During the 1990s, the former Soviet Republic of Moldova experienced severe internal conflict. Having been part of a territory which was part of a country/block involved in the Cold War, and obviously being situated in the vicinity of Europe, conflict in Moldova attracted much international attention and worry and was therefore focus of a series of problem-solving workshops. Immediately before and after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Romanian majority living in Moldova adopted language and other laws that alienated ethnic minorities, particularly the Slavic (Russian and Ukrainian) peoples, who constituted the majority in the Transniestria region. Shortly after Moldova declared independence, armed conflict ensued. But as it was happening in a very sensitive region, the international community wouldn’t remain a mute bystander as it chooses to be in so many other conflicts across the world. The armed insurgency was soon controlled by the Russian troops and then a multinational peacekeeping force.
Before the ceasefire in July 1992, people of the region were worried. More than anything else they felt they need to find a way out of the conflict – something that would help them get rid of the mutual hatreds plaguing their societies and the country so that people live in peace to think of and take care of other developmental needs. This is where Centre for Conflict Analyses of the University of Kent came in to help plan a conflict resolution intervention.
With the support of the political leaderships of Moldova and Transniestria, three major problem-solving workshops were held in the 1994-96 period. These workshops specifically brought together political advisors, parliamentarians, government officials, and members of negotiating teams working for a constitutional solution – all in an unofficial capacity. These workshops were devoted primarily to conflict analyses whereby the third-party team of experts from the University of Kent and elsewhere only asked pertinent questions they had intelligently tailored, and carefully identified the important themes from the discussions in order to help the participants and the parties to gain a deeper understanding of each-other’s perspectives, concerns and preferred directions towards resolution.
The challenge was to develop a “shared vision” as to how the two entities could exist in a common political community. The later workshops in the series focused on the constitutional options that could provide a mutually acceptable basis for reintegration. Although parties remained committed to a peaceful resolution of their conflict, the interplay of political, economic, and identity issues made it difficult to find one.
Now there is a lot Jammu and Kashmir can draw from this experience. Leave aside the larger political questions concerning the state, like in Moldova there are so many other issues between the regions that have a potential of tearing apart this state for worse. For instance, the differences between political beliefs and expectations in Srinagar and New Delhi over diametrically opposite views and political stances on the important issues concerning the state are thwarting even the normal governance processes, not to speak of progress and development. Now all this is certainly not a healthy development, neither for the governments nor for the state and its people. May be it’s time to think of some kind of conflict analyses and other such exercises involving different political actors of three regions of Jammu and Kashmir. This suggestion may seem more of a taunt than a serious counsel, but it surely is worth mulling. It may not help do away with the internal differences or may be it does, but at least it could put the state and its political leadership on a path to work out a “shared vision” for the state — how to continue exist in a common political community! And if not much, such an experience would surely help avert the possible friction the interplay of political, economic, and identity issues are creating between the different regions and their peoples and which various parties are only trying to exploit for their political benefits.