Entrepreneurial diplomacy—Requirement of 21st Century—Part two and final

By Ishrat Aziz

Because of industrialization the world has globalized. Without industrialization and consequently globalization, 8 billion people on this globe cannot survive even for one day. They will be without food, clothing, shelter, water, medicines, transport and communication.

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Globalization is in the very DNA of industrial production. Agriculture can be local, but not industry. Industry needs large-scale, collective cooperative effort. Industry needs raw materials from around the world and its products have to be exported internationally. No country can achieve autarkic self-sufficiency in industrial age. Every country has to buy and sell. Despite their difficult relations, India and China have a total trade of around $100 billion. That is why global trade today is an astronomical $19 trillion when just about 200 years ago it was only 1 billion British pounds.

The sheer volume and weight of goods in ships and passengers in planes moving day and night internationally is mind-boggling. Industrial economy has created a World Wide Web; any disruption of supply chains is like an accident on a dense traffic, fast-moving highway that causes a huge pile up. Even the limited Russian Ukrainian war gives an idea of the scale of economic disruption in an interconnected and interdependent world. In the agricultural economies of the past, wars had very limited impact; but for today’s industrial economies they are devastating.

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Huge population and industrialization have created two existential challenges – exponential depletion of finite raw materials and pollution of land and water and global warming because of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These problems are truly global and beyond any country’s ability however big and powerful to handle on its own. They require global cooperation which only entrepreneurial diplomacy is capable of. Power diplomacy will only make them worse.

In the past wars and conquests were profitable; today they are not. The wealth of the country in the past was stored in the royal treasury in the form of gold, silver, precious stones gem encrusted crowns and thrones, which could be plundered and carried away; the land could be occupied and revenue collected.

On the other hand, today’s industrial wealth of a nation consists of people’s intellect, skills and hard work, none of which can be plundered. Dismantled factories are no more valuable than scrap metal; carting away cars, computers and other goods and products stored in warehouses is not worth it. Even the raw materials of the occupied country cannot be exploited because of the problem of transporting them over long distances amidst hostile population, as US decision-makers, who thought that the US could recover the cost of the war from Iraqi oil, found.

With education and growing awareness of human rights, it is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to control people by force against their willingness. Today human rights is not only a national but an international issue. People in one’s own country cannot be permanently controlled by force, let alone, people of a foreign country. As the British statesman Edmund Burke so wisely said in the context of American struggle for independence in his famous speech in 1775.

“The use of force, is but temporary; it may subdue for a moment, but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again. And no nation is governed which is perpetually to be conquered.”

Suppression of people ends in costly failure. The French could not control the people of Vietnam and Algeria; Soviet Union could not control the people of Afghanistan; it also could not control the East European nations against their wishes; and America could not control the people of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Sudan could not keep its own people in South Sudan, nor Indonesia in East Timor by force. All tried the unity of the unwilling by force, paid a heavy price and then failed. Today justice, human rights and rule of law are far more cost-effective ways to achieve unity, than force.

But the most important development as a result of the industrial economy is that the prosperity of a people comes from vertical economic progress, not horizontal territorial expansion. With technology human resource has become far more important for prosperity and economic strength of the people than territory. With technological progress wealth is not a gift of nature, but a product of intellect, skill and hard work. More wealth can be generated from a 100-acre factory than from 100,000 acres of farmland. Japan with a territorial area 1/40 of Russia and 1/20 of Brazil has a GDP about three times as large as each of these two countries. This in spite of the fact that both Russia and Brazil are resource rich, while Japan is without any significant natural resources.

The most remarkable case that illustrates this point is Singapore. With a geographical area of less than 250 square miles, smaller than most counties in the US and 18,645 people per square mile it has a GDP of $397 billion, with a per capita income of US$60,000 or about 50% more than US per capita GDP. This despite the fact that that Singapore’s density of population is 200 times more than that of US. With their skilled and hard-working manpower Singapore is able to generate $1.7 billion of GDP per square mile. Incidentally Singapore follows entrepreneurial approach, internally as well as externally. Another country which does so is Switzerland. Both have peace, stability and prosperity despite diversity of population.

The mentality that land is the source of wealth is a legacy of 11,000 years of agricultural age which still persists in the barely 200-year-old industrial age and colors our thinking. Today intellectual property has become far more valuable than real property. We should focus on science and technology for prosperity not more land.

If we carefully reflect on these developments in today’s world, we will come to the conclusion that its requirements can only be met by entrepreneurial diplomacy. Pursuit of power diplomacy will lead to conflicts which will weaken and cause the collapse of even the most powerful nations. Power diplomacy has had its day and it should make place for entrepreneurial diplomacy. Vertical progress requires peace based on rule of law.

The most successful example of the benefits of entrepreneurial diplomacy, is European Union. Starting as a Common Market of six nations in 1958, it has become a formidable grouping of 27 nations with a common currency, passport and visa, all symbols of national pride in the past.

Regional cooperation based on shared prosperity has changed the dynamics of relations between European Union member countries. Historical enemies, especially France and Germany have become friends and partners. Here I must regretfully confess that the visionary, Jean Monnet, who by his tireless efforts gave European nations the idea of a common destiny to rescue their future was not a professional diplomat but an entrepreneur, in fact a wine merchant. Obviously, wisdom in an area, is not exclusively the monopoly of professionals.

Europe has been more successful in pursuing entrepreneurial diplomacy, because the internal policies of its member countries, are also entrepreneurial in approach, based on the guiding principle of people’s welfare. The two go together.

Significant success in regional cooperation for shared prosperity has also been achieved by ASEAN in Southeast Asia, MERCOSUR in South America and NAFTA in North America.

Can something similar be done in South Asia, where 1.7 billion people, equal to the entire population of Europe, North and South America plus 500 million, live amidst, hunger, poverty and disease? If any region needs entrepreneurial diplomacy and regional cooperation, it is South Asia

The most important catalyst for regional cooperation in South Asia would be to make people aware of what they are losing because of tensions and conflicts and the immense benefits that are theirs to grasp by regional cooperation. It will bring prosperity, and equally importantly dignity to the people of the region. For this think tanks and institutions are required in South Asian countries, which can do honest and objective studies of the opportunity costs of the present tensions and conflicts and publish the results. Let the people know the facts, reflect, ask questions and hold their governments accountable.

For good honest decisions by government in a democracy, an informed public opinion is a prerequisite. Now here is the problem. In most countries the public has been fed for years with myths, half-truths and slogans. How to suddenly tell them the truth? As in the case of a drug addict, there’ll be huge withdrawal symptoms. Leaders contesting elections do not want to do it, because they will lose the election if they did so. It is here that the think tanks, academics, journalists, all thinking men in the society who don’t have to contest elections have a special responsibility. They can without risk to their career, enlighten the public about what is the true state of affairs and what is required to fix these problems. Honest politicians will welcome such an exercise by opinion makers. Politicians even honest ones, do not like to make waves and risk their political career, but they know when such a wave has been created and how to ride it. It is the duty of opinion makers in their own interest to create the right to wave to enable the statesman to do the job and take right decisions.

To those who might say that this is unachievable idealism, I have a one-line answer: idealism is long-term realism. European Union proves it.

Ishrat Aziz, an astute Indian diplomat for several decades, is an expert on Middle Eastern Affairs. He has served as India’s ambassador to several Arab-Muslim countries. He is giving finishing touches to a book which he tentatively calls Qoran and Modernity. He now lives in the U.S.

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