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Sunday, October 25, 2020

A new wind

Like everything else in this year of change, diplomacy, too, may need an emotional upgrade. Ambassador Lindner shows the way

By: Editorial | October 7, 2020 4:08:06 am
On MankadingThere is something about a bowler running out the non-striker who has backed up too far even before the ball has been released that triggers moral outrage in the cricketing world.

Aray of warmth shafted through diplomacy’s customary stiff upper lip when the German ambassador to India, Walter J Lindner, collaborated with Indian musicians to come up with an Indianised version of metal band The Scorpions’ iconic 1990 song, Wind of Change. An anthem of hope, the original number was composed at the cusp of monumental political change, that included the unification of Germany, the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Standing at the cusp of another momentous stretch of history, Lindner has said that his cover is not a political statement but a reiteration of the necessity of hope in the bleakest of times.

A diplomat’s forte in keeping communications neutral has long made foreign affairs resemble a bloodless game of chess, or, if you are inclined to something livelier, then a very slow waltz, perhaps. The word games are long and inscrutable, the photo-ops and dinner parties the architectural motif of a delicate balance. But, like everything else in this year of change, diplomacy, too, may need an emotional upgrade. Or, as Lindner says in an interview to this paper, it needs something that moves beyond “just cocktail parties and receptions and secretive meetings behind closed doors”; something akin to sympathy for one another. And what better way to communicate that other than with a full-throated bel canto, or a harmonious jugalbandi, reaffirming the sentiments of Klaus Maine, Scorpions’ frontman’s famous lines: “The world is closing in/ Did you ever think/ That we could be so close, like brothers/ The future’s in the air/ I can feel it everywhere/ Blowing with the wind of change”?

Lindner’s musical performance is likely to remain a diplomatic aside in the larger scheme of things. But the possibilities it throws up in imagining a better-calibrated world takes one back to another personal and rather unorthodox explanation of diplomacy offered by the flamboyant American diplomat, Richard Holbrooke: “Peacemaking is like jazz, you have to listen to the other instruments and improvise”. In 2020, both sound rather like soul music.

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