Diplomatically Speaking / Ashok Mirpuri

Sep 7, 2023

There is nothing dramatic in the success of a diplomatist. His victories are made up of a series of microscopic advantages: of a judicious suggestion here, of an opportune civility there, of a wise concession at one moment and a far-sighted persistence at another; of sleepless tact, immovable calmness and patience that no folly, no provocation, no blunder can shake.” Lord Salisbury, British statesman of the 19th century.

Ambassador Ashok Mirpuri has just completed 12 years, an unusually long period, as Singapore’s ambassador to the United States, the capstone to a four decade stellar diplomatic career. He retired from his diplomatic service this summer and is now back in Singapore.

What do ambassadors actually do? Twenty-first century technology removes diplomats from the immediate transmission of messages and developments but imposes a far more difficult task: understanding and explaining the realities and dynamics of his host country to his own country’s leaders. In practice for Ambassador Mirpuri this has meant sorting through the behaviors of Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden and trying to make sense of what America’s complications mean for Singapore. No easy task during such a turbulent period!

New Thinking for a New World caught up with Ambassador Mirpuri (once an ambassador, always an ambassador) for reflections on what he learned about America during his service in Washington.

Tell us whether you think diplomats still have a role to play in contemporary society, in the comments below.

Listen to the episode here or find the New Thinking for a New World podcast on a platform of your choice (Apple podcastSpotify, Google podcastYoutube, etc).


Ashok Mirpuri is a seasoned diplomat and most recently served as the Ambassador of Singapore to the United States. With extensive experience in fostering international relations, he has previously held key diplomatic roles, including Ambassador to Indonesia, High Commissioner to Malaysia and High Commissioner to Australia. Ambassador Mirpuri graduated with an honours degree from the National University of Singapore. He received his MA at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies under a Raffles Scholarship. He attended the Programme for Executive Development at the Institute for Management Development, Switzerland, and the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School, USA.

1 Comment

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