Centre’s announcement of appointment of Dineshwar Sharma, a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau, as a “Special Representative” or the Interlocutor to initiate “sustained dialogue process” with all stakeholders within Jammu and Kashmir is a welcome and a logical step forward in the Centre’s outreach to the people of the state that began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicating a change of track in his Independence Day declaration, “Na goli se na gaali se baat banegi gale-lagaane se”, which was followed up by Home Minister Rajnath Singh having extensive meetings with more than 80 delegations of various hues with an intent to reach out to the common people of the State during his four-day visit to the valley in September 2017. According to Rajnath Singh the government has gone for the Interlocutor as there had been suggestions from across the political spectrum that the government should hold dialogue with all cross-sections.
However, the Centre’s appointment of the interlocutor will not have an impact in the military operations in the troubled State, and it is clear that the government does not see talks as an alternative to cracking down on militancy. According to the Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, the government’s policy on Kashmir has worked and the government is speaking from a position of strength. The situation in Kashmir has improved from the beginning of this year and “infiltration has come down.” This year, the Army had major successes in eliminating militants including the top leadership, among the highest in recent years. So far, 173 militants were killed by security forces this year and 29 were apprehended in comparison to 150 killed last year. At the same time the Army has also suffered significant casualties in Cease-Fire Violations by Pakistan along the Line of Control.
The interlocutor represents an option given to the separatist to sue for peace, if they find the pressure too hard to bear; not a policy shift to remove the pressure on them after ‘Operation All Out’ against militants and National Investigating Agency (NIA) raids on separatists and others to choke terror funding and hawala operations.
Having got the security situation under manageable control with a sustained and focused counter-insurgency, counter-terrorist operations, the Centre, in consultation with J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, felt the time was right to make the conciliatory move. Mehbooba finds in the move compliance with her own wish to have a political process rather than merely a military crackdown.
Interlocutor Sharma is known to be a low profile but effective official with wide-ranging experience in the security domain as well as knowledgeable about the core concerns in J&K. With the rank of Cabinet Secretary, he has been given the appropriate status and the requisite authority to deal with various government departments to initiate measures that would be required to signal the government’s commitment towards development of Jammu and Kashmir. His appointment is for a dialogue with the elected representatives, various organisations and concerned individuals in the state of Jammu and Kashmir to understand the legitimate aspirations of the wide cross sections of society, particularly the youth in Jammu and Kashmir and communicate them to the State government and the Centre. Sharma’s main task is to bridge the trust deficit that currently exists between the people and the state government in J&K.
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