Culture Corner

From Tunisia To Iran: Soft Diplomacy, The Indian Way

Surya Gangadharan New Delhi 1 December 2018

What were 50 Tunisian diplomats, most of them women, doing in India last month? According to Tunisian Ambassador Nejmeddine Lakhal, they were here for a training programme organised by the New Delhi-based Foreign Service Institute (FSI). In addition to acquiring the practical skills required of diplomats, they were able to meet young Indian diplomats and get a look at a country made familiar through Bollywood movies (see video interviews).

The Tunisians weren’t the only ones. Currently, 24 diplomats from Iran are at the FSI for the first time. A team of newly recruited Bangladeshi diplomats is on a ‘Bharat darshan’ covering Hyderabad and Kolkata. Next year, FSI will hold a training session for BIMSTEC diplomats for the first time.

So what exactly do they learn here? FSI Dean JS Mukul said the skills being imparted are of professional nature. “This includes writing analytical reports, making presentations, tips on how to negotiate agreements, use of social media to advance own country’s profile and so on.”

FSI is not a university. It does not hold classes in international relations for which it has no mandate. Nor does it have permanent faculty. The institute relies on the serving and retired network of Indian Foreign Service (IFS) diplomats, depending on their experience and understanding to give young diplomats a well-rounded and practical picture of what is required of them and how to go about doing it.

Next year, FSI will hold a workshop on disarmament which will be attended by diplomats from 30 countries. Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with training institutions in 75 countries ensure a constant flow of new ideas to enrich the course content. A language laboratory that will enable mid-career diplomats to polish up language skills and an alumni network are on the cards.

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