Too Many Cooks Spoil The Broth Of Negotiation
3 December 2003
The Times of India
New Delhi: Third party mediation does not work. That is the message of the latest election results for Northern Ireland 's parliament. The Good Friday agreement brought about through US mediation between the Unionists, who want to be part of the United Kingdom , and the Sinn Fein, the Republicans who want to secede from the UK and become part of the Irish Republic , has now virtually collapsed. Unlike the Kashmir issue - on which India and Pakistan are at odds - in this case the governments of the UK and Ireland are not. Yet Ulster , with 11 parties, could not sustain the Good Friday agreement. In the latest elections, the hardliners on both sides have increased their strength at the expense of moderate parties. The roadmap prescribed by the US president, with the support of the European Union, Russia and the UN, to resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict has also run into trouble since the hardliners are in power in Israel and the influence of the Palestinian Authority on the militant groups is very tenuous. Third party mediation has a chance of success only when there are two contending parties. Such mediation will not succeed where a polity is highly fragmented. In Kashmir , numerous political parties constituting an overwhelming majority of the population operate within a democratic electoral framework. The minority Hurriyat itself has no fewer than 23 factions. All these parties and factions are not consistent in their political orientation, and change these according to the expedient interests of the political leaderships of the day. India and the international community should learn from the Ulster experience and promote on priority a dialogue among the parties on both sides of the Line of Control in Kashmir instead of trying to bring in a third party mediator. The latest Ulster election results, and the current situation in West Asia , clearly prove that the US is not qualified to be a mediator anywhere in the world, least of all in Kashmir .