“We as diplomats like to see ourselves as change makers and pace setters in the corridors of government and in the ecosphere of statecraft. Of course, as the skeptics might say, conditions apply”, said former foreigner secretary of India Nirupama Rao during a recent talk in UNESCO. Rao at the begging of her speech on the subject titled “Diplomacy in the age of social media”, said how diplomacy is a fine art, an heir to…centuries of epochal deal making, system building, peace‐making, conflict avoidance and resolution. But, do the citizens and government officials from other departments and services think of the diplomats in the same way? Is it a profession conducted in dizzying ivory towered heights, away from the hurly burly of earthling life?
Rao said how she herself faced an oft-repeated question from her colleagues in other branches of the government: “What do you do in the Foreign Service?, as if we diplomats live in a never land of whisky‐marinated escapism, a kind of lagoon with flamingos flying over it as never land was once described”. She then said, back in 1959, Harold Nicholson said, “There are those who regard the Foreign Service as a kind of bird sanctuary for elegant young men...arrayed in striped pants and spending most of their time handing sugar cookies to ladies of high society. Conversely there are those who regard diplomatists as an international gang of intriguers intent upon ensnaring the Great White Soul of the United States.”
She then continued, “Thus, diplomacy in the minds of those outside the foreign services and chancelleries of the world, is rarely accorded the definition of a profession, tied to life and existence on our planet, in the way that medicine, civil service, or law or a career in the military may be regarded.”
But how diplomats themselves define their own profession? “For those of us, however, who have practiced diplomacy through our working lives, it is regarded as a transnational profession as evolved, requiring as much training and growing specialization, advocacy and negotiation skills, analytical acuity, keeping up with new technologies and methods of functioning, and the possession of situational and terrain awareness or the steady hand that is, as Lawrence Durrell once said, a prerequisite to doing a job well, as any of the other professions just mentioned. The closed mind, un‐attuned to change, creativity, to the ability to pursue the new and untested, that is risk‐averse (you see we diplomats face hazards, but we normally outlive them) does not belong in the profession of diplomacy. So, at the expense of self‐congratulation, we as diplomats like to see ourselves as change makers and pace setters in the corridors of government and in the ecosphere of statecraft. Of course, as the skeptics might say, conditions apply”, she said.