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DiploNews – Issue 22 – 6 June 2000

DiploNews – Issue 22 – June 6, 2000

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Language and Diplomacy Discussion Group

The DiploProjects has recently initiated a discussion group on language and diplomacy. Language was one of the key topics of the February 2000 Conference on Knowledge and Diplomacy in Malta, and its relevance and importance in diplomacy was well established. Diplomacy is conducted through the medium of language. Language is used to transmit, create and record knowledge in diplomacy as in other fields. Although we usually concentrate on the message rather than the means, awareness of language use in diplomacy can lead to a better understanding of the way diplomacy functions and why some diplomatic processes are more successful than others. Through careful and critical examination of various aspects of language use in diplomacy, for example, diplomatic signalling, rhetorical patterns, and ambiguities, we can improve our understanding of both the explicit and implicit messages world leaders and other political figures send out, and improve our own ability to communicate in the most effective and appropriate ways. The purpose of our new discussion group is to create an ongoing forum for discussion which will lead up to a conference dedicated solely to language and diplomacy in February 2001, and continue after. If you would like to receive more information on the language and diplomacy discussion group or to join the group, please send an e-mail to langadmin@diplomacy.edu.

Telphone Diplomacy

Sometimes a step-up in the level of technology used to convey a diplomatic message may constitute a signal in itself. The International Herald Tribune reported that President Jiang Zemin of China telephoned President Bill Clinton to express his thanks for the vote in the House of Representatives last week in favour of granting China permanent normal trade relations. White House officials said that the call, which lasted 40 minutes and included discussions about nuclear nonproliferation and human rights, was "unusual", and that they would have expected instead a formal exchange of letters about the trade vote. "'I don't recall Jiang ever initiating a call,' said a senior White House official involved in China policy. The official said the call showed Mr. Jiang was interested in having the China-U.S. relationship 'move forward in a new way.'"

Innovative Internet Connectivity in India

An article in this week's Economist discusses developments in cable Internet connectivity in India. Cable television connections in India are extensive: by some estimates India has more cable connections (about 30 million) than telephone lines (about 20 million). International and local firms are interested in using this extensive network of cable to bring broadband Internet connections to private households and businesses. One obstacle, however, is the chaotic state of cable infrastructure in India, where thousands of small unregulated companies compete to provide cheap and extensive cable TV service. Multi-system operators in large cities such as Mumbai are now attempting to form these small companies into alliances which will have the money and organisation to provide the more expensive Internet services which would all of them to make higher profits. Disorganisation is not the only obstacle however. Few Indians will be able to afford an Internet connection, which will cost about ten times as much as cable television, and furthermore, few families have computers. But the cost of Internet connectivity is expected to fall quickly, and it is estimated that the number of Internet users in India will rise by 15 or 20 times by 2004 to 30 million – fewer than in China but many more than in any other mainland Asian country. The Economist concludes that "India could yet be the country that proves the Internet can benefit the poor world, and not just the rich." BBC reports that a team of engineers in India are working on an innovative way to bring the Internet cheaply and quickly to India's rural population, using India's extensive railway network as a conduit for communications cables. The electrified tracks contain communications and control cabling, which almost always has spare capacity. This can now be exploited for sending modern telecommunications services to outlying areas, avoiding the time and cost of laying a fresh cabling network. The team is currently initiating a month-long pilot project covering forty kilometers of railway track with five stations, linking two towns in southern India, Vijayawada and Guntur. If it proves a success, the team says it could potentially link 4,000 towns and 100,000 households to the Internet within the next two years. The availability of the cables does not guarantee success, however. Although many villagers will be able to afford the cost of Internet connectivity brought through the railway, they do not have home computers. The team is attempting to overcome this difficulty also. First of all, they are building cybercafe kiosks in stations along the track for use by local people without their own computer equipment. The team is also looking at the development of lower cost Internet monitors, which could be a cheaper alternative to PCs in the long term. Furthermore, India's electricity supply is often erratic: some communities get electricity for no more than six to eight hours a day. The team is investigating back-up power supply options, for example batteries or solar panels. Interest in the Internet is high among the rural population: villagers associate computers with education, and better career opportunities in the future.

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