There cannot be an option to dialogue. Political issues, disputes cannot be seen as mere law and order issues. They cannot be resolved by force. These political issues can be solved only politically. This doctrine is absolutely necessary in case of conflict zones.
The good news is that the government of India has finally appointed a ‘special representative’ for Jammu and Kashmir. The appointment of Dineshwar Sharma, former Intelligence Bureau (IB) director, as ‘special representative’ is a welcome step.
But, a serious and sincere approach is necessary. The government of India has specified that he is not an interlocutor.
The home ministry has said that the move is to start ‘sustained dialogue’ process with all stakeholders. Sustained dialogue means continuing dialogue without any interruption. It can be interpreted as uninterrupted and uninterruptible.
The announcement came as a pleasant surprise to the Kashmiris. It came against the background of aggressive military operations against militants. The leaders of BJP were claiming that armed forces are gaining ground in the valley by killing militants.
On the Independence Day, addressing the nation from the Rampart of Red Fort, the Prime Minister had said, “Na goli se, na gaali se Kashmir ki samasya suljhegi gale lagane se” (neither bullets nor brickbats will solve the Kashmir issue, only love will).
The point is whether the appointment of Sharma is part of what the PM had said? The initiative did not come immediately after the PM’s address. It took more than two months. At the same time, the Army chief claimed that all remaining militants will be killed by the end of the year.
All these time, Mehbooba Mufti, the Chief Minister of J&K and Chief of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was pursuing with PM Narendra Modi to resume dialogue and that too with all stakeholders. Her coalition partner BJP was not for the dialogue.
In fact, BJP of J&K is constantly demanding the removal of Article 35 A from the Indian Constitution. The article empowers the J&K legislature to define the state’s ‘permanent residents’ and their special rights and privileges.
Leaders like former finance minister Yashwant Sinha were also demanding that the Centre should initiate a dialogue. Also, one should not forget that the announcement of special representative came a day before the visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
In June, when Modi was in the US, the state department issued a statement declaring Hizbul Mujahidin leader Syed Salahuddin a ‘global terrorist’. But, the same statement used the phrase ‘Indian administered Kashmir’.
Sharma needs to talk to all stakeholders. It includes both factions of Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Gilani and Mirwaiz Umar. Though they have significant differences, they are together now. The special representative also needs to talk to the chamber of commerce, fruit growers, lawyers and civil society activists.
Rajnath Singh said, “He will have the freedom to interact with whichever group he thinks fit in order to draft a plan to resolve the ongoing crisis in Kashmir. Once the talks are held, the status report will be submitted by Sharma to the Centre.”
After his appointment, Sharma said, “Let me make it clear that peace is the priority and for that my doors will be open to everyone.” But, mere good words will not convince separatists or others to join the new initiative. The goodwill needs to be seen at the ground level.
The possibility is few organisations including the Hurriyats will avoid meeting Sharma. The state and Central government need to create a favourable atmosphere and take everyone into confidence.
The Centre must take bold steps and sent a message that they are serious about sustained dialogue and they mean business. The issue of Kashmir is a political one and can be solved only politically.
Had the government appointed some political person/s as its special representative/s, the message would have been more positive. It would have been welcomed widely. May be, the reason for not appointing a political person/s is it would have generated more expectations.
Former home minister P Chidambaram tweeted, “with appointment of interlocutor, I hope government has finally admitted ‘muscular approach’ has failed in J&K.”
Dialogue must go on as it is the only way to resolve the conflict. The people of the valley must be taken into confidence. Without their participation, no initiative can yield a result. The key to success is serious, sincere, sustained dialogue with all stakeholders.