Power, Foreign Policy And Diplomacy


Yuba Nath Lamsal

Big powers always try to make sure that their presence and influence in the neighbourhood and international arena remain strong and their interests are better served. Anything done for this purpose by any country is called power projection. Power projection is a part of international politics and the act of power projection can be pursued in both hard and soft forms. Hard power is military machine whereas soft power comes out of other means of persuasion to make one's presence felt; influence maintained and its national interest served.

Three Cs

In the game of international power politics, the letter 'C' has a special meaning and significance. Big powers rely on and apply three 'Cs' for power projection, and have their interest served abroad or in other countries. The three 'Cs' mainly refer to the words: 'convince, confuse and confront'.

The first two are mainly to do with the use of soft power while the third one refers to the use of hard power. Countries apply soft powers and persuasive methods to bring others into their fold through the method of convincing.  In the process of convincing diplomacy and media machine come handy. If this approach does not work, the second 'C' is applied, which means to confuse the adversaries. It is said that confused enemy is not harmful although it may not be helpful as well. If one is able to confuse the adversaries, it is as good as convincing them. In the process of confusing the enemies, diplomatic acumen and media mobilisation are considered the best tools. It is through these tools, powers accomplish their mission in the international arena without using military force.

When both persuasive methods fail, the other 'C' or the confrontational tool is applied to accomplish the mission. Use of soft power is often persuasive but not always. Soft power also has both persuasive and coercive methods. The coercive method is something that seeks to weaken the enemy through the means other than war. Some coercive methods include economic sanctions and propaganda machines.

The confrontational method is the use of hard power or military. In most cases, the confrontational methods are often avoided because it involves human, financial and other costs. Hard power is applied only when diplomacy and persuasive approaches fail. In the military war, none wins, but all involved in war become the losers. Ordinary and innocent people will be the ones who suffer more from the war than the soldiers. History is a witness that more innocent citizens have been killed in wars than the soldiers involved in the warfare. The military war and the use of hard power is something that must be avoided as far as possible and practicable.

Diplomacy is the best option which can achieve a win-win solution for all sides involved in the conflict. In diplomacy, no side loses but both win. Moreover, when disputes are settled through the use of diplomacy or negotiations, human casualties and loss of collateral damages are prevented. Diplomacy saves civilisations from being ruined. Thus, diplomacy must be given a chance in all kinds of conflicts in the international issues and disputes. The lasting and sustainable solution and peace can be achieved only through diplomacy. Solution through the use of hard power or war is just temporary and conflict may erupt again. Even when war ends, diplomacy will be required to settle and manage the post-war solution. There is, thus, no alternative to diplomacy if we are to seek a sustainable solution to any conflict in the international arena. 

It is, perhaps, this reason why former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill defined diplomacy as a war fought without fatal weapons. According to him, there is only victory and nothing else in diplomacy. But in the military war, the chances of victory and defeat are equal. Similarly, Sun Tzu, a famous military strategist of ancient China, has said in his widely read book 'The Art Of War' that diplomacy is the supreme art of war to subdue the enemy without fighting. According to American professor Isaac Goldberg, diplomacy is an art of doing or saying even the 'nastiest things in the nicest manner'.

The practice of diplomacy is not a new phenomenon but has a long history. History of diplomacy is longer in South Asia. Prior to the Mahabharat war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, diplomacy was used to prevent the war. Lord Shree Krishna went to the palace of Dhritarastra or Kauravas as a peace envoy of the Pandavas seeking to prevent the possible war through the use of diplomacy.

In Europe, history of diplomacy goes back to the renaissance era. Greece and Byzantine were powerful empires of that time which occasionally used diplomacy to deal with other powers in Asia and Europe in the ancient time. The Treaty of Westphalia, which was signed in 1648 seeking an end to the long-running war in Europe, was the first documented history of diplomatic practice in Europe. However, the Congress of Vienna convened from November, 1814 to June, 1815 was the first formal and practical initiative in modern diplomacy. The Congress of Vienna not only established a new balance of power in Europe, but also set rules, norms and standard of diplomacy, including definition of ambassadors, ambassadors extra ordinary and plenipotentiary and charge de affairs. The Vienna Convention is the basis of modern diplomacy, which clearly defined the framework of diplomatic relations between the countries and also the roles, rights, duties, privileges and amenities of diplomatic missions and diplomats. 

Now diplomacy has a wider role and a bigger responsibility for peace and just world order. Diplomacy plays a key role in preventing wars and establishing peace, but its scope extends quite more than that. Apart from maintaining and institutionalising peace and creating a just world order, the scope of modern diplomacy even covers some very pertinent issues that have direct bearing on human survival like democracy, development, human rights, environmental, climate issues, economic and trade issues, labour and migration and alike. In the modern diplomacy, a diplomat has to play multiple roles and has to be well versed in wide-ranging issues. Thus, a diplomat has to be a generalist having general knowledge of almost everything. Diplomacy is more important for smaller and weaker countries like Nepal as they may not have other factors to influence.

As far as Nepal is concerned, it does not have hard power and other resources to influence the international community. Diplomacy and the use of soft power are the only means for Nepal to build its positive image abroad and serve its interest better in the international arena. Now Panchaseela or the Five Principles of Co-existence are the fundamental basis of international relations and cooperation among countries. Panchaseelas are the teachings of Lord Buddha, who was born in Nepal, and this is Nepal's important soft power.


Diplomacy is a tool to implement the foreign policy while the foreign policy is the extension of domestic policy. The objective of foreign policy or diplomacy is to serve the national interest abroad. Nepal's national interests have been clearly defined by the Constitution of Nepal in its Article 5, which includes protection of Nepal's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality, people’s rights, border security and economic prosperity. Similarly, Nepal’s foreign policy guidelines are its faith in the United Nations Charter and principle of non-alignment. Based on these clear principles and guidelines, Nepal's foreign policy and diplomacy are conducted.

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