Saturday, June 23, 2018

Everything about Trump’s diplomacy is commercial

Dinesh Weerakoddy,

Image (not from article) from

Trump diplomacy

Generally relations between nations are not just expressed by how well the leaders get on. They are based also on state-to-state engagement, the institutional links and shared values and experience that live on long beyond any leader’s term of office. But Trump policy of isolationism has left a giant vacuum around the world. As a result the world is full of leaders that decide who they want deal with, or not, relations are now based 100% on their commercial interest. ...
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter, with much of its crude destined for customers in Asia. As to why the super-rich Saudi King Salman accompanied by an entourage that numbered up to 1,500 with 459 tons of luggage and equipment did not plan a stopover in Sri Lanka en route to Maldives. Only the Foreign Ministry would know. But what a missed opportunity for Sri Lanka?

We regularly hear our politicians saying diplomacy plays a direct role in addressing the root cause of insecurity and that good diplomatic initiatives help to build partnerships so that Sri Lanka can work together with the world to address some of our thorny bilateral and multilateral issues. To play that role effectively they also say Sri Lanka needs competent officials. But despite that we still post officials to important markets with no experience whatsoever.

The ambassador/high commissioner is the primary representative for all Sri Lankan interests in a foreign country, and that varies from being responsible for taking care of Sri Lankan citizens and their needs to the issuance of visas, to the discussions about political and economic and trade and commerce opportunities, also the military relationships and dealing with the environment. It’s technically the whole range of things.

In addition they must also do public diplomacy [JB emphasis], they are expected to give effective speeches at different sorts of events to make sure that people in that country are well aware what our policies are and why we have them. But when you send people who do not know the subject, not much can be achieved.

For example, President J.R. Jayewardene in 70s was able to launch a massive infrastructure development project like the Accelerated Mahaweli Development scheme, which provided employment to thousands, because of the grant aid he got from the West and at the very worst, concessional aid (as opposed to foreign commercial loans) from the First World countries. ...

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