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A New Future for Kashmir?
U.S. Ambassador John W. McDonald (ret.)
with Christel G. McDonald
Editors’ Note: Only rarely is the public privileged to track a major negotiation and see up close whether the theories actually get put into practice. A multitude of other chapters in the book are implicated here as Ambassador John McDonald talks about the prevailing assumptions, the intractable conflict, and a breakthrough move toward progress in the decades-old conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Because so few practitioners at this level have undertaken to write down what they actually did, we have elected to preserve the original 2006 text largely intact, with only a few clarifying changes. The McDonalds’ updated (2016) assessment follows. [This chapter stands particularly as a practical illustration, by a consummate practitioner, of the principles explained by Coleman et al., in Intractable 1 and 2, as well as Adler’s Protean Negotiator. For another view of how the field’s theories apply, or do not, in a difficult environment, this chapter could be read in conjunction with NDR: Kaufman & Blanchot, Theory Meets Reality.]
In late November 1995, I was visited in my office in downtown Washington, D.C. by two three-star generals, one from India and the other from Pakistan. Given the animosity between these countries, the mere fact that they would travel across town together for such a visit was itself extraordinary. Within two minutes of their arrival, they asked me to solve the “Kashmir Problem”!
I was honored by their visit and stunned by their request. I laughed unbelievingly at their suggestion and then said, “No, I can’t do that.” But they were very serious career military officers and meant what they asked. We spent the rest of the day talking.
The two Generals told me that they had fought two wars against each other over Kashmir and did not want to fight a third one. I learned they had both recently retired from the military and had been invited by the renowned Stimson Center to come to Washington, D.C. for six weeks. They had heard about our Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) from a mutual friend, learned about our systems approach to peace through conflict resolution skill building, and decided to visit us.
They said their two governments were “stuck in time” and did not know what to do. Both governments had repeatedly rejected help from other governments over the issue of Kashmir, saying they would resolve the problem themselves. But they had made no progress since 1947, and the problem was just getting worse. It was the Generals’ belief that IMTD, being a small, not-for-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) that would not be seen as a threat to anyone, might have some ideas that could move the two governments to take some positive action, or at least help reduce some of the ongoing violence.
The Province of Jammu and Kashmir has been a thorn in the sides of both Pakistan and India since 1947, when India broke away from the British Empire and the country of Pakistan was created as a new Muslim nation. Even though the Province was 85% Muslim, the then Maharaja decided at the last moment to remain a part of India.
The issue of who “owns” Kashmir became the root cause of the conflict and continues to be so to this day. The nuclear arms issue of recent years has only exacerbated the “Kashmir Problem.”
In 1965, after the second Kashmir war, a “Line of Control” (“LoC”) was established along the cease-fire line, dividing the province. The six million people in the south of the province are now a part of India and administered by the Indian government. The three million people in the north are a part of Pakistan and administered by that government. The two parts have been totally sealed off from each other since the LoC was created.
The purpose of this chapter is to show how, after many years of thinking not once, but many times, “outside the box,” and with patience, perseverance, countless fundraising efforts and cooperation between governments and an NGO, a goal can be achieved that was once thought impossible. I will talk about how IMTD did, after all, get involved in the Kashmir question and how IMTD used a several-pronged approach: utilizing the role of business in peacebuilding; training in negotiation and conflict resolution skills of Azad (Pakistani) Kashmiri; bringing Kashmiri citizens from both sides of the LoC together for training in conflict resolution; and finally, establishing a People’s Bus that allows families who were separated from each other for 57 years to come together. Each of these was an essential phase.
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