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A Good Friday Agreement for Kashmir

[Also published on Open Democracy, London]

[Also published on The Muslim Institute, London]

[Also published on Counter Currents]

"The prospect for peace in Kashmir lies, according to Naveed Qazi, in an adaptation of an arrangement similar to the one that brought peace to North Ireland."

Fatalities in Kashmir are fast reaching a six-digit figure, yet the levels of fatalities do not seem to stimulate desire for a genuine peace process on the part of both hostile neighbours. In spite of this unfortunate fact, the world has seen civilized solutions to conflict and one of the prime examples is vested in the Good Friday Agreement. It has been held up as good practice in resolving the Kashmir dispute, principally by Sumantra Bose, not least because the arrangement respects the variance of overall sentiment. The Good Friday Agreement allowed genuine negotiations to replace guns in the resolution of a political conflict over self-determination and ended fighting on a mass-scale.

The transformation of the conflict from a violent mode to a political mode owes credit to the dedication shown by Irish Republican and British government actors, advisors and the population in pursuing peace. India and Pakistan, contrarily, are not devoted to a sincere analysis of this efficient arrangement in recent times nor have they tried to resolve the dispute with a firm and heartfelt belief.
The Good Friday Agreement set up new institutions and a higher degree of cooperation across the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland and United Kingdom. The theme of the arrangement was based on various stages which included decommissioning paramilitary forces resulting in demilitarization (pdf), police reform, reforms in social/political and productive/economic institutions. It also set out a plan based on stability on an inclusive basis and provided grounds for the rolling out of human rights mores and the release of political prisoners. The dynamics of the Irish-British dispute match those of Kashmir dispute, and it could help in providing an evolutionary model for Kashmir.

Twelve years down the line since April 1998, and despite repeated violent incidents, the agreement still stands out as a successful model of conflict resolution. On the contrary, calling off a peace process after an incident of violence is supported by both India and Pakistan. This has resulted as a wretched failure in statesmanship which both countries try to conceal from international forums.

The process of the Good Friday Agreement was based on inclusiveness. The success of this agreement is enthroned in its pattern phases- formal elections were held under an electoral system drawn up to determine negotiates and this resulted in a sincere attempt to make talks as inclusive as possible. It was based on sincere negotiations endorsed by a popular referendum finally accepted by the people of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. It resulted in a permanent co-operation between both governments. It was also openly supported by the international community as it encouraged mutual respect, equality and peaceful means of peace reconciliation in the region. The most remarkable feature of this arrangement was the ubiquitous role of the respective leadership and it proved that leadership is an imperative variable star for any conflict resolution. It transferred the conflict from the streets to genuine debating chambers, and focused on constitutional aspirations. It draws upon equal power sharing and was durable, creative and competent enough to forge national interests to find an acceptable compromise.
There are lessons to learn for India and Pakistan. They could try to resist practices which suit their interests, design a valid democratic process rather than installing leaders directly. The most unfortunate part is that there is no evidence that India and Pakistan have followed any pattern or stages of implementation worth emulating in resolving the dispute. Starting a resolution and then ending up with a blame game, signing irrelevant pacts and empty talks cannot resolve any dispute. In Kashmir, there is only one concept of genuine leadership; self-determination. If India and Pakistan think that they have the competence to install leaders, then that unfortunately neglects the thousands of sacrifices rendered. Timing in any conflict resolution is very important which unfortunately is already passed for the people of Kashmir. Parties to a dispute try to negotiate only when they have a bargaining advantage. The bargaining advantage was higher in the early nineties than at present. Unlike India and Pakistan, the time factor is not an advantage to the people of Kashmir.

Belfast today is almost unrecognizable from the violent and incendiary place of two or three decades ago. An agreement like this could change the fate of Kashmir as well, where violence, oppression and psychological warfare have destroyed every facet of our society.

© Naveed Qazi, Insights: Kashmir

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