Kashmir: Appointment of an interlocutor shows failure of Delhi's previous approach

Srinagar: The decision of the central government to initiate a dialogue process with all the stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir and naming former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Dineshwar Sharma as the new interlocutor for the troubled state has been welcomed by mainstream political parties here but separatists are tightlipped over the issue. In an absolute U-turn, the Government of India last week announced that former IB director will represent it in the proposed “sustained dialogue with all stakeholders” inthe state. Interestingly, the central government had maintained for long that there could be no talks with the separatists in the state.

The movement from “no talks” to “talks with all stakeholders” is seen as a welcome initiative by some political pundits whereas others have kept their fingers crossed waiting for some more cues and clues.

In the meantime, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti addressingmedia here on October 23 emphasized that all the stakeholders should understand the need to end the sufferings of the people of Kashmir. “The people are caught between so many guns and they want an end to this. It should be a concern of all of us to take the state out of the vicious cycle of uncertainty, acrimony and violence,” she said. However, when she was asked whether she would invite Hurriyat for talks, she said that the interlocutor has been authorized to talk with everyone in the state and to a query about National Investigation Agency (NIA)raids on separatists, she replied that the political process and security measures are two different things.

Even the opposition National Conference working president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah (October 23) sought to know the implications of the move on the NIA investigations into the funding cases in Kashmir. “Will investigation be suspended to facilitate dialogue with detained Hurriyat leaders?” asked the former chief minister. He, however, added that the acceptance of the political nature of the issue was a defeat of those who saw force alone as a solution.

The State BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi hoped that all stakeholders will take part in the talks that he stressed should be held under Indian constitution.

Welcoming the appointment of former IB director, the State Cabinet that met here under the chairpersonship of Chief Minister (October 23) observed that the dialogue is the only way forward to address the issues in the larger interest of peace and stability in the state. The move was observed to be in tune with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s August 15 (Independence Day) announcement wherein he mentioned that Kashmir needed hugs, not bullets or abuses.

Notably, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram (October 23) observed that the central government has finally admitted that its “muscular approach” to the Valley’s problems had failed. As home minister in the UPA government, Chidambaram formed a three-member committee of interlocutors led by late journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, along with former bureaucrat M M Ansari and academician Radha Kumar, for a dialogue on Kashmir. Another senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad (October 23) questioned why government wasted three-and-a-half-years and lost many precious lives before doing something that the opposition had been demanding all along. CPI leader D Raja (October 23) reiterated that “Centre’s Kashmir policy has been unsuccessful till now.” However, a Minister of State in the PMO Dr. Jitendra Singh (October 23) said that opposition parties should not politicize the Kashmir issue but should, instead, extend cooperation. Director General of Police (DGP) S P Vaid hadrecently (October 20) said that Kashmir needs a political initiative, which is the need of the hour.

The Joint Resistance Leadership comprising of chairmen of both faction of Hurriyat Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik said in a statement here on October 24 while asking people to observe shutdown on October 27, “As people are observing 27th October as black day and it will convey a message to global community that they are resisting and resenting the forced occupation and will continue till the last soldier leaves the state.” The statement did not mention anything about the appointment of the new interlocutor on Jammu and Kashmir. Sharma, a retired IPS officer of 1979 batch in Kerala cadre, initially served in Kerela at different places and joined the IB in January 1991 and followed it up with his Kashmir stint. Besides Kashmir, Sharma has an experience of handling insurgency in Nagaland and Manipur. At the IB headquarters in New Delhi, he handled security-related issues as Deputy Director, Joint Director, Additional Director and Special Director.

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