August 7, 2016
As between people, there are numerous ways to characterize relations between states: bitterness, dislike, resentment, friction, animosity, enmity, hostility, cordiality, good-neighborliness, friendship, association, alliance. It goes without saying that in today’s complicated world of diverse interests, global and regional competition and particularly proxy wars, any inter-state relationship may at times reflect unconventional, even surprising combinations of these general characterizations.
“Model partnership” is a relatively new concept without many precedents. It is, however, seemingly an attractive label with an ambiguous definition. The word “model” indicates that it constitutes an example hopefully to be followed. So, there may be countries which may choose to redefine their relationships in the light of this emerging concept. However, the catch here is that there is no guarantee such an endeavor would always result in an upgrade; it may well end-up in a downgrade. Essentially, it depends on where you are coming from in that association and where you wish to take it. In other words, branding your relationship as model partnership and putting flesh on the bones of this concept is not an easy task. But, clues are emerging.
Assuming that countries “X” and “Y”, enjoying a long-standing relationship and conscious of their mutual indispensability despite some ups and downs, seek to redesign their so-called “strategic partnership” — which they have not been able to sustain — as a “model partnership”, they would have to make sure that the following ingredients are in the blender.
Firstly, despite obvious discrepancies, “X” and “Y” would need to say that their positions on major international issues are in harmony.
Secondly, they would have to realize that, “like” and “dislike” aside, they must cooperate on “core interests.”
Thirdly, they would agree that while one engages in vocal public criticism of the other, rhetoric and bravado, the other would repeatedly underline that this is a solid relationship vital to overcoming major threats directed at both. The latter will be allowed, however, to point out behind closed doors that such criticism should not go so far as to negatively impact their people’s perceptions of one another.
Fourthly, they would need to give the impression, from to time, that they may turn to others for cozier relationships. This helps the other partner understand that the partnership can never be taken for granted but only fostered through mutual affection/toleration even if the romance is long gone.
The fifth ingredient of a “model partnership” is the presence of a terrorist organization in either “X” or “Y” with its ringleader “peacefully” residing in the other. The mischief to be undertaken by his insidious terrorist network, wherever it has taken root, and the way the country hosting its leader reacts to it would constitute a litmus test for the partnership. At such times while the target country may up the ante, the other must use all the tools of sensible public diplomacy to avert a crisis situation, if not rupture. Universal principles of good governance, respect for due process and separation of powers have proved useful medication to lower the body temperature of the partnership under such dramatic circumstances.
And finally, despite their respective disappointments, leaders of “X” and “Y” should be able to address one another with their first names before the press and emphasize how much they value the cooperation although their choice of words and tone would reveal more.
In brief, “model partnership” does not reflect an ideal association. But, it can be an interim measure to help camouflage deep differences until such time when these are reasonably reduced, if not totally eliminated.