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#160, 10 October 2005

Indo-Pak Conflicts: Ripe to Resolve?

Priyanka Singh
Research Assistant, IPCS

Discussants: Dr. D. Suba Chandran & Amb. IP Khosla
Chair: Prof. PR Chari

D. Suba Chandran

The inspiration for the book, Indo-Pak Conflicts - Ripe to Resolve, written jointly with Rizwan Zeb came from the works of Professor Chari, Stephen Cohen and Pervez Cheema. The aim behind writing this book was to provide an Indo-Pakistan perspective, rather than separate India and Pakistan perspectives on the peace process. This did cause a lot of disagreements with the other author. The issues of Kashmir annexation, formulation of a theoretical precept as well as the idealization of the Hizbul Mujahideen by Zeb, as an indigenous political movement capable of any wrong were some points of differences.

William Zartman's Ripeness theory provides the focal point for this book's endeavor. The work on the book began in 2001. Lot of events had occurred which validated the belief that it was a ripe moment to begin engagement. Political events such as the Lahore Agreement, Kargil, the Agra Summit, Operation Parakram; the emergence of political concepts like limited war; the elections; the split in Hurriyat, Jamat and Hizbul Mujahideen and the temple attacks in Kashmir and Gujarat indicated that the two sides had reached a mutually hurting stalemate (MHS).

The exception to this postulation was the inclusion in the book of preconditions deemed essential to bring in artificial ripeness. This was seen as imperative as the immensity of differences between India and Pakistan hampers them from identifying and seizing the ripe moments to begin conflict resolution. These preconditions would cover structural, economic and politico-military dimensions. Structuralization of the conflict and prioritization of issues; identifying the modalities of approaching the conflict; developing a time framework for negotiations; economic cooperation; the police, military and nuclear confidence building measures (CBMs) and people-to-people contact are some of these preconditions.

Some of the recommendations made by the book to facilitate the peace process are: The peace process must be purged of all rhetoric; the focus should be on the process rather than on the solution; a series of insulated dialogue processes rather than one overarching dialogue should happen; the core issues of Kashmir and terrorism should not be sidelined and the option of external mediation should be considered.

Amb. I P Khosla

The factors enumerated by Dr. Cheema are long term in nature. William Zartman's ripeness theory propounds that in a conflict there are certain points of time that are right to begin resolving the conflict. What will be these exact points of time has to be assessed and it is this that the book, Indo-Pak Conflicts - Ripe to Resolve, written by Rizwan Zeb and D. Suba Chandran has commendably achieved.

Theories are by nature circular. Taking the instance of the Ripeness theory, it can be said that because the conflict was ripe to be resolved, it was resolved and vice versa. This, unlike the natural sciences is difficult to demonstrate and predict in the social sciences where conclusions cannot be based on the certainty of repetition. To resolve this dilemma, lot of details need to be put in. This book resolves this problem in the context of its treatment of the ripeness theory by adopting an explanatory approach and its emphasis on details.

Some questions worth raising here are how a theoretical precept can be applied while looking to resolve the India-Pakistan conflict. Especially when both the sides are focusing on elimination rather than resolution tactics. Another issue is the importance of 'positioning' in a conflict. Historically, specific positions have got entrenched in the respective mindsets of the two countries. While India-phobic Pakistan believes that the former wants to destroy it, India looks upon Pakistan's aspirations as directed to attaining parity with it at any cost. This is similar to the Cold War scenario where the issue beyond irreconcilable differences was of positioning. Hence, while assessing whether the time is ripe for conflict resolution; it is equally important to see if there have been changes in the attitudes and positions of the involved parties.

Another point is the significance being accorded to people-to-people relations. Saying that track two diplomacy will influence conflict resolution is not completely true. People cannot change politics or influence the decision-making at higher levels. The flow of power between the people and the political setup has never been equal in a democracy. Until 1965, there were no travel restrictions between the two countries, yet the mutual antagonisms prevailed. The projection of the 'Right' in Indian politics also needs a mention here. It is being increasingly looked upon as not supportive of any improvement in relations with Pakistan. It is perceived as consisting of a segment of people who do not think rationally. This is like slotting the Right as belonging to an ancient, tribal, hierarchical structure with a conservative outlook. This is not the truth and such categorization is unwarranted.

Another issue to consider while discussing the peace process is the role of media as an agent between the people and the political process. This role should not be over done by resorting to projections bordering on rhetoric. All said, the engagement of civil society in the peace process has to be limited as it has to be pursued in total confidence, which makes secrecy a compulsion. The role of International mediation is overplayed too in the India-Pakistan peace process, while other factors are given less attention. The earlier efforts of the US and the Soviet Union to mediate failed, as perhaps the time was not ripe for such roles then.

P R Chari

There are certain links in the chain of arguments in the book that need to be seen again and strengthened. Zartman has talked about the difference made when two sides involved in a conflict decide to sit across the table when they reach a mutually hurting stalemate. The India-Pakistan peace process has meandered over deadlocks. The two countries are yet to realize that political costs of the conflict far out weigh any probable gains. Until this consciousness does not set in the mutually hurting stalemate will continue. Also, the elites on both the sides have intrinsic interests in the stalemate continuing. Besides, the ripeness theory does not accept that there are core issues such as of Kashmir and cross-border terrorism. These are jugular issues and the question arises if these should be sidelined or need consideration in Zartman's formulation of the Ripeness Theory.

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