There are a few positives, I think
we need to build upon them.
Parallel channels basically, the way
I look at it, is different bodies, different groups of people from all walks of life in
two countries who are meeting in an organised manner and discussing issues which are of
concern to both of us especially sensitive issues.
Like a given is that you cannot
question whether Kashmir is an integral part of India or cannot question whether Kashmir
morally belongs to Pakistan.
Just dont give them visas,
they dont get to see each other it is as simple as that.
We need to build upon these
constituencies which are in a very nascent stage, which are in a very incipient stage but
they are there. That there are alternatives. That there is no one way of looking at
It is sad to know that not a single
woman from the Pakistani side, with the sole exception of Sadiqa Ji, was there on this
Visits should be encouraged to
clarify notions, misconceptions.
The only way to learn is to come
here and interact with people like you
and then you learn what the realities of life
Dr. Navnita Chadha Behera focused on
"parallel channels" and looked, exclusively, at non-official dialogues
especially concerning bilateral issues aimed at creating a better understanding between
citizens of the two countries.
She approached the topic using the conventional jargon
of "track 2 diplomacy" (Track 1 means government to government channels) which
refers to non-governmental channels.
In "track 2" dialogues, groups of citizens of
the two countries set up information channels, channels of operation or links independent
of their respective governments and look at specific issues such as Kashmir, opening up of
trade, nuclear arms. They try to see how they can resolve these sensitive issues and then
provide recommendations to their respective governments.
The speaker was of the view that track 2 have evolved
over the last few years and increasingly being used as a "testing ground" to
explore ideas that are difficult to pursue from the governmental platforms of the
respective countries. "But what is increasingly happening is that the kind of
dialogues that are taking place are going far beyond the vision or the conception of what
we understood by track 2 dialogues"
She also looked at "track 3" dialogues, which,
according to her, were more "visionary." Track 3 is more focused towards
creating a social and political space outside the governmental network which would
hopefully address India/Pakistan issues in a more open manner and build "alternative
constituencies." They seek to mobilise public opinion and pressurise their respective
governments to change their thinking and question their conventional beliefs or "the
In her view the distinction between track 2 and track 3
lied in (a) the nature of people who are involved, and (b) the way or the modus operandi
by which objectives are sought.
She emphasised that a South Asian study that had been
conducted last year to document these dialogues showed that 40 such parallel channels
existed between South Asian countries including India and Pakistan both at the bilateral
and regional level. The exchanges have been made between people of all age groups from all
walks of life from journalists to social workers and from school going kids to retired
Trying to sum up the net result of such interactions,
she said that the results were mixed. The biggest criticism levelled against such
dialogues has been that successes in track 2/track 3 dialogues are not being translated
into track 1 dialogues. "The governments are not getting any better, the visas are
not any easier to get, so what does it all amount to, ultimately, when you look at the
But then she also commented that the very nature of this
process i.e. creating civic space is difficult. She also made us realise since it is
difficult to create social space within ones own country viz. a viz. ones
government, then addressing foreign policy issues, especially when they touch upon
concerns of national security of the respective countries, is bound to be a very slow and
painful process. In this regard she felt that the ultimate veto power remained with the
governments in the form of visa restrictions which hindered people to people contact.
Nonetheless, she concluded that "it is making a difference because its
spreading" and expanding in its reach.
There are positives, even though they are fewer than the
negatives, and the speaker stressed that we need to build upon them.
Ms. Barua identified the following problem areas in
track2/track 3 level dialogues:
- Dialogues at this level were not getting translated into
governmental level dialogues.
- We often blaming western or outside forces for creating
the differences within us. Instead, we need to decide how we are going to buildbridges.
Also, we shouldnt hold reservations if a third party steps in to facilitate the
peace resolution process.
- Generation and gender issues. She felt that participation
of women from the Pakistani side is not adequate and also the youngsters of both the
countries are not getting to see each other as frequently as they should.
She ended on an optimistic note saying that both the
sides need to loosen up a little and the people can do rest for themselves.