New Track II should move beyond conflict management

Centre seems to be embarking on yet another Track-II initiative to address the ongoing crisis in Kashmir.  Though the initiative is yet to take any concrete form, a new team is likely to be announced during or after the visit of the all party delegation to Kashmir in the first week of September. Over the past week or so, New Delhi has shown some signs of finally waking up to the deepening turmoil in the state. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has talked about a “permanent solution to Jammu and Kashmir within the framework of the constitution” during his meeting with J&K Opposition delegation led by Omar Abdullah. The PM since also met the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. And he did spend a significant duration of his Mann ki Baat talking about Kashmir.  Though Modi has not indicated any policy shift on Kashmir, he has adopted a more empathetic stance towards the killings in the state. “Ekta and Mamata (unity and compassion) are the twin themes of the political consensus on Kashmir,” he said.

 

Earlier, the home minister Rajnath Singh visited the state for a second time in a month. He too didn’t venture beyond the stock policy approach to the state, choosing instead to promise some administrative measures like banning the use of pellet guns “within three to four days”. But Singh kept the political options open, offering to talk to anybody within the ambit of Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat”. The trinity which by now has acquired a vintage value in Kashmir discourse has once again come handy to New Delhi to obviate the otherwise mandatory call for the talks within the constitutional framework.

 

But this would still mean little to people in Valley if centre doesn’t enlighten them  as to the shape of this dialogue, and more crucially, the objective of this process. For now, it only appears like old wine in new bottles. Kashmir  has a long history of the processes  of dialogue, outreach through the round table engagements and the interlocutors which have ended up achieving but little.  Another such  process will only evoke a sense of de javu, a recurrent  feeling that this initiative will also relentlessly head into the same fate that met the likes of K C Pant, R K Mishra, Kashmir Committee, the present governor  N N Vohra, round table conferences and the three-member group of the interlocutors led by Dileep Padgaonkar. There can only be some difference, if the new initiative is not inherently designed to end like this. That is, for any outreach to be credible, let alone its ability to generate a movement towards a solution, there has to be a fundamental shift in the strategy and the practices adopted so far.   

 

It will hardly do if the government talks to the mainstream political parties as they don’t question the political status quo and their politics doesn’t lead to frequent anti-New Delhi uprisings. By the same token, a stage-managed process of talking to obscure and the generally unidentified delegations of people will hardly change anything.  What will make a difference is not only an offer of a meaningful dialogue which not only promises staying the course but is also held with the right interlocutors. And in Kashmir, only separatist groups fit this bill.

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