Friday, December 07, 2007
The word "diplomacy" is derived from the ancient Greek "diploma", meaning an object folded in two-a reference to the documents through which princes granted permission to travel and other privileges. Today the word is understood to mean formal relationships between states.
Diplomacy has been practiced since ancient times, though its function has greatly changed. But there is evidence of diplomacy practiced as early as the 14th century BC in ancient Egypt, and records dating to the 9th century AD have been found in West Africa. Records of treaties between the city-states of Mesopotamia date from about 2850 BC.
Diplomacy is a method of influencing foreign governments through dialogue, negotiation, and other measures to address aspirations.
The relationship between Banjul and Taipei is premised on common aspirations of universal justice and development through a framework of bilateral cooperation. And since the resumption of relations in 1995, the cooperation has continued to yield dividends to an enviable point amongst the comity of nations.
President Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh's five-day visit to the Asian-Pacific island state should be viewed as a major leap towards deepening the cooperation that embraces crucial economic sectors - education, health and agriculture - of The Gambia. The deployment of Taiwanese Technical Mission in Taipei shows the level of seriousness Taipei attaches to these relations.
Owing to the commitment of President Jammeh and President Chen, the scope of cooperation has been expanded in recent years to take on board infrastructure and construction, and humanitarian assistance. There has been more emphasis on the importance of science and technology, which is crucial towards laying a solid foundation for the realisation of the Silicon Valley vision. Gambian students and senior government officials are being sent to undergo studies and training in Taiwan through generous scholarships.
This multi-dimentional diplomacy has seen the championing of Taiwan's quest to secure United Nations membership and its affiliated bodies by The Gambia in the comity of nations. Convinced that the continuing isolation of the 23 million islanders is a flagrant violation of human rights and the very fundamental charters that the UN exists to uphold, The Gambia has maintained consistency and resilience in championing the just cause of the Taiwanese people.
In re-examining the relationship, the cooperation should be trickled down to people-people cooperation which is essential in engaging local NGOs operating in The Gambia to support the statehood of Taiwan.
Democracy, it seems, is not universally recognised as a mark of distinction, even by other democracies; the China-Taiwan competition for diplomatic allies suggests that international relations are still defined by strategic and geopolitical interests of states (and now purely by econonmic interests of nations that need to invest in Communist China).
During the period of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rule, Taiwan placed an emphasis on maintaining the greatest possible number of allies. Diplomatic performance was judged according to the number of allies the country could secure. But do numbers really matter? These diplomatic myths need to be debunked. The crux of allied diplomacy is the intensity of the chorus of voices of support at international gatherings.
This zero-sum approach resulted in Taiwan maintaining between 21 and 31 allies in the 1990s. When the DPP came to power in 2000, the situation remained largely unchanged - although the party did introduce some creative ideas, such as the incorporation of humanitarian assistance and increased support from non-governmental organisations.
Strategically the emphasis on a successful diplomacy is by capitalising on areas where a country is good at most and best.
Taipei must focus on areas in which it has an advantage over Beijing; such as humanitarian assistance, high-tech industry and democracy. Taipei needs its allies to reinforce its claims on independent statehood and to widen its scope of international interaction.
Looking at its economic development, Taiwan embraced the trend of trade liberalisation early on. Its per capita income drastically rose from US $150 in the 1950s to US $13,000 at the present time, and Taiwan has become the 16th largest economy in the world. The New York Times even published an editorial entitled "Taiwan: Too Big to Ignore" in 1990.
The international community must realise that the continuous isolation of Taiwan because of Beijing's opposition is unjust and must end. The international community must realise that it's at its peril in isolating Taiwan, as this represents self-denial to the pool of wealth and experiences that the island-state can share with other countries. Its isolation is against fundamental human rights and serves only the interest of Beijing.
The Gambia strongly believes that democratic Taiwan should be admitted to the UN and its affiliated bodies without hindrance. The 23 million people of Taiwan can only be best represented at the UN by their own people and not Beijing.