Peacebuilding, Diversity and Human Security

Led by Jason Miklian

Dec 2013 – Dec 2015

​​This Institutional Collaboration between PRIO and the Malyavia Center for Peace Research (MCPR) in Benaras, India researches Indian peacebuilding efforts through two frames: Managing Diversity: Peacebuilding, Development and Governance, and Indian Discourses and Practices of Non-Violence.

This Institutional Collaboration between PRIO and the Malyavia Center for Peace Research (MCPR) in Benaras, India researches Indian peacebuilding efforts through two frames: Managing Diversity: Peacebuilding, Development and Governance, and Indian Discourses and Practices of Non-Violence. The cooperation aims to explore the relevance of Indian peacebuilding and non-violence beyond the realm of ideas, to their value for contemporary public policy.

This new Institutional Collaboration between PRIO and the Malyavia Center for Peace Research (MCPR) in Benaras, India researches how current Indian peacebuilding efforts are framed both home and abroad, and what these philosophies may suggest for a still-developing 'Indian model' of conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and conflict management. The cooperation aims to explore the relevance of Indian peacebuilding and non-violence beyond the realm of ideas, to assess the viability of these ideas in contemporary public policy, exploring ongoing discussions of the utility and applicability of non-violence and peacebuilding, and the key questions that arise from these debates.

We focus on the experential discourses of peacebuilding, diversity and human security - three intertwined impulses which are central to the tenants of democracy and development. India is an instructive case study to understand how diversity influences peacebuilding and human security. We will assess multiple challenges of peacebuilding and human security in diverse societies, and how promotion of social resilience and strengthening of institutional frameworks may manage diversity. This review may reveal new understandings and better strategies, and revitalise traditional institutions concerned with peacebuilding and adaptation to change. To pursue this research agenda we will engage in two sub-projects, exploring the potential for re-opening Indian paradigms of peaceful coexistence as a contribution to current global and domestic academic and policy discussions on the value of emerging powers in reframing, regionalizing and decentralizing peacebuilding in a multi-polar world.

Managing Diversity: Peacebuilding, Development and Governance

India is among the most diverse societies in the world, with a remarkable religious diversity coupled with enormous linguistic and cultural diversity. The political leadership and constitutional framers in the formative years of independence deliberated on a federal framework that would provide for a unified but culturally diverse nation state, linking equality for the individual with equality for diverse communities. It began with the understanding that equality for the individual requires that different communities within the polity exist as equals. Indian peacebuilding paradigms are now driven by three complementary roles that the country plays: democratic nation, regional hegemon, and emerging power. In order to understand how the latter two roles are formulated, it is necessary to explore how Indian domestic peacebuilding mechanisms are developed, framed and implemented. While many assume that Indian policies are merely reactive to the rapidly changing dynamics of conflict and peace, we suggest that valuable lessons may be drawn from India's experiences with managing diversity within a complex multicultural democracy. Federal decentralization in particular can empower multicultural, diverse mechanisms within India that facilitate the ability of local actors to engage in constructive, durable peacebuilding efforts. This theme focuses on the interactive dynamics that define peacebuilding decision-making strategies for government and local civil society actors. We will also explore how institutional mechanisms of decentralization create, sustain, prevent, or otherwise alter peacebuilding efforts. Our goal is to provide an overview of peacebuilding strategies in India that will shed light on the thematic drivers behind the development of these strategies.

Indian Discourses and Practices of Non-Violence

This project explores how current understandings and applications of non-violence can provide alternative visions of peacebuilding, drawing on the different ways non-violence has been conceptualized by Mahatma Gandhi and his contemporaries. We will also analyse the conceptual ramifications of some of the alternative frameworks like non-alignment, which sought to replace the power-based theorems in international relations. Streams of non-violence and non-violent activism have been mostly relegated to the sideline of academic discourse amid an almost universal salience of realism (and neo-realism) which declares force and violence as legitimate means of national and international policy. Current discourses as reflected in realist security and strategic studies hold that non-violence does not work in the practical realm, and is perhaps even antithetical to conflict resolution. We will explore various tactics of active non-violence and the political dividends they accrue, focusing on Gene Sharp's 146 techniques of non-violent action, known as Civil Based Defence (CBD) in this regard. As the inspiration for several Arab Spring movements, Sharp's work is perhaps the best example of this generation of scholarly work on conflict resolution and peacebuilding finding instrumental instructional value for a real-world audience, encouraging states and citizens to see themselves as allies rather than adversaries, and exploring how the principles and practices of non-violent activism tackle the challenges of structural and cultural violence. By exploring Sharp's work in the Indian context, we can enrich current applications of non-violence and review their potential as realistic alternative visions of peacebuilding.

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