Anil A Athale(Retd)

The end of cold war has rid the world of perpetual menace posed by the nuclear weapons, as the two powers that could carry out world destruction are no longer antagonistic. But at the other level, the passing away of the `balance of terror' has freed the world from restraints that were operative throughout the cold war on lesser conflicts. A rash of `score settling ' conflicts has broken out. Many of the ancient conflicts are internal revolts by restive minorities or attempts to correct perceived historical wrongs.

Unlike the international conflicts between nations, the internal conflicts are multi dimensional. Economic, political, social and psychological causes in a dynamic relationship lie at the root of it. While superficially a conflict may appear to be a religious one, in depth analysis may bring out the conclusion that its roots lie in socio-economic issues. In Northern Ireland for example, the conflict is widely regarded as sectarian one between the Catholics and Protestants. But it is simplistic to reduce the problem to this level, for the relative poverty amongst the Catholics in Belfast is noticeable. It is difficult to assert that poverty and unemployment do not play a role in violence, be it by the Irish Republican Army or the Skin heads sitting in the pubs in Pimlico area of London.

In the aftermath of dissolution of Soviet Union, only one super power was left in the world arena, the United States of America. The accumulation of military and economic muscle in a single state is unprecedented in history of the world. This sense of power soon translated in the US assuming a peacemaker role worldwide. The Middle East peace accord, the Irish cease-fire and Bosnia agreement, were concluded at the American initiative and with American backing. This epidemic of `peace accords ' has a parallel in India. In the first two years of his Prime- ministership, late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi went on a similar accord-signing spree. First was the Rajiv Longewal accord on Punjab, closely followed by Assam and Mizo accords. The last of the peace initiatives was the Sri Lanka peace accord of 1987.

In less than few years all except the Mizoram peace accord were in shambles. Sant Longewal was assassinated and Punjab saw renewed violence that ended only in 1992-93. Even the most partisan of the analysts has not dared to credit peace in Punjab to that agreement. Peace continues to elude Assam even ten years after the Assam agreement and Sri Lankan peace fell apart by October 1987 and saw the Indian army in a bloody conflict with the LTTE. A conflict that cost nearly 2000 casualties, a number that is greater than the combined losses in 1962 Sino Indian and 1971 Indo Pak conflict. The peace process in Middle East and Northern Ireland has been shattered by bomb blasts in Jerusalem and London. The peace in Bosnia, heavily dependent on American military presence is also balanced on a knife's edge.


The failed Indian attempt under Rajiv Gandhi and Clinton's equally doomed approach to peace process, have striking similarities. The first and the foremost are the primacy of the `Top-Down' approach. The peace process has concentrated excessively on the leadership of rival factions to agree on a compromise to the total exclusion of masses. There has been very little attempt to get people involved in the discussions/debates that preceded the accords. As a matter of fact most negotiations were carried out behind closed doors and in secrecy. This is a poor recipe for generating the popular support so essential to make the accords stick. In this format it is easy for the rivals within the movement or nation to accuse the negotiators of `sell-out'.

But even greater mistake has been to ignore `peace making ' as opposed to much preferred `peace keeping approach'. The crucial difference between the two is that while the first is a holistic approach that includes peace keeping while at the same time tries to tackle the social, political or psychological factors that lie at the roots of the conflict. Peace keeping on the other hand is heavily dependent on military force that acts as a virtual referee in keeping the two combatants separated. Even in this limited role the absolute neutrality and fairness of the peace keeping force is extremely important. Any hint of suspicion of partisan behaviour can blow up the peace. This is precisely what happened in Sri Lanka in 1987 when LTTE saw Indian PeaceKeepers as no longer neutral but favouring Sri Lankan government. In Bosnia and Kosovo the peacekeepers find themselves in position similar to the Indians in Sri Lanka. Even the supposedly neutral United Nations has not been above blemish on this count. In Somalia mission, by targeting General Aideed and his faction of gunmen as the enemies of peace, the UN mission in Somalia had in-built mechanism of failure. It is seldom realised that the armed forces play a very minor role in the peace process, that of countering the violence. By itself that can neither ensure peace or resolution of the underlying conflict.

The record of the UN in peace making in last 50 years is a dismal one. With the possible exception of Congo operations in 1960s, in all other peace making missions the UN presence has merely frozen the conflict, never resolved it. This is true of Kashmir, the oldest dispute on UN agenda, Cyprus, the Middle East, Angola and even Kampuchea. The reasons for this failure by India, the US or even the UN is that while great deal of attention is paid to the logistics and military calculations, there is virtually no authentic research input that goes into decision making. The peace keeping has been mainly confined to treating the symptoms as in absence of research, the `real', as opposed to the perceived, cause of the conflict remains illusive as ever. It is a situation of blind men searching for needle in a dark room at night. The UN has no institutional mechanism to carry out this search while in the US the dozens of think tanks that exist have failed to generate a theory of peace making. The American failure is primarily due to the intellectual arrogance of its strategic analysts who many times mistake their nation power for some special aptitude for themselves.

In India the situation is hilarious, howsoever macabre may the consequences for the nation and its soldiers. Here we have a situation of personal secretaries, department hopping generalist bureaucrats and at times even film actors, constituted together in an `adhoc' crisis management group. These extra constitutional centres of authority with no responsibility and accountability for consequences of their actions then proceed to land the country into one mess after another. Although with a change of crew.

In this situation of drift, a global phenomenon, the military aspect of the peace process acquire larger than its share of limelight. Soon the means themselves become ends and `military victory' becomes the goal of peace process. Obsession with body count during Vietnam war or Indian obsession with number of arms captured and numbers of militants killed, thus become the yardstick to judge success. Peace making takes a back seat and the military gets stuck in a quagmire.


Conflict, reduced to the basics is a dynamics of interaction between violence and counter violence. Peace Process is the systemic model to affect mass behavioural change in order to shift the conflict from violence to non-violent level. The process is akin to industrial dispute resolution but difference is that counter violence has a legitimate role in it. All conflicts have unique features due to cultural, racial, historical differences. Yet there are commonalties like the basic human emotions like fear, greed, good life, factors like survival and identity are universally present. A cross cultural study in radically differing environment can yield a theory of peace keeping that can provide at the minimum a basic understanding of the peace process. This in turn can form the sound basis to evolve guidelines and specific strategies to deal with the problem at hand.

Internal violence can only be understood in the backdrop of the current stage of development in the developing world that is 2/3 of humanity. There is a persistent confusion on the term development, commonly thought as economic development. While economic development may be independent of political, as in the case of rentier oil rich states in the Middle East, political development is impossible without a degree of economic development and vice versa. On the other hand economic development of self-sustaining nature is impossible without political development, that is the lesson of collapse of Communism in Europe and may yet prove the point in China.

Political development is signified by the effectiveness of the government and ineffectiveness signifies underdevelopment as evidenced by violence and instability. Political institutions mediate between competing groups and individuals and maintain peace; their genesis is attributable to this function. Adaptability, autonomy subordination, complexity and coherence in disunity are some of the characteristics of developed institutions and it is these and these alone that make for a developed country. Political institutions work to further their own institutional interest as distinct from that of the individuals manning these institutes.

Modernisation or the process of adoption of Western values generates alienation and normlessness due to the conflict between the old indigenous and new value systems. An effort to achieve modernisation invariably begets violence. In huge country like India as the societies in different regions are in different states of modernisation and there are glaring racial, linguistic and religious differences, the resistance to modernisation rather than produce a revolution like Iran, produces secessionism.

An effort to achieve literacy in a country generates additional violence due to awareness that heightens expectations. Corruption is a 'modern' phenomenon in a traditional society. This is a result of change in values and attempt of new rising groups to muscle their way into the rank of the elite through acquisition of economic means at any cost.

In the democratic process 'partisanship' soon replaces corruption. The rash of rise of caste/tribal groups and leaders is a pointer in this direction. Through political parties this partisanship is then institutionalised, the 'Mandal' effort by Mr VP Singh in 1989 in India was an epitome of this. Through Mandal, the ideology of partisanship has reached national level in India.

All the while relentless urbanisation is going on and this has produced gaps in political consciousness. An alliance of the city group with landed gentry then produces 'green uprising ' as in case of Punjab in India. When geography leads to lack of physical communications and tenuous economic links as in the case of North East and Kashmir valley, combined with perceived racial or religious separatism, a movement for political separation takes birth, often in violent form. If the area is close to international border, it is only a matter of time before an interested adversary like Pakistan takes active interest to achieve its own strategic aim.

Modernisation of traditional societies involves innovation and reform. This presupposes two conditions, one re-distribution of domestic power and also increase in the absolute power of the state. In case of India while in many places there has been a shift and re-distribution of power, notably in the South. In North, redistribution has not been accompanied by any increase in the productive resources as the sole focus is on battles of redistribution while there is no growth in the economy. Coupled with this is the growing birth rate and declining death rate. The net increase in the population is also uneven and the destitute and poor are growing at a phenomenally high rate. Thus in a segment of society there is virtually no capital accumulation, no skills and education. In India it is not poverty that has increased so much as the poor have increased in number. The strain of a section of society getting increasingly impoverished, is what generates conflicts. The classic case of this kind of violence was seen in Lebanon where most terrorists were second generation slum dwellers and the same phenomenon is being repeated in the Kashmir valley. In democratic system as votes are important, the only approach to limit population growth amongst the poor is based on 'carrots' and no stick. This has seldom worked. Thus in many of the third world countries, including India, under the democratic framework, there is a total lumpenisation of the society.


The remarkable and long lasting internal peace in many traditional societies can be directly attributed to the social order. A social order that was immutable & rigid, inequitable and sanctified by religion and tradition. The mechanism worked because it was self regulatory and force had no role. In colonial period, the rulers did nothing to either disturb or modify the society. The rural India where 80% of the people lived , was left alone. The British made it explicit by concentrating on law and order only. The society was more or less left alone except for some social reforms like the sati and child infanticide et al. Even these changes were done by the British in co-operation with the Indians.

After independence when most of the ex-colonies accepted the Western model of development and 'progress', all that changed. The state began taking on an activist role in society. State by its nature is an agency to use force. Hithertofore that was used to maintain status quo while now it was used for variety of objectives. Politics or science of governance is often referred to as "Danda-niti" and the Hindi word for government is 'Shasan' , the other meaning of which is punishment.

Once the task of keeping order moved away from society to the state, several other differences also crop up. Political power or capturing the state is now seen as the most important societal goal. This gives rise to ethnic groups and factions who all vie for political power. If there is a failure to form genuine coalition of interests or run a proper federal system, then the state is engulfed by violence both on the periphery as secessionist attempt and in the heartland as violent struggle for power.

A sociologists perspective on the issue of use of force gives primacy to 'social order' in maintaining peace. According to this view there are also administrative, legal and political perspectives. But administrative or legal are methods or means to maintain peace. Essentially there are only two major perspectives i.e. political and social. In the first, i.e. political, it is state that is primary and use of force to achieve state aims including keeping peace is traditionally regarded as legitimate both internally and internationally. In case of social order maintained by society, force or violence when used it signifies the breakdown of order, social upheavals or revolutions are not normal but abnormal social phenomenon. On the other hand, in political perspective, use of force or violence is norm. It is this that separates politics from sociology in the ultimate analysis.

Democracy is widely perceived as the ideal form of government system and the political acts of the state have to be taking place in the democratic framework. At the apex, political or social order rests on consensus on values, goals, means and rules of the game. When such a society is also geographically and historically linked, a state is born. This consensus or willing consent of the majority of the ruled to accept rules of the game cannot be equated with majoritarianism. The legitimacy is as much due to the 'values' that are universal, non-discriminatory and in tune with the prevailing international and philosophical norms. This adherence to norms and values has to be both de jure as well as de-facto. If the state is dependent merely on the consensus principle then the minorities pose a perennial problem. In the past all over the world, it was religion that played the role of peace keeping within a society. In India this remained so for longer than elsewhere as in India the concept central to politics and society was "Dharma" or righteousness and not organised religion in the Semite tradition. But the breakdown of traditional societies as a consequence of industrial revolution, urbanisation and now information revolution reduced the role and importance of religion as factor in keeping social peace. This may appear contradictory in light of the rise of various fundamentalist movements that have brought religion to the forefront, but it must be clearly understood that in the modern (as well as ancient) revivalism, religion is being used as a vehicle to gain political power. The aim of fundamentalist is not religious but political-pursuit of power.


In the North Eastern India, we have successfully dealt with violence. But the region remains in turmoil even today because we failed to follow up the military success with socio-economic measures. This mistake must not be repeated in Kashmir.

In Kashmir, India faces one of the most difficult challenges to its survival as a multi ethnic, multi religious nation. It is doubtful if India can survive separation of Kashmir without undergoing a second blood bath as horrendous as the one witnessed in 1947.

To succeed in Kashmir India needs to draw lessons from its experiences in NorthEast and give priority to grass roots approach to conflict resolution as well as de-emphasise the military aspect and give due importance to the socio-economic causes that are the cause of turmoil in Kashmir. The UN and the US may profitably learn from our experiences.