"Both Palestine and Kashmir are important flashpoints in the world today," writes the editor of this Ford Foundation-sponsored project whose very existence reflects the fact that, at the height of the "Oslo process," some academics hoped Arab-Israeli diplomacy could provide a useful model for resolving other protracted conflicts.
In this edited work, Pakistani scholar Ahmar and his authors make a sincere attempt to appreciate the two dilemmas, making the volume interesting and useful, though the idea of looking to Oslo for answers to the Indo-Pakistani conflict was far-fetched even before the Oslo process itself fell into shambles. Egyptian scholar Ibrahim Arafat rightly warns of the danger of applying "the universality" of the Middle East to other regional conflicts. Not only are all conflicts unique in their own ways, none of them have the deep-rooted distrust and animosity that the principal Middle East players generate towards one another. Moreover, even if one were to agree with the universality of the Oslo process, the execution of this idea leaves something to be desired.
What does one make of the observation by Pakistani scholar Maqsoodul Hasan Nuri that confidence-building measures in the Middle East have a "better track record" than in South Asia? Or the partisan account of Walid Kazziha, who attributes the failure of the Israeli-Syrian talks "mainly to lack of persistence and perseverance on the part of [Yitzhak] Rabin and later on [Shimon] Peres"? These comments, unfortunately, typify much of the study's substance. Then there is the fact of editor Ahmar's unwillingness to visit Israel for a first-hand account of the "successes" of the Oslo process, revealing the inherent limitations of a project wherein politics trump academics.