Music and sports play a role in diplomacy
MUSIC and sports could play an important role in the international political arena in improving the image of a country to a great extent. The performance by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in the last part of February this year in Pyongyang, North Korea, is a glowing case in point. North Korea has diplomatically been isolated by the western countries because of violation of human rights, and for enriching uranium. This iron- curtain communist country in Asia remains isolated as a result of its hard-core policy of ignoring the well-being of the people of the country.
The performances took place amidst a stand-off in the negotiations for dismantling of nuclear power structures in North Korea. The United States is leading the six party talks with North Korea on this issue. The recent performance by the philharmonic group may have a salutary effect on the people of the North Korea. The 106 member orchestra was well received in the communist country, which makes one feel that music is an effective diplomatic tool to win the hearts and minds of the people. The programs were broadcast live in North Korea and around the world. The Musical Director of the team said: "We received very warm and enthusiastic reception, we felt that indeed there may be a mission accomplished here, we may have been instrumental in opening a little door here."
This was the first US delegation to visit North Korea, which was described in 2002 by the president of the United States as part of an axis of evil.
The United States has been maintaining a close bilateral relationship with North Korea's neighbour, South Korea, since the end of the Second World war, and maintains 28000 troops to protect its ally against any repetition of attack by North Korea, which invaded South Korea in 1950.
I recall the visit of a Bangladesh cultural troupe, comprising Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Buddhists, to Germany in 1998, giving performances in 21 cities. Their performance had created a tremendous impact on the cultural life of Bangladesh. A painting exhibition was also held as a part of the cultural function. The visit was sponsored by a German NGO, Netz, and was followed by another cultural troupe.
Sports is another area which plays a significant role in supplement diplomacy. Great Britain has been attaching importance to cricket, while Germany, France, Italy and other European countries give attachment to soccer. The Olympic Games also arouse a tremendous amount of enthusiasm around the world. The International Olympic Committee awarded China the honour of holding the Olympic Games in 2008. The theme of this year's Games is harmony, bringing the message of peace to people of different nationalities, cultures and creeds.
The Beijing Olympic Games, from August 8 to August 24, is expected to bring over ten thousand athletes from around the world, along with twenty thousand accredited media, both print and broadcast. The inauguration of the Games will be attended by world leaders. China had planned to hold the Games with fanfare, but the violence in Tibet has caused anxiety in Beijing and other parts of the world. For the last two weeks, China has been cracking down on protesters, including monks. Protests also took place in Greece, where the Olympic flame was lit on March 24 on the historic ground of Olympia, the birth place of Olympus, where the Olympic Games began.
There has been demand for boycotting of the Beijing Olympic from some corners of the world. Some foreign leaders suggested that they would boycott the opening ceremony, but the response from the United States is lukewarm. President Bush has planned to attend, so has Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but the French president and the German chancellor have decided not to. The Bush administration suggested resolving the Tibetan problem through dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, had been to India to meet with Dalai Lama to apprise herself of the situation in Tibet, and urged President Bush to reconsider his visit to Beijing. She said: "if freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China's oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world." The British Olympic Association Chairman is against boycotting the Olympic Games. The International Olympic committee also feels the same.
A commentator in The Philadelphia Inquirer, US, said that "the Olympics were supposed to be China's coming-out party on the world stage." But leaders in China are facing "a nightmare rather than a celebration."
China will possibly be successful in projecting its culture to the world audience in August this year through the Olympic Games, but the message of this year's Olympic Games will not be heard in Tibet.
It appears that the Tibet issue has divided the world in respect of the Beijing Olympic Games. Apart from this, Olympics are a sporting event of international nature, not a forum for political ideologies.