Betraying Mountbatten's spirit.

 
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Byline: Jawed Naqvi

IT was an illuminating discussion between different factions from across the Irish fault lines at Yale University last month, which may hold useful lessons for warring sides elsewhere. The charged debate including between those whose politics once accepted the killing of each other as legitimate was markedly civil.

Can the Afghan Taliban sit across the table with the current rulers in Kabul, I wondered. The mind travelled also to the embattled Kashmiris; the Sikhs fighting for Khalistan; the Maoists and their state-backed detractors in Chhattisgarh; the decades-old rebellion in India's northeast; Muslim extremists in Pakistan and elsewhere, to their Aliberal or secular quarries too. I also thought of Patrice Lumumba's fratricidal Congo. The complex skein of the Middle East conflict came to mind with Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Palestine caught in a perennially haemorrhaging bind.

I met former US Senator George Mitchell at the conference, the man who crafted the Good Friday Agreement. The agreement largely halted (if not completely ended) decades of bloodletting between Irish partisans 20 years ago.

I asked Mr Mitchell whether the Kashmir conflict could be similarly resolved with the help of neutral benefactors. He would love to consider that, but India does not agree to third-party intervention. I said India's post-independence history is littered with useful foreign interventions, mostly overtly. And in any case, the Kashmir issue was still essentially one of the bloodier conflicts lying unresolved in the vaults of the UN Security Council.

The Good Friday Agreement provides a significant precedent for how seemingly intractable standoffs could be resolved.

The 1965 war with Pakistan ended in an agreement in Tashkent, not without the active help of the Soviet Union; and the 1971 India-Pakistan conflict would have been a different story without the defence treaty Indira Gandhi signed with Moscow.

More recently, the Kargil spiral was tamed with the active help of Bill Clinton. Should anyone see it as an exaggerated claim, they could study the speech the former US president delivered to the Indian parliament. He claimed credit for ending the military campaign, while the Indian MPs applauded. The Indus Waters Treaty works because it stands mediated by the World Bank. That's a whole lot more third-party interventions than the Irish conflict provisioned for.

What struck me at the Yale meet was the civility, as distinct from...

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