Diplomacy may be defined as the transaction of a nation’s business with other nations. With this end in view, every country has its own embassies or high Commissions in most countries of the world. Besides this, India, too like most other countries takes part in countless international conferences and international organisations, including the U.N.O.
Therefore, a young man opting for the Foreign service and choosing diplomacy as his career has to pass the greater part of his life aboard. It has been calculated that, on the whole, over two-thirds of the life of a diplomat is passed in other countries. He is allowed to return home for short periods every two or three years. The service caries with it the possibilities of contacts with people of different lands and climates and of seeing and enjoying the life of many lands. Such a life is thrilling and adventurous, largely free of monotony and dullness, but is it not likely to suit the stay home.
Upto the 19th century, the range of matters to be dealt with by a diplomat in the foreign service was narrow. An embassy was largely concerned with power politics. But as a result of the development of the rapid means of communication, the globe has shrunk and the countries of the world have drawn closer together. Therefore, manifold matters now require the attention of a diplomat. One consequence of widening of interest is that the number of departments which have an interest in the conduct of diplomacy has increased considerably. They are no few, if any departments which don’t have, in greater or less degree, and international aspect to their work.
The most important function of a diplomat in foreign service is to assist his government in the formulation of international policy as well as in its execution. With this end in view he must provide the necessary information, as well as interpret and evaluate that information. Each diplomatic mission has to keep the Ministry regularly, accurately, and fully informed on all matters which might have a bearing on national interest. Intelligence provided in this way has to be accompanied by an interpretation; and on the skill of that interpretation, the successful of relevant information will depend.
Reporting is one of the most interesting and common duties which junior diplomatic officers have to undertake. It covers the whole range of development in the country to which they are accredited ranging from accounts of revolution and coups that relate to current crises. Not only that, he must also suggest the various lines of policy with reference to the country to which he has been accredited and recommend the line which is most likely to promote national interest. In addition, he must project a correct image of his nation, and interpret national policies rightly and lucidly. In this way, he must secure goodwill and friendship for his nation in other countries. This is essential for the success both of its economic and political policies.
Another important and much more difficult aspect of the functions of a diplomat posted abroad is to carry negotiations and thus to further the interest of his country. Mostly, negotiation is thought of as discussion or a mutual exchange of benefits as for example, in the seeking of agreement on conditions under which Indian forces may be located aboard. A more common form of negotiation, however is one in which a diplomat seeks to influence the government, to which he is accredited to adopt, for example, a favorable attitude towards the view-point of his own nation. In this form of negotiation, he has to do bargaining and the challenge to him is the greatest for that reason.
A particular type of negotiation which has become prominent in recent years is negotiation by conference and international organisations. India is represented in scores of conferences each year. Much of the task of this representation falls on the professional foreign service officers. This kind of work calls for all the normal diplomatic skills but in addition it demands competence in public speaking, skill in lobbying and quickness in decision making.
To help and look after the welfare of his countrymen in a foreign country is an important part of the duties of the diplomat posted in that country. He must see to it that his countrymen are not subjected to unfair treatment, they are not harassed in any way, and he must go to their help if they are in any difficulty. He must help them in dealing with local authorities, arrange for their lodging and other comforts when they first reach that country, and in case of sickness or accidents arrange for their hospitalization, treatment etc. Sometimes they may run short of money and then it is for the diplomat to arrange for financial help for them.
One who takes to service in the foreign office has to shoulder heavy responsibilities and face many challenges. He must cultivate charming manners and a pleasant, graceful exterior, for it is only this way that he can establish contacts and create goodwill for his country. A foreign office diplomat is the representative of his country, He projects its image aboard and his conduct brings credit or discredit to it. He must conduct himself in a responsible, dignified manner, for any lapse in his conduct is likely to bring a bad name to his country. His views on any subject would be taken to be the views of his government, and so he must talk precisely and to the point. He should be a man of culture and wide learning, fully conversant with the views, and policies of his government on all possible subjects.
In short, few careers engage a person so fully and face so many challenges as the career of diplomat. Diplomacy is interesting and thrilling, but it is also very challenging, required great adaptability and dynamism from those who opt for it.