Kashmir – ray of hope

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In a bid to ease the volatile situation and to resolve the Kashmir issue amicably and to some extent acceptable to all parties involved in the embroglio, The Indian Government on Monday rowed back on its three-year-old pledge to never talk to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, as Home Minister Rajnath Singh named a new interlocutor with a brief to consult all stakeholders, including the separatists, in Jammu & Kashmir. In a clear indication that the right-wing Hindu revivalist government was willing to reboot its Kashmir policy, ex-intelligence chief Dineshwar Sharma was named as interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir with “complete freedom” to talk to “all groups and individuals”, including the Hurriyat, the group New Delhi sees as an agent of Pakistan. Explaining the jurisprudence of interlocutor, Rajnath Singh says that there is no bar on him to talk to one group and not another to understand aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir. The move follows a rare meeting between Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj last week with Pakistan’s High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood.
Local reports said Ms Swaraj discussed the current state of affairs in bilateral relations with Mr Mahmood, who officially took charge as Pakistan’s envoy to India only last month. The minister also touched upon India’s concerns over alleged cross-border terrorism and asked Islamabad to quickly bring to book the accused in Mumbai and Pathankot terror attacks. Reports said the meeting with Mr Mahmood took place on Monday last week after her office was approached by the Pakistani envoy. Ms Swaraj reportedly mentioned the need for Pakistan to review its position on Kulbhushan Jadhav, the alleged Indian spy who remains in Pakistan’s custody. It remains to be seen if the fresh and sudden move on Kashmir too is linked with the suggested overall improvement in the ties. The decision to hold talks with the Hurriyat leaders after their meeting with the Pakistani envoy three years ago set off a new low in bilateral ties is also being seen as a response to the Trump administration’s signals on a new South Asia policy.
A third-generation police officer, Mr Sharma, 63, retired in December 2016 after leading the domestic spy agency, the Intelligence Bureau, for two years. This decision is taken as a positive move, ray of hope and the first conciliatory initiative by the Modi government in three years to reach out to Kashmiris and comes after a long period of heightened standoff between Kashmiri militants fighting Indian rule and the security forces. Reports said Mr Singh’s outreach indicates a shift in the central government’s approach to handle the Kashmir issue from the prism of security operations without a matching political overture from the other side. It has been welcomed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who says dialogue is a necessity of the hour and the only way to go forward. Dr. Farooq Abdullah, welcoming the move, suggested talking to Pakistan.Former chief minister Omar Abdullah, however, said he would keep an open mind and wait to see results of the dialogue process.
According to observers, it may not necessarily signal a wholesale change in policy by the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the appointment of a special interlocutor for Kashmir is a welcome step in the right direction. Congress termed it a publicity stunt while Pakistan has also not expressed satisfaction but one thing is definite that some concrete moves should be carried out to resolve this issue which is considered as core issue that have endangered the peace and stability in the region. Trust deficit and human casualties and financial loss are increasing day by day which is not a good omen.It is hoped that the announcement of an interlocutor on Kashmir will quickly lead to an end to the daily violence and humiliation that ordinary Kashmiris are enduring. A Kashmir dialogue that does not include separatists is essentially meaningless and holds no hope for reducing violence in the region. Certainly, the mere announcement of a Kashmir interlocutor by the Indian government will not automatically or even necessarily lead to a change in policy or a reduction in violence. A day after India had announced the appointment of its new interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir; the Foreign Office (FO) in Islamabad said that New Delhi “does not appear to be sincere”. The FO in a statement had said that the move was an indication that India had recognised the “futility of the use of force and the indispensability of dialogue”. The key to meaningful and productive dialogue between leadership in India and Jammu and Kashmir is the inclusion of Pakistan, Islamabad had emphasised.