In response to the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, which has the potential to disturb the regional strategic environment, several countries have offered to mediate between these sub-continental neighbours.
China is the latest country to offer its good offices. On 7 March 2019, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said Beijing was willing to play a “constructive role” between India and Pakistan. Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on 28 February 2019 remarked, “If they want this, then of course.” Moscow did play an intermediary role in 1966 at Tashkent. Besides the United States, Iran, Luxemburg, and Norway have all agreed to intervene between India and Pakistan.
The Best Mediator Country for India and Pakistan? Norway
Among these candidate countries, Norway appears to be the best choice, if New Delhi and Islamabad are inclined to involve a mediator in their dialogue.
Oslo is an old hand at peace-making through mediation, facilitation or intervention.
Norway has, over time, emerged as a ‘peace superpower’ which brokered peace in almost 20 conflicts across the world from Columbia in the West to the Philippines in the East, most noteworthy being the Palestine and Sri Lankan ethnic issues.
The crucial questions that need answers are: despite being a small Scandinavian state, what makes Norway a popular peace-maker? Is the involvement a pure philanthropic exercise or out of national interest?
Historically, Norway Has a Long Tradition of Peace
Over 100,000 Norwegians have participated in 27 UN peacekeeping operations. The first UN Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, was a Norwegian. Importantly, Olso was a founder member of the League of Nations.
Norway’s modern history is devoid of imperialism, and, as a small country, it is not perceived as a threat by any other country.
The country holds independent views on international affairs, which reinforces its impartiality, and its foreign policy has been coherent and consistent despite changes of government in Oslo. Evidently, Norway has experienced leaders and diplomats with expertise in conflict resolution and peace.
Academia in Norway runs prestigious Peace Studies programmes with the most notable one being at the Peace Research Institute Oslo.
Norway’s approach towards peace-making has five features: involvement only on consensual invitation by the parties concerned, impartiality, insistence on parity of status among the mediated parties, humanitarian and development aid as a complement to peace-making, and collaboration with like-minded state and non-state actors.
The last two aspects – Oslo’s ability to combine peace brokering with humanitarian aid to conflict-ridden countries and its dexterity to involve voluntary agencies as partners in the task – is especially unique.
Its policy of ‘no sticks, but carrots’ is more popular than the big powers’ ‘carrot and stick’ policy. It is not a coincidence that Norway is world’s largest per capita aid donor. All these constituted what is famously called ‘Norwegian Model’ of peace-making.
The prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in Oslo annually, has added an extra feather in its peace hat.
Norway, therefore, is a first priority for those who want to establish contacts with their enemies for negotiations.
Norway’s Determination to Broker Peace Not Devoid of Self-Interest
Norwegians’ resilience to stay on in the peace process, despite all odds and criticisms, is a big plus.
For instance, in the Sri Lanka case, Norway went on to facilitate six rounds of talks between the LTTE and Sri Lankan government despite opposition from the Sinhalese hardliners dubbing the facilitators as ‘White Tigers’.
This does not mean that Norway’s peace-making missions are not driven by national interests. For Norway, to be able to broker peace in various conflicts has earned Oslo ‘soft superpower’ status, synonymous with mega moral authority and influence in international affairs.
Though a small power, Norway thinks that it can play a ‘value-added’ role to shape and sustain a liberal international order.
In the process, the small Scandinavian state could hobnob with big powers at any time, otherwise impossible. For instance, Norway’s involvement in conflicts in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and South Sudan had given Oslo direct access to Washington to discuss issues relevant to its own national interests. It is no more ‘a small fish in a big pond’.
Despite Increase of Anti-Immigration Rhetoric, Norway Still Seen As a Peace-Maker
For Norway national security concerns in a globalised era, is yet another factor.
Though most countries’ conflicts are internal, they pose serious threats to regional and global security. For instance, the presence of refugees who migrate from conflicts zones within its borders leads to resentment from rightist forces especially in the West.
Norway has faced the brunt of one such right-wing response in the form of terror attacks in July 2011 that claimed 77 lives. The attacker Anders Behring Breivik claimed without any remorse that his actions though ‘atrocious’ were ‘necessary’ to stop the ‘Islamisation’ of Norway.
Norway has also been witnessing increase in the popularity of right-wing parties like Progress Party raising anti-immigration and anti-Islamic slogans since 2013 polls.
Since then, immigration has become one of the important issues.
Not surprisingly, Progress Party has emerged as the third largest party in Norway and is part of the current coalition government that Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg heads.
Nevertheless, Norway has carved a niche for itself as a relevant ‘peace actor’.
Peace-making has now become a ‘top task of Norway’s foreign policy’ and there is a dedicated department for this role in its foreign office. This gels well with the other three pillars of Norwegian foreign policy: neutrality, moralism and internationalism.
Oslo strongly believes that all conflicts should be resolved not through military means, but through a comprehensive and broad-based political dialogue. This includes integration of gender perspective in dialogues and eventual agreements.
Appreciably, there is a political consensus in Oslo on this conviction that in fact developed as a ‘missionary zeal’.
How Successfully Has Norway Brokered Peace Processes Till Now? "“Close to all the processes we have been involved in, now lie in ruins.” " - Thorbjørn Jagland, former Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs
There are indeed let-downs like Sri Lanka and Philippines raising doubts on the very ‘Norwegian approach’.
But there are success stories like in Mali, Macedonia and Guatemala.
However, irrespective of failures and successes, in all the peace missions, there have been intangible outcomes like bringing the antagonists together, which otherwise would not have happened.
Norway also played a significant role in conflict transformation in those conflicts it got involved as a mediator/facilitator.
This is exactly what is required in the India-Pakistan context: a transformation.
(The author is Associate Professor, Department of International Studies and History, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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