Colombo Air Symposium -2021 - Theme

Air Diplomacy to enhance the regional Stability

On the eve of the 20th century the Wright Brothers tested their wing-warping control concept of a flying device which revolutionised travel. That set the pace for advancements in aviation that saw humans not only flying around the world but venturing further, into outer space and even landing on the moon 70 years later in 1969. To date, many other aspects of air travel have intensified with the space race playing a key role.

The intrinsic patterns of history which resulted in the rise and fall of states have seen a significant development throughout the twentieth century as air travel intensified to its current level of operation. The ability to cross regions and continents in shorter periods of time altered the practice of diplomacy itself. Whilst diplomats played a critical role for centuries as the emissaries of leaders, who rarely or never met, increased air travel has enabled connectivity at the highest level, resulting in the diplomat needing to evolve and for the practice of diplomacy to become more in-depth and specialised.

Air diplomacy is a proactive approach to preventing conflict by employing airpower in non-kinetic operations as an instrument of national power. It can be critical in supporting the foreign policy of a country in the years to come. For the Air Force to remain relevant in a dynamic international environment, it must turn away from using an ad hoc and often disparate approach and move toward conducting deliberate diplomatic missions aimed at conflict prevention. The service needs a strategy to guide its diplomatic contribution to national objectives, consolidate its diplomatic missions, and maximize the utility of air diplomacy. After developing the air diplomacy concept, the Air Force should then promote it as a cost-effective alternative to the reactive use of hard power. Air diplomacy can also reduce a large overseas presence while maintaining relationships built over more than half a century.

Maintaining a favourable balance of military power in Asia is critical to regional stability as well as global security. In order to shape a friendly international environment in the region world powers are trying to develop more high quality diplomatic and military relations in Asian region. Regional Air Power Capability to enhance the Air Diplomacy is one of the recognized method in order to face the challenges that may occur in future. Utilizing the Air Forces to gain significant access and influence through regional engagement to ensure the building of partnership, will make the stability in the region.

Following are some of the identified research areas need to be considered in achieving Air Diplomacy to enhance the regional stability.

  • How Does an Air Force Conduct Air Diplomacy. Most of Air Forces in the region have an illustrious history of conducting public, humanitarian, military, commercial, traditional, preventive, coercive, and deterrence diplomacy. Dating to the earliest days of aviation, decision makers have employed airpower for diplomatic purposes and that practice is unlikely to change. Thus, presenting air diplomacy as an option to policymakers bodes well for the Air Force in the future as it seeks to play a part in the success of country’s foreign policy. Some past examples of the diplomatic use of airpower illustrate the breadth of the Air Force’s contribution to furthering the national interest.
  • Why Is Air Diplomacy Increasingly Important? Air diplomacy is likely to become an increasingly important capability of any Air Force in the years ahead for three principal reasons. First, entitlement spending will continue to consume a larger portion of the national budget. Second, the service is unlikely to receive the acquisition money required to maintain its current, hard-power capabilities. Third, airpower is less resource intensive and can respond to a changing security environment with a level of speed and flexibility unmatched elsewhere.
  • Where Does Air Diplomacy Fit on the Diplomatic Spectrum? Generally associated with peaceful relations between states, diplomacy nevertheless comes in many forms. States use diplomacy to promote economic interests (trade), protect citizens abroad, propagate culture and ideology, enhance national prestige, promote friendship, and isolate adversaries. Moreover, diplomacy is certainly a less expensive way to exercise power in international affairs. Diplomacy is one of two primary elements of foreign policy, the other being war. Both diplomacy and war are means to an end rather than ends in themselves.
  • What Are the Ends, Ways, and Means of an Air Diplomacy Strategy? Examining the development of diplomacy strategy in terms of ends, ways, and means offers a useful framework.
    • Ends: The ends (objectives) of an air diplomacy strategy should focus on three central tenets. First, the strategy should develop cost-effective approaches to building and maintaining partnerships with current or prospective allies. Second, the strategy should develop proactive approaches to engaging with current or prospective adversaries. Third, the strategy should consolidate the disparate diplomatic missions conducted across the service.
    • Ways: Ways, or “the methods that the organization uses to achieve those ends,” are perhaps more difficult to develop than are the ends.
    • Means: The means required to develop an air diplomacy strategy are straightforward. The Air Force should share principal responsibility for creating a service-wide strategy.

In addition to the points discussed above, following areas can be discussed under the theme of Air Diplomacy to enhance the regional Stability.

  • Bilateral engagement
  • Research and training
  • Multilateral engagement
  • Diplomacy dialogue
  • Air Chiefs’ Conclave