Back  | Next

ARTICLES > PEACE, NON-VIOLENCE & CONFLICT RESOLUTION > Peace Approach : From Gandhi to Galtung and beyond


Peace Approach : From Gandhi to Galtung and beyond

By Dr. Anupama Kaushik

Associate Professor in Political Science

Banasthali University, Rajasthan

Peace can be defined as a two sided concept. On the one hand it implies absence of violence and on the other the presence of positive, harmonious, cooperative relationships. These two aspects are referred to as negative and positive peace. Johan Galtung clarifies that peace research is based on the assumption that peace is as consensual a value as health. He further states that interdisciplinary and multilevel approaches are needed for peace research besides adoption of symmetry. Peace research needs to draw from all corners of the world and in order to understand an issue researcher needs to see it from either side but the solution should not be based on the assumptions of one party alone. No party should be allowed to prevail over the other. Solutions should be found from which both parties might benefit. Findings should be symmetrically available. Peace research should be open in all its phases, never clandestine, never classified. Galtung also opines that for peace research most modern techniques of empirical study should be used. Data should be collected, processed, analyzed and systematized into theories so as to provide a deeper understanding of the nature of conflict and that of peace. Last but not the least is the relevance of the research. Research should help in realization of peace. A researcher should not stop by ending a research project with policy implication but should get involved into concrete action by making propaganda among intellectuals and public; persuading establishment into action and challenging the monopoly of decision makers.1 Thus the scope of peace research is very wide. It covers the efforts for understanding of conditions that may prevent violence and also steps necessary for creation of conditions for furtherance of harmonious relations.2 Peace research recognizes that people as people are not always peace loving. Often governments are prodded on by an angry nation but more commonly governments share their nation’s idiosyncrasies and they even find it useful to play them up in order to have backing for their rule and policies. In other words irrational nationalism is deeply enshrined in people’s feelings about themselves and other people.3 In order to eliminate conflicts ways are to be devised to prevent misconceptions.4

Conflict consists of three components: incompatibility, action and actors. It is a situation in which a minimum of two actors strive to acquire at the same moment in time an available set of scarce resources. Examples of extreme conflicts are war, systematic repression, sexual and domestic violence, totalitarianism and genocide. In conflict both the parties want to win but that often is not possible or does not resolve the conflict completely and permanently.

Conflict Resolution is a social situation where the armed conflicting parties in a voluntary agreement resolve to peacefully live with- and/ or dissolve their basic incompatibilities and henceforth cease to use arms against one another. Thus conflict is transformed from violent to non- violent behaviour by parties. In theory there are seven distinct ways in which the parties can live with or dissolve their incompatibility. First, a party may change its goal i.e. its priorities. Second way is when parties stick to their goals but find a point at which resources can be divided. Third way is horse trading in which one side has all of its demands met on one issue while the other has all of its goals met on another issue. Forth way is shared control. Fifth way is to leave control to somebody else and sixth way is resorting to arbitration or other legal procedure that the parties can accept. Seventh way is that the issue can be left to later or even to oblivion.5

There are certain conflict catalysts which can be divided into positive and negative. Positive catalysts are creative. They promote but streamline the conflict and create a healthy atmosphere for communication, understanding and cooperation for reconciliation whereas negative catalysts activate the conflict, format it, bring a bad taste to it. They substantiate the conflict and escalate it to an irrepressible stage, to the point of liquidating the parties. Negative catalysts are fear, force, bad language, exaggeration, secrecy, distrust, prejudice and adding new conflict issues. Positive catalysts are fearlessness, faith, love of opponent, empathy, morality, openness, introspection, confining to conflict points, readiness to compromise, voluntary initiation of dialogue.6

In analyses of conflicts, an analysis of incompatibility is necessary i.e. identification of conflicting interests, positions and needs of the parties. Than conflict strategies are to be analyzed through which parties aim at reducing the influence of the other side and enhancing the influence of its own side. The behaviour of the other side is watched carefully. A positive announcement must be followed by positive steps otherwise the former is regarded as propaganda and the later as the reality. Once there is shift in behaviour a dynamic development may follow and build momentum. The parties may search for compatible positions and finding them will attempt to create new structures via which these can be expressed. Spoilers may be dealt with carefully for they will attempt to shift the conflict back to upper level.7

In civil wars and intra- state conflicts concerned parties will have a longer shared history of conflict and cooperation. The dividing lines can be ideological, economic, social, ethnic or racial. Here the most important issues are: first, to construct a social and political system that gives reasonable social and political space to all groups. The second is the issue of security as the one party that wins acts against the other. Thus it is important to end violence in a way that it removes this security dilemma. Without the parties being secure, subjectively and objectively, peace is unlikely to be sustainable. Democracy can be a solution here as it gives a way to handle the participation of parties in a society after a violent conflict and to give space to a host of actors who have previously been suppressed or excluded from having influence. Democracy also gives choices apart from winning and perishing such as winning but not gaining complete dominance; being strong enough to play a role; having some strength which can be enough to prevent undesirable developments or losing but still keeping a position in society. But for this to be a reality three conditions are important. First winner must be committed to respecting the rights of loser and make a come back. In other words defeat with security. Secondly the state should not be seen to belong to any of the parties and thirdly a neutral peace keeping force. Reconstruction of society on principles of inclusion is also necessary for example to solve the problem of refugees. This signifies that the extreme condition that gave rise to the flight has been removed. Human rights provisions and international connections are also important.8

There can be territorial solutions within a state in form of self determination, autonomy and federalism. In self administration devolution of power takes place from the centre to local level. Autonomy is given by centre and is subject to policy changes by centre. It can be of weaker or stronger type. Autonomy can also be guaranteed by outside actors than it is not just subject to policy of the centre. Federalism is created for many units with uniform constitution and the central government is composed of constituent units.9 These are useful especially in cases where minority groups are regionally clustered. Self control of regional groups over their internal affairs allows the protection of dignity, identity and cultures by placing minority groups on an equal footing with the rest of the national security.10 These go a long way in building positive peace where exploitation is minimized or eliminated and there is neither overt violence nor structural violence. For structural violence is built into the very structure of social, cultural and economic institutions and is more indirect and insidious than observable physical violence. It denies people important rights such as economic well being; social, political and sexual inequality; a sense of personal fulfillment and self worth. Thus positive peace building implies establishment of non exploitative social structure i.e. something that does not currently exist.11 This also implies that structures and institutions need to be created that are capable of ensuring human rights and managing the effects of democratization and liberalization.12 In other words positive peace cannot exist without human rights. If Tibetans in Tibet do not have human rights than it signifies absence of positive peace in Tibet mere absence of violence and protests does not mean that the Tibetan issue has been resolved.

Gandhian Approach to Conflict Resolution

The people who established peace studies in the west- Johan Galtung and Kenneth Boulding were admirers of Gandhi.13 However in west peace studies have taken a very different path to that of Gandhi. Probably the reason was that Gandhian peace demands a great deal of sacrifice from the practitioner. He calls it satyagraha i.e. ‘adherence to truth’ and truth and non violence are the main planks of satyagraha. A person who resolves to adhere to truth cannot remain silent at the sight of violence which is negative of truth. Truth functions in form of non violence or love. While the lover of truth ought to oppose violence such an opposition would mean ‘fight the evil’ while ‘love the evil doer’. It is a dynamic soul force based on the concept of self- suffering. As there are many forms of injustices there are many forms of satyagaha too such as- non cooperation, civil disobedience, fasting, hijrat, hartal, picketing, boycott, and renunciation of titles, honours and positions.14


  1. J. Galtung, ‘Peace Research: Past Experiences and Future Perspectives’ in Radhakrishna (ed.), Peace Research for Peace Action, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Indian Council of Peace Research, Sahitya Kendra Printers, New Delhi, 1972, pp- 13- 31.

  2. Mahendra Kumar, Current Peace Research and India, Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi, 1968, p- 9.

  3. Gunnar Myrdal, ‘Peace Research and Peace Movement’, Ghanshyam Pardesai (ed), Contemporary Peace Research, Radiant Publishers, New Delhi, 1982, p- 30.

  4. Ghanshyam Pardesai, Contemporary Peace Research, Radiant Publishers, New Delhi, 1982, p- 4.

  5. Peter Wallensteen, Understanding Conflict Resolution, Sage Publication, London, 2007, pp- 3- 51.

  6. Pooja Katariya, Conflict Resolution, Deep and Deep, Delhi, 2007, pp- 68- 73.

  7. Peter Wallensteen, Understanding Conflict Resolution, Sage Publication, London, 2007, pp- 54- 56.

  8. Ibid, pp- 121- 152.

  9. Ibid, pp- 171- 172.

  10. Ho-Won Jeong, Peace and Conflict Studies: An Introduction, Ashgate, USA, 2006, p- 235.

  11. David P. Barsh and Charles P. Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies, Sage Publication, New Delhi, 2002, pp- 6- 8.

  12. Roland Paris, At War’s End, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2004, p- ix.

  13. Negeen Zinovieff, ‘Ancient Wisdom’, The Gandhi Way, No 96, Summer 2008, Glasglow.

  14. Pooja Katariya, Conflict Resolution, Deep and Deep, Delhi, 2007, pp- 68- 73.