After a hiatus of more than five years, the Centre appointed new point man for Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, who is in the Valley to re-start A dialogue with “stakeholders” in Jammu & Kashmir. While the refusal of the separatists to engage with Sharma was expected, the lukewarm response of mainstream political forces in the state has reduced expectations from Sharma’s visit. After an iron-fist approach towards the separatists – especially the cases by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) against the separatist leaders of all shades – New Delhi’s choice of interlocutor has belied hopes of any significant breakthrough.
While Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani and his group have not been ready to talk to New Delhi without any preconditions – including that New Delhi accept Kashmir as a dispute – the pro-talks separatist leaders would have expected a political face to engage with them. However, the Centre has appointed a former intelligence officer as interlocutor which the separatists see less as an attempt to engage by New Delhi with them and more of an attempt to bully them, the NIA and ED investigations still fresh in their minds.
The mainstream political parties, barring the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the BJP, are also not hopeful of any outcome from the new round of talks, particularly in view of such attempts in the past. The contradictory statements from the Home Ministry and the Prime Minister’s office, about the mandate of the interlocutor have not helped either.
The separatists rejection of talks, the mainstream political parties skepticism of any meaningful dialogue and the atmosphere of increased mistrust in the Valley, has seen the state government making efforts to rope in other “stakeholders” — several civil society groups will be on the list of those Sharma talks to. However, it is important that the government move beyond the shikara unions, taxi drivers and little known individuals – the usual delegation groups who meet any visiting dignitary in the Valley. These names can help the government show that the dialogue process has not been rejected by the people but will not help make any political gains.If the state and the Centre want to have a result oriented dialogue, they need to bring in the Hurriyat and the separatists. Otherwise, the chances of any kind of breakthrough remain bleak.