The Ottawa Dialogue is a Track Two process involving a distinguished group of retired senior officials and military officers from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and is led by Peter Jones, a professor from uOttawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
The Dialogue has four distinct paths of discussion: India-Pakistan nuclear stability; India-Pakistan conventional military confidence-building measures (CBMs); India-Pakistan maritime confidence-building and cooperation; and a trilateral dialogue between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan on the future of Afghanistan and issues of regional stability. In a recent public statement Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan mentioned this University of Ottawa initiative that facilitates dialogue and debate on the situation in the region.
What are you currently doing in Afghanistan?
Our meeting in Kabul was the first in the newly-launched trilateral India-Pakistan-Afghanistan dialogue. We received briefings from high-level Afghan and international officials on the current situation in the country, and met with President Karzai to receive his views.
We have now selected two issues on which we will have further meetings over the next two years to develop concrete recommendations and proposals. They are: the prospects for regional economic cooperation and ways that Afghanistan’s economy can be assisted in order to help stabilize the country; and how to develop some guidelines concerning the intervention of foreign countries in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
What is the role of the University of Ottawa?
We are the facilitator of the Dialogue. We raise the funds for the discussions, provide the venue, organise and run the meetings. But it is critical that this be a Dialogue of and by the regional participants. They must take the lead in identifying and developing the ideas that we discuss; they must “own” the outcome of the discussions. Otherwise, the work we do would not have credibility in the region.
What are the next steps?
Each of the four dialogues (nuclear, military CBMs, maritime and Afghanistan) is continuing. We have regular meetings several times a year in various locations around the region. We are also looking at ways of doing more public outreach in the region to get our ideas more fully onto the public agenda of the region.
Who funds this work?
The Ottawa Dialogue is supported by the governments of the United States (through the Near East and South Asia Centre at the National Defense University), the Danish Foreign Ministry and other governments. We also receive support from several institutions and foundations including the United States Institute of Peace and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. On the military CBMs dialogue, we partner with the Atlantic Council in Washington.
On the maritime dialogue we partner with David Griffiths at the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax. And, of course, the University of Ottawa itself supports the Dialogue by paying my salary and providing significant administrative support.