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Posted at: Jun 14, 2018, 12:13 AM; last updated: Jun 14, 2018, 12:13 AM (IST)

Trump-Kim summit

Can the virus of informal summits proliferate?
Trump-Kim summit
Practitioners of old-style diplomacy are yet to catch their breath after the curtains had come down on the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. No black-suited diplomat sat across the table to thrust and parry, no preparatory meetings of the alphabet soup of security advisory bodies burnt the midnight oil. Yet, by all accounts the summit concluded on a positive note. This is a huge takeaway, for the Korean Peninsula dispute is rated as among the world’s intractable, frozen-in-time animosities that bigger statesmen have opted to tip-toe around. That Kim and Trump, both looked down upon as neophytes among the hard-bitten big boys of global diplomacy, appear to be cracking open a puzzle that eluded past deal makers like Bill Clinton, may well be a pointer to political leaders taking matters into their hands rather than wait for tenured diplomats and intelligence officials to conduct the preliminary spadework.

PM Modi has also tried his hand at springing diplomatic surprises: the invite to all SAARC heads of government at his prime ministerial swearing-in ceremony and the surprise touchdown in Pakistan were meant to unlock a dispute through an informal approach. Modi unlike Trump, however, missed a vital trick — he failed to consult other players who also have equally interested fingers in the South Asian pie. The US and North Korea avoided a pushback or a spoiler attempt like the Pathankot attack by whirlwind diplomacy that drew in Russia and China. PM Modi now seems to be taking a similar approach by long deliberative sessions with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, the two major players in the region.  

Old-school diplomats would look askance at these unusual efforts to break ice. But similar acts of creativeness — Indira Gandhi-Bhutto clinching the Simla agreement without aides or Henry Kissinger’s secret visit to Beijing that unfroze the Sino-US deadlock — establish that history is made with acts of political will, with or without the diplomatic entourage. The subcontinent needs one such moment in its backyard. If the Trump-Kim bromance endures, PM Modi won’t be averse to a second informal shot at enduring peace in the neighbourhood. 

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