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More push needed

As the “dialogue” is becoming a catchword in political lexicon in New Delhi, it needs more push to make it happen. Home Minister Rajnath Singh may well be appreciated for reiterating the central government’s desire to hold talks with ‘all stakeholders’ in Kashmir but he added an element of ambiguity to it when he, in Srinagar on Thursday, avoided inviting separatist leaders for direct talks with central leadership. He rather asked them to talk to government-appointed representative. “As far as the dialogue is concerned, Government of India has appointed a special representative. They have appointed the special representative so that he talks to all stakeholders. We have not sent the special representative on a picnic. He has come 11 times,” he said. It is perhaps known to everyone that when central government appointed special representative to hold talks in Kashmir, the separatist leadership did not seem to be enthused by the move. None of the separatist leaders has so far met him or shown his inclination to meet him. But, last week, when Rajnath Singh as home minister made the offer of talks, the separatist leadership was swift to response. They did not reject it in the very first place but showed willingness to be part of dialogue, though with a rider seeking some clarity on the offer. What was appreciable was that no conditions were put from any side. While home minister did not put the usual condition of ‘dialogue within Indian constitution”, the separatist leadership—which is operating under the name of joint resistance leadership (JRL)—too avoided to put the condition of accepting the Kashmir as international dispute. That made sense for many a keen followers of the Kashmir issue believe that dialogue was likely to happen. It was expected that Rajnath Singh on his Srinagar visit to go for more push for dialogue. However, that did not happen. Home Minister sounded customary when he said that special representative was there to talk to. He perhaps has ignored the core thing in the issue. Syed Ali Geelani, who is the most ardent voice in the separatist camp, has, in the past, refused to talk even when offer was made directly from the Prime Minister’s Office. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, have earlier held talks at Prime Minister’s level—first with deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and then with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. At a time when they are ready for talks again, to ask them seek appointment with Dineshwar Sharma and talk to him is not only an affront but also denying them any space. That is likely to make them rethink their response. There is strong feeling in the separatists’ camp that New Delhi lacked the will and sincerity in resolving the problems through dialogue. Given their past experience, they are of the opinion that government of India uses dialogue as a means to buy time. Sooner the situation returns to normal, the dialogue process collapses. Academically speaking dialogue is the most honourable and the only civilized way to resolve disputes. But a cursory look at New Delhi’s philosophy of dialogue would reveal that institution of dialogue in India is the most corrupt and discredited creation. India has never used dialogue as a means to resolve issues. It rather used it as a means to corrupt people, buy time and loyalties and make those who refuse to fall in line irrelevant. New Delhi does not see Kashmir beyond an administrative issue. It is a historical reality that India has never conceded Kashmir as an issue. It rather acknowledges—issues in Kashmir. But this mindset has worked neither in the past nor would it work in future. It is high time that New Delhi accepted its shortcomings in Kashmir and addressed the issue or issues with quite sincerity and strong will. Separatist in Kashmir too have to accept the subtleties involved in the issue and go for dialogue without subjecting it to conditions.