If Centre Really Wants A Dialogue

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The atmosphere in Valley is rife with the anticipation of an engagement between New Delhi and Hurriyat, even though there is little concrete evidence that the union government is even interested in talks. The speculations began with the recent chorus of dialogue-favoring statements from New Delhi which followed the unilateral ceasefire in New Delhi followed by the truce on the borders. And now the home minister Rajnath Singh is set to visit the state on Eid-ul-Fitr. Though talks offer is cleverly phrased: it doesn’t set any conditions but it also puts the onus of engagement on Hurriyat.  But one thing is clear. Over the past two weeks. there have been some indications of a degree of the policy shift on Kashmir in New Delhi.

However, Centre hasn’t so far announced as to what form the engagement with Kashmir, if any, will take and whether there is a formal plan to rope in Hurriyat. As of now, New Delhi has yet to express an explicit desire for dialogue with separatists, choosing instead to club them with “all stakeholders”. But considering the cosmetic and unproductive nature of similar engagements in past, New Delhi is unlikely to find any serious takers for its delayed outreach. One crippling drawback of such tactics is that they are basically time-buying tactics and their goal is co-option of the leaders than the solution.

If the goal is truly a solution, this calls for a fundamental shift in the strategy and the practices adopted so far. The immediate priority, in any case, should be to draw separatists into a dialogue which they believe in. A dialogue that creates a sense of incremental progress towards some goal. As things stands, this certainly is not even remotely the case.  New Delhi, it appears, continues to be in the management mode. But as the continuing turmoil would have you believe, Kashmir has moved far beyond this stage.

And New Delhi has further complicated the matters by banking exclusively on a muscular approach to reign the situation in.  In the four years that it has been in power the BJP government at the centre has so far refused to politically engage Kashmir. It has acted against dissident groups like Hurriyat by unleashing its law enforcement agencies upon them.  The centre’s instinct has been to use more force.  For the BJP, the priority has been the successive elections in different states of India. Similarly, the engagement with Pakistan is unlikely to restore anytime soon, considering the country is going through general elections. And by the end of this year, New Delhi would be in an election mode. The change of governments in the two countries is likely to alter the political state of affairs and bring new factors into play. But it is still better if instead of continuing with the animosity, the neighbours choose to engage and carry it forward to be taken over by the new governments.

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