One of the thing about our (and other) Peace Process is that it is hard afterwards to distil what made things work. Here for instance, the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement was apparently borne of the work of a lot of people who previously could not agreement amongst themselves on anything much.
Ahsan Butt writing in The Samoza last week examines the current state of the Indian Pakistan peace process… And he tries to distil what might make the long term difference between success and failure on that score.
He tentatively identifies trade with India as one way of opening up particular (and largely politically disengaged) interests in Pakistan to the practical benefits of a deeper process of rapprochement with India.
He also talks about the distortionary effects of the Pakistani Military and its priorities have on government policy, and the importance of making modest but consistent gains on whatever low hanging fruit are available.
And finally, the one factor that by the time our peace process finally kicked in that our main players did not have to contend with, or at least quite as directly, the externalities. The UK, Irish and US governments walked in almost in lock step from the earliest days of the peace process.
But in the case of Pakistan these external influences are both complex and perplexing:
Domestic politics, domestic politics, domestic politics. We’ve seen this movie before and it’s ended badly because of domestic politics. By all accounts, Musharraf and Manmohan were this close to something substantial on Kashmir. What happened? The Chief Justice, May 12, and the moment was lost. Nawaz Sharif and Vajpayee also made substantial progress. What happened? Uh, this.
With elections in Pakistan in about a year, and the Congress government in India getting hammered recently from a number of angles, the tenuousness of this process is made abundantly clear. Then there’s other unpredictable factors: another LeT attack in a major Indian city, complications in Afghanistan as a result of the American retreat, the possibility of a conflict in Iran spiraling out of control, and so on. These are things states and their representatives cannot predict.
As Paul Arthur has noted, if any peace process is to succeed, people have to remove themselves from the fatalism generated by the conflict itself, and from believing that their own conflict is sui generis, and impervious to solution.