Treading Paths Of Diplomacy: Track I & Track II

Diplomacy is an art of negotiations between representatives of state. With time this art got refined by many brilliant diplomats and this art is continuously evolving. Now, question arises what are the tracks followed towards this? These tracks are the various approaches of negotiations and resolution of conflicts.

  • Across the globe, there are many conflicts between states such as Issue of Kashmir within India and Pakistan, issue between Israel and Palestine. These all can be resolved only by diplomatic methods.
  • Before delving into Track I and Track II Diplomacy’s nitty gritty, let’s get refreshed with terms like ‘Diplomacy’, ‘Foreign Policy, ‘Diplomat’ and some other forms of diplomacy and tools of Diplomacy.

Diplomacy, Foreign Policy and International Relations

In a painter’s language, diplomacy is the canvas, brush and other painting materials that a painter uses. Foreign policy is the painting that she/he gets at the end of her/his work. And international relation is the entire collection of her/his paintings.

What is Diplomacy?

  • Diplomacy is a principal activity of heads of states, governments and special bodies of external relations in implementation of goals, objectives of state's foreign policy, as well as protection of rights and interests of state abroad.

Negotiations & Diplomacy

  • Negotiation is sometimes used as a synonym for Official Diplomacy, whereas in fact it is simply a conflict resolution process used by all those mentioned above to resolve conflicts. While negotiating to further the interests of their polities, diplomats typically identify the peaceful resolution of conflicts and the avoidance of war as common interests.

Diplomacy & Foreign Policy

Diplomacy is often confused with foreign policy, but the terms are not synonymous.

  • Diplomacy is the chief, but not the only, instrument of foreign policy, which is set by political leaders, though diplomats (in addition to military and intelligence officers) may advise them.
  • Foreign policy establishes goals, prescribes strategies, and sets the broad tactics to be used in their accomplishment. It may employ secret agents, subversion, war, or other forms of violence as well as diplomacy to achieve its objectives.
  • Diplomacy is the principal substitute for the use of force or underhanded means in statecraft; it is how comprehensive national power is applied to the peaceful adjustment of differences between states. It may be coercive (i.e., backed by the threat to apply punitive measures or to use force) but is overtly nonviolent. Its primary tools are international dialogue and negotiation, primarily conducted by accredited envoys (a term derived from the French envoyé, meaning “one who is sent”) and other political leaders. Unlike foreign policy, which generally is enunciated publicly, most diplomacy is conducted in confidence, though both the fact that it is in progress and its results are almost always made public in contemporary international relations.
  • The purpose of foreign policy is to further a state’s interests, which are derived from geography, history, economics, and the distribution of international power.
  • Safeguarding national independence, security, and integrity—territorial, political, economic, and moral—is viewed as a country’s primary obligation, followed by preserving a wide freedom of action for the state. The political leaders, traditionally of sovereign states, who devise foreign policy pursue what they perceive to be the national interest, adjusting national policies to changes in external conditions and technology. Primary responsibility for supervising the execution of policy may lie with the head of state or government, a cabinet or a nominally nongovernmental collective leadership, the staff of the country’s leader, or a minister who presides over the foreign ministry, directs policy execution, supervises the ministry’s officials, and instructs the country’s diplomats abroad.
  • The purpose of diplomacy is to strengthen the state, nation, or organization it serves in relation to others by advancing the interests in its charge. To this end, diplomatic activity endeavours to maximize a group’s advantages without the risk and expense of using force and preferably without causing resentment. It habitually, but not invariably, strives to preserve peace; diplomacy is strongly inclined toward negotiation to achieve agreements and resolve issues between states. Even in times of peace, diplomacy may involve coercive threats of economic or other punitive measures or demonstrations of the capability to impose unilateral solutions to disputes by the application of military power. However, diplomacy normally seeks to develop goodwill toward the state it represents, nurturing relations with foreign states and peoples that will ensure their cooperation or—failing that—their neutrality.
  • When diplomacy fails, war may ensue; however, diplomacy is useful even during war. It conducts the passages from protest to menace, dialogue to negotiation, ultimatum to reprisal, and war to peace and reconciliation with other states. Diplomacy builds and tends the coalitions that deter or make war. It disrupts the alliances of enemies and sustains the passivity of potentially hostile powers. It contrives war’s termination, and it forms, strengthens, and sustains the peace that follows conflict. Over the long term, diplomacy strives to build an international order conducive to the nonviolent resolution of disputes and expanded cooperation between states.

Who are Diplomats?

  • Diplomats are the primary—but far from the only—practitioners of diplomacy. They are specialists in carrying messages and negotiating adjustments in relations and the resolution of quarrels between states and peoples. Their weapons are words, backed by the power of the state or organization they represent. Diplomats help leaders to understand the attitudes and actions of foreigners and to develop strategies and tactics that will shape the behaviour of foreigners, especially foreign governments. The wise use of diplomats is a key to successful foreign policy.

Tools used in Diplomacy

  • Political Tools: Interaction with the embassies and the high commissionerates of other countries and vice versa
  • Security Tools: Cooperation in defence sector, counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing, nuclear energy technology and space technology etc.
  • Commercial Tools: Trade deals, investment, economic relations, free trade agreements, line of credit, soft loans, etc.
  • Cultural Tools: Cultural tools in diplomacy involve cultural exchanges and cooperation in the fields of art, literature, education, films, etc.

Tracks of Diplomacy

We often hear about Track 1 diplomacy, Track 2 diplomacy, Track 1.5 diplomacy, backchannel diplomacy etc. Let us understand what these different tracks of diplomacy mean.

Track 1 Diplomacy

It is the official engagement between the government officials of two or more nations or with multilateral organisations, international bodies etc.

Track 2 Diplomacy (Backchannel Diplomacy)

In this case, diplomatic dealings are pursued through non-officials, e.g. NGOs, Businessmen, etc. Sometimes you see the business leaders, religious gurus, Nobel laureates or other prominent personalities entering into discussion with another country’s unofficial representatives. Since it is unofficial, there are many advantages of holding such talks.

Track 1.5 Diplomacy

This term is used when both officials and non-officials are engaged in a diplomatic negotiation.

Track 3 Diplomacy

This relates to people-to-people contact. You may remember ‘Aman Ki Asha‘ initiative to increase people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan in this regard.

Track 4 Diplomacy (Multitrack Diplomacy)

It involves multiple channels and multiple stakeholders to pursue the diplomatic goal. This approach is particularly useful in long pending conflicts and unresolved issues between two countries.

Although there are several tracks of diplomacy, the major two are Track-I and Track-II. Here we will get involved with these two types with details and further come up with certain recent successful examples of such initiatives.

Track One Diplomacy

Track One Diplomacy or Official Diplomacy is an instrument of foreign policy for the establishment and development of contacts between the governments of different states through the use of intermediaries mutually recognized by the respective parties.

Important Features of Track-I Diplomacy

  • The most important feature that distinguishes Track One diplomacy from all other forms of diplomacy is its formal application at the state-to-state level.
  • It follows a certain protocol to which every state is a signatory.
  • Track One Diplomacy is usually considered to be the primary peacemaking tool of a state’s foreign policy.
  • It is carried out by diplomats, high-ranking government officials, and heads of states and is aimed at influencing the structures of political power.

Strengths of Track-I Diplomacy

Although the strengths of Track One Diplomacy are numerous, the most widely cited in the literature are four:

  • Political Power: Track One Diplomacy has the ability to use political power to influence the direction of negotiations and outcomes. This power might include using the threat of military force if a party decides to go against international treaties.
  • Access to Financial Resources: Track One Diplomacy has the capacity to access material and financial resources that give high leverage and flexibility in negotiations.
  • Intelligence: Track One Diplomacy can employ in-depth knowledge about the parties’ interests because of the use of various intelligence sources.
  • Knowledge of Foreign Policy: Track One mediators have the competence to use broad knowledge of their states’ foreign policies, and also the foreign policies of the conflicting parties.

Weaknesses of Track-I Diplomacy

Regardless of Track One’s strengths outlined above, Track One Diplomacy has several identifiable weaknesses.

  • Corrupted by State Power: The first weakness of Track One Diplomacy is that its conflict resolution approaches are corrupted by power. State power can be a liability to durable peace, rather than a facilitative tool. Power can suppress underlying issues of weaker parties, thereby undermining the sustainability of a peace agreement.
  • Closure of Diplomatic Missions: Second, diplomatic missions, an asset to Track One Diplomacy, are normally closed down at the peak of conflicts between countries “thereby reducing communication when it is needed most”.
  • Rigidness of Officials: Third, officials cannot, of course, speak against their country and, as a result, may either be too rigid or delay negotiations through consultations with their leaders at home.
  • Electoral Cycles: Fourth, Track One Diplomacy is affected by electoral cycles.

Track-II Diplomacy

Traditional diplomacy or Track One Diplomacy has for a long time been complemented by another form of diplomacy called Track Two Diplomacy.

  • Montville coined the phrase ‘Track Two Diplomacy’. According to him, Track Two Diplomacy is an “unofficial, informal interaction between members of adversary groups or nations that aim to develop strategies, to influence public opinion, organize human and material resources in ways that might help resolve their conflict”. Montville emphasized that Track Two Diplomacy is not a substitute for Track One Diplomacy, but compensates for the constraints imposed on leaders by their people’s psychological expectations. Most important, Track Two Diplomacy is intended to provide a bridge or complement official Track One negotiations.
  • When global issues are too contentious or politically charged for governments to navigate successfully, informal or ‘Track II’ diplomacy can help maintain and strengthen lanes of communication on issues critical to the bilateral relationship and international community. Climate action and economic development, and the tension between them, are often difficult topics to discuss. Each government wants to be perceived as securing the greatest benefits while giving up the fewest losses for its citizens. Policy may also change from administration to administration, creating a lack of continuity and understanding between the traditional Track I participants. Here comes the Track II Diplomacy.
  • A notable phenomenon of 21st century international relations is that states often seek to forge cooperation, despite long-standing disputes between them. Thus, while government officials and military personnel continue to engage each other on sensitive issues, a side channel communication, namely track II consisting of strictly non-officials such as journalists, academics and analysts, can and should be opened to forge bilateral cooperation in sectors such as trade and development.
  • Although backed by governments, these dialogues are held in an unofficial and informal setting and focus on developing interpersonal relations between the non-official actors of the adversarial states. The aim is to transform the negative image of the adversary into a positive one, in order to foster cooperation and resolve deep-seated conflicts. These dialogues are carefully structured and have an in-built mechanism to provide advice and recommendations to governments on both sides. Think tanks, therefore, have emerged as key facilitators for these dialogues.

Strengths of Track-II Diplomacy

The strengths of Track Two Diplomacy are:

Proponents are Free to express their Views: Parties are not inhibited by political or constitutional power; therefore, they can express their own viewpoints on issues that directly affect their communities and families.

  • Officials do not have the fear of losing constituencies because they are the constituency.
  • Track II empowers the socially, economically, and politically disenfranchised groups by giving them a platform from which they can air their views on how peace can be achieved in their own communities or nations.
  • It is effective both at the pre-violent conflict and post violent conflict stages; therefore it is a very effective tool for violent conflict prevention and post-conflict peace-building.
  • It involves grassroots and middle leadership who are in direct contact with the conflict.
  • It is not affected by electoral cycles.

Weaknesses of Track-II Diplomacy

Despite of its advantages, Track Two Diplomacy also has several weaknesses:

  • Political Power: Participants have limited ability to influence foreign policy and political power structures because of their lack of political power.
  • Lengthy Process: Interventions can take too long to yield results.
  • Limited Options at Heightened Stage of Conflict: It has limited ability to influence change at the war stage of a conflict.
  • Resources: Participants rarely have resources necessary for sustained leverage during negotiations and for the implementation of agreements.
  • Authoritarian Regimes: It is not effective in authoritarian regimes where leaders do not take advice from lower level leaders.
  • Accountability: Actors of Track II, due to their lack of political power, are in most cases not accountable to the public for poor decisions.
  • Co-ordination: Because of their multiplicity Track Two actors/organizations are notoriously known for their lack of coordination.


Track II has not been without controversy – particularly on the part of some governments that have claimed that Track Two dialogues have overstepped their boundaries and intruded on official policy-making. Indeed, it may have been a mistake to include the word ‘diplomacy’ in the name, for this suggests that the process is somehow identical or tantamount to diplomatic activity. It is not. Diplomacy is reserved strictly for those who represent the state. People engaged in Track Two do not represent the state and should not try to.

  • Indeed, perhaps because some of its proponents and practitioners have tried to claim too much for its successes, or tried to intrude into official diplomacy, there are those who regard much of what happens under the aegis of Track Two with great suspicion. Images are conjured up of ‘meddlesome amateurs’ getting in the way of the important work of diplomacy, and perhaps even confusing a situation by leading the other side to believe that the possibility of a changed position is present when it is not.
  • On the other hand, proponents of Track Two believe that it can help to break through the barriers that official diplomacy can sometimes place on talks. This sometimes means deliberately entering into a ‘grey area’ between what governments will talk about (and whom they will talk to), and what they often know must be discussed if a problem is to be addressed.
  • So, the above views by different proponents are just views, when two parties want to bring peace, whatever way that comes – is better for both of them and such prejudices does not qualify there.