After a lot of suspense Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh eventually announced to hold talks with all the stakeholders in J&K on Monday. Singh who has made several visits to J&K since last one year has appointed Dineshwar Sharma as an interlocutor and according to media reports he has been given mandate to talk to everyone including separatist leadership. The new interlocutor is not a man from any political background; instead he is from the security setup who knows the nuances of security. However, in the past he has been involved in talks with several groups in North East.
J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti without wasting any time welcomed the offer of talks and termed it as an initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also she gave credit to Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh for using his good offices to start an initiative that will pave way for the meaningful dialogue. Chief Minister described the interlocutor as a good man who has an experience to resolve issues.
Chief Minister also appealed all the stakeholders’ especially separatist leadership to take this offer seriously to end the bloodshed and violence. The day Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) formed government with Bhartiya Janta Party its leaders have been demanding for holding talks with the separatist leadership besides also with Pakistan. Before his death the former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had urged Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to initiate dialogue process with Pakistan.
Even in the Agenda of Alliance signed between the PDP and BJP both the parties had agreed to hold talks with all the stakeholders, however, BJP leadership was reluctant to hold the talks. So far separatist leadership is tight lipped whether they will take this offer. The separatist leadership will only decide after they will be allowed to meet. However, time has come when instead of bloodshed chance should be given to serious dialogue.
This is not the first time when Centre has announced holding of talks with all the stakeholders; however, in the past even the initiatives taken by former Prime Minister, Atal Bihar Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh didn’t bore any results with both sides accusing each other of not taking the talks seriously. It seems that it took three years to PDP leadership to convince its alliance partner to hold talks with separatists.
Not only PDP leadership, the top security experts who have worked on ground in Kashmir have asked Centre government that political initiative is only that could resolve the situation. From past one year, the Valley has seen rise in militancy related incidents and killing of civilians, at times it looks that after peaceful years Valley is again going to see violence. Many young boys have joined militancy, especially in south Kashmir as they didn’t see any future under the current leadership.
With this offer, Centre should try to offer some olive branch to separatist and the state government. The members of civil society or the prominent citizens including the All Party Delegation comprising of members of parliament have been insisting on New Delhi to hold talks with original stakeholders.
Even for some time, the Centre didn’t even gave any importance to the report prepared by senior BJP leader and former Finance Minister, Yaswant Sinha who had sought time from Prime Minister, Narendra Modi after he met cross section of people in Kashmir, including separatist leaders. It seems now Centre has realised that instead of iron fist, they should try to resolve this issue through dialogue.
However, it would have been better if government would have appointed any politician as the interlocutor instead of a security man. The Centre should never look Kashmir through the prism of security angle; instead it should be dealt as a political issue. And this offer of talks should not meet the same fate as happened to the earlier offer of talks.
The reason why even separatist are reluctant to hold talks is that they don’t trust New Delhi and feel that it could be a ploy to buy time as situation in Kashmir is getting from bad to worse. Though, on ground common people are suffering, however, in the long run, the turbulent situation will have long lasting effect on the overall situation of the country and time has come when the Government of Indian shouldn’t only hold sincere talks with separatist leadership in J&K, but the Centre should also open channels of communication with its neighbour Pakistan. As any sort of animosity between the two neighbours would have negative effect on the entire south Asia.