Many things, of course, but this one is about people-to-people contacts.
Now that Iâ€™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.
Donâ€™t get me wrong. People-to-people contacts are great for people. Theyâ€™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, Iâ€™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 donâ€™t expect it to magically yield diplomatic dividends. [MSAF]