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Modi government appoints interlocutor on Kashmir: yet another Indian gimmick or Kashmir towards resolution?

Jammu Kashmir is being occupied by India, Pakistan and China but only India kills them in thousands in order to silence them. However, Kashmir freedom struggle has intensified in Kashmir in recent times and Indian regimes under tremendous pressure, perhaps from USA, to end the stalemate. Reports suggest Indian forces have murdered over 1000,000 Kashmiri Muslims to terrorize entire nation of Kashmiris and send a strong warning to Pakistan against meddling in “Indian affairs”.  

The Jammu Kashmir state has been on the boil since the killing of a popular youth leader commander Burhan Wani in an usual fake encounter in July last year.

Kashmiris want justice. .

The previous governments led by the Congress party and BJP used to throw hints about a possible solution to the Kashmir stalemate by ending occupation of Kashmir by Indian forces and its genocides. Until recently the Modi government, like the Congress led government, always maintained that Kashmir is an ‘integral’ part of India and warned of punitive action if Kashmiris do not respect Indian Constitution by being obedient citizens and promote Indian rules of colonialism. In fact India refused to talk to anybody on the issue as Kashmir is an “integral part” of India. All of a sudden, PM Modi has now decided to opt for talks with Kashmiris, surprising even Indian core media lords.   

As the first concrete attempt by the BJP led NDA government to reach out to Kashmiris It comes after a particularly-focused offensive by security agencies to crack down on Kashmiris who lead

In a clear indication that New Delhi is watching the unrest and is willing to reboot its Kashmir policy, the central government on October 23 appointed ex-intelligence chief Dineshwar Sharma as its interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir and gave him "complete freedom" to talk to all groups and individuals including Kashmiri separatists.

AS the first concrete initiative by the BJP led NDA government in three years to reach out to Kashmiris the Modi government appointed a state interlocutor on Kashmir. It comes after a particularly-focused offensive by security forces anchored from New Delhi to crack down on Kashmiris who lead the popular movement for sovereignty.  Indian forces occupying Kashmir on false claims are now engaged in terror operations to quell the unrest and kill the separatists’ and end ‘foreign funding’ for ‘separatists’.

In Srinagar, police and army teams have taken out dozens of local commanders of terrorist groups active in the Kashmir Valley. 

Dineshwar Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau chief has been appointed by the Narendra Modi government as its interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, home minister Rajnath Singh announced on Monday. A third-generation police officer, Dineshwar Sharma, 63, retired in December 2016 after leading the domestic spy agency, the Intelligence Bureau, for two years. The HM said Sharma would have “complete freedom” to talk to “all groups and individuals” and has been accorded a cabinet secretary rank. After the announcement, Sharma went and met the home minister and discussed how to go about his assignment.

Explaining why the government had gone for the interlocutor, Rajnath Singh said there had been suggestions from across the political spectrum that the government should hold dialogue with all relevant parties. Singh has visited J&K several times in the last three years — five times in the last year alone, and had recently talked about coming up with a permanent solution to the J&K problem. He said the move was a follow-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech in August where he had stressed the need to reach out to people.

The home minister said as a representative of the government of India, Dineshwar Sharma will initiate a sustained interaction and dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of people in Jammu and Kashmir. He added that there was no bar on him to talk to one group and not another. “We want to understand aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir, ”the minister asserted..

Explaining why the government had appointed the interlocutor, the Union Home Minister said there had been suggestions from across the political spectrum that the government should hold dialogue with all stakeholders in Kashmir. Singh also called the move a follow-up to PM Narendra Modi's Independence Day address in August where he had stressed that "Kashmir's problems can only be solved by embracing Kashmiris", not bullets or abuses.

Home ministry officials said the move was part of a three step process adopted by the federal government to address the situation in Kashmir valley turned into a large military cantonment. . “We have strengthened our security. The implementation of the development package is going on well too so the only thing left was to start a dialogue which will happen,” an official said, adding that Sharma was the first choice for the assignment and several meetings had been held to take the matter forward.

Asked if the government really needed another report, the Home Minister didn't refer to the older report but underlined that the government's intentions were clear. The minister explained the government's decision to go for the intelligence chief as its interlocutor, saying the centre wanted someone who did not have any political affiliations as he would probably be most-suited to reach out all individuals and organisations concerned.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, announcing the government initiative at a hurriedly-convened media conference, said there is no bar on him to talk to one group and not another...” We want to understand aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir…

Soon after, Sharma said that he was "hopeful" for Kashmir and would talk to "everyone who is interested in bringing permanent peace in the Valley". As a representative of the government of India, Dineshwar Sharma will initiate a sustained interaction and dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of people in Jammu and Kashmir.

Dineshwar Sharma, the federal interlocutor for Kashmir who has spoken about radicalization of the youth there as his big challenge, says he was worried that if radicalization picks up, "the situation will be like Yemen, Syria and Libya" and "finish the Kashmir society itself". "So, it is very important that everybody, all of us, contribute so that suffering of Kashmiris end," Sharma said.

For someone who has watched the violence in Kashmir at its peak back in the nineties, the former intelligence chief was instrumental in the central government's assessment that has looked at the evolving situation in Kashmir from the prism of radicalization as well. Sharma had kept his focus sharply on reaching out to the Kashmiri youth, blaming Pakistan for playing a major role in alienating them. "The youth and people of Kashmir have to realize what is good for them... I will make them realize that whether they should be working at the behest of some foreign power or they should be working for their own future," Sharma had said.

However, Sharma has not yet supported the notion that surrendering sovereignty back to Kashmiris and also help them establish a soverign nation to exist as a friendly nation of both India and Pakistan would be in their best interests - India’s as well.

In a sudden change of its tough stand, the government of India 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.

The minister explained the government's decision to go for the intelligence chief as its interlocutor, saying the centre wanted someone who did not have any political affiliations as he would probably be most-suited to reach out all individuals and organisations concerned.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, announcing the government initiative at a hurriedly-convened media conference, said there is no bar on him to talk to one group and not another...” We want to understand aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir…

Soon after, Sharma said that he was "hopeful" for Kashmir and would talk to "everyone who is interested in bringing permanent peace in the Valley". As a representative of the government of India, Dineshwar Sharma will initiate a sustained interaction and dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of people in Jammu and Kashmir.

Dineshwar Sharma, the federal interlocutor for Kashmir who has spoken about radicalization of the youth there as his big challenge, says he was worried that if radicalization picks up, "the situation will be like Yemen, Syria and Libya" and "finish the Kashmir society itself". "So, it is very important that everybody, all of us, contribute so that suffering of Kashmiris end," Sharma said.

The newly-appointed interlocutor said he will make his first visit to the strife-torn Valley within “eight-10 days” but multiple government sources confirmed that a lot of homework has already been done. An intelligence officer, who did not want to be named, as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said, “We have been holding informal parleys with the separatists and have urged them to be part of the dialogue process.” It is not clear whether the separatists would be a part of the just announced dialogue process.

For someone who has watched the violence in Kashmir at its peak back in the nineties, the former intelligence chief was instrumental in the central government's assessment that has looked at the evolving situation in Kashmir from the prism of radicalization as well. Sharma had kept his focus sharply on reaching out to the Kashmiri youth, blaming Pakistan for playing a major role in alienating them. "The youth and people of Kashmir have to realize what is good for them... I will make them realize that whether they should be working at the behest of some foreign power or they should be working for their own future," Sharma had said.

However, Sharma has not yet supported the notion that surrendering sovereignty back to Kashmiris and also help them establish a soverign nation to exist as a friendly nation of both India and Pakistan would be in their best interests - India’s as well.

Sharma, who headed the Intelligence Bureau last year when violent protests followed the killing of Wani, was called in for a meeting with national security advisor Ajit Doval and the home minister a few hours before the formal announcement, top sources revealed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his independence day speech, said: ‘Na goli seh, na gali seh, baat banegi gale lag ke.” Modi, had, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, indicated that the way forward lay in a dialogue and not through violence.

Sharma did not want to answer questions on whether he would engage with separatists belonging to the Hurriyat Conference but emphasized that he would speak “to all stakeholders”.“Peace must be restored in Kashmir and for that I will talk to all people in an effort to bring about a solution,’’ he said.

 

Previous Congress experiment with Kashmiri psyche

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.

Several governments in the past have tried to find a solution through negotiations. The Atal Behari Vajpayee government held talks with the separatists and current chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has for long been asking Modi to ‘’do a Vajpayee”. Mufti’s PDP and the BJP are coalition partners in Jammu and Kashmir while the BJP pursues its Hindutva agenda in the terrorized valley.

The Congress said that it doubted the “intent” of the NDA government in resolving the Kashmir issue, and alleged that it appointed an interlocutor towards the fag end of its rule “only for publicity”. Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Congress and other opposition parties had asked the government to talk to all stakeholders to resolve the “political issue” in the valley through confidence-building measures rather than “hot pursuit”, but it “wasted” three-and-a-half years during which many precious lives were lost. This government has no Kashmir policy. “We are not opposing the decision of the government. But at the fag end of their tenure, they have done this. This is only for publicity. They have no policy on demonetisation, GST, farmers’ issues and unemployment. We doubt their intent as they have no policy. “They have retained the British policy only on how to divide and rule the country by the politics..

Azad, who was flanked by Derek O’Brien of the TMC and Sharad Yadav of the breakaway JD-U faction, said that had the government taken steps as suggested by the Congress-led opposition, many precious lives of soldiers and civilians could have been saved as well as the eye sights of many young girls could have been saved who lost them due to pellet guns.  “For three-and-a-half years, the BJP is talking about ‘hot pursuit’. We all opposition parties both inside and outside of Parliament have been talking about ‘confidence building’ measures, besides ‘hot pursuit’,” he said.

Azad said they had maintained that this was a “political issue” and should be resolved politically. “No political issue can be resolved by hot pursuit and we had asked government to talk to all stakeholders. Had the government taken action three-and-a-half years ago, we would not have lost hundreds of precious lives of soldiers and civilians,” he said.

The decision to begin the sustained dialogue and appoint a group of interlocutors was taken on September 25 at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS), chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It was part of the eight-point initiative announced by the Centre after an all-party parliamentary delegation, led by Chidambaram, visited Srinagar and Jammu on September 20 and 21.

The interlocutors, appointed by the Government, have been entrusted with the responsibility of undertaking a sustained dialogue with the people of Jammu and Kashmir to understand their problems and chart a course for the future.  They had given their final report in a year. But most recommendations that called for review of laws that give security forces immunity from prosecution without the government's approval and allow detention of people for several years on suspicion, were not accepted. India also refused to end fake encounters as well meant in order to propagate the power of military. 

The government hopes that after interacting with all shades of political opinion they will suggest a way forward that truly reflects the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, specially the youth..

The terms and references of the panel include talks all shades of opinion including political parties, groups, students, civil society, separatists and other stakeholders in all the three regions —Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir. Padgaonkar will chair the meetings of the group.

The Congress led UPA government too had appointed interlocutors after the unrest in the Valley in 2010 but the report, submitted to the then home minister P Chidambaram was never acted upon by the Congress government .“I hope I will be able live up to the trust the government of India has showed and will be able to fulfill the expectations of the people,” Sharma told ANI.

 

2010 team

Union Minister PC had said the move to appoint the group of interlocutors was a clear demonstration of the seriousness of the government of India to find a solution to the Kashmir problem which has been there "for many, many years." "I would appeal to all sections of people of Jammu and Kashmir and all shades of political opinion to engage with the interlocutors so that we can move forward on the path of finding a solution to the problem," he told journalists. ."All of them are engaged in work which is in public domain and we think they are very credible people, people with a good track record and they can begin their work as early as possible and I am sure they will start their work as early as possible,"  Chidambaram said.

Padgaonkar, author and editor, has worked in various capacities in the journalistic field. He was Editor of the Times of India and is presently with the Asia Pacific Communications Private Limited. He was also part of the Kashmir Committee, led by former Union Minister and eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani."We will chart out our course once all three of us meet together. But we will have to be future oriented and approach with an open mind and a big heart. We need to listen to the people who have suffered a lot and also talk to the younger generation and understand them better,". Padgaonkar told The Hindu.

Padgaonkar said that recent statements of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Congress President Sonia Gandhi as well as members of the all party delegation that had visited Srinagar and Jammu would be taken up by the group. ``What is needed is a number of confidence building measures to be taken as quickly as possible,’’ he added.

Prof. Radha Kumar, who heads the Nelson Mandela Institute of Peace in Jamia Milia Islamia, has been engaged in back-channel discussions with moderate Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Prof. Ansari, who was professor and Director at the Hamdard University, is an educationist and economist before moving as an Information Commissioner. He has the background of an economic and education specialist and has served in several institutions in senior positions and provided research and consultancy service to various national and international organisations.

Pakistan rejects India’s move

Pakistan quickly dismissed as unrealistic India’s move to appoint an interlocutor to understand the legitimate aspirations of people in Jammu Kashmir, saying no interaction or dialogue would carry any weight without the participation of the Hurriyat Conference.

Any “sustained dialogue” aimed at bringing peace to the troubled state  should include the Hurriyat Conference leaders as well as stakeholders in Jammu Kashmir   and keeping  them out of the dialogue would be a waste of time for everybody, The designated interlocutor had been entrusted with the task of understanding the “legitimate aspirations” of the Kashmiri people.

Pakistani position is clear:  for any dialogue process to be meaningful and result-oriented, it has to include the three main parties – India, Pakistan, and the Kashmiris. In that context, without the participation of the Hurriyat leadership, no interaction or dialogue would carry any weight or meaning. Responding to a question on Sharma’s appointment, Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said that the measure did not appear to be sincere and realistic. He said that, if anything, the Indian Government’s announcement illustrated recognition — once again — of the futility of the use of force and of the indispensability of dialogue.

Zakaria said that the need of the hour was to have dialogue for peacefully resolving the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people. “This was imperative for ensuring durable and sustainable peace and stability in South Asia. Pakistan hoped that the international community would play its rightful role in facilitating such an outcome,” he said.

Of course, animosity between the nuclear neighbors since 1947 has made Pakistan to say so. Moreover, so far India is only playing tricks with both Kashmiris and Pakistanis while killing Muslims in Kashmir valley.

Positive signs from Azad Kashmir

Meanwhile, the main event of the 70th Foundation Day of the Azad State of Jammu and Kashmir was held in a spectacular and grand fashion at the university grounds in Muzaffarabad. Sardar Masood Khan, President Azad Jammu Kashmir was the chief guest at the occasion. The event started with the National Anthem of Pakistan and was followed by the inspection of the parade by the President AJK.  The President of AJK in his formal address praised the efforts of the police for organizing the event. He said that as a proud and free nation it is our responsibility to present our tribute to the brave martyrs who had laid their lives for the freedom of AJK.

Masood Khan said: ”Independence is our identity. It is our way, this is our destiny and we will attain it form the Indian occupation forces.” The Muslim leaders of Kashmir in 1947; Quaid e Millat Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, Mujahid e Awal Sardar Abdul Qayyum and others had made a conscious decision at Srinagar in joining Pakistan. The people of AJK and Pakistan will continue with their diplomatic, political and moral support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, said the President. Today, the people of Azad Kashmir enjoy freedom due to the selfless sacrifices of the freedom fighters who had courageously fought the Indian occupation forces.  “Today is the day we renew and strengthen our resolve for our support towards the freedom struggle and the right to self-determination of our brothers and sisters in IOK”.

Countless women have been raped due to the aggression, hundreds of young men have been killed, young boys and girls have been disabled and the draconian laws of India’s occupation forces have given a free pass to the Indian forces, said the President. Thousands of unnamed graves have been discovered and the Hurriyat leaders have been imprisoned on trumped up charges, he added.

President AJK said the international community to take note of the war crimes taking place in IOK. The nations of the world must take attention of the atrocities and call on India to withdraw their forces from occupied Kashmir, release Kashmiri leaders, repeal the black laws and allow the fact finding teams of the UN and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, urged the President. We demand that the United Nations that the Security Council immediately discuss the issue of Kashmir and halt the human rights violations openly taking place in IOK.” Our appeal to the international community is to abandon its dual standards, objectively assess the facts and figures of the dispute and ensure a just, democratic solution of the matter”.

President Masood Khan said that with the support of the Pakistan’s Government, AJK is going through a new era of development. New infrastructure development projects especially roads, energy, education, health, tourism, industrial and agricultural projects have been introduced. This, he said, would not only make AJK self-sufficient, but will also strengthen the economy of Pakistan. He said that we are grateful to Pakistan that despite all the difficulties, they have always provided political and diplomatic support for the freedom movement. He said that the Armed Forces have always retaliated the aggressive firing and shelling taking place at the LOC by the Indian forces.

President AJK said that the people of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir will always stand by the people of IOK and pledged to continue striving for the freedom of Kashmir

Observation

Although the Modi government’s approach to resolving the Kashmir issue in favor of the Kashmiris who are entirely determined now to be free from the perpetual atrocities of Indian military, cannot be doubted just like that given the past bitter experiences, India might like to resolve the explosive issue so that Indo-Pakistani relations also get stabilized in a natural setting, and India could get a face lift in international arena.

Today, like USA and Israel, India is looked down upon and if the issue is resolved that world be in its advantage. Though there is no fundamental difference between Congress and BJP as the ruling dispensation, one can still hope PM Modi to go for the unimaginable for the media lords and strategic community in New Delhi.

Kashmir issue deserves to be addressed properly and the remaining Kashmiris be saved form military attacks.

Sharma, who will soon visit the Valley, has a tough task ahead as he starts the search for peace. “For a substantive dialogue, I will need to talk to everybody,’’ former Intelligence Bureau director Dineshwar Sharma told the media minutes after home minister Rajnath Singh announced his name as the government’s representative to lead a “sustained dialogue” process for Jammu and Kashmir.

Will Kashmiris get back the lost sovereignty from the Modi government?

Speculation is indeed thrilling!


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