In what is being seen as a shift from its previous policy on Jammu and Kashmir
(J&K), the Modi government on Monday announced it would start a "sustained dialogue" process with all stakeholders, including separatists, and appointed former Intelligence Bureau (IB) director Dineshwar Sharma
as its special representative.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh
said the move was to carry forward the "the conviction and consistency" in the government's Kashmir policy. "We have decided that a sustained dialogue process should begin in Jammu and Kashmir.
Here are the top ten developments regarding the Centre's renewed efforts for peace in Kashmir
1) Sharma to have complete freedom in holding talks: Dineshwar Sharma
would hold talks with all sections of people and organisations, Rajnath Singh
said on Monday. The home minister said Sharma, who would hold the rank of a Cabinet secretary, would have complete independence in deciding who to hold talks with, indicating that talks with separatist leaders were also possible. He was replying to a question on whether Sharma would hold discussions with the Hurriyat Conference. "As a representative of the government of India Sharma will initiate a sustained interaction and dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of people in Jammu and Kashmir.
He will meet elected representatives, political parties, different organisations and individuals he wants to," Singh said. (Read more here
2) Centre took step after consulting all political parties: Singh said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had talked to all political parties as to what could be done to find a solution to the Kashmir problem. "People told us that the dialogue process should be started. We are doing this," the home minister said and recalled the prime minister's August 15 speech saying "neither by bullet, nor by abuses but by embracing the people we can solve the problems in Jammu and Kashmir".
The measure is significant because the BJP government at the Centre had constantly maintained a tough line on opening peace talks with separatists in Kashmir, particularly after the 2016 unrest that left over 100 civilians dead.
3) No time frame for Sharma's report: Singh said after completing the exercise, Sharma, a 1979 batch IPS officer with intimate knowledge of the security situation and Kashmir affairs, will give a report to the central government. However, there is no time frame for submitting the report. The minister also didn't speak about the terms of references for the ex-police officer who was the IB director from January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2016.
4) Sharma says priority is to find a permanent solution:
Hours after his appointment as the Centre's representative for starting the dialogue, former IB chief Dineshwar Sharma
on Monday said he will try to fulfil the expectations of both the government and the state's people. "I thank the Union government for appointing me (as its representative for a sustained dialogue process). I will try my best to fulfil the expectations of the government and the people of Jammu and Kashmir," Sharma told Doordarshan News
. (Read more here
"The priority is to restore peace in Jammu and Kashmir
and find a permanent solution. The rank does not matter as the Government of India has given me a very big responsibility. Nothing can be better than the improvement of situation in the state," Sharma told ANI. He added that he would go to Kashmir in eight-to-ten days. (Read more here
"Welcome the initiative of the union government, appointing an interlocutor for leading a sustained dialogue with stakeholders in Jammu and Kashmir.
Later, at a hurriedly convened press conference, Mufti hoped that all the stakeholders, including the separatists, would come forward with a positive response to the development. Asked whether the appointment of the interlocutor would have a bearing on the NIA investigations going on against the separatists, she said: "Security is a separate issue and the political process is a separate issue."
6) Omar Abdullah welcomes lack of preconditions for dialogue: National
Conference leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah, for his part, sought clarity on Dineshwar Sharma's mandate.
He posted on his widely followed Twitter handle: "The 'legitimate aspirations' of the people of Jammu and Kashmir
is an interesting formulation. Who gets to decide what is legitimate?" In another tweet, he said: "The acceptance of the political nature of the Kashmir issue is a resounding defeat of those who could only see use of force as a solution."
Abdullah, however, added that the fact that no preconditions had been placed by the central government on the dialogue offered through the interlocutor was a welcome development. "One can't get everything. So for now we'll take what we can get. More important than the person is the mandate and absence of pre-conditions," he said.
7) Congress says 'muscular approach' has failed:
The Congress on Monday termed the development as an admission of a "blunder" by the Modi government and of the failure of its "muscular approach". (Read more here
Party leader and former Union home minister P Chidambaram said the announcement was a major victory for those who had been advocating a political solution to the Kashmir problem. "From no-talks to talks-with-all-stakeholders is a major victory for those who had strongly argued for a political solution in Jammu and Kashmir.
With the appointment of an interlocutor, I hope the government has finally admitted muscular approach has failed," Chidambaram tweeted.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters that the Congress has been making such a demand since the Modi government assumed office about three-and-half years back. He said the government's think tank was clueless on various issues, including the Goods and Services Tax, demonetisation and Jammu and Kashmir.
"They finally admitted their blunder. After so much loss of lives of civilians and forces, now they have realised what we have been speaking from day one. Their think tank is clueless, be it GST or demonetisation or Jammu and Kashmir.
8) Farooq Abdullah wants Pakistan to be brought in:
NC chief Farooq Abdullah on Monday said the Centre should talk to Pakistan also as it is one of the parties in the J&K dispute. "Kashmir issue is a political problem. It's not only about talking to the people of Jammu and Kashmir
and Ladakh, but they have to talk to Pakistan also as it is one of the parties of the state," Abdullah told ANI. "I want to ask the home minister about what happened to the previous interlocutors. A huge report was produced which was collected by us. I have seen what happened to the previous report. How can I believe that this report will make a difference? Nothing has worked. The demonetisation move did not work. Whatever they say, nothing will change," he added. (Read more here
9) Institutionalising dialogue:
The central government has institutionalised the dialogue process in Jammu and Kashmir
with the appointment of a special representative, Union minister Jitendra Singh said. "The dialogue process was always continuing (in J&K). But now attempts have been made to institutionalise the process by appointing a senior officer for a sustained dialogue with all stakeholders in all three regions -- Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir -- and the rest of India," the minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office said. (Read more here
10) Separatists open to dialogue: The move comes at a time when some separatist leaders, including close aides of Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, are jailed on charges of receiving cash from Pakistan for subversive activities in the Valley. Both the factions of the Hurriyat Conference have in recent months become increasingly open to dialogue and have hinted their willingness in their statements.