Amarjit Singh Dulat, former chief of Research and Analysis Wing, was the advisor to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Kashmir. He was Kashmir in-charge of Intelligence Bureau from 1988 to 1990, the most violent phase in the Valley. In an interview with News18’s Suhas Munshi he says Dineshwar Sharma is ‘best person’ to restart dialogue with all stakeholders. Recalling Vajpayee’s legacy, he says Narendra Modi government should talk to separatists as well as Pakistan. The vacuum, according to him, had arisen only in the last year and a half when Centre relied only on pellet guns and forgot to talk. Edited excerpts:
Q. Are you surprised by today’s announcement of the Indian government to resume dialogue and political engagement with Kashmir?
If I’m surprised, let me say I’m very pleasantly surprised. But on the other hand, one had been expecting something like this for quite some time.
Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about the need to embrace the people of Kashmir and to talk to them, and remember that Home Minister himself went to the Valley and stressed the need for engagement, one was expecting this. I’m glad it happened sooner than later. It is always good time to resume talks.
And let me add here that the Hurriyat and other Kashmiri leaders should also respond favourably. They should not bury their heads in sand like New Delhi has done all this while.
Q. What do you think of the appointment? Do you think Dineshwar Sharma was the best person available for this job?
I think Dineshwar is the best person for this job. There is nobody better than him to start dialogue in Kashmir. He understands Kashmir and feels for it very much. I can say this because he had been for a long time a friend and a colleague.
He has all the qualities that an interlocutor should have.
Q. While making this announcement though Rajnath Singh said Sharma will talk to ‘all stakeholders’ but he did not specify who these stakeholders are. He didn’t say anything on the Hurriyat. Do you think the government has not yet decided on talking to the separatists?
When the Union Home Minister went to Kashmir he said he will talk to all stakeholders, so I think there should not be any doubt about the fact that separatists will also be spoken to.
And anyways I think holding a dialogue will not make sense unless one talks to the Hurriyat. Omar Abdullah had also a while back batted for dialogue between New Delhi and separatists saying that mainstream political leaders can anytime come to New Delhi and talk, and it was the Hurriyat that one normally doesn’t talk to, which needed to be engaged.
After all Vajpayee held talks with them twice.
Q. With an operation all out on one hand, NIA raids against Hurriyat on the other, do you think political engagement with Kashmir shows a contradiction or confusion in government’s policy towards the valley?
Well, the thing is everyone has to do their job. The security forces have to do what they have to do and so is true with the intelligence. All these things can be done together.
Q. Would you say that political engagement with Kashmiri people, and efforts to bring peace in the Valley, are not complete unless talks are also held between India and Pakistan?
Of course, we need to talk to Pakistan also. When it comes to Pakistan, we say that we will only talk when terror stops. It is a justified, logical and right demand. But we have been engaging with Pakistan amid terror attacks also. Modi went on a Christmas to Pakistan and the previous governments have also talked to them. Why stop dialogue? Let’s admit that Pakistan is a factor in Kashmir.
And as far as the Kashmiris are concerned, everyone there knows that Kashmir is not going anywhere. It is staying with India. So talking to Pakistan is not going to worsen India’s position in the valley.
Q. How do you look at the appointment of Sharma in the context of such attempts by New Delhi in the past but to no great benefit at the end? The three-member interlocutor committee recommendations, compiled after extensive unrest in 2010, gather dust today.
I’m glad there is no committee this time around. Not that there was anything wrong with that committee. They were good people. But I think one person will work better than a group of three or four. Dineshwar will do what he thinks is right. And I’m again saying this because he and we have worked together and I know him to be a first class professional.
Q. But has India gained much through these representatives or similar outreach attempts in the past? Won’t you consider them a failure?
Tell me did we talk to the Hurriyat or not? Did Advani talk to them or not? They met and spoke right?
We have been talking to the Hurriyat since ’90-91. If talks and dialogues had failed, why would separatists have come down to New Delhi and talked to deputy PM Advani? And be prepared to be referred to as the Advani Hurriyat? We have been moving forward over time through these dialogues and talks only.
The problem had arisen only in the last year and a half. When we relied only on pellet guns and forgot to talk. Let there be no doubt about it. Talking is the only way forward.