Centre Ready For Dialogue With All Sections In J&K: Chidambaram6 August 2010
Times of India
New Delhi: In a bid to cool down heated tempers in the Kashmir Valley, home minister P Chidambaram on Friday said the Centre was ready to resume dialogue with all sections, including the one led by Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, to address Jammu and Kashmir's problems. He said he had earlier referred to J&K as a 'unique problem needing a unique solution'. Acknowledging the need to 'win hearts and minds' of the people of Kashmir, he said 'we have to find the courage to hold dialogue', pointing out that resolution of the conflict lay only through the political process. Speaking in Rajya Sabha where he was responding to some sharp criticism from the Opposition over the Centre's failure in anticipating and responding to the violence in Kashmir, Chidambaram said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be receiving an all-party delegation from J&K, perhaps as soon as next Monday. Acknowledging the argument that separatists and their backers from across the border had switched tactics with global tolerance for terrorism plummeting, Chidambaram said Pakistan was relying on 'civil unrest' to pay dividends. The new strategy was aimed to using or working through mobs to attack government property. Referring to Hurriyat hardliner Geelani's statement against stone-pelting, he said 'if it marks a shift of his stand' it should be welcomed and added that the leader should also join the dialogue. 'I will resume the political process... I have impressed upon all interlocutors that I am willing to resume the quiet dialogue. We have to find courage that allows to hold dialogue. We have to get on,' Chidambaram said and 'sincerely hoped' that separatist leaders would come forward for talks. He said it was his intention to 'do everything possible to resume the quiet dialogue' which he undertook with moderate Hurriyat leaders before the process was interrupted on December 4, 2009 with an assassination bid on a moderate and pro-talks leader Fazl-ul Haq Qureshi. The minister was careful when referring to the demand for withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and troop reduction. He said the government would see how it could address the AFSPA issue and reduce security personnel in the state. As Opposition slammed the Centre as well as the state government for letting the situation slip completely out of control, Chidambaram's view that Pakistan was seeking to further its cause by fomenting civilian trouble put him on the same page as BJP. A BJP memorandum submitted to the PM had made precisely this point. Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said there was a 'significant change in the strategy' by Pakistan's ISI and other agencies across the border. Chidambaram's preparedness to engage in a political process did not see him spell out or even touch on anything like a 'political package' as he was perhaps mindful of BJP's position that any concession made at this stage will further dilute sovereignty and the minister did not want to expose himself to attacks from the saffron quarter. Opposing demands for autonomy and repeal of AFSPA as 'knee-jerk and panic reactions', BJP has warned against any 'pandering' to separatists. BJP attacked the Omar Abdullah government for being 'increasingly alienated from people within the Valley' and the CM 'getting alienated from his own party and allies'. Several MPs like Sitaram Yechury of CPM, D Raja of CPI and Saifuddin Soz of Congress also expressed concern over the situation in Kashmir. 'We will pick up threads, reactivate the political process so that a solution can be found with equity, justice and honour,' Chidambaram said. He said the immediate priority was to restore peace in Kashmir as no government could allow law and order to collapse. At the same time, the Centre would like to reduce the presence of security forces in the state if the situation improves as was done last year. 'If the situation warrants, we may have to send more forces. But if the situation warrants, we may withdraw forces,' Chidambaram said. Talking about the situation in Kashmir since 2004, he said there were times when youth there were demanding IITs and IIMs. 'Unfortunately, those voices have been muted by voices of 'azadi' (freedom). I hope it is a passing phase and we will again hear those voices (for IITs and IIMs).' Chidambaram said he hoped Kashmiris would again say that their destiny lay with India and they wanted to be part of India.