CR Challenges 1
Diverse Challenges to Conflict Resolution: A Gandhian
1. Anurag Gangal
Director, Gandhian Centre for
Peace and Conflict Studies (GCPCS),
University of Jammu, Jammu-18006,
Jammu and Kashmir, India.
2. Renu Gangal,
Atman College of Education,
University of Jammu, Jammu-180006,
Jammu and Kashmir, India.
Long established methods of conflict management, conflict resolution and conflict
transformation are mostly arising from a present day context of a sheer helplessness in
view of numerous national, regional, international and global conflicts and challenges to
peace and “prosperity”. The Gandhian nonviolence, on the other hand, is such an area of
managing, resolving and transforming diverse types of conflicts that it starts not from
helplessness but from courage of conviction and essential belief in the caressing power of
nonviolence. The essence of the matter here is what Gandhi said and wrote – under his
signature -- immediately after his Dandi March against the Salt Tax Law on 05 April
1930: “I want world sympathy in this battle of right against might.”
Conflict resolution stands mid-way between conflict management and conflict
transformation in international politics. Conflict resolution, by definition, is a diplomatic
and broadly nonviolent exercise. However, the intent behind most of the conflict
resolution attempts at international levels need not necessarily be nonviolent in nature. It
is here one is reminded of Mohandas Karmachanda Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi.
Mahatma Gandhi regards nonviolence as the main approach to resolution of nearly every
type of conflict among nations, races and human beings. Gandhi wants to resolve
conflicts for welfare of all through requestful persistence and perseverance or Stayagraha
for Sarvodaya. This Gandhian orientation is a major, among others, challenge to the
globally ongoing process of conflict resolution.
Existing System: Major purpose of this piece or article is to point out merely various
limitations of the modern conflict resolution machinery and established practices within
the given ambit of prescribed space and policy. Existing system of conflict resolution
appears to be too distant from deeper nuances of conflicts. These include such aspects as
unique and peculiar area, locality and culture specific dimensions amongst the involved
parties to a conflict. For example, in India – Pakistan conflict, short term and long term
vested interests and human psyche of the people and political elites have seldom been
taken into account in any conflict resolution venture. Even so-called confidence building
measures (CBMs) are also somewhat superficially hyped about with all ice-creams,
sweet-limes, rare wines and crowd-collecting cultural gatherings where only those are
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able to come who form an elite – and thus, they have generally remained away from the
realities and pains of more recent and emerging as well as prolonged conflicts.
Hundreds of Ways of Conflict Resolution: There are at least about 250 ways of conflict
resolution. Quite a few recent editions / publications have enlisted these methods. For
instance, among others, Gene Sharp and Joan V. Bondurant have written extensively in
this matter (Sharp, 1973; Bondurant, 1988). There is, among several others, also a very
comprehensive conflict resolution portal – extremely informative and very dependable.
Malaviya Centre for Peace Research is yet another institution providing highly useful
information and exercises in applied theory of conflict resolution – with special
orientation towards Afro-Asian and Latin American (AALA) concerns of poorer
2. State of the Art
Conflict Resolution and Canada: In this surging ahead for conflict resolution, Canada
is the only country fully devoted to conflict resolution and building bridges of
understanding among different faiths, cultures and sovereign nations. Be it Sri Lankan
Crisis, victims of landmines, political asylum to persons with danger to their life or
cooperation with United Nations and University of Peace etcetera – Canada and its
citizens are doing a lot for resolving conflicts -- showing the world the path to peace and
prosperity. All other nations keep on indulging in different types of wars and conflicts
alongside their efforts towards conflict resolution. But Canada does not appear to have
such widespread and grossly manipulative double standards. This is, indeed, a commonly
known fact in international political circles.
Diversity: Conflicts, disputes, proxy wars, wars, guerrilla warfare, cyber warfare,
terrorism, militancy, insurgency, drugs and armaments’ trade mafia and ecological
degradation among nations pose greatest threats to prospects of conflict resolution today.
Related to these is also the question of violation of human rights in different ways. This
further leads to infliction of diverse injustices specially on weaker sections of this
About 41 major and perpetual conflicts are on in the world today in the form of wars,
terrorism, civil wars, insurgency, and sporadic occasional violence etcetera. These
conflicts are there mainly in 33 countries of Asia, Africa, America and Europe –
including North America, Latin America, West Europe, West Asia and Central Asia
(globalsecurity.org, 2009). If we look deeper into these countries and their conflicts (as
mentioned above), it will be easy to find that most of the major racial, ethnic, language
related and perennial religious conflicts have not found their way into the common
categorization and listing of conflicts. Therefore, in reality, the world is facing at least
estimated 300 different and sustained conflicts of serious nature. Every country is having
at least – on an average – one and a half conflicts of different type.
From a Gandhian perspective, every conflict must, however, be treated as yet another
opportunity for positive conflict resolution with the help of a few select techniques from
among the available nearly 250 methods. One thing must be very clear. Waging war and
finally winning it just cannot be regarded as a method of resolving a conflict. Crushing a
revolt is also not a method of conflict resolution. Any method not in line with a “civil
society” is not to be regarded as a way of resolving conflict. Conflict Resolution is
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primarily a nonviolent civilian way of solving a conflictual tangle. Otherwise, no conflict
in the world can ever be solved.
There are quite a few common and established ways of resolving conflicts especially
among nations on international plane. On the social and interpersonal levels, the law of
the land and diverse pulls, pressures and communication options – formal and informal –
constitute various methods of resolving conflicts. Governmental, non-governmental and
semi-governmental channels of nine tracks of diplomacy also comprise this list.
Set standards and roadmap to conflict resolution through negotiation, mediation,
arbitration, and adjudication are not new to this world. These established methods and
ways of conflict resolution do not suffice in view of present-day international, common
global, regional and other local challenges and conflicts. See, for instance, conflicts in
Africa, Asia and Latin-America. West-Asian, Central Asian, South-West Asian
conflictual field is different from what can be seen in Latin-America and in Africa (minus
South Africa). Moreover, conflicts in United States, Canada and European Countries
(minus Turkey) are quite similar. Yet their range, intensity circumstances differ a lot.
Conflicts in Turkey, South Africa and Italy are entirely different not only from one
another but also from any other country of the world. There are also some conflicts that
are very much built into the modern systems of efficiency and excellence! These conflicts
emerge from prolonged personal and institutional tensions and depressions. Social,
cultural, political and economic ethos is of great significance in understanding and
Whither Conflict Resolution: Therefore, merely having and applying a ‘given and set’
system of conflict resolution will not be able to do much in the face of mundane and
varied problems such as ‘Islamism’ (and not Islam), Ethnicity, Racialism, Linguistic
conflicts, Jews and Palestinian tangle, India-Pakistan conflicts, Terrorism, prolonged
religion oriented cleavages, socio-political threats emerging from modern technology and
‘modernity’, environmental and ecological hazards, degeneration of values in society
combined with other international conflicts relating to territorial disagreements etcetera.
These conflicts and challenges alongwith questions of poverty, starvation, continued and
extended population explosion, proliferation of armaments, widespread pollution of air,
water and soil, increasing unemployment, deep-rooted corruption, massive illiteracy, and
armaments’ trading global and national nexus further require more thoughtful conflict
resolution modus operandi or ever new modes of conflict resolution.
Conflict Resolution and Globalization: A new thinking has to go into this – away from
vested interests of current type. Real vested interest that must go into evolving this
innovative global plan must be resolution of conflicts in a better and more sustained way.
Otherwise, the ongoing process of globalization will also not succeed – for obvious
reasons of prevailing conflicts in the world. Existing conflicts keep generating divisive
impetus and forces among nations and people alike. This trend has to be stopped or at
least creatively impeded through proportionate digression and productive regeneration
towards global and federated unification. As such, conflict management, resolution and
transformation must work together in a coordinated way. Application of conflict
resolution methods needs wider people to people transnational active participation and
continued interaction. It must not remain nearly an exclusive domain of academic
experts, political negotiators, and diplomatic officers only. Otherwise, conflicts and their
resolution will make possibilities of peace ever more conflictual through their
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methodological and technical expertise quite away form realities of conflicts. Indubitably,
methods and technical profundity is required absolutely. This knowledge must, however,
percolate down to every common person. That is how things have to be planned for
future. This, indeed, is a field of international and global policy making. Even the
exercise of theory building in conflict resolution has to be more exhaustive,
comprehensive and all inclusive democratically and voluntarily. Establishment of
democracy in every country has to be a real universal truth for conflict resolution to
succeed. The present-day process of globalization also necessacitates a primarily “border-
less and conflict-free world” for the emergence of a global civil society. This is a pre-
qualification of a globalized world. Prolonged conflicts hamper good governance,
excellence and efficiency – so necessary for globalization through free flow of interactive
information, goods, technology and efforts of people. The essence of globalization is seen
in a nonviolent and largely peaceful world. Conflict resolution and globalization are
mutually interdependent and closely linked to one another. These two are so much
intertwined that they march forward together.
2.1 Literature Review
Conflict “Provention”: In the seriously conflict ridden areas, meaningful activities
relating to agriculture, food production, employment opportunities, technological
development etcetera become, as it were, “out of bounds” for the concerned population
and inhabitants. Multiple regions with such anarchistic conflicts are not difficult to see
especially in Africa, Southeast Asia, West Asia and Central Asia etcetera. Such regions
of conflicts and pockets are living examples of “Hell on Earth!” Future “Hells” on Earth
must, however, be discouraged and not pampered in any way what so ever.
There are several ways. This is also possible through John Burton’s “provention” and
proactive prevention of prospective conflicts (Burton, 1990; Burton and Dukes, 1990. For
Burton, provention (not merely prevention) includes better education from the time of
early school days in understanding causes of conflicts. A well groomed culture of conflict
resolution is, therefore, needed in the global civil society today. The global community of
nations is, however, not giving serious and concerted thought to the need of a ‘well
groomed international system of conflict resolution’. That is why the following type of
dangerous though routine happenings in several countries will keep growing towards
further professionalisation of violence and terrorism in the near future:
Such explosive conflicts are a daily affair in Middle East, Africa and a number of Southeast Asian, Asian
and Latin American Countries
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It is only above photographed type of occurrences that have paved the way to terrorist
attack on the New York Trade Centre. Events of 11 September 2001 are logical corollary
of massive violence and weapons of mass destruction available to the institution of State
and their apparent smuggling and clandestine trade through various channels. How to
relate this challenge of conflict resolution to realities of conflict “provention” and long
In this matter, on the governmental plane in particular, it is mainly the intelligence
agencies’ input and filtered reports that generally form the basis for gathering
information. On this basis, steps and policies are formulated for prevention of conflicts in
future. This by itself is an incomplete exercise. Intelligence gathering is always
insufficient because it is done by professionals who are generally not integral actors and
participants in the concerned conflict. Instead, they are involved, at best, merely as
involuntary duty bound ‘indoctrinated’ observers.
“Clash of Civilizations”: Quite a few authors and noted experts like Samuel P.
Huntington and others have also extended a thesis of clash of civilisations in the twenty-
first century. Huntington says:
It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new
world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great
divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be
cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world
affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between
nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will
be the battle lines of the future (Huntington, 1993).
Indeed, it is not always easy to agree with Huntington. Civilisations do not clash.
Ideology, economy and culture are highly technical terms and they do not entirely
constitute a civilisation. When modern nation-states and globalisation oriented
international politics were not there, ‘civilisations’ still prevailed. The essence of a
civilisation are in the particular ‘way of life’, societal values, ethical ethos, set and
evolved standards of an individual’s character, popular ways and standards of social
entertainment, and preservation, creation and evolution of knowledge (and not so much
of ‘information’) in a given social and political regime. However, the political aspects
are but off-shoots of the essence of civilisation. Therefore, civilisations can never clash.
They are permanent and ever evolving. Yes, they maybe destroyed physically by an
eventuality of the dropping of a nuclear bomb upon them as it nearly happened in the
case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 when about 80,000 living and pulsating
human beings were killed and exhumed into thin air almost instantly. This example is
merely an example of the possibility of annihilation of a civilisation in future especially
in view of maddening 50,000 nuclear arsenals resting with the United States and Russia
minus other nuclear powers today. “Every such warhead has nearly twenty times the
destructive power of the atom bomb dropped at Hiroshima on 06 August 1945” (Gangal,
Conflict resolution will have to be “preventive” and futuristic as well. An autonomous
international authority for conflict resolution on the basis of the ‘principle of a world
federation of nations’ may be created with in the United Nations system functioning
independently. Exclusive task of such an authority must be only conflict resolution in a
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coordinated fashion. Otherwise, civilizations will not clash but they will be completely
destroyed and annihilated.
Gandhian Option: Despite aforesaid explanation and categorisation of conflicts and
their resolution, most of the conflicts may be broadly divided into eleven types to further
understand the Gandhian perspective on conflict resolution.
These types of conflict requiring timely resolution are (although such a list can never be
exhaustive): i) intra-personal conflict, ii) interpersonal conflict, iii) group conflict, iv)
organizational conflict, v) community conflict, vi) intra-state conflict, vii) inter-state
conflict, viii) international conflict, ix) global conflicts, x) regional conflicts, xi)
“communal” or conflicts between different religions, xii) racial conflicts.
For resolving these conflicts, several diplomatic tracks are also already there. As regards
quite a few apparent and friendly conflicts between United States (US) and India, Track 6
diplomacy is also proving to be highly fruitful for evolving short-term and long-term
relationship of growing commitment and mutual faith.
As it is generally known, there are currently nine tracks of diplomacy recognised more
widely, namely, i) government to government, ii) unofficial policy oriented non-
governmental exchanges, iii) businessman to businessman, iv) citizen to citizen exchange
programmes of all kinds, v) media to media based efforts and exchanges, vi) religion, vii)
activism, viii) research, ix) training, and education.
All these methods of conflict resolution are also highly dynamic. These are being applied
widely for several years now. The present day conflict resolution methods are, however,
not really so nonviolent for they arise from an intense interest based orientation of
cooperation and ever more cooperation out of a mutual assured fear among nations and
Nonviolence of the Gandhian order, on the other hand, does not suffer from such a, as it
were, cliché. Therefore, what is the harm if this approach is also developed alongside
other prevalent ways of conflict resolution? Nonviolence is also highly free from any
religious bias in nature inasmuch as it is presently coming from a secular mind of Gandhi
who is regarded as an undisputed leader not only the downtrodden but also of the saner
minds in the world.
The need is to make experiments with an open mind and objective scientific outlook.
Gandhi had this faith in social and political experimentation. A positively practical
attitude to evolution of ever new avenues and vistas of knowledge must never be put
There are quite a few masterly works by Gandhi and his commentators anent his views
on conflict resolution, discipline, life style, political, military and economic
decentralisation, stateless society, development, peace and a federation of nations leading
to security, i.e., social, military, political, legal, economic and ecological etcetera: M. K.
Gandhi, Nonviolence in Peace and War, Volume – I, Navajivan Publishing House,
Ahmedabad, Third Edition, 1948; M. K. Gandhi, Nonviolence in Peace and War, Volume
– II, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, First Edition, 1949; Gopinath Dhawan’s
The Political Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad,
1957; H. J. N. Horsburg’s Nonviolence and Aggression: A Study of Gandhi’s Moral
Equivalent of War, OUP, London, 1968; S. C. Gangal’s Gandhian Thought and
Techniques in the Modern World, Criterion Publications, 1988; Joan Bondurant’s
Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict, Princeton, 1958; Johan
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Galtung’s “A Gandhian Theory of Conflict”, in David Selbourne (Ed.), In Theory and
Practice: Essays on the Politics of Jayaprakash Narayan, OUP, New Delhi, 1985; Gene
Sharp’s Gandhi as Political Strategist: With Essays on Ethics and Politics, Boston, 1979
and Mark Juergensmeyer’s “Gandhi vs. Terrorism” in Daedalus, Vol.136, No.1, 2007,
These studies, among others, point understandably to a Gandhian security and peace
strategy comprising three concentric and systemic spheres or circles leading to a securer
Gandhian Model Projection
Human relations are not hierarchical, horizontal, vertical and pyramidal. They are
spherical and ocean like. It is perennial process. Each thought and act interacts from
within and without. This is an endless mutually interwoven melting of one into another.
Moving to and from one to another. Inner energies must be provided creative outlet not
only for all purposes but also for defence policy, security network and foreign policy etc.
On the basis of the above mentioned Gandhian perspective, an inherent formulation for
foreign policy and relations among nations and communities may be drawn here:
Gandhi’s Conflict Resolution, Reduction and Prevention Projection
These spheres, in an international perspective, represent:
A country’s immediate neighbours as immediate sphere.
Other poor, less developed, underdeveloped, developing and smaller countries
like India are in the mid sphere.
Bigger, more developed, developed, militarily and otherwise very powerful great
powers or superpower countries constituting the outer sphere.
As Gandhi says, in this global conflict reduction security buffer design, there will be:
…ever widening, never ascending circles. Life will not be a pyramid with
the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose
centre will be the individual always ready to perish for the village, the
later for the circle of villages, till the last … becomes one life composed of
individuals, never aggressive in their arrogance but ever humble, sharing
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the majesty of the oceanic circle of which they are integral parts.
Therefore, the outermost circumference will not wield the power to crush
the inner circle but will give strength to all within and derive its own
strength from it… No one… [will] be the first and none the last (Pyarelal,
Utmost priority, apparently, is to be given to good understanding and relations with
immediate neighbours like Pakistan for India among others. A holistic security climate
has to be expanded from the inner most circle of neighbours and beyond. That is how
three broad conflict reduction security buffer spheres may be created through very
friendly relations based on utter mutual faith and nonviolence.
In the absence of a general belief in the power of nonviolence and love, i.e., truth, this
pattern must still be strengthened despite continuing armaments race and “overkill”
capacities of WMDs or nuclear, biological and chemical (NBCs) weapons. These
weapons cannot provide us security inasmuch as they are there for mutual massive
destruction and spreading terror. These weapons do not defend us. They are meant to kill
during wars and terrorise during peacetime. About thirty countries already possess these
WMDs. Anti-tank nuclear bullets are also in use. Nearly 100, 000 nuclear bombs are also
there among these states. United States and Russia alone share more than half of this
arsenal (Hogendoorn, 1997).
Only less than an iota of present-day stockpiles of armaments was there in Gandhi’s time.
Practical-idealism of Gandhi emerges even more clearly when he says in this context:
It [nonviolence] is of universal applicability. Nevertheless, perfect
nonviolence, like Absolute Truth, must forever remain beyond our reach
Perfect nonviolence is impossible so long as we exist physically, for we
would want some space at least to occupy. Perfect nonviolence whilst you
are inhabiting the body is only a theory like Euclid’s point or straight line,
but we have to endeavour every moment of our lives (Harijan, 1940).
This impossibility of “perfect nonviolence” does not prevent an initiative in this
direction. As long as there is absence of general, fundamental, practical and political
belief in the efficacy of nonviolence as a way of life, till then at least a Nonviolent
National Defence Army, Navy and Air Force can be evolved on Gandhian lines of
nonviolent spirit and nonviolence of the brave. This nonviolent national defence system
can work alongside existing defence forces in every country.
What more is needed today concerns not so much the conflict resolution outlook for
Gandhi. It is the conflict reduction, conflict prevention, nonviolent perception, action, and
Gandhian nonviolent foreign and defence policy orientation among nations.
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Bondurant, Joan V. (1988) Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict,
Princeton University Press, New Jersey, pp. 36-104.
Burton, John, (1990). Conflict: Resolution and Provention, New York, St. Martin's
Burton, John and Dukes, Frank, (1990). Conflict: Practices in Management, Settlement
& Resolution, St. Martin's Press, New York, especially Chapter 20.
Gandhi, M.K. (1936). Harijan, 05 September, p. 236.
Gandhi, M.K. (1940). Harijan, 21 July, p. 211.
Gangal, S.C. (1988). Gandhian Thought and Techniques in the Modern World, Criterion,
New Delhi, pp.14 -15.
Hogendoorn, E.J. (1997). A Chemical Weapons Atlas, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
September/October, Vol. 53, No. 5.
Huntington, Samuel P., (1993). “The Clash of Civilisations?”, Foreign Affairs.
Pyarelal, (1958). Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase, Ahmedabad, Navajivan Publishing
House, Volume – II, pp. 580 – 581.
Schelling, T. (1996). “The Diplomacy of Violence”, in R. Art and R. Jervis, Editors,
(1996). International Politics, fourth edition, Harper Collins, New York, pp. 168 – 182.
Sharp, Gene, (1973). The Methods of Nonviolent Action, Porter Sargent, Boston, pp. 60-