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Diplomacy As a Profession

Eric Gonsalves

The Continuum International Publishing Group, London and New York, 2011, pp. 372 + xviii, price not stated


Kishan Rana’s book 21st Century Diplomacy: A Practitioner’s Guide is essential reading for all who are diplomats, who may wish to become diplomats, and even for those who have been diplomats. Diplomacy is, in essence, the management of relations between sovereign States. Once upon a time it was conducted by envoys personally appointed by the sovereign to deal with his counterpart in another country. By and large this meant handling issues of peace and war, conquest and dominion. Alliances were often ratified or ruined by the giving or not giving of lands, tribute and princesses in marriage. A few States were interested in trade and the problems of their subjects, but these were generally subsidiary until the 17th and 18th centuries. Before that imperial domination and the extraction of revenues in gold silver and other prized commodities like spices, stallions or slaves was the principal focus, with a sub-text of propagation of religion or civilization in certain cases. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 probably was the first real international attempt to codify international law and international relations. The Vienna Convention of 1961 was the latest attempt to update that code. Much has been written on international law and on the conduct of foreign policy. But not till recently did the management of foreign relations as opposed to the making of foreign policy become a subject in its own right. In our 21st century world the nature of the task of the envoy has been transformed beyond recognition. The author has detailed the reasons for this change. Principally he attributes it to globalization in its several dimensions; the change in the nature of domestic governance which has now introduced myriad interfaces between a citizen and other national entities and their government, and its transnational dimensions which grow exponentially; and finally the technological strides which have revolutionalized every facet of human activity from peace and war to manufacturing, production and distribution to information and communication. External affairs including the management of Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Embassies, Missions and Consulates have all had to adapt almost beyond recognition to handle their new responsibilities, with a variety of tools unavailable to their predecessors, and in a new glare of public awareness and accountability which those predecessors had shunned and even considered unprofessional. Rana outlines the reforms consequently required in the Ministries at home and the missions abroad, the institutions and processes which currently ...

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