In an unexpected turn of events, the infamous durian, recognized for its spiky exterior and strong odor, played a significant role in enhancing relations between Malaysia and Japan.DurianDiplomacy
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida engaged in a form of “soft power” as they enjoyed creamy durian during Kishida’s recent working visit to Malaysia.
Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia, Takahashi Katsuhiko, coined the term “durian diplomacy,” emphasizing its effectiveness in acquainting global leaders with Malaysian culture. In a video shared on social media, Anwar encouraged Kishida to taste the durian, capturing the moment when the Japanese leader acknowledged its goodness with a smile.
While appearing as a light-hearted episode amid discussions on trade and security, diplomats underscored the importance of such exchanges in building robust relations. Former foreign minister Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar noted that these moments create warmth, facilitating discussions and fostering deep connections among leaders.
Durian, known for its distinctive flavor and aroma, acts as a cultural ambassador for Malaysia. Syed Hamid shared an anecdote of introducing South African President Thabo Mbeki to durian, highlighting its ability to bridge cultural gaps.
A Foreign Ministry official emphasized the role of unique experiences, such as durian tastings, as a form of “soft power” projection. While trade agreements and defense treaties remain essential, cultural products contribute to increased commerce and interpersonal relationships between nations.
Austrian Ambassador Andreas Launer attested to durian’s impact on integration, humorously stating, “I believe that the love of durian is the ultimate proof of the successful integration of foreigners into Malaysian society and culture.”
Egyptian Ambassador Ragai Nasr praised durian tastings as a brilliant diplomatic strategy, creating a friendly atmosphere for exchanging ideas between leaders. He now considers himself a regular and fond consumer of durian, declaring it the most tasteful he has ever experienced.