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Talking to the Enemy: Track Two Diplomacy in the Middle East and South Asia


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How do adversaries manage to sit down and talk about long-standing conflicts while violence and mistrust continue to define their security relations? While official diplomatic communications are the obvious way for adversaries to talk, unofficial policy discourse, or track two diplomacy, is an increasingly important part of the changing international security landscape. Private foundations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), universities, and governmentsmostly based in the Westhave devoted significant financial and human resources to track two dialogues. What has been the payoff? The experiences of the Middle East and South Asia suggest that track two regional security dialogues rarely lead to dramatic policy shifts or the resolution of long-standing conflicts. But they have played a significant role in shaping the views, attitudes, and knowledge of elites, both civilian and military, and in some instances have begun to affect security policy. However, any notable influence on policy from such efforts is likely to be long-term, due to the nature of the activity and the constraints of carrying out such discussions in regions vastly different from the West.



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