There are two globally accepted methods of dealing with conflict: Either you talk or you fight.
Trying to do both at the same time is usually disastrous. As Tuco Benedicto famously said in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk." Or, conversely put, when you have to talk, talk, don't shoot.
So, it is reassuring to hear that the Indian government has made up its mind to find a solution to the Kashmir impasse by yet again reaffirming its commitment to dialogue. Hindustan Times quoted sources and said that after all-party delegation meeting, that recently visited Kashmir, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh indicated that the government may form a panel to talk to all stakeholders, including the Hurriyat.
The delegation passed a unanimous resolution seeking peace and asking the central and the state governments to take steps for a dialogue with "all stake holders" but asserted that there can be no compromises on the issue of national sovereignty, The Indian Express reported.
Since the delegation was headed by Singh, the resolution should leave no doubt in anybody's mind about the intent of the central government. By all indications, it wants talks to start with all stakeholders.
To Singh should go the credit of making a genuine, even if delayed, effort to restore peace in the Valley in spite of repeated rebuffs. Over the past few months, he has visited Kashmir thrice with an olive branch, only to discover that not too many stakeholders are willing to meet him. Yet, he has not given up hopes. For his tenacity alone, Singh deserves credit.
After Singh's repeated Srinagar sojourns, two things by now should be evident to everyone, except ill-informed, ideologically-biased-drawing-room-warriors. One, the Indian government is really keen to start a dialogue and end violence. And two, without Hurriyat's involvement talks can't begin, simply because everyone the Indian government goes to says first speak to the separatists.
Ergo, if the Indian government wants to talk, which it does, there is no option but to speak to the Hurriyat.
The real challenge, of course, is to bring Hurriyat to the negotiation table within the four corners, as the delegation underlined, of the Indian Constitution. To speak to the separatists without compromising the sovereignty of the country. That's a challenge Singh and the Indian government will have to take head on.
The problem that BJP will face is when it comes to Kashmir, the party is caught between the interest of the Valley and the noise of its own middle and upper class cheerleaders, for whom a muscular approach is the only viable solution.
Nothing broadens the ken of the "muzzle them with force" hawks. Not even the solemn and wise words of the chief of the Indian Army Dalbir Singh Suhag who recently called for an end to violence and restoration of peace at the earliest, underlining that there is "need to synergise efforts with all the stakeholders."
Blindfolded by the mistaken belief that bashing Pakistan and marginalising Hurriyat will lead to 1,000 years of peace in Kashmir, they keep egging the Centre on to further harden its stance and pick up petty wars with Hurriyat leaders. Well, the bad news for them is this: Needlessly taking on the Hurriyat at this juncture would be like cutting the nose to spite the face. It just won't work.
As Ashis Nandy argues in The Outlook: In Kashmir, the militants and, more than them, Indian aficionados of a hard, garrison state and a fully centralised, dissent-free political order have already succeeded in further delegitimising the security forces and country’s political elite. As I have already said, the army sounds apologetic, so do our political leaders. We shall soon find out that we have paid a heavy price, internationally and in India itself, by trying to emulate Israel.
Thankfully, Singh's stance indicates the Centre is willing to ignore this surround sound of drumbeaters of war. By reiterating its commitment to dialogue with all the stakeholders, it is wisely telling the world that India is ready to talk to everyone wanting peace in Kashmir.
Tuco would have approved.