Talk About Talks

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has hinted at starting a new engagement with Kashmir.In an interview to PTI he not only expressed his desire to meet separatists ‘’to know what they really want’’ but also talked about withdrawing army from the state sometime in the near future. However, by the very nature of these statements there is nothing that is definite about either of these prospects. But this hardly detracts from the import of Shinde’s statements. It is after a long time that the centre has started talking in terms of holding dialogue with separatists. Though Shinde’s predecessor P Chidambaram had similarly offered to hold quiet dialogue with Hurriyat, the initiative fell through following backlash in Kashmir against secret nature of these parleys. The breakdown in engagement was followed by the successive summer unrests in Valley through 2008-2010 forcing the centre to constitute a three-member panel of interlocutors to start a formal engagement with the state. However, the initiative turned out to be a damp squib. The recommendations made by the panel are gathering dust with centre dragging its feet on their discussion. This non-serious approach to dealings with Kashmir has severely undermined the credibility of the centre’s intermittent initiatives on the state. They are seen as little more than calibrated efforts to spin separatists on a merry-go-round, ending mostly in discrediting them rather than conceding to some of their minimum demands like the release of political prisoners. Shinde’s fresh overture for dialogue has come against this cheerless backdrop. But it is nonetheless significant and offers hope for a fresh engagement which can hopefully translate into some headway on Kashmir. For now, however, all such talk seems far-fetched. It will take some more show of seriousness on the part of Shinde to inspire confidence in his renewed effort to reach out to Kashmir. It will certainly help if centre takes firm steps to strengthen old CBMs like easing of the formalities in cross-LoC trade and travel and releasing some long-serving political prisoners.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 21 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 21 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 22 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST

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