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How Does Diplomacy Differ From Foreign Policy in Global Affairs?

Diplomacy and Foreign Policy are important subjects in international relations and politics. The objective of both subjects is to advance the states’ national interests through negotiation, dialogue, and enhanced cooperation between states. Countries cooperate for survival, security, and the development of the state. To achieve the national interest of the states, nations use several methods to interact with one another in the globalized world.  Diplomacy and foreign policy are among those methods. Foreign policy is the policies made by the governmental officials and the political leadership, while diplomacy is the practical implementation of those policies performed by the diplomats by using different tools including negotiations. The blog aims to define diplomacy and foreign policy and compare the functionality of both subjects in international relations

What Is Diplomacy 

Diplomacy is the tool to execute the foreign policy of a state. It helps states to interact and communicate to resolve their issues through discussions, debates, and negotiations, and reach mutually beneficial outcomes. Diplomacy does not mean that both parties get equal benefits, it may involve the upper hand of the powerful states but it guarantees a peaceful; resolution between states. Diplomats influence the decisions of other states through dialogues.  Diplomacy includes various activities from sending messages through diplomats to meeting state leaders. Diplomats use different diplomatic tools to increase the national interest of the state in the outer world. Diplomacy has various types, it can be done openly and through back door channels as well at all levels unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral. Diplomacy is considered or used as the substitute for force in global politics

Types of Diplomacy 

States use different types of diplomacy to achieve national objectives. Some of them are given below;

  • Cultural diplomacy
  • Gunboat diplomacy
  • Public diplomacy
  • Sports diplomacy
  • Cyber Diplomacy

1) Cultural Diplomacy 

Cultural diplomacy includes a wide range of practices including culture and arts to enhance understanding between states. It includes different tools including language courses, cultural centers, art exhibitions, educational scholarships, and opening libraries to promote the cultural values of the state at the bilateral and multilateral forums. 

Also, Read About: The Significance of Cultural Diplomacy In the 21st Century

2) Gunboat Diplomacy

Gunboat diplomacy is the essence of legitimating the shipping of military armaments between states to increase foreign policy goals. Unlike traditional policies, it strengthens the military objectives of the states. 

3) Public Diplomacy

Public diplomacy is a form of diplomacy that aims to engage the foreign public to maintain ties and impact public opinion. It is a soft power tool used by the states to achieve their national objectives through promoting cultural and socio-economic partnerships. It also involves using other communication forums such as media to reach international audiences. 

4) Sports Diplomacy

Sports diplomacy is used by the states to promote understanding between the states through conducting various sports activities between states such as cricket matches. It establishes the bridge between the two nations to promote social and economic development. It provides a platform to discuss and resolve internal issues.

5) Cyber Diplomacy

Cyber diplomacy is the new concept of the digital era and includes digital tools and technologies to facilitate international diplomacy and relations. It involves digital platforms, websites, and social media to promote diplomatic dialogue and international cooperation. 

What Is Foreign Policy?

Foreign policy is a state’s external policies and strategies to promote its national interest in international politics. This national interest or the country’s goals can vary from state to state. Generally, sovereignty, territorial integrity, security, and survival are the main components of the national interest of every state. For instance, during the interwar period (1918-1939), the United States adopted isolationist foreign policies to strengthen its internal security and stability. Similarly, the United States’ foreign policy changed during World War II, and after WWII, it became more engaging in international affairs. The change seen in US foreign policy was to contain the communist expansion and promote its national interest. 

Determinants of Foreign Policy

The foreign policy of a state is determined through many factors which are commonly known as the determinants of the foreign policy. For instance, British foreign policy is highly determined by its geographical location. The following are the determinants of the foreign policy; 

  • History
  • Geographical Locations
  • Economic factors
  • Population
  • Military Capability
  • Natural Resources 
  • Public Opinion 
  • Domestic Factors

1) History

The history of the state is an important determinant of a state’s foreign policy as the nation’s history influences the lifestyle and characteristics of a state which can shape its foreign policy. A country inherits a lifestyle and characteristics that can shape its foreign policy while keeping a record of historical events, a country shapes its foreign policy for future endeavors.  If the foreign policy of a state in the past was successful, foreign policymakers can stick to the same policy in the future or they can replace some policies with new ones. Furthermore, they can also use the past policies to solve the new problems

2) Geographical Location

Geographical location is an important determinant of the formulation of foreign policy of a state. Geography determines the resources, neighbors, frontiers, and the temperature of a state in making foreign policy. The geographical location makes a country strategically important on the world stage. States with strategic locations and valuable resources such as minerals and energy reserves influence trade partnerships and economic considerations which positively impact foreign policymaking. The neighbors also play a huge role in foreign policy making such as the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan has security implications for Pakistan. So, the geography of a state is vital in formulating foreign policy.

3) Economic Factors

Economic factors such as import and export, tariffs, financial agreements, trade partnerships, and economic sanctions play a significant role in shaping the foreign policy of a state’s economic activity in the international arena resulting in economic interdependence between the states. Countries establish trade relations, attract foreign investments, and negotiate favorable market access to promote their economic interests. The currency stability and the monetary policies of the states also influence the country’s foreign policy and are integral to the economic strategy of the state.

4) Population

The country’s population is another determinant of a country’s foreign policy. The size of the population, the character, and the distribution impact the foreign policy-making of the state. The larger the population the larger the power a state possesses. The workforce determines a country’s standard of life, values, and expectations. However, not just the population, but rather the quality of the population such as the skilled members of the society plays a high role in making the population qualitative. It lies in education level, technical awareness, health, job sector, and strong national character. The quality of the population or the power of the people also determines the public administration and the political system of the states. 

5) Military Capability

The military and defense readiness of the country is an important determinant of the state. The greater the military, the stronger the foreign policy of the state. National security is also determined by the military capability of the state including defense planning, alliances and partnerships, collective security arrangements, and military coalitions. Deterrence against potential enemies also results from the military capability of the state. The countries that possess nuclear weapons are considered as the strongest states due to their military advancement which allows them to gain their national interest through strong foreign policy.

6) Natural Resources

The abundance and the scarcity of natural resources of a state have a great influence on the foreign policy of a state. The minerals, energy reserves, food, coal, water resources, and crude oil determine the foreign policy-making of a state, influencing its economic interests, strategic decisions, and diplomatic engagements. For example, control of the water resources such as access to fresh waters or rivers, can be a source of conflict or cooperation between states. Foreign policy initiatives related to the environment promote biodiversity and sustainable resource management. Foreign policy is shaped by the efforts to resolve and prevent disputes related to the exploitation of natural resources. 

7) Public Opinion

Public opinion plays an important role in shaping the foreign policy of a state. Public perception, sentiments, and opinion play a significant role in influencing the decisions of the leaders and foreign policymakers.  The relationship between foreign policy and public opinion highlights the interaction of domestic and international dynamics and reflects the democratic idea that the public’s opinion determines a country’s foreign policy.

8) Domestic Factors

The domestic factor is another important determinant of a state’s foreign policy. The types of political systems, bureaucratic agencies, political leadership, and socioeconomic factors of a country play a crucial role in determining state foreign policy. The political parties and interest groups also have their agendas in the formulation of foreign policy.

Comparison between Diplomacy and Foreign Policy

DiplomacyForeign Policy 
DefinitionDiplomacy fosters relationships between the states by using diplomatic tools including dialogue, negotiations, and arbitrations to enhance the national interest of the state,Foreign Policy is the overall strategy of the nation to interact with the international community to attain the national objectives in the international arena. It is determined by various factors including the economic factors and the military capability of the state. 
Actors The diplomats, representatives, and ambassadors of the states perform diplomacy. It involves interpersonal dialogue and negotiations. Foreign policy is designed and directed by national leaders, policymakers, and governmental officials to achieve the nation’s strategic interest in the international arena. 
ImplementationDiplomacy is the art of practically implementing the objectives of a state’s foreign policy. Diplomats execute the objectives of foreign policy by addressing conflicts, preventing disputes, and promoting cooperation among states Foreign policy is implemented through bilateral and multilateral engagement. It is executed through economic frameworks, trade partnerships, and military alliances. It engages international forums to advance the states’ interests, policy positions, and values. 
VisibilityDiplomacy can be performed in both ways openly as well as through closed doors under confidential measures. Foreign policy, in comparison, is formulated through official documents, national stances on international issues, and public opinion. It involves a higher degree of visibility.
AdaptabilityWhile responding to certain situations or events, diplomacy involves a certain level of adaptability and flexibility Foreign policy involves adaptability but more consistency due to its long-term strategic priorities and interests. It offers a stable foundation for the state’s diplomatic actions and activities. 

Learn Diplomacy and Foreign Policy With the Best Diplomats

Learn Diplomacy and Foreign Policy With the Best Diplomats

Diplomacy and foreign policy are two distinct concepts but interrelated. Every state has its internal and external policies to ensure national security and promote national interest by maintaining ties with other states and international organizations. Best Diplomats is an international diplomatic organization conducting numerous diplomatic conferences worldwide to give excellent opportunities to the upcoming youth to excel in the field of diplomacy and international relations. 


In a nutshell, despite the distinctive features of diplomacy and foreign policy, both aim to advance the national interest of the state in bilateral and multilateral settings.  Foreign policy offers a wide framework, establishing the atmosphere and directing the country’s strategic direction, whereas diplomacy addresses the practical, operational implementation of a nation’s international relationships. Collectively, both subjects create an ever-changing balance that determines a country’s position in a global context by determining its partnerships, preferences, and reflexes to intricate problems facing the world economy.


How does diplomacy relate to foreign policy?

Diplomacy is the practical implementation of foreign policy made by government officials and decision-makers. Diplomats execute those policies to advance the national interest at bilateral and multilateral forums.

What is the importance of diplomacy?

Diplomacy is important to implement the foreign policy of the sending state in the receiving state. It fosters peace and security in the anarchic international system. Further, the functions of diplomacy include gathering intelligence, communication, policy implementation, and image management. 

How does foreign policy affect international relations? 

Foreign policy is how a country takes advantage of various tactics to regulate its ties with nations and international organizations. This indicates that a variety of international issues, alliances with other nations, and even internal issues play a major role in designing and implementing foreign policy.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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