Yeshwant Sinha on Kashmir: ‘The government is looking for a military solution’

SRINAGAR: Yeshwant Sinha, India’s former Finance and Foreign Minister has said that India’s has lost Kashmir emotionally and any further delay in talks will add to the crisis. Sinha heads the Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) that has been visiting Kashmir since 2016 summer, interacting with people and releasing reports on the prevailing situation.

Yeshwant Sinha led team at Syed Agha Hasan’s Budgam residence.

“..We have pointed out that we found there was more despondency among the people this time than there was earlier, even in 2016, in the wake of the Burhan Wani,” Sinha told The Wire in an interview that was conducted by Karan Thapar. The situation, he said, has deteriorated. “The security forces are killing the so-called militants. That is happening. But the alienation, which is the fundamental issue in Jammu and Kashmir, the alienation today is deeper, wider than it was earlier.”

“The government is looking for a military solution,” Sinha has said. “…Even the northern army commander has said that we have broken the back of militancy in the valley and this is the time now to start a dialogue process. Why aren’t they starting it? Why are they beating around the bush? Why are they only making rhetorical noises and not doing the actual thing?”

Asked about the results in a situation in which Delhi does not hold dialogue, Sinha has said: “I am looking at the alienation of the masses of people in Jammu and Kashmir. That is something which bothers me the most.”

Insisting that India has lost Kashmir emotionally, Sinha has said that there is a chance if dialogue starts quickly. “If we start now there is a possibility because at the same time, I would say, there is a constituency for peace in Jammu and Kashmir and it’s our last chance almost to get hold of that constituency and move forward,” Sinha has said.

Sinha has regretted that that while Prime Minister said on August 15 that people of Kashmir need not to be abused but embraced, there has not been any follow up. “Then the home minister goes to Srinagar and he says ‘we are prepared to talk to all stakeholders, I invite all stakeholders to talk to me’. Now, what is this? That he is sitting in the guest house, and people will come and seek an appointment? Is this the way a dialogue is conducted?,” Sinha has said.

Sinha has said that the government must identify the stakeholders first and then engage. He has referred to the Agenda of Alliance that mentions the stake holding. He wants clarity on the stakeholders and then appointment of an interlocutor.

“First, clarity on who their stakeholders are. They should do that, number one. Number two, then they should say who the interlocutor for the dialogue from the government side will be. Is it going to be a home minister? It was Mr. Advani, the deputy prime minister, who was the interlocutor on behalf of the government,” Sinha told Thapar. “So is it going to be a home minister? Is it somebody specially appointed? Is it going to be a single member task force? Is it going to be a multi-member thing? All these things will have to be decided.  Then you have to set out a time frame. That we are going to meet the stakeholders in this manner. Send out invites, ask them to come wherever and talk to the interlocutor.”

The former BJP veteran said that Delhi has to be very clear on issues. “It has to have a fixed timeframe. Nobody in Kashmir is going to accept something which is indeterminate. So these are the steps we have said, in a press statement recently, the government should take and immediately start the dialogue process so that the political problem can be addressed,” he told The Wire.

Sinha has been clear that he was “deeply hurt” and was “shabbily treated” by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) by not being granted an audience for 10 months. Even the request to the Home minister has not been returned for six weeks. Now, he has said he is unwilling to meet either of the two, insisting, that no Prime Minister in his political career has ever done this to him.

“I am hurt. I am absolutely hurt. That you ask for time, ten months has gone by… Let me tell you, Karan, ever since I have been in public life, no prime minister of India, starting with Rajiv Gandhi, has ever said no to a meeting I have sought. No prime minister, and there have been many prime ministers – I have worked with some, with some I have been in the opposition – no prime minister has said to Yashwant Sinha, ‘I don’t have time for you.’ And this is my own prime minister who has treated me like this. So if somebody rings me and says please come talk to me – sorry, the time has passed,” Yeshwant Sinha has said.

On the Pakistan front, Sinha has referred to the Vajpayee era and the ceasefire on LoC with Pakistan in 2003. He has accused Modi government of inconstancy on Pakistan front. They first engaged Pakistan and then backed out. Personally, Sinha said, he firmly believes talks and terror cannot go together. But at the same time, he admits: “At the same time I will say that Pakistan is, unfortunately, a necessary third party in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Sinha has said that LoC needs to be calmed. “It is, because on the LoC we are equally balanced – sometimes they kill us, sometimes we kill them,” Sinha told Karan Thapar. “This killing has to stop – nobody is winning a war on the LoC – the LoC is very well defined – and it was proved in Kargil that the world was with us rather than with Pakistan on this – you cannot alter the LoC, so let’s have peace on the LoC and it is possible to have peace on the LoC despite all our differences with Pakistan.”

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