For some time, the Centre including BJP leadership gave cold response to the PDP, however, in the past two three months, it seems Centre especially Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has decided to give its coalition partner a sense of relief by announcing an interlocutor who according to the Centre is also a special representative and has a rank of a cabinet secretary.
Last week, former Intelligence Bureau chief, Dineshwar Sharma who was appointed as an interlocutor by the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh visited Kashmir and Jammu. It was Sharma’s first visit to botht he regions after he was nominated as the interlocutor to hold talks with all the people including separatist leadership.
Before he began his visit to Kashmir, he had said that he will be open to talks to everyone and hinted that he will do everything for preventing Kashmir turning into Syria. When Dineshwar Shama began his visit, there were rumours that he will be meeting some separatist leaders. Soon after Sharma came to Srinagar, he remained camped inside the Hari Niwas Palace- an erstwhile building constructed by the former Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.
He (Sharma) had hoped that some prominent people will turn up at the Hari Niwas and he can discuss issues pertaining to Kashmir with them. However, for the first two days, though, Sharma met dozens of delegations, (as per the government figures around 50 delegations), however, majority of those delegations who came from different parts of the Kashmir comprised of unknown people who have been on the payrolls of various agencies and the agencies have been using them whenever they required their help.
Most of these delegations discussed small personnel issues with Sharma, like appointment with top officials, construction of bridges and shifting of bus stand as well as arrival of tourists.
The delegations who met the interlocutor included – Modi Army, though some prominent people also met him including Peoples Democratic Party Youth president, Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra who led a youth delegation and apprised Sharma about the ground situation and aspirations of the youth.
Realizing that being stationed at Hari Niwas will not serve any purpose, Sharma left the palace of old times and started holding face to face talks with the mainstream politicians. First he held meeting with Ghulam Hassan Mir, Hakeem Yasin and Mohammad Yusuf Targami at the official bungalow of Targami at Gupkar.
The meeting lasted for an hour in which several issues related to Kashmir came up for discussion. After the meeting three mainstream politicians among whom two served as former ministers and are well connected in New Delhi held a press conference and said that they emphasized the need that interlocutor should hold dialogue with all the stakeholders including Pakistan. Sharma later held one to one meeting with former J&K chief minister and NC working president, Omar Abdullah at his Gupkar house.
The meeting with Omar also lasted for an hour and several issues came up for the discussion in this meeting. Omar said he met Sharma in his personnel capacity and party (NC) will take a stand whether to meet him or not after consultation from the senior party leaders.
Later a delegation of Peoples Democratic Party led by its vice president, Sartaj Madni who is also the maternal uncle of J&K chief minister had detailed meeting with the interlocutor. The PDP leaders put their party’s perspective in front of the interlocutor and stressed on the need of the meaningful dialogue in which all the parties including people of J&K, India and Pakistan will talk.
From the day one after Sharma was appointed as the point man to hold talks, the PDP leadership has been upbeat and have termed it as a good and timely step. Since the day, the PDP entered into an alliance with BJP and formed the government; PDP has been advocated for talks not only with separatist leadership but also with the Pakistan.
For some time, the Centre including BJP leadership gave cold response to the PDP, however, in the past two three months, it seems Centre especially Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has decided to give its coalition partner a sense of relief by announcing an interlocutor who according to the Centre is also a special representative and has a rank of a cabinet secretary. While J&K government led by chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the offer of talks, however, separatists have not responded to the offer, instead they have maintained complete silence.
The PDP and J&K chief minister had termed it as a great offer and need of an hour. ‘’This dialogue initiative is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘s 15th August speech – ‘na goli se, na gaali se, Kashmir ki samasya suljhegi gale lagaane se.,’ said J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti soon after Dineshwar Sharma was appointed as the interlocutor.
Though there has been difference over the mandate of the Sharma between the PDP leadership and some top BJP leadership, however, it seems that Sharma is being enjoying full support from the Union Home Minister. During his stay in Kashmir, Sharma also held meeting with Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir and former Union Minister, Saifudin Soz.
The Congress leaders however asked the interlocutor that before initiating any dialogue process, he should clarify not only his mandate but also should explain who are the stakeholders. The Congress leadership in the Centre and State has already criticized the government for wasting precious years by not initiating talks with the people in Kashmir. The Congress also blamed the BJP and its coalition partner PDP for giving militants an opportunity to revive its cadres.
Senior Congress leader and former Home Minister, P Chidambaram even went to the extent of saying that people of the J&K should be given autonomy. Likewise, the NC patron and MP Srinagar, Farooq Abdullah said that autonomy should be granted in both parts of Kashmir whether under the India or Pakistan.
According to Farooq Abdullah who has served as two time chief minister of the state and then remained as Union Minister said that even war could not resolve the issue and India and Pakistan has to sit and resolve this issue. Though, Sharma met many delegations, however, prominent civil society delegations, trade bodies, lawyers associations or forums didn’t meet him.
Neither separatist showed an inclination of any sort of the meeting with the interlocutor, though Sharma during his interaction said that he will try to meet the leaders of hurriyat conference and other separatist groups. On its part, separatist leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq ruled out any possibility of holding talks with interlocutor and termed it as a façade.
It is not clear whether back channel links with the separatist have been established, however on the face of it, Sharma didn’t meet any prominent stakeholder before he went to winter capital Jammu where he held talks with several groups including BJP who have been favouring Armed Forces Special Powers Act in state and demand revocation of Article 35 A.
Before flying to New Delhi, Dineshwar Sharma said that he will be making frequent visits to Jammu and Kashmir and if sources are to be believed he will again be travelling to Kashmir next month. It is true that so far there has been no major breakthrough; however, his visit can’t be termed as failure only after one meeting.
The appointment will be termed failure incase Sharma fails to engage with stake holders or those organization who are annoyed with India and the state government and hold sway in public. Even some mainstream politicians have conveyed to the interlocutor that incase Delhi wants result oriented and sustained dialogue then it needs to take some steps that will pave way for talks.
So far, New Delhi is reluctant to give any sort of concession to the separatists, even they have tried to bully separatist leadership by getting cases registered against them in National Investigative Agency and Enforcement Directorate. Even JKLF chairman, Yasin Malik received a notice from ED in a 16 year old case, even the son of Hizbul Mujahideen supermo, Salahudin was detained by NIA in an old case.
Both Malik and Salahudin said that these cases are not going to deter them from pursuing cause of Kashmir struggle. However, it is true if Centre and state government wants efforts of interlocutor should bear fruit and good results then they have to give certain concessions and restore confidence among the common people and other leaders and ensure these talks will not meet the same fate that happened to the talks held in past years.
Also, Centre government and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has to realize that Pakistan is an important stakeholder in Kashmir because one part of Kashmir is with them and they have good support base in Valley, so if Centre and present dispensation wants peace should return to Kashmir, they have to hold talks with its neighbor. Not only former chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has been advocating for the dialogue with Pakistan, but his daughter and current chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti has also been advocating dialogue with neighbouring country.