More than 2-1/2 months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on August 15, “Na goli se, na gaali se, Kashmir ki samasya suljhegi gale lagaane se (Kashmir’s problems can be solved only with embracing the people of Kashmir, not with bullets or abuses)”, government of India appointed its “representative”, a former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma, to initiate and carry forward a dialogue with “elected representatives, various organisations and concerned individuals” in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
To start with, Mr Sharma visited Kashmir for three days and spent another two days in Jammu. He met those people whom he could even meet in New Delhi.
In Kashmir context, there has always been a same pattern. More things change more they remain the same. The resistance leadership, called by government “elements of the society who apparently hold contrary convictions” has given the exercise a royal ignore. Pakistan, on the other hand, has also rejected the exercise as futile.
Going by the way the outreach through ex-spy has been intended, the outcome seems a pre-concluded conclusion despite Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti vibes that Mr Sharma was unlike his predecessors appointed by GoI having official rank that of a cabinet secretary.
The outreach again is of a general nature than specifically addressed to the resistance leadership even though GoI has bracketed “various organisations and concerned individuals” in domain for dialogue by Mr Sharma. For talks to bear fruits, the engagement with the resistance leadership should have been the primary purpose of a political outreach as only they question the status quo on Kashmir and draw support from people in general. By not doing so, the New Delhi has brought about the undoing of the entire exercise. For, it is in drawing the resistance camp into a credible and sustainable dialogue that the resolution of the crisis lies—of course to be followed up by talks with Islamabad for a permanent solution. What is specific thought is that there is nothing in the mandate of the ex-spy that can realize this desirable outcome. What is also clear from the fresh initiative or its forerunners for several years is that the New Delhi finds it difficult to acknowledge the reality of Hurriyat in the Jammu and Kashmir, let alone take steps to engage it. There is an overpowering implicit urge to lump them together with other political groups, to see them as a part of the state’s diverse political reality rather than as the only reality that challenges the status quo in the state and needs to be engaged. Every interlocutor appointed for Kashmir by New Delhi has come to the task in trying circumstances, but none more so than Mr. Sharma. After what has transpired on the ground during the PDP-BJP regime, the political ground in Valley has shifted and the militant groups together with resistance leadership is more vibrant. It is this fact that deserves recognition by New Delhi.
Dialogue is vital. For it to be more than a headline-management exercise, the government needs to tailor it to the realities. The absence of street protests is not peace even though it may be an enabling condition for the pursuit of lasting peace.