What Aadisht Khanna learnt in China

Many things, of course, but this one is about people-to-people contacts.

Here is Aadisht Khanna’s astute observation on the nature of international relations. (via Vantage Point)

Now that I’ve returned from China, have I changed my mind? Am I now convinced that people-to-people contacts are important and useful ways to bring countries whose relations have deteriorated closer together?

Hell no. In fact, the realisation that people are the same actually makes me more convinced of the utter uselessness of people-to-people contacts.

Don’t get me wrong. People-to-people contacts are great for people. They’ll make new friends, get insights into a new culture, and generally feel good about it. The relationship between the people will improve.

But what about the relationship between the countries? You still need old-fashioned diplomacy for that, I’m afraid. In fact, given that people are the same, strained relations between countries must be the result of fundamental differences in culture, or the nature of the respective states or governments. That sort of thing needs to be addressed at the level of the governments and states, not at the level of individual citizens. In fact, for countries like India and Pakistan where the vast majority of citizens have little or no influence on their governments, expecting people contacts to result in diplomatic benefits is especially futile.

So, if you want to go and meet someone from another country, more power to you. But don’t expect it to magically yield diplomatic dividends. [MSAF]

Related Posts: The problem with people-to-people contacts; and the separateness of peace and development

2 thoughts on “What Aadisht Khanna learnt in China”

  1. I just had a discussion with some ordinary chinese people on the net and they all support chinese government’s aggressive policies and believe Tibet is a part of china, sikkim is not part of india, tawang is not part of india, aksai chin is theirs rightfully and indian illegally occupies arunachal pradesh.

    well i can be friends with the chinese go out have a beer with them and so on. but when it comes to national interest i know very firmly where i stand. let’s not confuse individual friendships and national interests.

  2. Ooh but Nitin, surely the Pakistanis are people like us! Look at their Mehmaannawazi? Surely such people do listen to reason when they interact with us as a country?

    The problem is that very few people – whether in influential positions or otherwise are aware of how people act when they’re part of a group or a mob – and assume, very wrongly, that they will still act they way they do as individuals. And the myth of people-to-people contacts being the panacea for problems between countries lives on!

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