Soft Skills and Diplomacy

Session Report
Rahul Soni

Introduction

IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, conducted an online training course on Diplomacy and Foreign Policy. Day 2 of the session covered the theme Nuts and Bolts of Diplomacy: Practitioners Experience.

The diplomatic session featuring Ambassador Partha Ray was an illuminating discourse on the indispensable role of soft skills in the realm of diplomacy. Ambassador Ray, an esteemed authority in diplomatic circles, delineated five pivotal soft skills crucial for effective diplomatic endeavours, elucidated the multifaceted role of diplomacy and expounded on the nexus between soft power and diplomacy.

Soft skills for diplomacy

  1. The session commenced with Ambassador Ray’s emphasis on the paramountcy of communication skills and writing proficiency in diplomatic interactions. He underscored the imperative nature of precision in conveying messages accurately without distortion, highlighting the pivotal role these skills play in bilateral and multilateral meetings with foreign governments or international organizations.
  2. Moreover, he explicated the significance of empathy in comprehending and respecting the perspectives and concerns of other nations. 
  3. Ambassador Ray stressed the art of active listening to discern underlying messages, emotions, and cultural contexts, thereby fostering better understanding and rapport among nations. 
  4. Cultural sensitivity -As a diplomat, You must possess a heightened awareness and sensitivity towards the cultural nuances of foreign countries.
  5. Adaptability to novel challenges was also expounded upon as indispensable attributes for diplomats operating in a diverse global landscape. They navigate unforeseen challenges and the constantly shifting landscape of politics. Hence, being highly flexible and adaptable is essential.

Role of diplomacy

  1. Conflict Resolution: Ambassador Ray emphasized the pivotal role of diplomacy in facilitating resolution without resorting to violent means. By employing diplomatic channels and negotiations, countries can find amicable solutions to disputes, thereby averting the escalation of conflicts into physical confrontations.
  2. Negotiation -: The session highlighted the essence of negotiation in diplomacy, by referring to initiatives like the Aid India Consortium. Such endeavours underscore how diplomacy serves as a tool for fostering partnerships, collaboration, and aid agreements between nations, facilitating mutual growth and development.
  3. Economic Cooperation – Ambassador Ray underscored the significance of diplomacy in fostering economic cooperation. He specifically highlighted mechanisms like Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAA), emphasizing how diplomatic efforts facilitate economic collaborations that benefit multiple nations, avoiding double taxation and promoting smoother trade relations.
  4. Crisis Management – The adept handling of crises by India through initiatives like Vande Bharat and COVID diplomacy is an example of the application of soft power. Ambassador Ray highlighted how diplomacy plays a pivotal role in managing crises effectively, such as repatriating citizens during a pandemic or coordinating international responses to global emergencies, showcasing the agility and effectiveness of diplomatic interventions in times of adversity.
  5. Addressing Global Challenges – Diplomacy serves as a powerful tool in addressing global challenges like climate change. Ambassador Ray underscored how international cooperation, negotiations, and agreements facilitated by diplomatic efforts are crucial in devising and implementing strategies to combat pressing global issues like climate change, emphasizing the collaborative aspect of diplomacy in tackling shared challenges faced by the international community.

Relation between soft power and diplomacy

The discourse seamlessly transitioned into the entwined relationship between soft power and diplomacy. Ambassador Ray cogently elucidated how these two concepts are intrinsically interrelated, emphasizing the indispensable role of soft skills in diplomatic engagements. He stressed the essence of human touch in diplomatic relations, citing India’s historically robust soft power. He cited various Indian institutions such as the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Ministry of External Affairs, and Ministry of Tourism as pillars in advancing India’s soft power on the global stage.

In his discussion on soft power, Ambassador Ray referenced Joseph Nye’s definitions, distinguishing it from hard power and introducing the term “smart power” as a fusion of both. He provided concrete examples of India’s soft power, citing Indian dances, cuisine, democratic values, and the Indian Constitution. The discussion seamlessly transitioned into the practical application of India’s soft power, showcasing its efficacy through recent examples, albeit acknowledging the difficulty in measuring its impact. Ambassador Ray punctuated his discourse with insightful anecdotes from his own experiences, offering practical insights into the application of these concepts.

The subsequent doubt session provided a platform for attendees to seek clarifications and further insights, fostering an interactive exchange of ideas. The session culminated with a vote of thanks delivered by Reet, acknowledging Ambassador Ray’s insightful discourse and the enriching learning experience the session offered.

Conclusion 

Ambassador Partha Ray’s session on soft skills in diplomacy was an intellectually stimulating and informative discourse, shedding light on the indispensable role of these skills in fostering effective international relations. The session not only highlighted the significance of soft skills in diplomacy but also offered practical insights into their application in real-world diplomatic scenarios.

Acknowledgement: Rahul Soni is a Research Intern at IMPRI.

Read more event reports of IMPRI here:

Dimensions of UN and Evolving Multilateralism

Nuts and Bolts of Diplomacy

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