Perhaps the best way to characterize the Agency`s role is to say that circumstances gave each of the major players a reasonably supportive hand that facilitated the deal, but each played the hand quite skillfully. But secrecy could be particularly valuable for the parties to explore the negotiations. For several years in the 2000s, special envoys from Pakistan and India held talks in hotel rooms in foreign capitals, from the point of view of their public opinion, which the government across the border viewed with suspicion. The countries had engaged in hostilities since their partition in 1947, but in the 2000s, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent negotiators to bring the two countries to peace, even though groups worked inside each country to create tensions. The negotiators` return channel established an agreement for the disputed Region of Kashmir, which granted residents special rights to move and trade across the border. Musharraf was particularly concerned about the preparation of public opinion for warmer relations and the consequences of fighting against the will of Pakistan`s powerful military and intelligence service, the I.S.I. He resigned and left public life in 2008, and negotiations on the return channel ended. A number of commentators have focused on the role of civil society in achieving the agreement, both as an external force that exerts pressure on the parties and as a formal participant in the negotiations. It is difficult to assess the extent to which the peace movement on the ground has contributed to resistance to violence, thus facilitating the paramilitaries` decision to renounce it. Peace groups had been active throughout the unrest, for example in the feminist movement of the 1980s, with limited success in ending the fighting. Several commentators have focused on the formal role of civil society organizations in this process. Maria Power, for example, concludes that “the negotiations that led to the agreement showed the central importance of the peacebuilding sector or community relations in conflict resolution.” 103 Others judge with more moderation: “Although the contribution of the [civil] sector was not decisive for the final outcome of the political negotiations in 1998, it was nevertheless positive and significant. 104 These claims are difficult to assess, especially since the formal process itself was relatively less important than the dissemination of secret channels and private negotiations that excluded civil society.
One way to answer this question of freedom of choice is to examine SDLP leader Seamus Mallon`s much-cited aphorism that the 1998 agreement is “Sunningdale for slow learners.” 91 His statement implies that, had there been “faster” learners in 1973/74, power-sharing and North-South cooperation would have been successful much earlier, on the basis of the principle of consent, and that the war could have ended much earlier.92 Nevertheless, it is difficult to see that there was much in the context of the violence of the early years of unrest, What union leader Brian Faulkner was, or any other union leader could have done it to garner union support for power-sharing, or that another British prime minister (let alone another Taoiseach) could have opposed the Sunningdale agreement through violence or deception by the fierce unionist opposition to the Sunningdale agreement. . . .