Conflict Transformation: A Solution for India and Pakistan

After seven decades and counting since independence, India and Pakistan may have traversed a very different path had any attempts at conflict transformation been made. Conflict transformation aims at "transforming" conflicts by drawing from peacebuilding practices. It involves a shift from the top-level leadership to local and grass-root level engagement, and looks at ways to create a bottom-up transformation of the conflict itself to longstanding and sustainable peace. (TransConflict presents a comprehensive list of principles of Conflict Transformation.)

Jean Paul Lederach was the first to present a transformation oriented approach to dealing wih conflict. His map below, helps capture the essence of this approach (Read more / Source).

India and Pakistan have had a long-standing conflict. Violence has (obviously) not brought about a resolution, and peace has not been given a wholesome chance. The framing of a solution has undoubtedly been challenging under such circumstances and the cycle of violence for several years now has brought up several other issues that need addressing.

This is not to mean that the conflict will remain unsolved or that it simply cannot be solved. There are options: and powerful, inclusive ones at that. Of these options, the one put forth by Professor Johan Galtung, the (grand)father of peace studies, presents a comprehensive and lasting possibility in his book, “50 years - 100 Peace & Conflict Perspectives.” Here is what it looks like.

The Process
Professor Galtung starts from the 1972 Simla Accord, which mandated Indo-Pak bilateral negotiations that has not delivered peace thus far. The approach is not wrong, but has remained incomplete, and is thus in need of the following:
[a] South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation setting
[b] Indo-PAK NGO roundtables for dialogue-negotiation
[c] Outside mediators, governmental
[d] Outside mediators, nongovernmental individuals
[e] United Nations
Professor Galtung suggests that these options could be deployed simultaneously for “synergy effects.” He also indicates that the involvement of outside governmental mediators should require the big powers with obvious interests in the region to stay away. This means, the Security Council of the United Nations, which Professor Galtung notes is a “sum of biases” is not going to be creative or useful to the process.

The Outcome
Mapping potential outcomes that may be acceptable to most parties in the conflict, Professor Galtung offers the following:
A. Differential Center-Periphery Relations in the Indian Union: For the center in New Delhi to have the same relations to all states makes sense in a colonial-bureaucratic setting, but may produce continued violence. That violence should not be construed as a demand for secession-independence when what is being asked for is autonomy in some fields. Thus, in Western Europe the countries not EU members all cooperate with EU, and two EU members (Denmark and the UK) have autonomy in very important fields. India is twice the size and more complex. Kashmir is not the only part interested in negotiating, say, less federal, more confederal ties: so might Nagaland, and some others. The process will be painful. But “in strength there is weakness, and in weakness strength”; flexibility will serve them all.

B. Differential yet cohesive policies to the parts of Kashmir: An undifferentiated policy for a Kashmir with three or four parts makes sense only in a colonial-bureaucratic setting, but guarantees continued violence. That violence should not be construed as a demand for secession-independence when autonomy in some fields may be the solution, ruling out three options:
• full integration with Pakistan (Jamaat, Hizbul Mujahideen),
• full integration with India (the Instrument of Accession),
• fully independent state of Kashmir (the Hurriyat Conference).
A differentiated policy could include the following:
• if Jammu and Ladakh want integration with India, so be it;
• if Azad-Kashmir wants integration with Pakistan, so be it;
• for the Valley: if autonomy and devolution within India on the lines of the 1952 or 1974 constitutional provisions is what is wanted, so be it (the National Conference, Shabbir Shah?).

For cohesiveness the following might be useful:
[a] Indo-Pak transitional condominium for the Valley.
[b] Indo-Pak cooperation in softening the Line of Control;
[c] Civil society cooperation across the border-LoC: union of families, cultural cooperation, local economic cooperation. This is needed everywhere, also to overcome the effects of globalization;
[d] A Greater Kashmir Community of all parts, with open borders, a Kashmir Free Trade Association (ICAFTA), linked to New Delhi-Islamabad.

C. Collateral issues: This does not address arms merchants and mercenaries wanting profits and youth in alienating societies seeing violence and rape not only as “the best show, but the only show in town.” But they will dwindle away. And the Siachin glacier could become a human heritage monument dedicated to peace. (981,065)

Give Peace a Chance
Violence is cyclical and dangerous: and this truly needs no explaining. As members of a region, India and Pakistan have much to gain from unity. Issues of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, challenges to development, and terrorism are common challenges that both nations can come together to resolve and address. Conflict transformation presents a tremendous opportunity to arrive at a point where this unity becomes a dynamic, functional, and constantly evolving process that keeps the region peaceful and progressive.

Image Sources: The Daily Mirror, Jean Paul Lederach