Guide Indonesia and the Asia-Pacific: Opportunities and Challenges for Middle Power Diplomacy

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Rulers in Greece, Persia, India, and China exchanged messages and gifts, negotiated treaties and alliances often through marriage , signed peace agreements, and sometimes mediated disputes between neighbouring sovereigns. Thus diplomats and the profession of diplomacy existed well before the word was invented to refer to them collectively as a class. Some of the more famous ones from European history include Machiavelli — , Cardinal Richelieu — , Talleyrand — , Metternich — , and Bismarck — The office or institution of ambassador therefore has a long lineage.

Many rituals, conventions, and etiquettes have accumulated over centuries to endow the office with distinction, mystique, and glamour.

​Former Minister for Foreign Affairs

Customs, ceremonies, and rules of procedure were established and institutionalized. The Greeks began the practice of selecting a local citizen in a foreign state as a resident consul who served the interests of a foreign state and yet was held in high esteem. The Greek city-states also struggled with the tension between efficient negotiation that rests on confidential discussions and the openness and transparency demanded by the citizens of a democracy or a republic.

The first diplomatic conference as such was the celebrated Sparta Conference of bc to debate whether or not to declare war on Athens. The Romans refined the role of emissaries to include trained observation and interpretation of conditions and opinions in the host country and negotiation in pursuit of the empire's interests.

Important innovations included the extension of diplomatic immunity, and the practice of international arbitration through commissions. On the other side of the world, in India, the Arthashastra , 11 a treatise on statecraft, military strategy, and economic policy by Kautilya ca.

All were to be accorded special international protection. Kautilya also anticipated Machiavelli in the amoral and ruthless nature of his advice on statecraft to the prince. Envoys were soon stationed also in important capitals like Paris, Madrid, and Vienna to communicate messages and observe and interpret shifting moods and alliances and dynastic struggles for power in kingdoms most likely to intervene in the Italian Wars — The age of classical European diplomacy began with the Treaty of Westphalia which marks the transition from Christendom to the modern states system.

The seminal treatise on interstate relations was Emmerich de Vattel's Law of Nations The Congress of Vienna codified diplomacy as a characteristic institution of the new states system in and set out the international codes of conduct governing diplomatic discourse among sovereign states in the interests of the nation as a whole rather than of any given dynasty.

Following the Congress of Vienna, Europe enjoyed a hundred years free of major war under the Concert system. But its collapse under the weight of the First World War discredited the system of clandestine alliances and secret diplomacy. Article of the UN Charter requires member states to register all international agreements and deposit the texts with the Secretary-General.

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The interwar period opened new channels and modes of diplomacy. New diplomatic procedures consolidated and initiated by the League included multilateral diplomacy, public debates, international parliamentary procedures, and collective decision-making. A parallel innovation was the tripartite representation of government, labour, and business in the International Labour Organization ILO where labour and management could vote independently of their governments.

The amount of discretion and latitude permitted to ambassadors and envoys is partly a function of the prevailing technology of transportation and communications. In ancient times, when direct consultations and back-and-forth communications were not feasible, the monarch or republic was far more dependent on the ambassador's judgement and skills on the spot. Today all important matters are referred back to the ambassador's own capital. Advances in the ease and speed of travel have allowed leaders or their designates to engage in shuttle diplomacy—over and around embassy officials.

At the same time, a systematic and persistent disregard of departmental analyses and advice increases the risks of costly mistakes. The business of the world has changed almost beyond recognition over the last century.

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We operate today in a global environment that is vastly more challenging, complex, and demanding than the world of In the rapidly expanding numbers and types of actors , from governments to national private sector firms, multinational corporations MNCs , non-governmental organizations NGOs , and regional and intergovernmental organizations IGOs.

In the levels at which diplomatic engagement and activity take place, from the local through the domestic-national to the bilateral, regional, and global, with globalization reducing the height of separation between the different layers. In the apparatus and machinery of foreign relations and diplomacy. But first it is necessary to elaborate on the changes themselves. The number of actors in world affairs has grown enormously, the types of actors have changed very substantially, the interactions between them have grown more dense, and the agenda of international public policy has been altered in line with the changing circumstances.

States are the basic and enduring entity in international relations and their number has grown manifold in the last hundred years, producing an exponential jump in the number of diplomatic interactions between them. One of the historic phenomena of the last century was the emergence of large swathes of humanity from colonial rule to independence. The first great wave of the retreat of European colonialism from Asia and Africa s—s and the South Pacific s was followed by the collapse of the large land-based Soviet empire and a fresh burst of newly independent countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia s.

The number of independent state actors has quadrupled since And there is a great diversity among states, ranging from one superpower, two billion-strong, and nine nuclear-armed states to numerous mini-states, microstates, and failing states in a system of sovereign states that has famously been described as organized hypocrisy. There are several resulting diplomatic challenges. For most former colonies, from Africa and the South Pacific to Southeast and South Asia, the triple challenge of national integration, state-building, and economic development remains imperative.

Several are struggling to avert state collapse and failure and the resulting humanitarian emergencies.

This explains the importance of goals like the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals MDGs , nation- and peace-building in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti, and aid diplomacy, as major preoccupations of contemporary diplomacy. At the same time, former colonial powers and settler societies have to be sensitive to the foreign policy input of historical trauma, while former colonies must make an effort to escape the trap of viewing current events and motives from a historical prism.

One of the clearest examples of the dual danger is in relation to providing international assistance to victims of atrocities inside sovereign borders. In addition to the number of state actors having grown, there is a military, financial, political, and moral rebalancing underway in the world's power structure. The end of the cold war terminated the US—Soviet great-power rivalry, brought victory for the liberal over a totalitarian ideology, and marked the triumph of the market over the command economy.

A second and related challenge was how to interact with one another without always routing relations through Washington in a hub-and-spoke model. The US economy, once the biggest, best balanced, and most productive and innovative, now seems saddled with debts, deficits, and distortions. If by the decade's end the US is still the world's biggest borrower, as Larry Summers mused, 18 will it still be the world's biggest power?

All actors engaged in the world of diplomacy have to adjust their goals and actions to the emerging reality of the power shift from the Atlantic to Asia and the Pacific.


The future economic potential of Brazil, China, and India has already translated into present political clout, as witnessed acutely in areas such as multilateral trade negotiations and climate change. Their own resilience in the financial emergency enhanced their self-confidence. Westerners have lost their once-dominant capacity to set standards and rules of behaviour for the whole world. Not just the process but the structures and rules of the game for conducting international negotiations must be reset. The minor adjustments in voting rights in the IMF and World Bank are harbingers of more significant changes that will be made in the foreseeable future.

As the various actors attempt to recalibrate foreign policy and diplomacy to realign them with the changing world order, some stress is inevitable. For example, as Japan readjusted to the changing equation between its traditional protector the US and its traditional rival China, it generated tension in relations with Washington and provoked a debate in Washington on whether to persuade Tokyo by the diplomacy of reassurance or coerce it by the diplomacy of pressure into honouring the previous government's commitments on the positioning and relocation of US troops and bases in Okinawa.

Historically, a systemic rebalancing among major powers is rarely accomplished without a major war. In the contemporary, highly interdependent world, the costs of going to war would far exceed any potential gains. Indeed, the costs of delinking are so high as to suggest that the major powers must not just eschew armed conflict as the default mode of adjusting their relative status; on many global problems they must also deepen collaboration.

Limits to the Asia-Pacific Growth

That is, the realities of interdependence, globalization, and the technology of destructiveness mark a fundamental transformation in the diplomacy of major power relations, with flow-on implications for the diplomacy of all other actors in international society. The role of contemporary governments in setting and implementing policy is increasingly constrained by multinational merchants, international financiers, global banks, regional, international, and supranational organizations, NGOs, and even sub-national public authorities like provincial and municipal governments in Canada, Germany, Spain, Brazil, and the US, to name just a few.

There was a spurt in the number and types of international organizations in the 20th century. Their number climbed from 37 in p. Few issues today lie completely outside the purview of one international organization or another. Napoleon Bonaparte imposed temporary order and unity on Europe through conquest. The other European powers set up an alternative Concert system in reaction and transformed the original impulse of a military alliance for the single purpose of defeating Napoleon into the longer-term political goal of preventing a similar domination of Europe by any one power in the future.

The Concert of Europe was the most comprehensive attempt until then to construct new machinery for keeping the peace among and by the great powers. Although there was an ideological anti-revolutionary component to this process, the prime concern was the maintenance of order on a hierarchical basis. The Hague Conferences of and signalled the broadening of international relations in participation and agenda.

They pointed to an emergent extra-European international system. Emergent powers such as the US and Japan took their place on the world stage. Moreover, lesser powers would demand a say; and, with their emphasis upon mediation, conciliation, and enquiry, they demonstrated a rationalistic and legalistic approach to the problem of international disputes. The two major international organizations of the 20th century were the League of Nations after the First and the United Nations after the Second World War. The League was built around Europe as the core of the international political system.

It did not challenge any of the fundamental principles of the traditional multistate system. The closeness with which the UN was modelled upon the League was testimony to the fact that while the League had failed, people still had faith in the idea of an umbrella international organization to oversee world peace and cooperation. While many of the UN Charter provisions were borrowed directly from the League Covenant, others represented substantial codifications of League procedures or logical developments of nascent League ideas.


International organizations are not merely sites of global governance but, in some limited yet important respects and the principal—agent problem notwithstanding, actors in their own right as well. To what extent has the policy paralysis over Darfur been the result of a policy gap on the part of the UN as opposed to weak political will among key member states? How well suited is the UN to determine the ends of policy, or to guide the processes by which it is made?

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It aims to establish a just peace as well as a stable balance of power. And it takes into account the interests of member states as well as the disputants, thereby broadening the support base for any solutions reached. The European Union EU is unique as a supranational organization with its own president, foreign minister, foreign ministry, and overseas resident missions. In more recent times, the so-called new regionalism entails direct relations among regional organizations themselves, as for example in the summit meetings between ASEAN and the EU.