July 29, 2016

The Road to Peace in South Asia: Lessons for India and Pakistan from the Arab-Israeli Peace Process. (3rd Edition)

Last updated: September 3, 2008


Moonis Ahmar

Published by Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security (ACDIS), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ACDIS Occasional Paper series
August 1996

Full text [PDF]


The Arab–Israeli peace process has reduced the possibility of another war in the Middle East. For the first time since its inception as a sovereign state Israel is at relative peace with all of its neighbors except Syria and Lebanon. The PLO–Israeli accord has resulted in the granting of self-rule to the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza. Extremist Israeli and Palestinian groups want to reverse the peace process, but they also realize the difficulty of that task. Compared to the Arab–Israeli peace process, in South Asia the Indo–Pakistan standoff on the Kashmir dispute can only worsen the regional security environment. The core of this paper is to examine similarities and differences in the Arab–Israeli and Indo–Pak peace processes and to suggest lessons that New Delhi and Islamabad can learn from the methodology of peace-making in the Middle East.

Both the Arab–Israeli and Indo–Pak conflicts resulted in the outbreak of several international wars, promoted arms races, external intervention and mediation, and the launching of various peace initiatives. Important dissimilarities between the Arab–Israeli and Indo–Pakistan peace processes are the absence of a strong foreign—particularly U.S.—interest in South Asia, the absence of nuclear deterrence in the Middle East, and the presence of a nuclear capability in India and Pakistan. The question of losing time, urgency, and incentives on the part of Israel and Arab countries and the unacceptability of the costs of confrontation by New Delhi and Islamabad also account for differences in the two peace processes.

Yet India and Pakistan can learn several lessons from the Arab–Israeli peace process. These are: the “land for peace” formula as applied in the resolution of Arab–Israeli conflicts; the role of the official elites in Israel and the Arab countries for peace-making; the role of back channel negotiations between Israel and the PLO in Oslo; the presence of mutual stakes for peace for Israel and its Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians; the marginalization of core issues; the emphasis on strengthening direct communication by building mutual confidence and trust; and the effective involvement of influential powers in the peace-making process. If the road to peace in the Middle East has passed through Amman, Cairo, Jerusalem, Oslo, and Washington, in South Asia it must pass through Islamabad, New Delhi, and Srinagar.