Dialogue With Kashmiris Has Become More Vital Than Ever Before
Faith of Kashmiris in the political system must be strengthened.
There is no alternative to resuming the stalled political dialogue.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi's hardline approach in tackling the protracted Jammu and Kashmir problem proving futile, he has been compelled to change tack and return to the negotiating table. This comes three years after Union Home minister Rajnath Singh had called such an exercise non-productive.
The Valley has faced violent stalemate for much too long since Modi came to power at the Centre in May 2014. With barely twenty months remaining for the 2019 general elections Modi has acquiesce to the persistent demand for resuming the stalled political dialogue in the Valley.
It is in this context that the Centre's choice of Dineshwar Sharma, a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau, has been welcomed even though he is bound to be viewed with suspicion in the Valley. The saving grace is he does not carry any political baggage. The task at hand is complex and it will be naive for anyone to expect matters to be smooth. This is particularly so with the separatists reiterating that nothing short of independence will be acceptable to them.
As the Centre's Special Representative, Sharma has sought to remove any misgivings or doubts "of anyone being left out of the ambit of talks". His endeavour will be to talk to everyone having stakes in J&K. The talks being a two way process it will depend on how much support he gets from all sections of Kashmiris encompassing politicians, students, businessmen and government employees.
He has already called on J&K Governor N N Vohra who has briefed him in detail of the situation. The Centre's wants Sharma to address the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiris. Any solution to the vexed Kashmir tangle has to be within the ambit of the Constitution.
Having neutralised the terrorists to a considerable extent in the Valley, the Centre has created conditions for sitting across the table. It appears the announcement on October 23 for restarting the dialogue underlined the imperatives of democracy, mutual coexistence and democracy.
The mood of the ordinary people in the Valley is one of extreme frustration wanting the prolonged spell of uncertainty to end. Legitimate aspirations mean different things to different people. To the separatists it means nothing short of secession and independence. They want the Centre to acknowledge that there is a dispute in J&K requiring resolution rather than refusing to accept this premise.
To New Delhi legitimate does not mean compromising the suzerainty and territorial integrity of the country. Dealing with this complex situation has led to several previous interlocutors falling by the wayside. In the circumstances the 'K' word needs to be approached in the context of being the only Muslim majority state in the country. J&K remains an inalienable part of this country.
It is hoped that the talks will infuse a sense of purpose and direction. The unthinkable PDP-BJP government in J&K has an "agreed agenda of governance" which appears to be taking shape now.
The talks process revived by Modi believes in following the path of BJP stalwart and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It also took interminably long for J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti to assume control of the sensitive border state after the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Being circumspect she did not want the mistakes of the past to be repeated.
The first indication of the stalled political dialogue getting a fresh impetus came during Modi's Independence Day address on August 15 when he emphasised "abuses and bullets cannot be the way forward in embracing Kashmiris". The main question for the Modi government at the Centre is does it have the will and determination to get things moving. It encompasses among other aspects Indo-Pak relations, a volatile regional balance, a hardline opposition and the need to think out of the box for breaking the stalemate.
What is encouraging is the realisation at the Centre that there is imperative need to go beyond the security measures. For Mehbooba making such a dialogue meaningful will be challenging. The security situation has deteriorated ranging from militant attacks on Kashmiri policemen and regular ceasefire breaches by Pakistan on the border. A new generation of youth has taken to militancy over last four years since 2013.
The drift and anxiety in the Valley is the protest amid allegations of "braid chopping". Sharma wants to get started and is expected to be in J&K from next Monday. He will spend the first four days in Srinagar and then move to Jammu on Friday and Saturday.
This is the time for the actual stakeholders, the Kashmiris, to have a voice and be heard. Dialogue has, therefore, become vital more than ever before.