Yet another Track-II initiative

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In a surprise development, a team led by the former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha met the leaders of the pro-freedom camp including Syed Ali Shah Geelani who had earlier in September shut the door on the two leaders of the All Party Delegation who wanted to call on him.  The delegation later met Mirwaiz Umar Farooq at his residence. Billed as a Track-II initiative, the meetings between the visiting  team and the separatists are touted to lead to an engagement with the centre. However,  in interactions with the media, the members of the team played down the significance of their initiative.  Sinha was at pains to distance the delegation from the central government, terming the initiative as "independent" and geared to share the pain of the people.

 

Similarly, Hurriyat has been cautious in its response. However, the statements of both Geelani and Mirwaiz  have been open-ended with enough scope for a positive response should centre show real seriousness about an engagement.  But this seems unlikely to happen.  A direct dialogue between Hurriyat and New Delhi is now far more complex an affair than it was earlier.   Even if the government chooses to engage pro-freedom camp, it will find them unwilling to respond because of the unproductive nature of  such engagements in past and the new complications and factors in play which have drastically shrunk Hurriyat’s space for talks. The biggest of these complications is the adhoc unity among the separatist leadership. Syed Ali Shah, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have come together to commandeer the current unrest. So, response to any invite for talks from the centre will have to be jointly decided by them. In past centre only talked to the Hurriyat faction led by Mirwaiz, something that was vehemently opposed by the Geelani group as a sell-out to New Delhi.

 

Geelani has already set four conditions for talks. The conditions are of impossible nature and include accepting the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir and announcing the acceptance of the people's right to self determination, announcing rapid demilitarisation process of population centres and repealing laws like AFSPA and Public Safety Act.

 

This hardly leaves a scope for any political engagement with Kashmir in the absence of a dialogue with Pakistan. With Islamabad out of the loop, Hurriyat will hardly find it politically tenable to be a part of the dialogue process with New Delhi, nor worth its while given such parleys by their very nature drastically circumscribe the scope of a political settlement and limit it to a little more than some local and minor political and administrative re-adjustment.  Also, on past evidence, even such adjustments are unlikely to materialize and the centre has often pulled out of the process  at the first sign of the normalcy

 

In past, following failures of talks with moderate separatists, the thinking in New Delhi has been that the dialogue with Pakistan is synonymous with the talks with Hurriyat.  And for the past some years this approach to Kashmir has served New Delhi well. But now relations with Islamabad have sunk to a new low.  And, meanwhile, the separatists are back in the ascendant following a renewed eruption in Valley. This has made things more complicated. There is no way to politically reach out to the separatist sentiment in Valley, except through the severely discredited mainstream parties. And this will hardly help the situation.

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