The Centre on Tuesday said it was left to the newly-appointed interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir to decide whom to engage with in the troubled state even as the Congress alleged that the move was “only for publicity”. Former Intelligence Bureau(IB) chief Dineshwar Sharma was on Monday appointed by the Centre as its special representative for a “sustained dialogue” with all stakeholders in J and K, in a fresh move aimed at bringing peace in the border state.
The J and K government welcomed Sharma’s appointment, observing that dialogue was the only way forward to address the Kashmir issue in the larger interest of peace and stability in the state while the state unit of the BJP asked all stakeholders to “give peace a chance”.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh when asked by reporters if Sharma would hold talks with the Hurriyat Conference, as suggested by some state politicians, responded by saying, “It depends upon him(Sharma) whom he talks to or engages with”.
Singh was speaking on the sidelines of the 56th Raising Day parade of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police in Greater Noida, near Delhi.
The minister ducked questions by reporters on what signals the Indian government sought to send to Pakistan with the appointment of the interlocutor.
Sustained dialogues would be initiated by the government for a solution to the Kashmir issue, Singh had said on Monday.
The home minister had also made it clear that Sharma, who would hold the rank of a cabinet secretary, would have a free hand in deciding whom to engage with.
But the main opposition party Congress said it doubted the “intent” of the NDA government in resolving the Kashmir issue, and alleged that it appointed an interlocutor towards the end of its rule “only for publicity”.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Congress and other opposition parties had asked the government to talk to all stakeholders to resolve the “political issue” in the Valley through confidence-building measures rather than “hot pursuit”, but it “wasted” three-and-a-half years during which many precious lives were lost.
“We are not opposing the decision of the government. But at the fag end of their tenure, they have done this. This is only for publicity. This government has no Kashmir policy. They have no policy on demonetisation, GST, farmers issues and unemployment. We doubt their intent as they have no policy,” Azad said at a joint press conference of opposition leaders in Delhi.
Azad, who was flanked by Derek O’Brien of the TMC and Sharad Yadav of the breakaway JD-U faction, said that had the government taken steps as suggested by the Congress-led opposition, many precious lives of soldiers and civilians could have been saved as well as the eyesight of many young girls who lost them due to pellet guns.
“For three-and-a-half years, the BJP is talking about ‘hot pursuit’. We all opposition parties both inside and outside of Parliament have been talking about ‘confidence building’ measures, besides ‘hot pursuit’,” he said.
Azad said they had maintained that this was a “political issue” and should be resolved politically.
A meeting of the J and K Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti last evening welcomed the Centre’s decision, an official spokesperson said in Srinagar.
The Cabinet observed that dialogue is the only way forward to address the issue in the larger interest of peace and stability in the state.
It noted that the initiative is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech that laid emphasis on embracing the people of J and K.
BJP state unit’s chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi said all stakeholders must come forward to meet the central interlocutor and put their views across.
Violence and the culture of separatism had destroyed the economy and peace of the region, he said, asking stakeholders to avail of the opportunity to usher in peace.
The vast majority of the population in Kashmir was yearning for peace for the sake of the future of their children, Sethi said in a statement released in Jammu.
The Jammu High Court Bar Association gave a guarded reaction, saying only time will tell how successful will be Sharma’s endeavour.