Optimism can be the only way to counter apprehensions. And at this point in Kashmir when bells of dialogue have started ringing virtually out of the blue, all have to be optimistic yet careful. Let me also embrace little optimism and hope for a while!
Kashmir is an issue and that too a political one, and has been acknowledged by almost every political entity in the country. The present political dispensation at the federal level played hide and seek with Kashmir problem for first three years of their tenure and tried their best to prove that Kashmir is a non-issue – a simple law and order problem. But after exhausting all armaments in their political arsenal it has reverted back to the square one— the dialogue (exchange of ideas). Everyone should, and positively will, welcome the efforts of negotiation. Though, these crucial parleys on Kashmir require a well-defined roadmap with clearly identified parameters and stakeholders to whom the interlocutor should relate. However, the big question is who is negotiating. What are his credentials, attributes, and the credibility?
Anyway, at this point when the central government has already nominated, rather appointed an interlocutor, the question of seeking desirable traits within the representative is out of the question. Interestingly, the present interlocutor is different from all past negotiators in content, approach, and skills. Earlier politicians, academicians and people from other civilian fields tried to break the thick ice in Kashmir. This is for the first time that a man from national security peripherals has been assigned the task to find a way out for vexed Kashmir problem openly. If my description of newly appointed interlocutor Mr. Dineshwar Sharma is not read out of context, he can be rightly termed as inquisitive –negotiator with more emphasis on investigation than to find a solution. No doubt, Mr. Sharma has enjoyed a nice stint in Kashmir as an excellent intelligence officer with a good eye and knowledge about Kashmir, its people and their real aspirations. But frankly speaking, that is not the only attribute to iron out the issues in Kashmir. Negotiating Kashmir requires three ‘Ws'—wisdom, wit and will. The track record of Mr. Sharma clearly describes a lot of his wisdom and wit. But for having the iron-will he has to be a politician. Much is said about his holistic perception of the Kashmir issue with an outlook beyond overexploited security rhetoric. But at the end of the day, the hiding intelligence man within him will browbeat the blooming intellectual being presented on a platter to placate the Kashmiris.
As I said I am an optimist and would wish and see Mr. Sharma succeed in making positive headway in Kashmir imbroglio. But the people and stakeholders he is supposed to interact with will definitely shy away from him. In a fluid situation like Kashmir interacting with a cop that too an astute intelligence –officer will be too big a step that no one can afford politically and openly. Many people say, that present move of interlocution on Kashmir is the direct fallout of Prime Minister Narinder Modi's Independence Day speech from the ramparts of Red Fort and the failure of several harsh doctrines on Kashmir. So, under these circumstances, a much softer face and approach of negotiation were required on Kashmir front. And the best would have been a political appearance assisted by experts from other fields (maybe security experts included). Politicians are politicians and they have their own political interests and considerations but they are flexible, and most often full of wisdom and wit. However, what all others find difficult to hold, politicians have in abundance—the will to do and deliver. It was the political compulsion and will of Prime Minister and his Home Minister to take a ‘U’ turn on Kashmir and announce the appointment of an interlocutor. Otherwise, others steering the Kashmir issue were treading on the beaten track of handling the issue with an iron fist.
Unfortunately, even after being more optimistic than many others I don’t find a credible and productive role for Mr. Sharma in Kashmir talks. He may possess all abilities and qualities to motivate people of Kashmir to enter into a dialogue, but he lacks the political softness and acceptability. And beyond that Kashmir issue has to be dealt on a much wider canvas where even the people beyond the borders if not included but have to be kept in the loop. Anyways, ending on an optimistic note, personally I wish good for Mr. Dineshwar Sharma the super cop of yesteryears and now a point man negotiating Kashmir.