International Relations-PSC 201
Definitions of Diplomacy
Diplomacy is the management of IR through negotiations or the method by which these relations are
adjusted or managed. Diplomacy tries to achieve the maximum objectives (national interests) with a
minimum of costs in a system of politics where war remains a possibility.
There are two major forms of diplomacy. The simplest and the oldest is bilateral diplomacy between two
states. Bilateral diplomacy is still common with many treaties between two states, and it is a main concern of
embassies. The other form of diplomacy is multilateral diplomacy involving many states.
Formal multilateral diplomacy is normally dated to the Congress of Vienna in the nineteenth century. Since
then, multilateralism has grown in importance. Today most trade treaties, such as the World Trade
Organization (WTO), arms control agreements, such as the Partial Test Ban Treaty and the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty, and environmental agreements, such as the Koyoto Accord, are multilateral. The United
Nations (UN) is the most important institution of multilateral diplomacy.
Diplomacy from a Historical Perspective
The ability to practice diplomacy is one of the defining elements of a state, and diplomacy has been
practiced since the first city states were formed millennia ago (around 5th BC). For the majority of human
history diplomats were sent only for specific negotiations, and would return immediately after their mission
Diplomats were usually relatives of the ruling family or of very high rank in order to give them legitimacy
when they sought to negotiate with the other state. Envoys eventually became negotiators rather than being
just messengers. During the Middle Ages (6th to 18th century), the scope of diplomacy did not grow much
and diplomats were mostly confined to maintaining archives rather than negotiating them.
In the late middle ages, in Genoa, the Duke of Milan established the first foreign mission. But this was still
diplomacy of the court rather than that of the people.
After the American and French revolutions, diplomacy became more democratic and less aristocratic. The
Congress of Vienna (1815) laid down procedures for diplomatic immunities and defined diplomatic
How Diplomacy Functions
Diplomacy functions through a network of foreign officers, embassies, consulates, and special missions
operating around the globe. Diplomacy is bilateral in character but as a result of growing international and
regional organizations, it is becoming increasingly multilateral in character.
Diplomacy & Foreign Policy: What's the Difference?
Diplomacy is the method and process by which foreign policy is pursued but it is not a policy onto itself.
Outcome of diplomatic negotiations can effect foreign policy options.
Traditional Versus Modern Diplomacy
Traditional diplomacy assumed that major European powers had special responsibility for maintaining
world peace and the colonies had no more significant diplomatic role than that of satellites. Traditional
diplomacy was professional but secretive and relied on a limited cadre rather than extended diplomatic
Modern diplomacy is more open and democratic; it requires reciprocal bargains and compromises so it is
not possible for diplomats to spell out a given stance in advance.
Multilateralism is increasingly evident in the practice of modern diplomacy. It includes conference or
summit diplomacy, with behind the scenes preparations by diplomatic officials.
Globe: the world
International Relations-PSC 201
Cadre: particular or specific segment
Reciprocal: mutual or based on a give and take arrangement:
Summit: meeting involving heads of state (Presidents or Prime Ministers)
Students are advised to read the following chapters to develop a better understanding of the various
principals highlighted in this hand-out:
Chapter 4 in `"A Study of International Relations" by Dr. Sultan Khan.
In addition to reading from the textbook, please visit the following web-pages for this lecture, which
provide useful and interesting information:
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