When official talks between rival nations or groups reach a stalemate, discrete discussions between retired senior diplomats, former military chiefs and other influential people can offer new solutions. That’s why University of Ottawa Faculty of Social Sciences professor Peter Jones regularly travels the world staging such meetings between former foes, a process known as Track Two diplomacy.
An expert on security in the Middle East and South Asia, and also a leading expert on Track Two itself, Jones is project director of the Ottawa Dialogue, a series of projects that aim to improve stability and communication in South Asia. Jones says dialogue builds trust and generates new ideas. In time, these ideas can influence government leaders.
The Ottawa Dialogue involves some 70 participants, many of whom once held positions of power and still have the ears of their successors. “We try to feed our ideas into the process quietly,” says Jones. “In order to succeed, the confidentiality of the Track Two process has to be respected.”
Last year, one project, the Nuclear Dialogue, agreed on a set of Elements of Strategic Stability in South Asia, proposed steps to ease nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan. Other projects include a dialogue between retired senior intelligence officials from India and Pakistan, which has led to a series of agreed papers on relations between the two countries, and the India-Pakistan-Afghanistan Dialogue, which is examining ways to achieve economic and political stability among the three countries.