Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter

But in meetings of global importance, going virtual raises serious concerns. Pixabay

Diplomacy can be fraught at the best of times. Serious, high-level events are regularly punctuated with physical gaffes, miscues, awkward handshakes, strained laughter, and cultural misunderstandings of varying scope and severity.

Like the time President Donald Trump appeared to shove the prime minister of Montenegro at a NATO summit. Or when President Barack Obama got caught on a hot mic complaining to then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy about the prime minister of Israel, a key U.S. ally. Or when Russia’s foreign minister awkwardly explained to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on live TV, that the “reset” button she handed him actually read, in Russian, “overcharge.”

Follow NewsGram on Instagram to keep yourself updated.

Or, perhaps most spectacularly — even more so than his performance later that year when he vomited on Japan’s prime minister — the time President George H.W. Bush visited U.S. ally Australia and flashed the crowd what he may have thought was a sign for victory or peace.

That two-fingered salute does not mean either of those things in Australia.

Diplomacy can be excruciating at the toughest of moments, such as in the midst of a pandemic, where politicians are unable to meet in person to discuss critical problems. Pixabay

At the worst of times — like in the middle of a pandemic, when leaders can’t meet in person to hash out important issues — diplomacy can be excruciating. Like the agonizingly long pause during a recent virtual U.S.-led climate summit, when the French president was cut off mid-speech and the screen cut to a silent Russian president as leaders shifted in their chairs and waited for someone to speak.

By now, millions of people around the world have suffered through the awkwardness of virtual meetings and their many technical hazards. Like video glitches, missed cues, hot mics, and — oops — when you accidentally use that one Zoom filter that turns your face into a cat.

But in meetings of global importance, going virtual raises serious concerns.

Before the coronavirus pandemic began, major summits were a hub of human activity, commonly drawing civil society groups and protesters into the same space as major decision-makers.

Now, with everything online, more people can watch the proceedings. And whereas activists may not have been able to travel to major summits because of cost and visa restrictions, now anyone can log on and tune in.

Online, these rights should be as equally available as they are offline. Pixabay

But, says Mandeep Tiwana of CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, the closed nature of virtual summits — in which moderators limit who can speak — means fewer ordinary people and outsiders can actually participate and enjoy the freedom of assembly and expression.

“Online, these rights should be as equally available as they are offline,” he told VOA from New York via Google Hangouts. “That’s critical. Secondly, we are also urging that when meetings are being organized by intergovernmental institutions and multilateral bodies, and so on, that they try to reach a vast swath of people.

“But most importantly,” he said, “I think the internet should be recognized as a very important human right.”

Virtual diplomacy is likely here to stay, even after the pandemic, says Brooks Spector, a former American diplomat-turned-journalist who has lived in South Africa for decades. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken went fully virtual for his first Africa trip this week, spending a day going electronically between high-level meetings in Kenya and Nigeria.

Blinken adapted quickly to the screen, Spector said. “The extent to which Tony Blinken shows the same kind of ability and warmth through the camera that the president can … [will] stand him in good stead,” he said. “Because this, I suspect, is going to be the way of the world for quite a while.

The internet should be considered a fundamental human right. Pixabay

“There’ll be a lot fewer international visits and a whole lot more international consultations by way of the electronics.”

But, Spector warns, don’t conflate the novel format with fresh, new, or even honest, content. One thing remains essential to diplomacy, no matter the medium: preparation. These engagements are just as rehearsed as they ever were, he says, because they have to be.

ALSO READ: U.S. And South Korea Work Towards Improving Diplomacy With North Korea

“Virtual diplomacy, it’s like anything else,” he said. “It’s only as good as the staff work that precedes it. If it’s entirely an open-ended discussion in which a dozen or more people are participating, the result is something approaching chaos.”

Or whatever that was last week, when the world watched global leaders sit helplessly for 88 agonizing seconds as President Vladimir Putin stared blankly into the middle distance, fidgeting and gesturing mutely off-camera as Blinken mutters under his breath about technical problems.

It could have been worse: So far, the Zoom cat face filter has yet to make its diplomatic debut. (VOA/KB)



Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.

The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.

Keep Reading Show less
wikimedia commons

A stamp depicting the Mysore peta

The Mysore kingdom became a popular tourist destination after India became an independent country. The Wodeyar dynasty who succeeded Tipu Sultan are still royalty, but they do not rule the state. Their heritage and culture have become what Karnataka is famous for.

Among the many things that Mysore offers to the state of Karnataka, the Mysore Peta is one. In north India, various cultures have their own headgears. They wear their traditional outfits on the days of festivities and ceremonies. Likewise, in the south, especially in Karnataka, the Mysore Peta is worn.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Indian author and feminist, Kamla Bhasin passed away at the agr of 74.

Renowned feminist activist, author, and a face of the women's rights movement in India, Kamla Bhasin, passed away today morning at the age of 74.

The news of the same was shared by activist Kavita Srivastava on Twitter. The tweet said, "Kamla Bhasin, our dear friend, passed away around 3am today 25th Sept. This is a big setback for the women's movement in India and the South Asian region. She celebrated life whatever the adversity. Kamla you will always live in our hearts. In Sisterhood, which is in deep grief."

Keep reading... Show less