Modi finally has a Kashmir point-man

Tasavur Mushtaq

Srinagar

After tightening its noose, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led BJP government seems to reboot its Kashmir policy on the basis of ‘dialogue’. There is a drift which indicates shift in approach of dealing Kashmir from security prism to a political outreach.

The clear indications came from home minister Raj Nath Singh on Monday in a hurriedly called press conference where he announced the appointment of Dineshwar Sharma as a ‘point-man’, whom he termed as the “Centre’s representative.”

Dineshwar Sharma (File Imge)

Singh said government of India wants “sustained dialogue in Jammu and Kashmir” but leaves it to Sharma in choosing “whom to talk.”

“There is no bar on him to talk to one group and not another. We want to understand aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Singh said.

Cautious in avoiding the word ‘interlocutor’, Singh said “as a representative of the government of India, Dineshwar Sharma will initiate a sustained interaction and dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of people in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Singh claimed that this is a step taken as per PM Modi’s August 15 speech wherein he has said ‘Kashmir’s solution was neither in abuse nor in bullets, but in embracing Kashmiris’.

Sources in the home ministry told Kashmir Life that announcement of representative to Kashmir is a forward step of initiatives taken in past few months. “Home Minister visited J&K from 9th Sep-12th Sep where he met large number of delegations, this step is to take that process forward.”

File image of Protests in Kashmir (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

Sharma has been given mandate to “work out his own modalities of meeting and interacting with various organisations and concerned individuals.”

Deviating from past practice, appointing an Intelligence man as ‘representative’, sources said have been done so that “the person appointed as representative of the government of India does not have any political affiliation.”

The officials however said that the “operation against militants shall continue”. “Security forces are taking action against based on inputs. This action will go as it is.”

While terming appointment of representative as “internal,” the officials said “Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and the process of dialogue is entirely internal to India.”

Though the time frame has not been fixed, the sources said Sharma would engage with “elected representatives, various organisations and concerned individuals in the state of J&K.”

Sources close to Sharma said “he would talk to Hurriyat as well.”

Recent image of Dineshwar Sharma (Source: Internet)

Dineshwar Sharma, PM Modi’s new man is basically a policeman. A 1979 batch IPS officer from Kerala cadre, Sharma has served across India and joined Intelligence Bureau in 1991. He held highest ranked post in IB when he headed Intelligence Bureau as its director.

For Sharma, Kashmir is not new. He was posted in Kashmir in early 1990’s when militancy was at its peak. Subsequently he handled Kashmir from IB headquarters including as Director Intelligence Bureau.

A spy, born in Bihar, Sharma is believed to be close to Ajit Doval as both belong to same cadre. When Doval was IB chief, Sharma has worked with him closely. He is considered to have an in-depth understanding of security related matters and has considerable experience of issues.

Sharma took over the reins of IB from Syed Ibrahim on December 31, 2014 and completed his two year term on December 31, 2016. Reportedly he refused an offer of extension by the government. In his last months as IB chief, Kashmir witnessed unrest after killing of HM commander Burhan Wani.

Sharma, known to maintain a low profile is not new to the role he has been assigned. In July, this year, he was made interlocutor for peace talks with Assam’s insurgent groups, including the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), Bodos, Kuki groups of Manipur. However as of now it is not clear whether he has been relieved of that assignment.

Earlier Interlocutors during a press conference in Srinagar

Sharma, as per reports has different policy. He is seen as a “reformist”. If reports are to be believed, he adopted policy of “reforming potential ISIS recruits, instead of arresting them.”

A keen watcher of online activities, Sharma keeps track on “subversive activities on virtual world.”

Sharma says his priority is to find “a permanent solution and restore peace in J&K.” While terming this as huge responsibility, he after the announcement said “It’s a big responsibility, hope I live up to expectations.”

Pertinent to mention, K C Pant, then Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission was appointed as interlocutor on J&K on April 5, 2001 and continued till 2002.

Subsequently on February 19, 2003 GoI appointed N N Vohra, the present governor as interlocutor. He continued till 2008.

After the unrest in 2010, three interlocutors namely Dilip Padgaonkar, Dr M M Ansari and Radha Kumar.

 

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