The situation in Kashmir valley has “never looked so bleak”, former RAW chief A S Dulat said on Monday. “Kashmir has never looked so bleak. The last four-odd months have been terrible,” Dulat said, delivering a lecture on ‘Kashmir: Reasons for Unrest, Pathways to Peace’, organised by the Observer Research Foundation this evening.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is squandering an opportunity to find a solution for Kashmir,” Dulat said.
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Kashmiris expected Modi to follow the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s path, he said.
“There is nothing that gives more hope to a Kashmiri than cordial India-Pakistan relations. Pakistan has tried its best in vain to get separatists in Kashmir together. Now it (separatists coming together) has happened because Delhi has no time for it,” Dulat said.
Dulat made light of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s recent statement that demonetisation led to the end of stone-pelting in the Kashmir valley.
“Stone-pelting stopped before demonetisation. There is a connect between terror and counterfeit currency, but it’s exaggerated. Stopping growth of indigenous militants is more important than the counterfeit currency issue,” he said.
Dulat suggested that a phased withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act is a must for long-term peace in Kashmir.
“There is only one way to move forward in Kashmir: Talk, talk and keep talking,” he said.
“Kashmir is not a political, economic, or even military issue. It is an emotive issue,” Dulat, who was special adviser to PM during the Vajpayee regime, said.
“After Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, J&K people felt that he would walk the Vajpayee path, because Kashmiris were highly impressed by Vajpayee.
“Surprisingly, Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had congratulated Modi for the win. But today, most of the separatists have joined hands against Modi government,” the ex-RAW chief said.
“One misconception about Kashmir is that we believe they always want something from us,” Dulat said.
The Jammu and Kashmir government now a days pays only lip service to the Modi government, as a result of which the state has been in a worse situation in last four months, he said.
“Kashmir’s recent unrest has some roots in then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s press conference after his swearing-in where he praised separatists and Pakistan for ensuring smooth elections,” Dulat said.
“I think he got carried away but it gave a wrong message,” he said.
“Earlier, clashes during Amarnath yatra polarised Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
This background later led to massive stone-pelting in the valley after the killing of Burhan Wani who had the audacity to post his photo on social media and challenge the government, Dulat said.
During the UPA government, “where Manmohan Singh had everything on platter”, his advisers probably convinced him to engage only with Pakistan, which led to unrest among Kashmiris, he said.
Relations between separatist leadership and NDA regime had improved so much that Hurriyat Conference began to be called “Advani Hurriyat”, Dulat said.
“Musharraf would be regretting walking out of Agra (summit),” Dulat said about the then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s visit in 2001, as it stalled the dialogue.
About the recent `surgical strike’, Dulat said, “May be we did not need so much media hype” as it leads to increase in tension. “Look at the LoC, more civilians are dying now from both sides,” he said.
Dulat and Sudheendra Kulkarni of Observer Foundation paid tributes to the senior journalist Dilip Padgaonkar, who had headed Centre-appointed interlocutors’ panel for Kashmir, and who passed away in Pune earlier today.