Remarks by Ambassador Amit Narang for E. Ahmed Model United Nations Conference, at Al Ghubra Indian School - 25 April 2024

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E. Ahmed Model United Nations Conference
 Al Ghubra Indian School
25 April 2024
Remarks by Ambassador Amit Narang

Principal Indian School Al Ghubra, 

President and Members of the School Management Committee, 

Delegates to the E. Ahamed Model United Nations Conference, 

Dear students, 

Good afternoon, Assalam Walekum, 


It is a privilege and an honor for me to attend the E. Ahmed Model United Nations Conference organised by Indian School Al Ghubra. I would like to thank Ahmed Rayees ji and Principal Papri Ghosh ji for this very kind invitation. 

Having spent some time at the United Nations as a delegate of India, I feel a special connect talking about issues related to multilateral diplomacy. 

I would like to start off by congratulating the delegates to the Model UN Conference this year. I have no doubt that your participation in this event will be very useful and enriching to you.  

This Model UN conference is special as it is not just the Indian schools which are participating but we also have Omani students, international students as well as children from schools in India. This cosmopolitan setting will, I am sure make the discussions even more interesting and impactful. 

Simulation of a United Nations Assembly is important in many ways. 

It enables the students to participate in a live negotiating environment on the pressing inter national issues of the day. This makes the students more connected to the developments around them and more engaged in the process of trying to find solutions to many of these problems. 

At another level, it also enables the young minds to learn and imbibe the essential skillsets for success in multilateral diplomacy.

Even if they do not end up pursuing a career in diplomacy or political science, I believe that the skills that they acquire by participating in simulations of multilateral negotiations will stand them in good stead in any career they end up choosing. 

But what is multilateral diplomacy? Why is it important and how do we conduct multilateral negotiations so as to be effective? 

I would like to share with you some of my own thoughts on these three tangents, in the process hopefully drawing on some ancient wisdom from India. 

First and foremost, what is it that we are doing? 

Even before we contend with ‘multilateral diplomacy’, let's consider for a moment the essence of ‘diplomacy’ itself. 

There are several definitions of diplomacy, ranging from the light-hearted to the serious. 

Someone is reputed to have said that diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell in a way that they look forward to doing so! 

Somebody has also said that diplomacy is the art of letting others have it your way! 

While there is a grain of truth even in these facetious statements, the fact is that diplomacy is all about tact. It is about subtlety, nuance, courtesy, grace and respect.  

At the heart of diplomacy lies the quest for common ground, or what is called ‘consensus’. Trying to arrive at a common landing point for multiple viewpoints. 

In a multilateral sense, this involves many parties talking across the table, trying to arrive at a common position on any one single issue. 

This is difficult enough at an individual level. Try, for example, to come to an agreement among 10 of your friends on which movie to watch or where to go on a weekend! 

Now imagine that in the context of international relations, these are not individuals sitting around the table, but nation states. Arriving at a consensus in such a setting is often difficult and never straightforward. 

But why is this process of multilateral diplomacy so important? Why is it even relevant to our times?

In the context of the ongoing developments, the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi recently articulated a very simple yet very profound statement. He said that “Today's era must not be of war”. 

A simple yet profound message which seemed to convey what nearly everyone has on their minds. Nobody in their right minds wants war. But if this era is not to be of war, then what is the alternative? 

The opposite of a state of war is a state of peace. But the opposite of going to war is sitting down for dialogue. 

Dialogue and discussion, therefore is the only way in which we can avoid wars, conflicts and bloodshed. And the multilateral setting like the United Nations is the platform which enables this essential dialogue. 

The other reason why such dialogue is important, indeed indispensable, is because we live in a global village. An interconnected world in which the the major problems we confront do not recognize national boundaries. 

Be it climate change, data protection and privacy, maritime security, transnational crime, or even artificial intelligence, none of these issues can be tackled by national action alone. Even if a limited national solution for some of these problems is implemented, it becomes mean ingless in the free flow of information, goods and people that define our global village. 

Multilateral diplomacy is important, therefore because we essentially live in a multlateral world. 

Turning now to the last part of my thoughts, how does multilateral system work? What are the ingredients of a successful multilateral negotiation? 

How should it be conducted so that we can have more successes and less failures? 

I do not claim to have all the answers. But based on my very limited experience in this field, I can share some ideas with you. 

For success in multilateral negotiations, I would like you to focus on three sets of attributes. First, Communication. Speak well but listen better. 

A lot of emphasis is often placed in diplomacy on speaking well. This is important no doubt.

But unlike public speaking, speaking in a diplomatic context is essentially all about tact. It is about conveying your opinion politely but firmly. 

The idea of speaking well has been discussed for thousands of years in the Indian culture. Let me read out one Sanskrit Shloka, which talks about what constitutes good speech. 

It says - Speak the truth. Speak it nicely. Be careful of the bitter truth and speak not the pleasant lie. 

But even more important than putting your views across nicely is the ability to listen. Lis tening better enables you to sharpen your own argument, responding to the concerns of the other side. An ability to listen well also lends you the ability to be more empathetic. And empathy is a very key ingredient of multilateral discussions. 

One must recognize that each one of us sitting on the table representing different countries bring to the table our own national positions. There is really no absolute right or absolute wrong. The ability to listen allows you to bridge the divide, to make the debate less conten tious and enable it to be more constructive. 

There is in fact another Sanskrit aphorism that says that a brave person is one in a hundred. A scholar is one in a thousand. A great orator is one in ten thousand. But a good listener is rarer still. 

So cultivate the habit of listening well, and you will find the debate to be better and the outcomes to be more productive. 

Second, Coalitions. 

Learn to build coalitions and alliances. 

It is important to seek allies to your cause, people who would support you and amplify your voice. Strength in a multilateral context, often lies in numbers. 

Coalition building has been an important attribute of human behavior from time immemorial. Those who are from India will appreciate the story that I'm going to relate better. 

This story comes from the Indian epic of Ramayana, the story of Sri Rama as he travelled from the north of India to Sri Lanka to rescue his wife from Ravana.

At one point of time, Sri Ram finds himself in the forest alone with his brother, faced with a very unequal situation. Just two of them marching thousands of miles away to take on a mighty king with fearsome armies. 

What does he do? Well, he builds a coalition. 

A very unlikely coalition, consisting of men, monkeys, animals and other creatures, which ultimately proves to be decisive in the battle against Ravana and helps Sri Ram return to his kingdom victorious. 

So next time you are negotiating remember this. Quite apart from raising your voice and trying to convince others to your viewpoint, it is very important to build alliances on the floor, gaining friends to your cause. 

Third, Consensus. 

Try to find common ground. 

This is the holy grail of multilateral negotiation. In the end, collective good must prevail over individual gain. 

Easier said than done though. After all, each one of us whether individually or as a nation state, ultimately comes to maximize the benefit to us. 

All of us want to talk, no one wants to listen. All of us want to take, no one wants to give. However, success in multilateral setting cannot be a winner-takes-all approach. 

Therefore, the idea that each one of us will have to climb down from our absolute desirable to reach something that all of us can agree upon is a very important mind shift that enables outcomes to be reached. 

In summary therefore, speak well but listen better; gain friends and build alliances; and seek the landing point for consensus. 

Dear delegates, 

I have no doubt that your participation in this Model UN assembly will give you a firsthand experience of what multilateral discussions are all about and make you familiar with the do’s and don’ts for success.

I hope that as you engage in negotiations, some of the ideas that I have just shared with you maybe useful to you. Do think about them. It is important you get this right. 

After all yours is the generation which will have the responsibility to convert dialogue into action and arguments into consensus. 

In this task, you have my good wishes. 

Thank you and happy negotiating!