And now, days of disruptive diplomacy

For the first time, the world is experiencing ice-breaking events that are not attributable to global warming. But they are definitely related to warming of another kind. There has been a sudden surge of warming of bilateral and one-to-one interactions among nations. Multilateralism is on the back-burner, at least for now. The United Nations is resigned to the position of a passive bystander. Regional groupings are curious ringside onlookers

By Rajendra Shende

The media called it “dandruff diplomacy”. Emmanuel Macron, French President, and Donald Trump, US President, almost displayed disruptive diplomacy. Trump’s trait of firing anyone who disagrees with him was seen to turn into a language of “love thy disagreement”.

He jokingly brushed dandruff off Macron’s suit, in front of reporters, but it showed Trump’s appreciation of Macron’s steadfast and positive criticism--and probably suggested a willingness to listen. A definite disruption in Trumpian tactics.

On trade-tariffs, the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate Agreement, Macron has definite and strong disagreements with Trump. By inviting Macron to address the joint meeting of the Congress, Trump was taking the risk of allowing a foreign leader to openly disagree on the floor of the highest political chamber of his country. But that showed the selective open-minded dimension of his diplomacy.

Modi-Xi, Kim-Moon and Macron-Trump have given strong messages through their distinctive diplomacy. First, that neighbours can resolve their conflicts bilaterally. Second, that global threats like terrorism, climate change and nuclearisation have to be addressed through open dialogue and disruptive diplomacy. Third, leader-to-leader informal contacts have the power to resolve conflicts. Lastly, in a rapidly changing century of degradation of ecosystems, global dialogue also needs bilateral initiatives.

—Rajendra Shende is Chairman, TERRE Policy Centre. He can be contacted at