‘Sharma is just a bureaucrat, the most disempowered interlocutor of all times’
Srinagar: The appointment of former spy Dineshwar Sharma to open a front of dialogue in Kashmir is just a “trick to gauge the ground situation” in the Valley, policy analysts in Delhi say. They said that the Modi government believes it has the secessionists on the mat because of raids and arrests carried out by the NIA (National Investigation Agency), which should make them eager to accept the offer of talks.
“The iron fist policy of the government has resulted in operational intensification in Kashmir. It has led the government to think that they now dominate the separatist elements. That is the reason they think the time has come to appoint an interlocutor,” said Executive Director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, Ajay Sahni.
“When separatists refused to talk, the government pulled the strings. The militants were killed. The NIA opened cases against separatists. Other operational procedures were adopted to coerce Geelani and others to talk. So, if they agree, the cases will go slow or they won’t proceed at all. It has happened in the past as well. Having said that, I do not believe the talks will have any direction. There will be no turn-around due to such directionless talks,” Sahni told Kashmir Reader.
“This announcement is a gamble,” he said. “These talks may work, or they may not. But it is not something to be taken seriously.”
Sahni said that New Delhi had no Kashmir policy. “There is no assessment regarding the nature of talks. Nobody knows what will be the endgame of such talks. We want the status quo. But we do not know how to answer Pakistan? So, there is no clear direction to these talks, as has happened in the past as well. I do not expect any miraculous outcome. There is no strategic clarity.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on Monday appointed Dineshwar Sharma, former Director of Intelligence Bureau (IB), as its interlocutor for Kashmir. Announcing his appointment, Home Minister Rajnath Singh stated that Sharma will initiate a “sustained dialogue” to “understand the legitimate aspirations of people in Jammu and Kashmir.”
During this year, at least 160 militants have been killed in Kashmir. The NIA has raided houses of several resistance leaders and their associates. Many resistance leaders are still in custody of the investigating agency in Tihar Jail in Delhi.
Sahni said that the militants had “disruptive power” which has been “whittled down to a considerable extent”.
He said Sharma, the interlocutor appointed by New Delhi, was a reclusive and reserved person. “Nobody knows him quite well. He is little known,” Sahni said.
Soon after Sharma was appointed as interlocutor, people and political observers in Kashmir raised questions as to why a former security official had been given the “political” job of holding talks in Kashmir.
“The BJP wants to not lose face if the separatists refuse to talk,” said Pravin Sawhney, editor of the Force newsmagazine. “If they would have appointed a political entity and were rebuffed, it would have politically cost the BJP. They did not want to take it upon themselves. That is why they appointed the most disempowered interlocutor of all times to gauge the situation on the ground in Kashmir.”
He further said that New Delhi was not serious in its approach to talks with Kashmiris. “They could have appointed anybody. The new interlocutor has only been asked to go and feel the pulse on the ground. I do not see anything in this move. He is just a bureaucrat with no political clout. People should not take it seriously,” Sawhney said.
He pointed out that despite the interlocutor being appointed, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has put the onus of talks on the “other party” (resistance leadership).
“(Prime Minister) Modi has not shown any inclination that he is serious about the political issue in Kashmir. He will talk of development but not of politics in Kashmir,” Sawhney said.
“The purpose of appointment is to see whether Hurriyat will reach out to him. It is just a trick to gauge mood of the people. This is one of those preliminary steps after which a decision can be taken about the future course of talks or anything else,” he said.
He said that Kashmiris were disillusioned due to the policies of New Delhi. “There is no shift from the security-centric approach to Kashmir. It is the first government in Delhi which has openly encouraged army for anti-terror operations. They tolerate nothing against army. You can’t speak regarding AFSPA removal or anything which could lead to a political solution,” Sawhney said.
“If the government is serious, it has to talk to Pakistan. There can be no peace without Pakistan. It is not only an internal issue; they have to understand that Kashmir is an international dispute which needs to be resolved,” Sawhney said.