REVIEWS: Enter the peace actors

Reviewed by Zubeida Mustafa

As the nature and style of warfare has changed over the years with the development of new technologically advanced weapons, the concept of security has also changed. If nations are now fighting total wars, they are also seeking to achieve total security. Hence peace now focuses on multifarious issues in addition to ceasefires, conflict resolution, disarmament and military deterrent. Security experts are also taking a hard look at social and economic factors causing conflicts and a new academic discipline termed peace studies has come up.

In the present context, when India and Pakistan have teetered on the brink of war and then moved on to a peace dialogue, Manjrika Sewak’s book is of special interest to specialists and lay readers alike. She succinctly defines the modern concept of security, which she writes has to be sustainable to be effective, and the role of multi-track diplomacy in promoting peace.

Security is today understood to be more than simply the strategy to protect the territorial integrity of a state. It envisages a sense of security in the population, the participation of the people in the governance of the state and international relations being the interaction between the people of different states and not institutions alone. This approach makes it equally important for a government to invest in its human resources and strike a balance between its defence spending and development of the people. With India 127th and Pakistan 144th in UNDP’s human development ranking, the two countries cannot hope to enjoy any security in spite of the fact that in terms of their military spending’s ratio to GDP they rank fourth and seventh respectively.

The author, who is a peace activist, is categorical in her statement that nuclear weapons do not add to security. If anything the non-transparency in the chain of command and the limited knowledge of political leaders about nuclear weapons enhance the sense of insecurity of people.

The feminist approach to security takes a broader perspective since women are the ones most affected by conflicts. They feel that an over emphasis on military security increases the sense of insecurity of people. Genuine security entails not just the absence of war. It also envisages the elimination of social injustices and economic inequities.

Security can, thus, be made sustainable if it involves plural approaches and diverse actors — academicians, policy analysts, media persons, business leaders, NGOs — that is civil society itself. The significance of this can be understood if one remembers that in the 1990’s protracted civil conflicts which are not even viewed as wars killed five million people worldwide and created 17 million displaced persons. The governments lack the tools to resolve these conflicts that can be addressed more effectively by peace building initiatives of the civil society outside the government. These are termed as track-two diplomacy.

Coined by an American diplomat, Joseph Montville, the term refers to non-government conflict resolution efforts embracing a variety of actors ranging from diplomats, academics, businessmen, educationists and media persons. In the Cold War years the United States and the Soviet Union launched many such exercises, such as the Dartmouth conference, the Pugwash conference, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other disarmament groups.

A number of similar initiatives have been launched by India and Pakistan too in the nineties, such as the Neemrana Dialogue, the Balusa Group, India-Pakistan Soldiers’ Initiative for Peace, and the Pakistan-India Forum for Peace and Democracy.

The main criterion for track-two diplomacy to yield results is its ability to interact with and influence track-one (diplomacy at the government level) policies. Track-two contacts cannot possibly take place without the tacit support of the governments which provide visas and facilitate the meetings of the participants. Conversely, track-two offers a deeper insight into the causes of conflict and can suggest a variety of solutions because of its unofficial status and therefore its flexibility.

Although cynics have criticized track-two for not being institutionalized, being too elitist and being outside the mainstream, one must recognize the support given to peace by the track-two actors in the case of India and Pakistan. The fact is that track-two diplomacy in the last few years has paved the way for the cordial and congenial climate that has been created in South Asia. It is track-two that has made it possible for the Indian and Pakistani governments to break the ice and open composite dialogue. It has facilitated the adoption of many confidence building measures and the exploring of various options for resolving the Indo-Pakistan disputes.

The main role played by the track-two actors in India and Pakistan has been to facilitate social change and establish a new pattern of behaviour in the people and then sustain it. For that it is important that a mechanism be created to sustain the change. Multi-track diplomacy plays a useful role by instituting a web of actors whose job it is to ensure that the change does not lapse.

Manjrika Sewak, a programme officer with Wiscomp (Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace), has made a great contribution to peace studies by producing this excellent book — probably the first of its kind. The point she drives home is that security and change of behaviour have to be sustained if they are to produce a long-lasting impact.

Multi-Track Diplomacy between India and Pakistan: A Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Security
By Manjrika Sewak
Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, 2 Elibank Road, Colombo-5, Sri Lanka
Email: Website:
ISBN 81-7304-621-2
138pp. Sri Lankan Rs255

Source: Dawn