Interlocutor At Work

Time was when Dr Farooq Abdullah exasperatingly asked whether the centre’s interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma visited Kashmir “to fill his books”. But one year into his role, the centre’s approach towards Kashmir has shown signs of some remarkable change – albeit it seems too little, too late and more or less still at a rhetorical level. At least, the ongoing unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir confirms this to an extent.  Though, it is not clear whether  Sharma is the driver of this seeming shift, his imprint can’t be ruled out.  Considering Sharma is the New Delhi’s pointman on Kashmir, his regular inputs about the deteriorating situation could have been a determining factor  in re-adjust centre’s Kashmir calculus.  

Sharma has gone about his initiative  in a familiar way. He also went about meeting shikarawalas, traders and civil society. Also, like his predecessors, Sharma’s initiative is a political outreach which necessarily doesn’t extend to the separatists. No invite has been extended to them for talks.  In fact, the onus for engagement has been on the Hurriyat. Should they be interested, they will have to present themselves before the interlocutor rather than vice versa. This has hardly left any scope for any contact with them.

The initiative was thus seen as part of the Centre’s incremental and multi-pronged strategy to deal with Kashmir: a tough military response to the militancy, a sustained effort to choke the funding of the separatist movement and the militancy through action against Hurriyat leaders and the people allied to them and a political outreach directly to the youth and civil society’. It was seen as one part of a multi-pronged strategy – a combined security, economic and political approach-  to tackle the Kashmir turmoil. But along the way, it has been possible to see some method in his work. From, the amnesty to youth as his first Confidence Building Measure (CBM) to the unilateral ceasefire and now the talk of dialogue, the initiative has come a long way. These are some of the  signs that the initiative is being broadened and expanded, even though its contours are not quite clear now.

The Valley, on the other hand, would rather want the interlocutor to grapple with the larger political issues underpinning the turmoil in the state, than just go about meeting “irrelevant groups of people”. “Unless New Delhi upgrades the mandate of the interlocutor to take on the larger political dimension of Kashmir issue, little is going to change. The aspects of development, governance and regional grievances can best be left to the state government to be sorted out. True Kashmir problem has a layered reality within the state with an inherent conflict among the regions and within the regions themselves, but this is not what triggers separatist uprisings and the violence in the state. What triggers is the festering political issue. So, it is this issue that needs dealt with, rest will fall into place.

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