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The Foreign Ministry building in Putrajaya. Malaysian diplomats need guidance from leaders to continue to be successful in handling international issues. FILE PIC

LETTERS: OUR diplomatic officers at home and abroad are seldom spoken of unless a situation or crisis warrants attention.

For 62 years, the leadership factor has been at the centre of our diplomatic success at developing strategic and win-win relations abroad. We now have a diplomatic presence in 85 countries to shore up this achievement.

Diplomacy is never static. This will impact today upon how well we exercise our work in the future. We need to have a better understanding of what has changed and what are some of the things we need to do.

A topic of interest is the strategic overview of diplomacy today. A quick look at trends and scenarios will help our understanding of what is “moving diplomacy”.

Based on a two-part approach — the changing demands of diplomacy and the manner of delivering change — we can adopt three focus areas.

For change, we can look at the movers and shakers, events and causes and the impact on political, economic and foreign relations on our country, while for delivery, we may include the branding, the decisions and the strategies.

As to what determines change in diplomacy, we can put people and systems at the top of the list.

The former refers mainly to the dynamics of change and the latter, the role of leadership and government, and what has worked for institutions and organisations.

Taken with the level of success that we are trying to measure here will depend on the state of preparedness reached in the process as viewed globally, within the government and inside the Foreign Ministry.

Looking at the future, the one skill required of the diplomatic core is the use of data.

It is a necessity for the benefits that can accrue as early warnings on emerging trends and developments in foreign policy, consular affairs, mapping of
bilateral relations, assist in
multilateral negotiations, challenge assumptions and bias in diplomatic reporting.

In reference to the changing environment of diplomacy in the world, our diplomats will have to catch up with the following developments: China on the ascendant, Russians are coming, the European Union is falling and the United States is in retreat.

From a country perspective, the following issues will be worth our attention, including promoting global interests, developing economic relations and pushing for culture and tourism.

In a survey administered to a group of our budding diplomats three years ago, it was noteworthy that their ranking of issues considered very important for the country were as follows: National and international security, political affairs, economics, the United Nations, culture and tourism and legacies of leaders.

At the heart of it, we will require a continuing and dedicated leadership from diplomats, their mentors, their seniors in the Foreign Ministry and the foreign service community of the country.

DR AZHARI KARIM

Former Malaysian ambassador


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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