Means of Diplomacy

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  • Diplomacy has existed since the beginning of the human race. The act of conducting negotiations between two persons, or two nations at a large scope is essential to the upkeep of international affairs. Among the many functions of diplomacy, some include preventing war and violence and fortifying relations between two nations. Therefore without diplomacy, much of the world’s affairs would be abolished, international organizations would not exist, and above all the world would be at a constant state of war. It is for diplomacy that certain countries can exist in harmony.
  • In this context, it is important to study various means applied for diplomacy by countries. In this article, we'll focus on the means of diplomacy used by major countries and a comparison between India's soft power and China's hard power- a matter of discussion these days.


  • Essay
  • GS II-
    • India & its Neighbourhood relations
    • Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting Indian interests.
What is Diplomacy?

Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations and the skill in handling affairs without arousing hostility.

The purpose of Diplomacy:

  • Diplomacy is the chief instrument of foreign policy, which is set by political leaders, though diplomats (in addition to military and intelligence officers) may advise them.
  • The foreign policy establishes goals, prescribes strategies, and sets the broad tactics to be used in their accomplishment. It may employ secret agents, subversion, war, or other forms of violence as well as diplomacy to achieve its objectives. 
  • Unlike foreign policy, which generally is enunciated publicly, most diplomacy is conducted in confidence.
  • The purpose of diplomacy is to strengthen the state, nation, or organization it serves in relation to others by advancing the interests in its charge.
  • It strives to preserve peace and is strongly inclined toward negotiation to achieve agreements and resolve issues between states.
  • Diplomacy normally seeks to develop goodwill toward the state it represents, nurturing relations with foreign states and peoples that will ensure their cooperation or—failing that—their neutrality.
  • When diplomacy fails, war may ensue; however, diplomacy is useful even during the war. It conducts the passages from protest to menace, dialogue to negotiation, an ultimatum to reprisal, and war to peace and reconciliation with other states.
  • Over the long term, diplomacy strives to build an international order conducive to the nonviolent resolution of disputes and expanded cooperation between states.

Global Diplomacy Index,2019

  • Lowy Institute Global Diplomacy Index visualises the diplomatic networks of 61 G20, OECD and Asian countries and territories, allowing users to compare the most significant diplomatic networks in the world.
  • According to the 2020 findings-
    • China now has more diplomatic posts across the world than the US, a marker of its growing international clout and ambition. China’s expansion in worldwide diplomatic presence has come partly at the expense of Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, which Beijing says is a breakaway province.
    • China overtook the US in 2019 with 276 embassies and consulates worldwide, which is three more than the US.
    • The next three spots are occupied by France, Japan, and Russia.
    • India is 12th among the 61 countries ranked by the Lowy Institute. As of 2019, New Delhi has 123 embassies and high commissions and 54 consulates globally. India too has expanded its diplomatic footprint: In 2017, it has 120 embassies and 52 consulates.
  • What led China to the top spot?
    • Beijing’s diplomatic push has been aided by its economic heft as under President Xi Jinping, it pumps in billions of dollars into the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
    • Establishing a robust diplomatic infrastructure is the first practical step to bolstering a country’s diplomatic influence. China has invested in its diplomatic infrastructure, which serves as a telling metric of its international ambitions.


Types of Diplomacy
  1. Politics of pacification:
    • The essence of this type of diplomacy is pacification, that is, unwillingness to aggravate or incite contradictions that exist between countries. This kind presupposes various concessions for opposite sides on insignificant, unimportant issues. The most often seen examples of this diplomacy is that of England and France on the eve of World War II, when they tried to resist aggressive aspirations of Hitler.
  2. Gunboat diplomacy: 
    • The essence of gunboat diplomacy consists of demonstrating strength to achieve foreign policy goals. The basis of gunboat diplomacy is full recognition of the legitimacy of using military force to achieve goals of foreign policy.
    • Example: U.S. Navy's overwhelming sea power. Henry Kissinger, during his tenure as United States Secretary of State, summed up the concept as thus: “An aircraft carrier is 100,000 tons of diplomacy.”
  3. Chequebook diplomacy: 
    • Chequebook diplomacy, or chequebook diplomacy, is used to describe a foreign policy which openly uses economic aid and investment between countries to curry diplomatic favour. China's Belt and Road Initiative, investments in Africa are a classic example of this.

  4. Public diplomacy:
    • Also called people’s diplomacy, means government-sponsored efforts aimed at communicating directly with foreign publics. 
    • Public diplomacy includes all official efforts to convince targeted sectors of foreign opinion to support or tolerate a government’s strategic objective.
    • Example: During the Cold War, the United States used public diplomacy to persuade European audiences that the foundations of democratic government and capitalist enterprise were superior to Soviet alternatives.
  5. Track II diplomacy or “backchannel diplomacy”:
    • It is the practice of “non-governmental, informal and unofficial contacts and activities between private citizens or groups of individuals, sometimes called 'non-state actors'”.
    • It contrasts with track I diplomacy, which is official, governmental diplomacy that occurs inside official government channels. However, track two diplomacy is not a substitute for track one diplomacy. Rather, it is there to assist official actors to resolve conflicts by exploring possible solutions derived from the public view and without the requirements of formal negotiation.
    • In addition, the term track 1.5 diplomacy is used by some analysts to define a situation where official and non-official actors cooperate in conflict resolution.
    • Example: India and Pakistan used this route after the tension created by the Pulwama attack.
  6. Cultural diplomacy:
    • It is a type of public diplomacy and soft power that includes the “exchange of ideas, information, art, language and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples in order to foster mutual understanding”.
    • The purpose of cultural diplomacy is for the people of a foreign nation to develop an understanding of the nation's ideals so as to build support for economic and political goals.
    • In essence “cultural diplomacy reveals the soul of a nation”, which in turn creates influence. Though often overlooked, cultural diplomacy can and does play an important role in achieving national security efforts.
    • Example: India's ties with South-east Asia, the Act East policy.

Soft Power vs Hard Power: India vs China 


  • Hard Power is explicitly coercive and works best when applied on states with comparatively less military or economic power.
  • In contrast, soft power is decidedly non-coercive, and it works through culture, foreign policies and political values. States wielding soft power do not bludgeon their opponents into submission by virtue of their military might, rather, they are able to attract and co-opt their competitors.
  • China is a country which gives importance to hard power in protecting one’s sovereignty and has been trying very hard to attain hard power through economic development and military modernization. 
  • India is seen projecting its soft power in instances like International Yoga Day, Tourism, Ayurveda, Cricket, the popularity of Bollywood movies in Central Asia, and so on. 

  • The term Soft Power was first used by the eminent IR scholar Joseph Nye in his book “Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power.” In the book, he identified three dimensions of power:
    1. coercion by military force,
    2. influence by offering economic incentives and 
    3. finally the ability to co-opt other states by the nation’s appeal based on its culture and values.
  • Both India and China are ancient civilizations. But China is always seen as the face of expansionism and coercion, holding the middle kingdom complex. Whereas India is rather seen as a credible ally.

  • India seems to be outperforming China in the soft power game with much less state control or direction. Nye’s has criticised China for this. If governments and government leaders hope to grip the imaginations of people abroad, they must be proactive by providing an attractive model of governance and preserving space for their citizens to provide compelling cultural contributions at a grassroots level. These are things that state-backed propaganda rarely accomplishes.
  • China's ways of projecting Hard Power:
    • China's ambitious project of Belt and Road draws criticism and is seen as its projection of hard power.  China’s growing military footprint in Africa is part of a policy that has at its core the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It has set up a naval base at Djibouti and in 2018 it conducted drills in Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, and Nigeria.
    • In a similar way, China secured the lease of the Hambantota port for 99 years, because Sri Lanka was unable to pay its debts to China. 

      China's Wolf Warrior Diplomacy:

      • A faction of Chinese diplomats has been stepping up their attacks on China’s critics by issuing hawkish, offensive statements.
      • It’s called “wolf warrior” diplomacy, named after a movie franchise about a Chinese soldier who fights and defeats foreign foes.
      • In recent weeks, China’s wolf warriors have spread a conspiracy theory accusing the US army of creating the coronavirus and mocked the US over the Black Lives Matter movement.
      • Experts say their main goal is to undermine China’s critics abroad, while pleasing nationalists back home, who want China to stand up for them on the world stage.


  • Hard power is fast-acting, so you can see the results better.
  • It is quite tangible so their results are predictable.
  • Hard power is sometimes useful if used properly and in a focussed manner – like against extremists, fundamentalists, and militants who are disturbing the general population and there is no time to convince them using soft power, as otherwise more people will suffer.
  • Hard power in the hands of an able administrator can actually be quite beneficial as that can force things forward in a regulated manner. 



  • Soft power has always played a very important part of leadership.
  • The power to attract, to get others to want what you want. Every Skilful leader has always understood and noted those attractive parts from credibility and legitimacy.
  • Power has never been won by just a shot of a gun, even harsh dictators have used attraction as well as fear.
  • If someone is using hard power, there is always a soft power in it to help them continue their hard power for a bit more time.
  • The effectiveness of Soft power lasts longer than Hard power. 



  • Even if the results of hard power are fast they are not long-lasting.
  • Sometimes the country who is facing hard power will behave differently because they are being forced to, in an unnatural way. As soon as the hard power is withdrawn they revert to their original way. Eg: The fears currently being expressed about the Taliban after US withdrawal
  • The use of hard power makes people suffer. Hard Power does not allow people to have an independent opinion, they are forced to act in favour of those who are the source of hard power.
  • Hard power can sometimes alienate people into choosing the opposite side even if they are not intending to do so.



  • Some people object to soft power because they think, imitations and attraction are not meant to be used for power.
  • Some imitation or attractions do not give much power compared to policy outcomes and imitations don't always give what you expect your audience would respond too.
  • Soft power also takes more time to effect, whereas hard power takes little time.
  • Sometimes, soft power is seen as a country's weak defence capacity. Such was the opinion about India, but events of self-defence like surgical Strike, Balakot Strikes, not budging from Doklam stand-off have changed how the world perceives India.
  • India has loudly conveyed that it is a peace-loving country but it won't tolerate attacks on its security and sovereignty.



Diplomacy has evolved through time and today, it would serve a means for collective action on global issues. It is one of the best tools for sustaining a multi-polar global order. It has always been used to complete a specific agenda, the best example being the Sustainable Development Goals. Thus diplomacy serves the motive of a better and peaceful world.

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