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CM, Jammu & Kashmir parties hail talks offer, separatists mum

Jammu & Kashmir talks: Congress says right move after ‘wasting’ over 3 yrs and losing hundreds of lives

Written by Manoj CG, Mir Ehsan | New Delhi/srinagar | Updated: October 24, 2017 10:35:56 am
jammu kashmir, j&k talks, mehbooba mufti, jammu kashmir cm, kashmir separatist leaders, rajnath singh, home minister, indian express Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Monday. Prem Nath Pandey

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and leaders of mainstream parties in the Valley on Monday welcomed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s announcement on the initiation of a dialogue process in the state but separatists remained silent. At least 10 separatist leaders have been arrested by central agencies for their alleged involvement in suspicious transactions.

In a backhanded compliment, the Congress said the Narendra Modi government had finally realised it was on a “totally wrong path” on Kashmir after “wasting” three-and-a-half years and “losing hundreds of precious lives”. The party said the decision was an admission that the NDA government’s “muscular approach has failed” in J&K. Mufti, who has advocated talks with separatists and Pakistan, said stakeholders should consider this an opportunity. “This dialogue initiative is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s August 15 speech — ‘na goli se, na gaali se, Kashmir ki samasya suljhegi gale lagaane se’,’’ she said.

Calling this an initiative to win “hearts of people of J&K”, she said security measures have been taken in J&K but the start of a political dialogue is important. “It has already happened in the past and now it is happening again. In the past, the dialogue rendered good results,” she said. Mehbooba said that the interlocutor, former IB chief Dineshwar Sharma, is “a good man with huge credibility”. “He has taken part in many dialogues in the past in the Northeast and done some good work,” she said.

Asked if the NIA raids on separatists had something to do with this offer, she said the political process and security measures were two separate issues.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said the National Conference, the main Opposition in J&K, will keep an open mind. “Centre announces an interlocutor to engage with stakeholders in J&K. Will keep an open mind & wait to see results of the dialogue process,’’ he tweeted.

Sources said separatist leaders may issue a joint statement on Tuesday after a meeting of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav said the government’s move was a “well thought out decision”. “It’s a welcome move…. The government and home minister have repeatedly said that they are ready for dialogue with whoever wants to talk for peace,” he said over phone. In Delhi, former Union Home minister P Chidambaram said the government’s shift from “no talks” to “talks with all stakeholders is a major victory for those who had strongly argued for a political solution” in J&K. He tweeted, “With appointment of interlocutor, I hope government has finally admitted ‘muscular approach’ has failed in J&K.”

Stating that it is “unfortunate the government took three-and-a-half years to understand Kashmir”, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “Ultimately they had to accept our demand of talking to all stakeholders — what we have been saying all along. This government has wasted… precious years… and in between we lost precious lives of hundreds of security personnel and civilians. Now the government has realised that it was on a totally wrong path on Kashmir.”

Congress leader Manish Tewari said the appointment of an interlocutor is “indicative that realists in the government have prevailed over hawks”. PDP Youth president Waheed ur Rehman Parra said his party had been waiting for this moment since they came to power.

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