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Insights into Editorial: Role of Civil Society Practitioners in Improving Relationship Between India and Pakistan

Insights into Editorial: Role of Civil Society Practitioners in Improving Relationship Between India and Pakistan

29 October 2015

Frequent ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and exchange of fiery speeches between the two countries have once again put on hold the High level talks between India and Pakistan. This has given rise to a feeling that the situation between the two countries can never be improved. With government to government ties standstill, many believe that the situation can only be improved by the participation of citizens of both the countries. By working together outside the government, Indian and Pakistani civil society practitioners can build meaning and constructive connections between the two countries.

Many civil society-led initiatives — trade expositions, cultural festivals, and Track Two dialogues (Track II diplomacy refers to “non-governmental, informal and unofficial contacts and activities between private citizens or groups of individuals, sometimes called ‘non-state actors'”. It contrasts with track I diplomacy, which can be defined as official, governmental diplomacy that occur inside official government channels.) — could play a vital role in building links between Indians and Pakistanis. Taking the form of literary festivals, women’s dialogues, youth exchanges, joint chambers of commerce, security forums, student conferences, digital ideas hubs, and so on, such initiatives have only increased in the recent times.

Various initiatives that are aimed at improving India Pakistan relations:

  • Influential corporate leaders from both the countries convene through the Pakistan India Joint Business Forum to explore ways of jump-starting cross-border commerce.
  • The Ottawa and Chaophraya Dialogues and a newer initiative called South Asian Voices regularly bring defence practitioners together, in person and online, to formulate workable solutions to intractable political and military problems.
  • Exchange for Change has linked thousands of Indian and Pakistani students and enabled scores to travel between the two countries.
  • The India-Pakistan Regional Young Leaders Forum enables young adults to collaborate on media and public service projects.

Importance of civil society-led initiatives:

Civil society-led efforts can keep both the countries talking even when official lines of communication are closed. Public support born of a robust civil society can generate pressure and momentum for reconciliation. Such efforts may not be a panacea for immediate peace, but over the longer term, they lay a sturdy foundation of goodwill between the governments and among large segments of the public in both countries. Such initiatives also make governments’ further works easier.


However, civil society will not, on its own, bring peace to the subcontinent. Ultimately, the governments have to find their way to the negotiating table and start chipping away mistrust. Civil society can only continue to lay the groundwork for a more peaceful future.



Tracks of diplomacy

Traditionally, the term “diplomacy” referred to interaction between nation-states. More recently, however, scholars have delineated several levels of diplomacy. Tracks 1 and 2 are the most frequently used terms. A composite term is multitrack diplomacy.

Track 1 diplomacy: Official discussions typically involving high-level political and military leaders and focusing on cease-fires, peace talks, and treaties and other agreements.

Track 2 diplomacy: Unofficial dialogue and problem-solving activities aimed at building relationships and encouraging new thinking that can inform the official process. Track 2 activities typically involve influential academic, religious, and NGO leaders and other civil society actors who can interact more freely than high-ranking officials. Some analysts use the term track 1.5 to denote a situation in which official and non-official actors work together to resolve conflicts.

Track 3 diplomacy: People-to-people diplomacy undertaken by individuals and private groups to encourage interaction and understanding between hostile communities and involving awareness raising and empowerment within these communities. Normally focused at the grassroots level, this type of diplomacy often involves organizing meetings and conferences, generating media exposure, and political and legal advocacy for marginalized people and communities.

Multitrack diplomacy: A term for operating on several tracks simultaneously, including official and unofficial conflict resolution efforts, citizen and scientific exchanges, international business negotiations, international cultural and athletic activities, and other cooperative efforts. These efforts could be led by governments, professional organizations, businesses, churches, media, private citizens, training and educational institutes, activists, and funders.

Source: USIP

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