Initiative kashmir .

The Interlocutor needs backing

Kashmir has been under turmoil for the last 28 years, but for short and occasional spells of betterment of the situation, which have been short lived.

The Interlocutor needs backing

Wearing the interlocutor’s hat: Dineshwar Sharma (L)

K M Singh

Kashmir has been under turmoil for the last 28 years, but for short and occasional spells of betterment of the situation, which have been short lived. Multiple factors have been responsible for the drift in the situation in the Valley, but a couple of reasons that deserve specific mention are the absence of any long term policy on Kashmir by successive governments and misgovernance at the state level. The situation acquired alarming proportions last year following the Burhan Wani incident with a mass upsurge by the youth at the grass roots level. 

Amidst a background of continued despondency, Prime Minister Modi came out with a bold and positive statement from the ramparts of Red Fort on August 15 this year. His statement was welcomed by a cross section of people from almost all walks of life, particularly in J&K. Of course, there were sceptics who commented that one has to keep the fingers crossed as the litmus test would be if the Prime Minister does 'walk' the 'talk'. 

The developments during the last couple of months confirm the resolve of the PMO and the Home Minister to walk the talk in a determined manner with a well chalked out strategy of 'stick and carrot' policy. 

It is an accepted norm that in any conflict resolution, the stick has to come out first followed by judicious mix of carrot and stick aimed at defusing the situation, bringing about normalcy and winning over the confidence of the people. Towards this end, firm and sustained action by NIA against hardcore separatists and conduit of money from across the border, fully supported by all the security agencies, be it Army or CRPF or state police during the last couple of months have brought about a visible improvement in the ground level situation in the valley.

The positive impact of the tough handling of the situation has set the stage for extending the hand of friendship, paving way for dialogue with all sections people. The appointment of Dineshwar Sharma as the Interlocutor at this stage is a well timed decision and is a clear indicator of the fact that the government is following a well chalked out stick and carrot strategy for a long term solution of Kashmir situation which has innumerable complexities. At this stage, it is of utmost importance for all opinion makers to shake off their personal prejudices, be supportive of the government's initiatives and not to politicise the apparently well intentioned move of the government.

The appointment of Dineshwar Sharma has been generally welcomed but for a few skeptics. One of the criticisms is that the Interlocutor should have been a politician of stature. Criticism for the sake of criticism is a different thing, but if such critics are asked to name one politician who would be acceptable to all shades of political parties at the Centre as also state, they would be hard pressed to name one. 

It has to be appreciated that first and foremost, an Interlocutor should have image of complete neutrality devoid of any baggage. Secondly, he should have a thorough knowledge of the ground level situation of the state, not as a 'Kashmir watcher' from outside, but by field experience in the trouble- torn state. 

Other important attributes for an Interlocutor is that he should have no personal agenda, be easily accessible to people from all shades of life and acceptable to a cross section of communities in the three regions of the state. Dineshwar Sharma, who has been a self effacing and low profile civil servant with the highest degree of professionalism meets most of these attributes and is by all standards an excellent choice. He served in the Kashmir valley during the most difficult period in early 1990s. Thereafter, he remained involved with Kashmir situation all along and became a part of the highest decision making forum in Delhi as Chief of the Intelligence Bureau. 

 Dineshwar Sharma has a formidable challenge before him, possibly the toughest in his entire illustrious professional career of nearly four decades. The complexity of situation in the J&K would warrant that he should interact with stakeholders in all the three regions of the state and also within each region, the stakeholders from different communities, profession and age group etc. Considering the huge dimension and magnitude of the task ahead, he would need whole hearted support from people within the state and outside, rising above personal prejudices. People in Kashmir have been in a nightmarish situation for the last 28 years. The place which was once known as 'heaven on earth' needs to be restored its pristine glory. The recent initiatives of the Centre show a ray of hope.

The writer is currently Vice President, Policy Perspective Foundation

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