Dialogue: The Crown Prince’s Call.

I saw a resolute leader in HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa who, while addressing a cross section of world leaders, said that, though the events of February 2011 seem to have divided this nation, he believes that ‘dialogue is the only way forward’.

In this event hosted by IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies), the leading think-tank on global security, held at Ritz Carlton here, he firmly stated that this country’s work is cut out for
its government, but the international community must also play its part.

His words were: “Wishing for peace never works, but peace-making does. I call on our friends in the west to engage. To engage all stake holders, train all groups; work with us to make our environment, our capacity greater and stronger. Stop exclusively scrutinizing government actions alone, there is a moral responsibility on all sides to work, and to bring the Bahraini body politic together.”

I was particularly struck by his words, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am not a prince of Sunni Bahrain, I am not a prince of Shia Bahrain, I am the prince of the Kingdom of Bahrain and all mean a great deal to me personally.”

Therefore, it was a pleasant moment when I came to know the next day, Saturday, that the five main opposition societies in the Kingdom welcomed the Crown Prince’s call for dialogue.

Led by the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, they issued a statement saying they are ready to talk in an effort to solve Bahrain’s political crisis. The statement said: “We welcome the Crown Prince’s call for dialogue and we look at this call as a serious one, in which its parties, agenda, time-frame and decision-making mechanism are all mutually agreed upon. We announce our readiness to engage in this dialogue.”

I wish this willingness was seen in March 2011 itself, immediately after the Crown Prince had called for the dialogue the first time. It would have saved this nation much suffering, through unnecessary violence.

William Hague, UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who spoke to  the media, on the Manama Dialogue’s sidelines, said that all countries in the region have a common interest in defusing the sectarian crises and that sectarian tension must be overcome by peaceful political means.

In place of Hilary Clinton who is being missed here, this year, was US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. From the US side, its Ambassador to Bahrain Thomas C Krajeski also said he welcomed the Crown Prince’s call and urged all parties to come to the dialogue table.

Phrases like “peaceful political means” and “dialogue table” are not new to journalists like me. But they are phrases we wish to see being acted upon.

What saddens us is to report on street violence, riots, deaths and injuries, when we should be reporting on the engagement of political dialogue; an option that had always been there.

What disappoints us is to write about the violence-inducing rhetoric of demagogues, when there are genuine workable political solutions; proven methods like dialogues, but are not being seriously tried here.

As an expatriate resident of over 30 years in this wonderful country, with a vantage view of the political scenario here, I am optimistic.

I am positive that all Bahrain’s citizens will heed to the Crown Prince’s call. I am positive that all its citizens will see beyond the sectarian lines, at a vibrant Bahrain ahead – a Bahrain that is
strongly united and economically powerful.