There was a recent video being shared on social media of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif conversing in Russian with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev on his recent visit to Azerbaijan. Accompanied by SAPM Tariq Fatemi (who apparently can also speak Russian fluently- he was twice posted as a diplomat to Russia), the exchange in Russian was carried out in a highly cordial atmosphere with the Azerbaijan President seemingly impressed by our Prime Minister’s linguistic skills. The doyen of international diplomacy Henry Kissinger once presciently commented that the late Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan has an unfair advantage as a diplomat. SYAK was fluent in French, German, Italian, Russian, English, Urdu, Persian, Arabic and Bengali. Being a polyglot, as well as being highly conversant with history, literature and poetry and possessing great interpersonal skills, made SYAK one of Pakistan’s most successful and formidable diplomats and a legend in the international diplomatic community. Great interpersonal skills coupled with the unique ability to carry out a conversation in the language of your foreign counterpart becomes an invaluable asset in developing a personal connection with that counterpart which in turn can be highly useful in advancing your country’s cause in diplomatic relations. These skills have been on abundant display on the part of PM Shehbaz as part of his untiring efforts to improve Pakistan’s bilateral and multilateral diplomatic relations since assuming office. Such skills have become even more critical during our current turbulent economic times as diplomacy becomes an essential tool in gaining economic assistance (from both IMF and other bilateral and multilateral donors) and foreign investment in order to salvage our economy. PM Shehbaz’s skills as a polyglot, his vast repertoire of knowledge and the ability to reach out to different world and business leaders have been highly instrumental in breaking the ice in many difficult situations during bilateral or multilateral negotiations on areas like trade and climate change. These have included trade negotiations with Western multinational conglomerates like General Electric or Chinese industrial giants like Huawei. The use of high emotional intelligence and solid interpersonal skills can be effectively deployed to connect on a personal level with foreign counterparts. While admittedly the relations between two States are solely guided by their respective self-interests and internal policies, a personal chemistry and connection between their leaders may thaw some ice (where the relationship is historically turbulent) and nudge or even become a strong catalyst for better diplomatic ties (the personal chemistry between US President Reagan and UK’s PM Thatcher and between Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev are historical cases in point). Prime Ministers Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto are generally lauded as Pakistan’s most effective leaders in terms of international diplomacy. They were undoubtedly well-educated and highly eloquent and erudite. ZAB’s skills as a diplomat (emanating from his deep knowledge of history and an internationalist outlook – he was called by his biographer Stanley Wolpert Pakistan’s modern Metternich) exponentially improved our foreign relations during his tenure. For example, his connections with various Gulf and Arab leaders paved the way for the export of Pakistan’s labour to these countries which serves Pakistan’s economic interests to the present day with much-needed annual inflows of foreign exchange remittances. BB captivated the world with her charisma, intellect and eloquence. As the first woman head of government in any Islamic country and the twice-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, she was very well-regarded in the international community. Imran Khan also had massive star power. Unfortunately, despite enjoying tremendous international goodwill at the inception of his premiership, this overwhelming attribute of IK translated into underwhelming results in terms of Pakistan’s bilateral relations with its historically close allies. Those who appreciate the preponderance of great interpersonal skills through serene authority (without necessarily aspiring towards blaring charisma) as a sine qua non of sound diplomatic strategy shall agree that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been one of Pakistan’s most effective yet underappreciated leaders in the realm of international diplomacy. MNS is known for his warm and disarming personality and deep handshake, which can immediately put his counterparts at ease. The various tenures of MNS were highly instrumental in exponentially improving Pakistan’s diplomatic relations with its neighbours and closest allies. His interpersonal skills helped develop a sound personal chemistry with PMs Gujral, Vajpayee and Modi of India. It is unimaginable in these current turbulent times and downgrading of diplomatic relations with our Eastern neighbour that an Indian Prime Minister (especially one belonging to a right wing nationalist party like the BJP) shall visit Pakistan. However, through deft diplomatic manoeuvring (in which his interpersonal skills played an integral part), MNS managed to get both Vajpayee and Modi to visit Pakistan and pave the way towards thawing our historically turbulent relations with our neighbour. The excellent relationship enjoyed by MNS with the Saudi leadership is also very well known and has time and again proved beneficial for Pakistan. Pakistan’s diplomatic and economic relations with China and Turkey received a significant boost during the last tenure of MNS who was ably helped in this respect by his younger brother (the latter’s ability to converse in the Chinese and Turkish languages would have contributed to breaking the ice and carrying conversations forward with the Chinese and Turkish counterparts). Who can also forget the highly thoughtful and personal gesture of MNS in retrieving the pictures of President Obama’s mother during her stay in Pakistan and presenting them to him during his US visit? This deeply personal gesture generally went unnoticed in our public consciousness, except for those who appreciate the importance of connecting on a personal level with your foreign counterpart to advance the cause of your country. According to Henry Kissinger, a leadership strategy of humility was the basis of the statesmanship of Konrad Adenauer, the first Chancellor of West Germany after the second world war. Adenauer used this strategy very effectively to rebuild his country’s stature in the comity of nations. This strategy, which has solid interpersonal skills as its essential cornerstone, usually emanates from a highly developed sense of emotional intelligence. These attributes, as so aptly exhibited by MNS in international diplomacy, should be considered as a case study to be taught at our foreign office academy to probationers and senior diplomats. In addition to the usual and highly prized attributes of eloquence and erudition, the use of high emotional intelligence and solid interpersonal skills can be very effectively deployed to connect on a personal level with your foreign counterparts which in turn can reap substantial dividends in terms of better bilateral and multilateral diplomatic relations. The writer is a practising lawyer with a background in international law.