Bilateral Diplomacy online course

Bilateral Diplomacy online course

Start date: 22 July 2024

Effective bilateral diplomacy is essential to advancing a country’s external interests.

Bilateral diplomacy is a key building block of international relations, covering relationships between the home country and individual foreign states, one at a time. It is the very core of managing foreign relations. This course has been redesigned from its original 2000 version, with five new and three extensively rewritten lecture texts.

The lectures incorporate new developments in modes of diplomatic representation and the functions of diplomatic institutions that are now visible on the international canvas. The course looks at the increased impact of regional and multilateral diplomacy on bilateral diplomacy, the salience of national security issues, the role of non-state agencies, and the intercultural dimension, including diplomatic signalling.

Offering a practitioner’s view, the course examines how concepts operate in the real world, including the tools used to analyse international affairs through the tradecraft of diplomacy. The course’s author is Ambassador Kishan S Rana, and lectured by Ambassador Asoke Mukerji. The Canadian Foreign Service Institute and the British Foreign Office have used adaptations of this Course, in a self-learning format.

What will you learn?

  • Describe, prioritise, and provide examples of the key tasks and methods of diplomacy today, including the security dimension; economic tasks; and public diplomacy, including culture, media, and education promotion.
  • Explain how the different institutions involved in bilateral diplomacy (the foreign ministry, embassies, and consulates) are organised, and describe current reforms to these institutions.
  • Explain and analyse the complex and concurrent objectives that countries pursue in their external relationships.
  • Identify the actors, state and non-state, that compose the foreign ministry’s dynamic network, and explain the role that each plays in foreign affairs.

How will you learn?

In this course, you will interact intensively in discussions with classmates and lecturers from around the world. You will receive guidance and personalised feedback on your classwork from the course team.

How long will you learn?

The course lasts for 10 weeks:

  • 1 week of course introduction and orientation to online learning
  • 8 weeks of addressing the course topics one by one (see below for more details)
  • 1 week for the final assignment and completing pending tasks

Who should apply

This course will be of interest to:

  • Practising diplomats, civil servants, and others working in international relations
  • Postgraduate students of diplomacy or international relations wishing to gain deeper insight through interaction with practising diplomats
  • Postgraduate students or practitioners in other fields seeking an entry point into the world of diplomacy
  • Journalists, staff of international and non-governmental organisations, translators, business people, and others who wish to improve their understanding of diplomacy-related topics


The course consists of 8 modules:

  1. Bilateral Diplomacy - The Basics: What is bilateral diplomacy and why is it important? The evolution of diplomacy: what is new? A provisional typology: features and management. The durability of the 1961 Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations and the challenges it faces adapting to new tasks, communication modes, and demands. The role of new actors, state and non-official; new modes of diplomacy management and the looming challenges.
  2. The Four Pillars: Political diplomacy: the objectives, methods, instruments, and institutions. Economic diplomacy: a by-product of interdependence between states, the centrality of development in national policy, and complexity of linkages in goods production and services. Public diplomacy: embraces people-to-people communication and non-state institutions. Consular diplomacy: gaining importance, it connects with its subset, diaspora diplomacy.
  3. Regional and Multilateral Diplomacy: Bilateral diplomacy, regional diplomacy, and multilateral diplomacy complement and supplement each other to promote a country’s national interests, involving multiple stakeholders. Bilateral diplomacy lays the foundations for constructing coalitions of interests in regional and multilateral fora. Traditional diplomatic methods of outreach and public diplomacy play a major role in developing such coalitions.
  4. Institutions: The institutional role of the ministry of foreign affairs in the country’s diplomatic system, and how to maximise its efficiency. The role played by embassies, consulates, representative offices, and honorary consuls in meeting traditional and new diplomatic objectives. Nurturing diplomatic institutions through adaption to new challenges, including the impact of new communications technologies. Strengthening the impact of diplomatic missions through structural reforms.
  5. Diplomatic Practice: New trends in diplomatic practice; key elements in diplomacy work, including the embassy-foreign ministry relationship. Challenges in engaging multiple state and non-official actors; especially sub-state actors, subject diversity, and publics, at home and abroad. Work at the MFA and embassy; multi-tasking; resource constraints; the priority constituencies, including the diaspora. Internal management of embassies and consulates; use of task forces, cross-embassy priorities, people relationships within the embassy in stressful situations.
  6. Negotiations: Theories and concepts analysing negotiations, past and present (‘zones of possible agreement’; the ‘decisive moment’; ‘two-level’ process). How these affect the negotiation process, and practice. The stages of negotiations, and how that conceptual structure affects and guides contemporary practice. Styles of negotiations; the cultural dimension of this process; knowledge management.
  7. National Security: The challenges to the national security of states posed by acts/threats of aggression. Strategic and supportive diplomatic structures uphold the national security of states. Countering international terrorism and the role of non-state actors. The new paradigm: ‘multi-dimensional’ national security and multiple stakeholder diplomatic engagement.
  8. Intercultural Dimension and Diplomatic Signalling: The growing interdependence between nations and societies during the past three decades of accelerated globalisation requires the integration of intercultural skills in diplomatic interaction. How can countries include this dimension in bilateral diplomacy? Which concepts and theories can help us understand such behavioural traits? What is the significance of signalling for relations between states?

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Course lecturers

 Face, Head, Person, Photography, Portrait, Indoors, Adult, Male, Man, Accessories, Glasses, Clothing, Coat

Asoke Mukerji

Former Indian Ambassador to the United Nations, New York

Need more info:

DiploFoundation (attn Tanja Nikolic)

Anutruf, Ground Floor, Hriereb Street
Msida, MSD 1675, Malta

+356 21 333 323;


The Bilateral Diplomacy online course is based on a collaborative learning approach, involving a high level of interaction over a period of 10 weeks. Reading materials and the necessary tools for online interaction are provided in a virtual classroom.

Each week, participants study and discuss course materials and complete additional online activities. At the end of the week, participants and lecturers meet to discuss the topic of the week. For successful completion, this course requires a minimum of 5 to 7 hours of study time per week.

Participants who successfully complete a certificate course receive a certificate issued by Diplo which can be printed or shared electronically via a permanent link. Participants who successfully complete an accredited course will receive 9 ECTS credits from the University of Malta.


All course applicants must have regular internet access; dial-up connections are sufficient, but broadband is preferable.

Applicants for certificate courses must have:

  • An undergraduate university degree OR 3 years of work experience and appropriate professional qualifications in diplomacy or international relations
  • Sufficient English language skills to undertake postgraduate-level studies

Applicants for accredited courses must meet the University of Malta prerequisites:

  • Bachelor's degree in a relevant subject with at least Second Class Honours
  • Proof of English language proficiency obtained within the last 2 years (minimum requirements: TOEFL paper-based – 650; TOEFL internet-based – 95; IELTS – 6.5.; Cambridge – Proficiency Certificate with Grade C or better). If when applying you are still waiting for your English language proficiency results, the University may issue a conditional letter of acceptance.

Fees and scholarships

Course fees depend on whether you wish to obtain university credit for the course or a Diplo certificate:

  • University of Malta accredited courses: €850
  • Diplo certificate courses: €690

Note: Diplo alumni can benefit from a 15% discount on the fee for this course.

A limited number of partial scholarships are available for diplomats and others working in international relations from developing countries. Discounts are available for more than one participant from the same institution. 

You can apply for this course as:

How to apply

Fill out the short form to start your application process for this course. You will receive an instruction email on how to continue.

Applying for financial assistance? Please indicate this on the application form, upload your CV, and a motivation statement that should include:

  • Details of your relevant professional and educational background
  • Reasons for your interest in the course
  • Why do you feel you should have the opportunity to participate in this course? How will your participation benefit you, your institution and/or your country?

Please note that financial assistance from Diplo is available only to applicants from developing countries! 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available in the course.


Apply for a University of Malta accredited course

Complete application packages must be received by specified application deadlines in order to be considered.

  1. Two copies of the University of Malta application form filled out in full
  2. Certified copies of original degree(s) and official transcripts
  3. English translations of degree(s) and transcripts if they are not in English, signed and stamped by a translator
  4. English language proficiency certificate obtained within the last two years (minimum requirements TOEFL paper-based – 650; TOEFL internet-based – 95. IELTS – 6.5.; Cambridge – Proficiency Certificate with Grade C or better). Please indicate on the application form if you are still waiting for your English language proficiency results
  5. Photocopy of personal details pages of your passport
  6. If you are requesting financial assistance, please include your CV and a motivation letter with your application. The motivation letter should include details of your relevant professional and educational background; reasons for your interest in the course; and why you feel you should have the opportunity to participate in this course (i.e. how will your participation benefit you, your institution and/or your country). Financial assistance from DiploFoundation is available only to applicants from developing countries.
  7. Application fee or proof of payment (€100, non-refundable – see methods of payment).

Please send the complete application package by email to or by post to:

Anutruf, Ground Floor
Hriereb Street
Msida, MSD 1675, Malta

Please note that by sending your application package, you are confirming that you have read Diplo's Privacy Policy. Please note that Diplo will process and share your personal data with third parties (including the University of Malta) for admissions and academic matters, administering finance, and administrative purposes in accordance with the Privacy Policy.


Cancellation policy

Diplo reserves the right to cancel this course if enrolment is insufficient. In case of cancellation, Diplo will notify applicants shortly after the application deadline. Applicants who have paid an application fee may apply this fee towards another course or receive a refund.