UPSC Courses

DNA banner


  • 09 June, 2020

  • 6 Min Read

The e-diplomacy experiment

The e-diplomacy experiment

Sreeram Sundar Chaulia is Dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs


Cyber security and productivity are concerns but e-summits must go on as diplomacy must go on


The first India-Australia virtual leaders’ summit on June 4 had a lot on the menu, ranging from military interoperability to jointly tackling COVID-19. The two countries upgraded their relations to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’. The summit was noteworthy for its novel modus operandi.

Adapting to the times

  • Prime Minister and the Indian delegation were on a video conference call with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Australian delegation.
  • The dangers posed by COVID-19 have compelled the traditionally glad-handing, backslapping and tourism-promoting art of summit diplomacy to adapt.
  • Just as corporations and educational institutions have migrated to online mediums, nation states are left with no choice but to do the same.
  • E-summits are physically safer for leaders and also time-saving and economising events where costly physical journeys with entourages can be avoided.
  • Mr. Modi has engaged in a few multilateral ‘e-diplomacy’ rounds since the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • He convened the SAARC leaders’ video conference on March 15, joined the Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit via video link on March 26, and made his maiden appearance at the Non-Aligned Movement virtual summit on May 4.
  • These were all single-issue focused and brief affairs. But the bilateral summit with Australia was elaborate and involved the exchange of multiple agreements.
  • It has been a maxim in diplomacy that face-to-face interactions at the highest level mark the zenith of foreign relations.


The British scholar Ernest Satow dubbed “summits a permanent feature of diplomatic topography”. The formal negotiations during summits, the closed-door restricted sessions, the fireside chats, the walks in the woods, the photo-ops and the outreach to live audiences in the host and home countries are all part of the package. But now without all the protocols and structured dialogues in cozy settings, it is doubtful if major breakthroughs or deals requiring direct intervention of leaders can happen. There is a danger that ‘e-diplomacy’ will become less productive in terms of deliverables, especially where crucial sticking points need ironing out. While the backroom legwork and minutiae of agreements can be hashed out by lower-level bureaucrats communicating remotely, online summits will simply not satisfy the broader political goals and bigger objectives that heads of state carry with them.

Threat to cyber security

Another threat to virtual summits comes from cyber insecurity. In pre-COVID-19 times, summit venues used to be thoroughly sanitised and debugged to prevent sensitive foreign policy content from being spied upon or leaked. E-diplomacy is riskier and could be subject to hacking of classified content, making the leaders warier.

This could reduce the spontaneity and candour of their conversations. It is arguable whether new ideas or proposals which entail geo-strategic alignments can emanate out of e-summits.


Yet, having some summit is better than no summit at all. However artificial and unsatisfying the video conferencing medium is, key partners like India and Australia have to get on with it and hold high-level meetings as part of their strategic signaling. With Australia and India trying to forge coalitions of middle powers in sustaining the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific, gaps in diplomatic summits can convey weakening of collective resolve.

Source: TH

Pradhan Mantri Suryodaya Yojana

Recently, Prime Minister announced Pradhan Mantri Suryodaya Yojana under which 1 crore households will get rooftop solar power systems. India’s Status of Current Solar Capacity India currently stands at 4th place globally in solar power capacity. As per Ministry of New an

Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)- NGO 

The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) registration of two prominent non-governmental organisations (NGOs) — Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and World Vision India (WVI) have been cancelled this month. What is FCRA? Key provisions of FCRA, 2010 Key aspects Description

Voice clone-AI

Voice clone fraud has been on the rise in India. AI voice cloning – It is the process of creating a synthetic replica of a person’s voice through machine learning and speech synthesis technology.It is called as voice deepfakesor audio deepfakes. Objective – To achieve a high level of na

Science communication- how to promote

Steps taken by India to promote Science Communication Publications and Information Directorate (PID) - An organisation under Council of Science and Industrial Research (CSIR) established in 1951 for publishing and disseminating scientific information in India. National science magazines- The PI

Universal Basic Income (UBI)- Analysis

Universal Basic Income (UBI) can strengthen welfare architecture and unlock the nation’s latent demographic potential. UBI - It is an income support mechanism typically intended to reach all or a very large portion of the population regardless of their earnings or employment status. Objective- To provide enough to co


Search By Date

Newsletter Subscription
SMS Alerts

Important Links