PANMUNJOM, SOUTH KOREA – APRIL 27: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) pose for photos in front of Bukhansan Peace House for the Inter-Korean Summit on April 27, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea. Kim and Moon meet at the border today for the third-ever Inter-Korean summit talks after the 1945 division of the peninsula, and first since 2007 between then President Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea and Leader Kim Jong-il of North Korea. (Photo by Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty Images)

Here are ice-breaking events not related to global warming. But it is definitely related to the warming of another kind. Sudden surge of warming of the bilateral and one-to-one interactions. Days of disruptive diplomacy have arrived.For the first time, the world is experiencing ice-breaking events that are not attributed to global warming. But it is definitely related to the warming of another kind. There has been a sudden surge of warming of the bilateral and one-to-one interactions.

Multilateralism is on the back burner, at least for now. United Nations has resigned to the position of passive bystander. Regional groupings are the curious ring-side onlookers.

Moon-Kim summit in the demilitarized border of South and North Korea, Marcon-Trump bromance in the White House in Washington DC and Modi-Xi river-side dialogue in Wuhan are the cases in the point.
All this warmth coming soon after the high-tension incidences between the duos remind us of what Otto von Bismarck, a former German Chancellor, once said, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best”. That was at the end of 19th century. Now in 21st centuries, not only smart technologies are disrupting the way world lives but even the newfound smart diplomacy is disrupting the way the resolutions are sought for long-standing conflicts.
The neoteric approaches, ‘start-ups’ in terms of today’s technology, espoused by these leaders, almost instinctively, are setting the agenda of ‘no-agenda talks’ and communicating with ‘no-communique methods’.

The last such out-of-box diplomacy of recent times was seen almost 35 years back. In 1971 the so-called ‘ping-pong-diplomacy’ triggered by table tennis players from USA seized by Chairman Mao and responded to by Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State of USA, gave confidence to USA and China to thaw their icy relations. The ping-pong diplomacy that was shrouded many a time by secret missions by Kissinger. In July 1971 Kissinger faked ‘illness’ on paparazzi closely following him while on a mission to Pakistan and did not appear in public for a day. He was actually on a top-secret mission to Beijing to negotiate with Prime Minister Chou Enlai for opening the possible route for visit of President Nixon to China, which eventually did take place soon after.

The subsequent ‘shuttle-diplomacy’ for the Palestine-Israel peace deal by Kissinger was effective to a certain extent. The final peace deal was clinched, however, through bilateral intimate interaction facilitated by the passive but positive role of Norway.

Informal dialogue with ‘Chai-Diplomacy’ between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping on the banks of the Yangtze River in Wuhan last week was indeed a unique event in more sense than one.

Firstly, it was initiated by China after the eyeball-to-eyeball military standoff between second and third largest economies of the world.

Second, the two leaders spent more quality time together than scheduled, for two days away from the capitals, without aides which many times display classical hawkish diplomacy, to give a strong positive message to the world.

That message of stability, solidarity and sustainability pointed towards the new hopes for the positive and constructive approaches in facilitating sustainable solutions for global challenges including climate change, sustainable development, food security, combating diseases, natural disaster and cybersecurity. The responsive cooperation ‘to pull together their expertise and resources in these areas and create a global network dedicated to these challenges for the larger benefit of humanity’ was a surprise message from the leaders of two giants that were logjammed just ten months back.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s diplomatic overture almost coinciding with the Modi-Xi informal summit, has reversed the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula from brinkmanship towards diplomacy. From the threatening nuclear missiles to the hopes of peace missions was a warm and welcoming signal.

Starting with joint winter Olympic games participation by two Koreas, both Kim and Moon have played bilateral diplomatic gamble. This ‘Olympic diplomacy’ has worked so far and it is anybody’s guess how Kim will play when it comes to specifics in implementing the ‘complete denuclearization’ of the peninsula.

But the body language and humour of two leaders during the crossing of the 38th parallel that divides North and South Korea were clear indication that future now will be driven by bilateral interests in “amicable atmosphere overflowing with feelings of blood relatives” as stated in a joint statement.

The world also witnessed, again at around the same time, another scene of the witty and comic body language of yet another duo. The media called it ‘dandruff diplomacy’. Emmanuel Macron, French PM and Donald Trump, American President almost displayed the disruptive diplomacy. The Trump’s trait of firing anyone who disagrees with him was seen to turn into a language of ‘love thy disagreement’.

He jokingly brushed aside a piece of dandruff on Macron’s suite, in front of reporters, but it showed Trump’s appreciation of Macron’s steadfast and positive criticism and probably willingness to listen. A definite disruption in Trumpian tactics.

On trade-tariffs, Iran Nuclear deal, Paris Climate Agreement, Macron has definite and strong disagreements with Trump. By inviting Marcon, to address the joint meeting of the Congress, Trump was taking risk of allowing the foreign leader to openly disagree on the floor of the highest political chamber of his country. But that showed the selective open-minded dimension of his diplomacy.

Modi-Xi, Kim-Moon and Macron-Trump have given strong messages through their distinctive diplomacy. First, that neighbours can resolve their own conflicts bilaterally. Second, the global threats like terrorism, climate change and nuclearization have to be addressed through open dialogue and disruptive diplomacy. Third, leader-to-leader informal contacts have the power to resolve the conflicts that face-to-face military show-down. Lastly, in the rapidly changing century of degradation of ecosystems global dialogue also needs bilateral initiatives. END

by
Rajendra Shende, Chairman TERRE Policy Centre, Former Director UNEP, IIT Alumnus

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