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Ms Poonam Barua (India)

4 Civil society and conflict resolution

Khorakiwala | Khaled Ahmed | Poonam Barua | Haroon Ahmed | Navnita Chedha Behera | Kaiser Bengali Rainer Adams | DISCUSSION | SESSION CONTENTS | HOME


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 don’t give them visas, they don’t 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 India/Pakistan relations.

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 panel.

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 are.

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 givens"

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 military officials.

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 ground realities?"

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 one’s own country viz. a viz. one’s 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 it’s spreading" and expanding in it’s 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:

  1. Dialogues at this level were not getting translated into governmental level dialogues.
  2. 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 shouldn’t hold reservations if a third party steps in to facilitate the peace resolution process.
  3. 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.

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