Centre pushes for Kashmir talks, appoints interlocutor

Ex-IB director Dineshwar Sharma to talk to ‘all’ stakeholders: Rajnath Singh

New Delhi, Publish Date: Oct 23 2017 11:36PM | Updated Date: Oct 24 2017 1:32AM
Centre pushes for Kashmir talks, appoints interlocutorFile Photo

In a sudden change of its tough stand, the government of India on Monday announced its decision to start a dialogue process in Jammu and Kashmir and appointed former Intelligence Bureau director Dineshwar Sharma as its representative for talks with “all” stakeholders in the state.

“Carrying forward the conviction and consistency in its policy, we have decided that a sustained dialogue process should begin in Jammu and Kashmir,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh told a hurriedly-convened news conference here after having maintained for long that there could be no talks with the separatist leaders.

“As a representative of the government of India, Sharma will initiate a sustained interaction and dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of the people, especially its youth, in Jammu and Kashmir. He will meet elected representatives, political parties, different organisations and individuals he wants to,” Rajnath said.

“Now what we will do for Jammu and Kashmir, will do with clean intention,” he said.

Asked whether the interlocutor, who will have cabinet rank, would hold talks with Hurriyat leaders, Rajnath Singh appeared not to rule out such a possibility, saying Sharma had a mandate to hold a dialogue “with anyone he wants.”

The government of India had been maintaining a tough Kashmir policy and had ruled out talks with separatists in recent months. The Home Minister said after completing the exercise, Sharma, a 1979 batch IPS officer with intimate knowledge of the security situation and Kashmir affairs, will give a report to the government of India. Sharma was director of IB from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2016.

Earlier, he was the joint director of the IB’s “Islamist Terrorism Desk” from 2003 to 2005. He headed the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Jammu and Kashmir and was the director of the BSF Academy, and additional director and special director in the IB.

Replying to questions, the minister said that no time limit could be set whether it is three months or six months or more. “He can talk to anyone he wants,” he said.

Rajnath said that Prime Minister NarendraModi had talked to all political parties as to what could be done to find a solution to Kashmir problems. “People told us that the dialogue process should be started. We are doing this,” he said and recalled the Prime Minister’s August 15 speech saying “neither by bullet, nor by abuses but by embracing the people we can solve the problems in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Asked about the status of the resignation reportedly given by Governor NN Vohra and whether it would be accepted in the new context, Rajnath Singh merely replied that the elected government is there and the Governor is there.

The Home Minister made it clear that Sharma would have complete independence in deciding who to hold talks with.

Asked about the failure of similar initiatives undertaken earlier, Singh said: “Please take it from me that whatever we do, we will do with saafneeyataurneeti (good intentions and clear policy).”

In another supplementary question on previous reports of interlocutors gathering dust in the Home Ministry, he said: “You cannot pre-judge that this initiative will not be successful. Our announcement shows how serious we are about initiating dialogue.”

Asked whether a police officer was capable for holding talks on such a sensitive issue, Singh shot back: “What's wrong in that. He is an apolitical person having no political affiliation which is his greatest advantage. Besides he is well aware about the internal security situation of the country.” Sharma is the fourth interlocutor appointed by the government of India since 2002. The first one was former union minister K C Pant, the second N N Vohra, the present governor of the state, and the last a three-member panel comprising former bureaucrat M M Ansari, academician Radha Kumar and late journalist Dileep Padgaonkar.


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