By India Ink Staff

Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy earlier this semester arranged a multilateral negotiation simulation around the Kashmir conflict. The diplomacy game was modeled on a case designed by the US Naval Academy and involved China, USA, UK and Russia in addition to the usual players: India, Pakistan and Kashmiri representatives. In the lead up to the exercise, Mr. James Seevers, Director of Studies and Training and SFS Curricular Dean Anna Steinhelper organised a number of preparatory sessions for participating undergraduates. In addition to the preparation packet, students were required to read Sumantra Bose’s authoritative Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Pathways to Peace to gain an understanding of situation. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, also lectured students about his experiences in government dealing with this particular conflict in addition to explaining students larger dynamics at play at such multilateral negotiation summits. On the day of the conference, the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy had numerous accomplished scholars and fellows with government experience to oversee the process, guiding students to retain professionalism thereby giving the exercise an authentic edge.

Below are a few extracts from participating students, organisers and fellows with regard to their negotiation experience:


Katharine Nanavatty, Simulation Moderator, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, US Foreign Service Officer

“Student negotiators in the Kashmir simulation conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism and demonstrated outstanding negotiation skills. Along with other members of the Institute for the Student of Diplomacy, I was highly impressed by the students’ strategic approach, pursuing bilateral and multilateral partnerships to advance their country’s interests. Teams pursued various negotiating methods as well as various statecraft tools to affect outcomes - from public messaging to more coercive approaches, such as targeted sanctions. While the simulation revealed just how intractable these longstanding conflicts can be, the negotiators made distinct progress.  The conduct of the student negotiators engendered great faith in the negotiators and global leaders of the next generation.” 


Gabriele de Leva, 4th Year Student, School of Foreign Service

The widely accepted notion that negotiations gain an advantage if carried out multilaterally, found little empirical support. The presence of China, Russia, U.S., U.K. and PDP (as sole representatives of a united Kashmir) withheld the potential of achieving a more comprehensive set of agreements. However, the multitude of actors played a major role in hindering the advancement of the talks. In spite of the extremely delicate role they were invested with, third-party players engaged in discussions lacking a sense of both urgency and clarity. Moreover we learnt that as long as each third-party acts exclusively in its primary interest, very little will change in the foreseeable future. Questions about autonomy and the humanitarian crisis in Kashmir did not rank among the priorities of any external actor. Had all actors looked beyond the first point of their national agenda, the issue of providing humanitarian aid to disaster-affected regions would probably have been solved, setting a positive precedent for future talks.

The simulation highlighted the controversy of another main concept: every peace talk must include the Kashmiri representation (which in the present case was the PDP to simplify matters, whereas in reality it’s a tall order to present a united Kashmiri representative front given the numerous factions). Indeed, there is a feeling that the self-rule condition advocated by the Kashmiri representatives could represent a viable solution to the conflict. However, the negotiation practice pointed out two major obstacles. First, the only point on which India and Pakistan agree on is to prevent any form of autonomy or self-rule of the Jammu Kashmir region. Second, the PDP, in the present case still lacks the authority and power to fully represent the inhabitants of the region and their political will. Therefore the most important learning from the exercise was that the Kashmiri representatives first need to come to agreeable terms, only then that a larger multinational agreement can be effective.  


Diana Heldfond, 3rd Year Student, School of Foreign Service

The Kashmir simulation was an eye-opening glimpse into the complexities of the decades old territorial dispute in Kashmir. As a member of the Pakistani delegation, our team experienced many difficulties negotiating on the international stage. It was clear that any means of achieving peace in the region needed to be multinational, but I was surprised to find that our most successful meeting all day was a bilateral conversation with India. In many cases, the various countries that made up the international community in this simulation were not able to put aside their own economic and political interests to help us sincerely solve the conflict at hand. Consequently, these many conflicting interests and motivations lead to a very unsuccessful negotiating environment and highlighted the many intricacies of the Kashmir dispute. Moreover, even when we found common ground with certain countries in our goals, many times those countries could not cooperate with each other. Ultimately, the outcome of this simulation was similar to outcome of many talks that have taken place around the Kashmir issue in the past. Due to the number of parties who have a vested interest in the land of Kashmir and the subsequent long list of demands from each side, it does not seem that there is an solution that fits everyone’s needs.