Mehbooba hails Centre's initiative for dialogue with Kashmiris

Home Minister Rajnath Singh Dineshwar Sharma will initiate the sustained dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir

In a major initiative by the Modi government to reach out to Kashmiris, the Centre on Monday announced a "sustained dialogue" process with all stakeholders in the Valley and appointed former Intelligence Bureau director Dineshwar Sharma as its special representative. At least ten separatist leaders have been arrested by central agencies for their alleged involvement in suspicious transactions.

Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day address, Singh said the government was sensitive to issues related to Jammu and Kashmir. She said security measures in J&K have been taken and are on now.

He said the interlocutor should hold dialogue with all stakeholders including the separatists. "It is a Confidence Building Measure and necessity of the time".

National Conference leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah said the "acceptance" of the political nature of the Kashmir issue was a "resounding defeat of those who could only see use of force" as a solution. "After having wasted full three-and-a-half-years and so much loss of life on both sides, they have come to this conclusion", he said, describing the government's think tank as "zero". "Political initiative is the need of the hour", Vaid had told The Indian Express in an exclusive interview.

Senior Congress leader and former finance and home minister P Chidambaram, who had also announced a similar exercise in 2010, said the government has admitted that its "muscular approach" has failed in the state. "Will keep an open mind and wait to see results of the dialogue process", he tweeted. The separatist leadership maintained complete silence.

An intelligence officer, who did not want to be named, as he is not authorised to speak to the media, said, "We have been holding informal parleys with the separatists and have urged them to be part of the dialogue process". He was replying to a question on whether Sharma would hold discussions with the Hurriyat Conference. "It is a very positive step". Whether there is one going to be taken soon, I am ignorant about it.

He also demanded that the initiative not be pre-judged.

Almost three years after it tried to adopt a hard-line and often controversial stance to find a resolution to the "Kashmir crisis", including its support to security agencies to use pellet guns and even human shields, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government seems to have finally taken a step back, opting instead for a "sustained dialogue" with all stakeholders. "We hope he would talk to all stake holders here".

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