Conflict, Peace & Reconciliation
IPCS   ·   01 May, 2018   ·   194    ·    Special Report


According to the United Nations, "preventive diplomacy refers to diplomatic action taken to prevent disputes from escalating into conflicts and to limit the spread of conflicts when they occur. While it is conducted in different forms and fora, both public and private, the most common expression of preventive diplomacy is found in the work of envoys dispatched to crisis areas to encourage dialogue, compromise and the peaceful resolution of tensions." It is important to consider the various definitions of conflict and peace, and how they play out in post-conflict scenarios to arrive at an understanding of the role of conflict diplomacy and conflict management in their relevant contexts.

This annual edition of The Diplomatist, developed in collaboration with the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi, is an attempt to initiate a broader conversation on how diplomacy and management can and have influenced the outcomes of contemporary conflicts. Each analysis in this compendium focuses on a specific conflict, and explores experiences in conflict management, peace-building, peace processes, and circumstances conducive for successful conflict diplomacy. The articles draw from one or more case studies, covering both successful past efforts as well as ongoing ones.

All but two essays in this compendium are a study of individual cases of conflict diplomacy, roles of external powers, structural design of the processes, and determinants of success and failure in individual peace processes in Colombia, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, East Timor, Syria, Israel-Palestine, Nepal, Bangladesh, and India-Pakistan-China. The two others focus on Women, Peace and Security in conflict diplomacy, and on "warring for peace." Significantly, observations from experiences of case studies from around the world highlighted in this compendium by former bureaucrats, policymakers, academics, and journalists point to similar patterns and trends that have influenced the successes and failures of diplomacy during conflict, peace processes, and reconciliation.

Ambassador (Retd) Anil Wadhwa's observation that chances of success of preventive diplomacy efforts are reduced whenever major powers take interest in a conflict finds resonance in Naheed Ahmadi Farid's observations that the US' involvement in the Afghan peace process frustrated it as the Taliban did not find it necessary to negotiate with the Afghan government when they could do so directly with the US. Dr Shashi Tharoor identifies geopolitical objectives, hypocrisy and insincerity at the international level as problematic factors that undermine efforts for peaceful solution — sentiments that are reflected in Ambassador (Retd) KP Fabian's observations on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

That neighbouring countries occupy a unique position with an ability to influence the direc*on and scale of conflict is reflected several analyses in the compendium such as in Ambassador (Retd) Deepak Bhojwani's assessment of the roles of Ecuador, Venezuela, and Cuba in the armed conflict and peace process in Colombia; Dr Bibhu Prasad Routray's observations on China's role in the armed conflict and peace process in Myanmar; Naheed Ahmadi Farid's analysis of Pakistan's role in the conflict in Afghanistan; Yubaraj Ghimire's insights on Indian and Chinese roles in the peace process in Nepal; and Dr Joyeeta Bhattacharjee's study on Bangladesh's policy choices vis-à-vis the Rohingya crisis and their exodus from Myanmar.

The significance of context, history, memory, and technical aspects is highlighted in Ambassador (Retd) KP Fabian's review of how the Syrian conflict was handled—a conclusion that is also reflected in Ambassador (Retd) Salman Haidar's comparative analysis of how conflict diplomacy played out in India's experiences with China and Pakistan. Both Asanga Abeyagoonasekera and Brendan McAllister, in their analyses of Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland, respectively, draw from their experiences to illustrate how post conflict diplomacy and reconciliation efforts at a domestic level are equally important factors influencing the trajectory of the conflict.

Lastly, but critically, Professor Monica McWilliams provides an assessment of perhaps the most underrated element in conflict diplomacy, peace-building and reconciliation: how experiences of conflicts are decidedly gendered in nature. She explains the need for women's participation in conflict resolution and post-conflict policymaking in leadership roles, and highlights successful intervention by women resulting in sound post-conflict policies (such as in Colombia).

A globalised world has significantly reduced a state's capacity to insulate itself from external shocks in far off regions—thus necessitating knowledge and capacity-building on preventive diplomacy (and on "mediative diplomacy" as Brendan McAllister identifies). Yet, the same globalisation also provides a unique opportunity to facilitate cross-sectional conversation and knowledge exchanges.

By contextualising the intricacies of conflict diplomacy and management and deriving actionable insights from case studies, the articles in this edition bring together a unique collection of perspectives drawn from years of experience and identify alternative strategies and solutions.

Ruhee Neog, Director, IPCS
Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy, Deputy Director, IPCS

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