The Congress loudmouths have found fault with the appointment of an interlocutor for Kashmir, taunting the Modi Government if that meant the failure of its tough, no-talks stance. Notably, before the appointment of the interlocutor the party had been pressing for the resumption of talks with all the relevant stakeholders in Kashmir.
Regardless, the belated initiative of the Modi Government to appoint Dineshwar Sharma, a former head of the Intelligence Bureau with first hand knowledge of Kashmir, having worked in the Valley early in his 40-year-long career, ought to be welcomed. Though the Pakistan-run separatists and secessionists have frustrated all such previous efforts to locate a sensible solution to the seemingly intractable problem, nothing can be lost by giving it another try.
The appointment of the interlocutor follows a considerable success of the on-going campaign to neutralise the jihadis and other terrorists. A number of jihadi commanders have been eliminated by the security forces; others might be lying low. Violence in the Valley is slowly petering out, though stray incidents do take place at regular intervals. With the approach of winter, normally the intrusion of terrorists from across the Line of Control becomes difficult. This period of relative lull further helps the security forces to try and flush out the insurgents hiding in safe houses in the Valley.
Sharma’s efforts to open the lines of communications with the separatists and other actors relevant in Kashmir during this time have a greater chance of success, though we remain skeptical about the ultimate outcome.
The Centre has given him a free hand to explore all possible avenues within the four walls of the Constitution. Of course, so long as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country is not compromised, the Centre can agree to any proposal which helps resolve the 70-year-old dispute.
The on-going investigations revealing how the separatists have been receiving huge funds from the ISI through the usual hawala channels can further help isolate them. It is notable that once the sources of funds to the separatists were choked by the intelligence agencies, the number of stone-throwers in Kashmir had come down drastically. In short, the separatists and secessionists are mercenaries exploiting the situation in the Valley to line their own pockets with filthy lucre.
Without doubt, the Indian State has made monumental mistakes in Kashmir. But we cannot remain prisoners of our past. It has since repeatedly expressed its willingness to redress all valid grievances of the Kashmiris. The Centre is ready to make all concessions so long as it does not jeopardise the country’s territorial integrity. Complete autonomy to manage its own affairs barring a few key areas, such as defence, currency, communications can be the basis of a lasting solution.
In this context, the role of Kashmiri politicians has been most unhelpful. The Abdullahs, that is, the father-and-son duo of the National Conference, for instance, sing one tune while in power and quite another when without power. Farooq Abdullah’s less than enthusiastic reaction on the appointment of Sharma as the Centre’s interlocutor could be anticipated. How a politician in Sharma’s place would have been better defies logic, given that Sharma enjoys the confidence of the Centre.