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Diplomacy and International Governance Students Meet Conciliation Resources Practitioner to Discuss Conflict and Peace in Jammu and Kashmir

5 December 2019

4 mins

Last week, students from the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance at Loughborough University London met Tahir Aziz, South Asia Programme Director at Conciliation Resources.

Conciliation Resources are an international non-governmental organisation with over 25 years’ of experience in working in various parts of the world towards bringing conflict transformation and lasting peace. As part of the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance teaching, students discussed Conciliation Resources’ approach to peace-building and explored the protracted conflict in Jammu and Kashmir as part of a session entitled NGO Involvement in Peace-building: The Case of Kashmir

Tahir was invited to deliver the lecture-seminar as part of a wider Institute commitment to offer teaching and learning experiences that bring into contact academic theory/scholarship with practitioner insights: this allows students to appreciate the complexities, tensions, and complementarity involved; and to get an immediate encounter and hands-on experience with practitioners in the field.    

Designed specifically for our MSc Security, Peace-building and Diplomacy students, they heard about Conciliation Resources’ vision for creative and sustainable paths to peace, including their approach based on “learning without preconceptions” and their Accompaniment Model fostering partnership and trust-building with local organisations and groups; and creating space for the inclusion of marginalised groups such as women, displaced people, ex-combatants and youth. Students critically reflected on some of the challenges and difficulties involved in the adopted approaches and beyond, including ethical and strategic dilemmas.

This was further enhanced through a discussion of both the approach and the challenges based on the case study of Conciliation Resources’ work in the regions of Jammu and Kashmir. Our Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance students reflected on the intricacies of the conflict – its prehistory, wider regional dynamics, and most recent escalation – and heard about various projects by Conciliation Resources towards inclusion of otherwise excluded groups in community-level processes; organising of informal dialogues among officials, civil society and others at the local level; as well as towards confidence-building measures across the Line of Control. The latter measures have aimed to allow ordinary Kashmiris to maintain ties across the divide that has split families, disrupted trade and deepened mistrust. The analytical and empirical challenge for the students was to grapple with the difficulties of building and maintaining such process especially in times when the formal peace negotiations between the governments of India and Pakistan have been facing stalemates or disrupted.

An especially poignant means for the students to get insight both into the painful human impact of the decades-long conflict and into some of the confidence-building projects was to watch two short films:  “A Journey through River Vitasta” made by local journalists from either side of the divide, part of the Conciliation Resources project Dialogue Through Film and Media; and an award winning film depicting the organisation’s Trading for Peace initiative.

Many of the issues raised around the case study resonated closely with the themes, concepts and most recent theoretical and practitioner debates students had covered in lectures and seminars as part of the Security, Peace-building and Diplomacy programme. Some of these were on the diversity of actors on the ground; the “local turn” in peace-building; on inclusion/exclusion in peace process; reconciliation; on the possibilities of “hybrid” peace and contextually-sensitive approaches. Students had the opportunity to reflect on these and make connections. They concluded the session by taking away a task by Tahir: to attempt to think/write about how they’d position themselves as involved actors in a protracted conflict in ways that recognise both the most strenuous dilemmas and build on existing, or conceive new, hope-inspiring opportunities.

The session proved to be a beneficial experience of learning and exchange, and brought a fresh new insight to our students into the complexities of peace practitioners’ work on the ground.

The MSc Security, Peace-building and Diplomacy programme explores the link between national and global security and the role of peace-building in developing multi-layered communities and nations. You may find out more on it and other Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance programmes on our website.

Conciliation Resources is an international organisation committed to stopping violent conflict and creating more peaceful societies. Since 1994, it has worked in various regions of the world to bring people together to find creative and sustainable paths to peace.

Tahir Aziz is the South Asia Programme Director at Conciliation Resources. In the past, he has worked as Senior Associate with the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, Washington DC; Director of the Human Rights Commission of the Government of Pakistan–administered Kashmir; and Visiting Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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