Politicians not ready to get entangled in Kashmir cobweb
Past Initiatives Haunt Aspirants; Congress, GOI In Dilemma
Srinagar, Oct 8: The central government seems to be in a dilemma over the appointment of interlocutors for reviving the dialogue process in Kashmir, as promised by it in its eight-point agenda for Jammu and Kashmir, announced last month.
That is why, according to highly placed sources, there has been a considerable delay in appointing the person or persons for the job, which is presumed to be a “tough one” for varied reasons.
Top Congress sources in Delhi disclosed to Greater Kashmir that the delay in engaging the interlocutors is because the party high-command, Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, were finding it difficult to engage the persons of their choice, and also those who were “acceptable to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
“See the interlocutor or interlocutors have to be the reputable persons who should be acceptable to the parties and people of Jammu and Kashmir and also the political leadership in New Delhi,” the sources said. “The one who is entrusted the job should be acceptable to all shades of opinion in Kashmir, including the separatists, directly or indirectly.”
While the Congress leaders are mum over the issue, sources said some senior politicians have categorically refused to take up the assignment. The prime reasons, they said, was their “past experience” with regard to engagement of interlocutors on Kashmir and the results thereof.
Member Parliament, Assaduddin Owaisi, who was part of the parliamentary delegation that visited Kashmir last month, said New Delhi must act fast on the eight-point agenda on Kashmir. “I don’t exactly know why there has been delay in engagement of interlocutors. But certainly after the all party delegation visited the state, the central government must act fast on the initiatives that have been announced for the state. Time is of essence. I am sure the central government will take a decision soon.”
According to observers, New Delhi has so far roped-in over half a dozen interlocutors on Kashmir. But they have failed to come up with any “concrete plan” on how to move on vis-à-vis Kashmir.
Among those who have acted as the “official or unofficial” interlocutors on Kashmir include the politician George Fernandes, who as union railways minister headed the Kashmir Affairs Ministry in the government of India in early nineties when the militancy erupted in the state.
In nineties, observers recall that Congress leader late Rajesh Pilot too acted as an unofficial interlocutor on Kashmir, years before the job was entrusted to Ram Jethmalani, Advocate Ashok Bhan and MP Shababuddin, who were part of the Kashmir Committee.
In May 2001, New Delhi appointed KC Pant as an official interlocutor who met the senior separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah that year. Later Arun Jaitley was nominated by then NDA government to discuss autonomy with NC government in JK in 2001 and talk to the late Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Shah.
Observers said Late JN Dixit, former foreign secretary and former National Security Advisor was assigned the task before it was handed over to incumbent governor of Jammu and Kashmir, NN Vohra.
Unofficially, persons like Admiral Nair, Prem Shanker Jha and AS Dullat have also reportedly acted as the interlocutors on Kashmir. One of the known figures in India, ON Mishra, had also spoken to the Hurriyat Conference (G) chairman, Syed Ali Geelani.
While the interlocutors failed to break the ice, the centre is today finding it difficult to engage yet another interlocutor on Kashmir, though it has promised cabinet rank, dedicated staff and perks to the person.
A Kolkata-based daily recently reported that no one from political circles in Delhi seemed to be interested in the job because Kashmir, after all, is a “tough task”.
“Searching for a politician to lead a group of interlocutors to Kashmir is proving difficult for the government as several of those approached have declined the offer. At least some of the politicians who were approached are understood to have flatly refused, while others have sought time,” the daily said.
The report said several names have been doing the rounds, including those of Congress leaders Digvijay Singh and Prithviraj Chavan and the CPM’s Sitaram Yechury. “The political face of the group of interlocutors also needs to be someone who neither has a negative image in Kashmir nor is unacceptable to the PMO or 10 Janpath,” it said.
The government’s hunt for a politician to head the group comes after the cabinet committee on security (CCS) last month decided on an eight-point agenda for the embattled Valley. Setting up a team of interlocutors to carry forward the dialogue on resolving the tangle was one of the decisions.
Senior Congress leader, who is also the in-charge of Kashmir Affairs, Prithviraj Chavan, plainly refused to comment on the issue. “I am just back from Japan and I don’t know anything about the issue of interlocutors,” he told Greater Kashmir over phone from Delhi.
Chavan, however, minced no words in saying that it was for the party high-command to decide on the interlocutors. “It is for the high-command and Congress core group to take the decision,” he said.
Asked if the party approached him with the offer, he said, “Nobody has told me anything so far. Whatever the party decides will be acceptable to all of us.”
Back home, the National Conference leaders haven’t lost their hope. “The centre has made the announcement. We are sure that it will not delay the engagement of interlocutors given the sensitivity of the issue. We are hopeful to see some outcome this week or early next week,” said a senior National Conference minister, insisting not to be named.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 8 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 8 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 9 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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