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Dialogue?
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The PDP government, especially chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti was under pressure as the Centre didn’t initiate any talks with separatists despite she pursuing the case. Many were terming the Chief Minister as a weak head of the state, who is given no importance in New Delhi.


Asem Mohiuddin

Last week, Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh announced former Intelligence Bureau director, Dineshwar Sharma as an interlocutor and special representative. As per the statement of the Home Minister, the newly appointed interlocutor, who is of the rank of a cabinet secretary, has been given a mandate to talk to everybody including the separatists. While the J&K government, led by Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the initiative, the separatists have maintained complete silence on the issue. And the Pakistan after two days rejected any dialogue process initiated by New Delhi sans the engagement of separatists and Pakistan. Pakistan believes that Kashmiri is a tripartite issues and it needs to have separatists, Pakistan and India on table for its settlement. Contrary to that India maintains that it is its internal trouble in border state and can be resolved directly with the engagement of local leadership without the involvement of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, terming the offer as great news, J&K Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti said that the dialogue initiative is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address that said ‘na goli se, na gaali se, Kashmir ki samasya suljhegi gale lagaane se’.

‘Mehbooba Mufti who has been a vocal advocate of the dialogue process between the Centre and Hurriyat leadership termed this as an initiative to win the hearts of the local people as well as a healing touch policy.

Mufti further said that the security measures in J&K have been appropriately taken care of; however, she emphasized that the start of a political dialogue was very important. “It has already happened in the past and now again it is happening. In the past, the dialogue has rendered good results.” she said.

She also praised the interlocutor appointed by the Centre and vouched for his credibility and his seriousness about pursuing the dialogue. “The interlocutor, who has been appointed, as per my information, is a good man with a huge credibility. She said that the interlocutor, in the past, had done some very good work in the North East region.

She was hopeful that the stakeholders will take part and benefit from this offer so that the state could enjoy the development process peacefully.

Mufti further said that the ongoing violence and killings in the State should be a matter of concern for all. Mehbooba also termed it as a political process. ‘’The Centre has finally taken a very serious step forward. There has been a lot of discussion within the government about it. There has been a lot of preparation into it. When the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) spoke on the Independence Day, the message was clear that he wants reconciliation, a process of rapprochement, to be the mainstay of the government’s Kashmir policy. I knew that they were looking for a credible face since August. The appointment of this interlocutor, a retired officer whom we know very well, is part of that process of reconciliation… it is an important move forward” said Mufti.


“I have continuously maintained that all Indians living in Jammu & Kashmir are stakeholders. They all have stake in the peace process. Hurriyat automatically comes in that. But whether I will talk to them or not depends upon the situation there and the response from them. So, let me go there (Kashmir) and meet people. “I am saying, every Indian is a stakeholder. Automatically, Hurriyat groups are also Indians.


File Photo

Huriyat G Chairman, Syed Ali Geelani/ File Photo

Speaking about the differences between the past experiences, when similar efforts were made to initiate talks, Mufti said that unlike most such processes earlier, government of India has taken the ownership of this initiative. ‘’Unlike the interlocutors sent here by the UPA government, this interlocutor is the official representative of the Government of India. He has been given a Cabinet Secretary rank and, thus, the government owes it up officially. Unlike the previous interlocutors (during UPA rule), he will speak on behalf of the Government of India and his report will be the government’s own report,’’ she said.

Earlier, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh after naming Dineshwar Sharma, as the representative of Government of India said that he will be having full freedom to engage in talks with anyone he likes. ‘’The youth of Kashmir will be a special focus.”

The PDP government, especially chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti was under pressure as the Centre didn’t initiate any talks with separatists despite she pursuing the case. Many were terming the Chief Minister as a weak head of the state, who is given no importance in New Delhi. Whenever the Centre delegations visited Kashmir, especially after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander, Burhan Wani, the Chief Minister had always been batting for talks not only with the separatists but also with the neighbouring country.  Mehbooba Mufti was under pressure, not only from her political party but also from the Centre for not extending an olive branch to the main stakeholders in J&K. This was also turning as a concern for the Peoples Democratic Party as it had clearly inserted dialogue between the separatists and New Delhi in its Agenda of Alliance signed between the two parties after they decided to form a coalition government. The first silver lining for the PDP came when Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech sent an encouraging signal towards Kashmir.

Though mainstream parties have termed this as a good omen, however, they still have reservations on this offer. National Conference (NC) patron and MP Srinagar, Farooq Abdullah asked Centre to initiate the dialogue with Pakistan also as he termed Pakistan as an important stakeholder. Taking a U-turn from his earlier stance, Farooq Abdullah of late has started showing flexibility towards Pakistan. During his tenure as the J&K chief minister, senior Abdullah wanted India to bomb the areas where according to him, militants were trained and sent to Kashmir. However, now, the veteran politician has realized that Kashmir does not have a military solution; instead all the parties should look towards a political solution.

Former J&K chief minister and NC working president, Omar Abdullah said that his party will keep an open mind towards this process. “Centre announces an interlocutor to engage with stake holders in J&K. Will keep an open mind & wait to see results of the dialogue process,’’ Omar tweeted soon after the announcement was made by the Union Home Minister. He further tweeted.  ‘’The acceptance of the political nature of the Kashmir issue is a resounding defeat for those who could only see the use of force as a solution.’’

Omar said that one can’t get everything, so, for now we will take what we can get.  The Congress party has also welcomed the move but said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has wasted three years by not initiating the dialogue. Congress leaders said that they have always tried to find a political solution to this issue.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh during his visit at Srinagar/Photo: Zahir Farooq

However, the separatists have maintained a complete silence and have desisted from speaking over this issue. So far, there has been no statement released by the joint separatist leadership on this issue. The separatists have been open to dialogue, however, they have maintained that it should be a tripartite dialogue in which India, Pakistan and people of Kashmir will be involved. Sources said that the Hurriyat leadership is keenly watching the situation as they have apprehensions that this is just another ploy from the Centre to engage separatist leadership in the talks that will bear no results.

After the series of violence, everyone, whether separatists or mainstream leaders or civil society groups have been advocating for resolution through dialogue but it seems there is still a trust deficit, especially in the backdrop of talks that were held in the past under the UPA and NDA governments. Even the Centre has not accepted the recommendations of those groups which were constituted to hold talks with the Kashmiri groups. For the J&K Chief Minister, if the talks are held, it is going to be a political success and in case it fails, the chief minister and her party will have to pay the price, especially in those pockets, where the party has a strong hold. For the new interlocutor, who is planning to visit Kashmir next week, he will try to meet everyone to find a solution.

“I have a totally open mandate. Anybody I can talk to or anything I can suggest. There are no boundaries, no limitation from the government’s side. I have been given a free hand to talk to anybody in Kashmir,” Dineshwar Sharma told Barkha Dutt in an interview.

“I have continuously maintained that all Indians living in Jammu & Kashmir are stakeholders. They all have stake in the peace process. Hurriyat automatically comes in that. But whether I will talk to them or not depends upon the situation there and the response from them. So, let me go there (Kashmir) and meet people. “I am saying, every Indian is a stakeholder. Automatically, Hurriyat groups are also Indians.

 

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