a whole new dimension. She introduced “21st Century Statecraft,” in 2009, a program aimed at complementing conventional foreign policy techniques with statecraft technologies that completely harness the network and technologies of an interconnected world. The US State Department employs 150 full-time social media workers in the e-diplomacy office.
India’s Use of Social Media in Public Diplomacy
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) sent out its first tweet in 2010, managed by Ambassador Navdeep Suri, then joint secretary and head of the public diplomacy section. Many distressed Indians stuck abroad found Twitter to be a helpful crisis management tool, facilitating the safe evacuation of over 18,000 Indian people from Libya during the civil war in 2011. India aspires to be a trailblazer and is working hard to pave the way for itself to become a global leader. For a nation like India, social media allows for constructive communication about the country’s coming of age as a result of scientific progress, technical advancements, and new ideas advanced by initiatives like digital India. The government should take advantage and expand their public diplomacy agenda more engagingly. The government can intensify its initiatives – even on the foreign policy agenda – in a perfect digital diplomacy setting, and the public can have a more direct channel to communicate with their government. In the age of digital diplomacy, it is critical to address policy context relevant to a world where political views are developed based on knowledge from tweets and social media accounts. As, Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, put it: “The only thing that is constant is change”. Countries must take advantage of the latest digital diplomacy framework to develop the skills needed for the future and to create stable digital channels for future diplomats.
Ramifications of The Pandemic In International Relations
Ever since the global spread of the COVID-19 virus, claims have been made of the pandemic causing a massive impact in global politics and international relations. In the pre-pandemic era, international relations were defined by increasing bipolarity, greater isolationism, greater trade protectionism and increasing nationalism. While the West led by the US was gradually adopting a protectionist attitude, the East led by China in particular, was looking towards increasing multilateral cooperation. Alongside this, international organizations were seeing their roles diminishing. Moreover, populist leaders and authoritarian governments were gradually gathering influence globally, in stark contrast to a decline in democracy and neo-liberalism. These trends could be seen most clearly in the US/China conflict that has dominated most international relations rhetoric of the 21st century.
Although China had been hit with the pandemic first, through extreme lockdown measures, quick responses, mass screenings, targeted monitoring and an effective socio-political response, the country quickly reversed course and had flattened its curve by March, depicting the resilience of the country. With a mere 87,000 cases as of December 2020 in a country of 1.4 billion people, China’s effective policies to deal with the pandemic can hardly be sidelined. Nevertheless, as the virus had been identified in China first, this triggered a massive backlash from the West, particularly the US, where President Trump blasted China for covering-up details about the virus. Rumors were spread by the White House itself about the virus originating from a Wuhan lab, and the virus was labeled the Wuhan Virus – a move discouraged by the WHO. This inflammatory language worsened relations between the two countries. Going even further, President Trump terminated US involvement in the World Health Organization, claiming it to be controlled by Chinese authorities.
With this move the influence of the world’s most important health organization was weakened, further showcasing the decline of the liberal international world order, due to a diminishing trust in international organizations. Thus, the pre-Covid trend of a lack of trust in international organizations, continued during the COVID-19 pandemic as well. With Trump advocating for closed borders with his “We need the wall more than ever” expressions on Twitter, and similar far-right leaders like France’s Le Pen ruing the “religion of borderless-ness” for the pandemic, the West’s protectionist, nationalistic ideas showed no signs of abating even during a global crisis.
In stark contrast, the East led by China continued on its path of greater cooperation and interdependence, through bilateral and multilateral engagements. With the US leaving a void in the global leadership spot for handling the pandemic, China stepped in and offered to assist other countries in handling the outbreaks in their respective countries. China’s foreign ministry’s spokesperson, Hua Chunying, even stated that they would like to share China’s good practice and experience.
Furthering its charm offensive, China started shipping out masks and ventilators to countries that were very badly hit by the pandemic, like Italy, Spain and Serbia. With the countries of the European Union shutting down their borders and hoarding domestic supplies, despite Italy’s pleas for help, Italy turned to China for aid in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. This “mask diplomacy” along with China’s Health Silk Road has served to strengthen global public health governance, as envisioned by China.
Undeniably, the pandemic’s effects in the short-term have been wide-reaching, especially in the social and technological domain. However, expecting global politics and international relations to undergo a transformational change in the long-term, solely due to the COVID-19 pandemic is relatively far-fetched, especially if current global trends are assessed.
The virus may or may not have taken its toll on international diplomacy in the traditional context, but it has certainly shaken many things if not stirred them completely.
Diplomatic Fiasco: PTI Government’s Failure on the Climate Diplomacy Front
“Think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them”.– John F. Kerry
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have both declared that unrestrained climate change poses a threat to international peace and security. Presently, climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity. We all will witness its impacts, making it a critical foreign policy and diplomatic issue. Climate change will overturn the 21st century world order and characterize how we live and work. Even so, in the midst of a global pandemic, it is evident that climate change will be the major issue of this century. As countries will move toward rebuilding their economies after COVID-19, recovery plans will shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean and green, safe and healthy, and more resilient. Over the last decade, foreign policymakers have taken measures to better understand climate risks. To date, foreign policy responses to climate change have primarily centered on the security repercussions of climate change.
To chart a fresh course ahead, in order to initiate a global fight against climate change, President Joe Biden welcomed a diverse set of leaders from around the globe to explicate the connections between climate security, climate change and broader foreign policy objectives. The list of invitee included world leaders like President Xi Jinping of China and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, PM Modi of India, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to attend the two-days meeting to mark Washington’s return to the visible lines of the fight against climate risks. Though, Pakistan have its place in the same region, and fifth-most vulnerable country to climate change, it has been disqualified from the summit. Likewise, Biden dispatched his climate envoy, former secretary of state John Kerry, to prepare the ground for the summit in meetings with global leaders. The U.S. invited the leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which includes the 17 countries responsible for about 80-percent of global emissions and GDP, along with, heads of countries that are unambiguously vulnerable to climate impacts or are representing robust climate leadership.
The current global efforts towards mainstreaming of climate change in development policies and programs are getting more traction due to expanding avenues of domestic and international climate diplomacy. For developing countries, climate diplomacy is undoubtedly becoming a key incentive to integrate climate change issues into their foreign policy. Pakistan is also a relatively new player in the climate diplomacy arena with a nascent institutional setup. The climate diplomacy adaption experience of Pakistan is still at the embryonic stage. The main problem is the gradual decline in the aptitude and capacity of institution to develop a clear policy route. The policy decline is much more rapid under the PTI government. Pakistan’s ambassadorial clout has eroded over the years due to political unpredictability and economic timidity. Similarly, the government has failed even to built a national narrative on climate change issue. Imran Khan has been warning the world of catastrophe if the climate problem is not addressed, but has failed to come out with a clear policy direction on the issue.
Among the many challenges fronting the Imran Khan government will be tackling the notoriously dysfunctional U.S. – Pakistan relationship. The Biden presidency has designated climate change as a critical theme of its foreign policy, and indeed aware of Pakistan’s deep climate vulnerability. For the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pakistan is not a foreign policy priority for U.S. administration. Many high-ranking Biden government officials, including climate change envoy John Kerry, know Pakistan well. When Kerry was Obama’s secretary of state, co-chaired US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue that counted renewable energy. Anybody familiar with how Islamabad and Washington have interacted over the last 74 years will resort to weary metaphors: a roller-coaster ride, the dynamic between an overbearing mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Biden and his experienced team of ex-Obama administration officials are likely to press Pakistan – for Islamabad, it is a catch-22 situation. In the indigenous context, internal political strife in Pakistan and economic dependency on other countries have raised questions about our ability to effectively fight our case in international arena. The latest diplomatic fiasco speaks very loud and clear about the government’s inability to deal with fast-changing geopolitics. Washington’s broader interests in Asia, including relationships with China and India, will determine its policy at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate. It seems, Pakistan has no friends in the Biden administration. Thus, out-of-the-box thinking is required for Pakistan’s foreign policy decision makers.
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