Non- engagement policy: a dangerous omen

Published at October 01, 2018 11:04 PM 0Comment(s)2124views

Sheikh Shabir

Non- engagement policy: a dangerous omen

Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.  – Albert Einstein

India and Pakistan have been trapped in a policy of non-engagement for quite some time. The policy may have advantages, but it is also fraught with dangers. It may not be a right time for dialogue at this stage, yet the policy of non-engagement has more demerits than a meaningful dialogue and active participation.   

Dialogue is an accepted way of settling disputes in a peaceful manner. It helps in understanding different viewpoints of the parties in dispute and consequently finding solutions that are acceptable to the parties. That way, dialogue can be said as a civilized way to deal with the disputes, arbitrations for resolution of a conflict.

 Moreover, dialogue as a tool is used to kick start different initiatives that generate goodwill between disputing groups for the broader process of peace building.

At international level many major crises have been resolved through the instrument of dialogue.  Examples include: Russo-Georgian war in 2008, the conflict between Western powers and Gaddafi’s Libya, tension over Iran’s nuclear programme, religious tensions in Egypt after the historic Arab Spring in 2011, the Afghan war, the Sudanese experience, the Russo-Ukraine conflict and the recent North Korea- South Korea case which paved way for North Korea-US summit to resolve the crisis surrounding N Korea’s nuclear programme.

 In October 2015, Nobel Peace prize was announced to be awarded to the Tunisian national dialogue quartet. Kaci Kullmann Five, head of the Nobel Committee, said: “It established an alternative peaceful political process at a time when the country was on the brink of civil war.”

A popular book on the subject ‘Dialogue and Conflict Resolution’ throws light on different types of situations and how dialogue has been used to build reconciliation and understanding to resolve conflicts between groups engaged in conflicts.

What should not be forgotten is that dialogue brings together a multitude of voices. The voices can bring about a tenable change by developing a sense of joint ownership of the peace process and becoming stakeholders to adapt new attitudes and approaches to address the common issues facing society.

Meanwhile, important requirements for dialogue to be successful are self-reflection, the spirit of enquiry and personal change. The stakeholders/participants in dialogue must be willing to address the root causes of a conflict.

For example, dialogue over Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan may have ended the conflict long time ago. However, there has never been a sustainable dialogue over the issue.

Consequently, there has never been a qualitative change in the situation prevailing in Kashmir, and in the strained relations between the two nuclear armed neighboring countries. Yes, there have been some interludes of peace but there has never been any tenable that could have been forged into permanent peace in Kashmir and led to good relations between India and Pakistan.

What needs to be admitted is that the participants in dialogue must show empathy towards one another, recognize and respect their mutual differences and similarities and show an ability to change. If such kind of approach is missing, then holding dialogue is a mere wastage of time and resources. Unfortunately, Kashmir situation is a result of that approach as well.

Most importantly, dialogue is a slow and long term process. To make it successful, the disputing parties must show immense patience and passion. Dialogue may take five minutes or five years. Sometimes, interventions may occur but dialogue must go on to address the deep seated causes of a conflict.

Yes, civilians often get frustrated by various rounds of talks without any concrete conclusion. But with the passage of time, things will improve and dialogue will prove to be the best option. Perhaps, in case of Kashmir issue, the lack of patience is another major factor which has not led to tangible results.

Agreed that the dialogue must involve India, Pakistan and Kashmiris, yet it should be noted that the three stakeholders must consistently stress in favour of it. In fact, the three parties to the conflict must adapt new approaches and attitudes to resolve it. None of them can afford to take liberties with the issue and just wait and watch for either side to give up so that that the conflict may resolve on its own. It is only when they start talks that a new dawn will break and may create new possibilities and opportunities to thaw the ice.

Today, the trend at global level is increased participation in dialogues and negotiations. The number of violent conflicts has come down in recent years because of the willingness of governments, international organizations and other actors to engage in dialogue.

To change societies and find solutions to the most complex issues, such as violent conflicts, poor governance, human rights abuses – need is to find newer approaches and fresh thinking. For resolving Kashmir conflict, dialogue can be suggested as a preferable option. For that, the warring parties need to engage, ignoring minor issues and prefer the larger picture. No engagement policy is a dangerous omen.


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