The decision taken by NDA government to initiate a sustained dialogue process for restoring peace and normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir is a welcome step. The problem in the Valley is largely a political one and in this context the appointment of Dineshwar Sharma, who has no experience in diplomatic and political negotiations in resolving disputes as the government’s special representative, especially at a time when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is visiting India via Pakistan, is an exercise in futility and an eyewash formality.
Through such a hasty appointment, the Narendra Modi government wants to show off as if it is really concerned about solving the long-standing Kashmir dispute. The Centre has also realised that the use of brutal force to suppress Kashmiris' demands for greater autonomy will not work, particularly when the BJP-PDP alliance has not been effectively implemented.
The appointment of an IPS officer shows that the government still thinks about the Jammu and Kashmir dispute through the prism of national security and intelligence. But the fact is that the problem can only be solved politically. And, this is admitted by the Army Chiefs and other security related experts who have worked in Jammu and Kashmir region.
Indian government needs to take various stakeholders into confidence, including the army at the border, and Pakistan, to solve the issue. Unless that happens, the dialogue process which the government intends to restart, would merely be a diversionary effort on the part of the Centre. This is because the alliance between the BJP and PDP is not at all functioning and the promises made have been belied.
The BJP-led NDA government also has a problem of not reaching out to Pakistan and separatists, both of whom are major stakeholders in the peace process. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former deputy prime minister LK Advani met leaders from the Hurriyat and also hugged them. But the current dispensation shuns Hurriyat leaders and treats them as Pakistan’s proxies. In the mean time, most Hurriyat leaders are implicated in hawala scandal. Some are also jailed. But were these Hurriyat leaders not corrupt for Singh and Advani? Did the then NDA and UPA government not know of their credentials or activities?
In his Independence Day address, Modi said that the Kashmir problem can be solved only by embracing Kashmir and not by "gaali or goli" (abuses or bullets). But is the noble vision of the prime minister being translated into action and reality?
Skirmishes on the border have risen and so have encounters between the militants and security forces in the past one year. The PDP-BJP government is unpopular. Many PDP leaders are being attacked. Recently, one senior PDP leader resigned too.
There is a growing discontent among the Kashmiri youths. At least 42 percent of them are unemployed. There has been no improvement in their education and employment situation. The central schemes for youths in Jammu and Kashmir, namely prime minister's scholarships for poor students from the state and Udan Scheme for employment, have hardly been implemented in letter and spirit. There has been no worthwhile effort to address pressing issues like human rights violations in the Valley.
Coming back to Sharma's appointment — does he enough power to talk to different stakeholders in the state? Can he revoke the AFSPA and PSA? Can he address the socio-economic as well as human rights violations in the Valley?
When I was an interlocutor (2010-2014), my team and I met with different political parties to keeping them informed about the developments. We also spoke to the RSS and the other political parties, which were a part of the all-parties delegation that visited Kashmir during the crisis of 2010 .
But one thing has been constant, both UPA, as well the NDA regimes, have not acted upon the recommendations made by the interlocutors. This points to a lack of sincerity on the part of the political dispensation at the Centre to solve the long-standing issue.
If the NDA government is serious about resolving the problem, it needs to follow what former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee once said that the Kashmir imboglio can be resolved within the realm of "kashmiriyat, jamhooriyat and insaniyat."
There has often been consensus-based decisions between the two major parties and it's not like the Congress and the BJP have not come together in the past. Therefore, the Indian establishment can resolve the Kashmir dispute provide this goal is pursued earnestly.
The author is a former interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir and the former Central Information Commissioner.
As told to Aprameya Rao
Updated Date: Oct 24, 2017 15:18 PM