The summit was noteworthy for its novel modus operandi after the dangers posed by Covid-19 have compelled the traditional summit diplomacy to adapt to new digital ways.
e-Diplomacy (electronic diplomacy) is the use of technology by nations to define and establish diplomatic goals and objectives and to efficiently carry out the functions of diplomats.
These functions include representation and promotion of the home nation, establishing both bilateral and multilateral relations, consular services and social engagement.
The pandemic has forced mankind to maintain physical and social distancing, leading to a shift towards work from home mode and using online platforms for education (online classes), business (e-Commerce) and other daily things.
Just as corporations and educational institutions have migrated to online mediums, nation-states are left with no choice but to do the same by conducting virtual or e-summits.
These are physically safer for leaders because there is no need for any physical contact with anyone.
The process is time-saving as the leaders can attend the summits and conferences from their offices without having the need to physically reach the venue or other country.
These economise events by avoiding costly physical journeys and event management.
It is doubtful that major breakthroughs or deals requiring the direct intervention of leaders can happen without all the protocols and structured dialogues in person.
There is a possibility of e-diplomacy becoming less productive as online summits will simply not satisfy the broader political goals and bigger objectives that heads of state carry with them.
The British scholar Ernest Satow dubbed “summits a permanent feature of diplomatic topography”. It has been a maxim in diplomacy that face-to-face interactions at the highest level mark the zenith of foreign relations.
In-person summits will restart one-day but the online interlude has to go on because diplomacy has to go on.
However artificial and unsatisfying the video conferencing medium is, having some summit is better than no summit at all. Key partners have to get on with it and hold high-level meetings as part of their strategic signalling.