The new interlocutor says he will take a ‘different approach’ to solve Kashmir’s problems and that he is open to talk to anyone in the Valley.
New Delhi: India needs to “regain the confidence” of the people of Kashmir, particularly the youth, Dineshwar Sharma, the newly-appointment interlocutor of the central government has said.
“I will try to look at the problems practically. Writing reports should not be the objective; the objective should be to regain the confidence of the people, particularly the youth of Kashmir, in the system,” Sharma told The Print in an exclusive interview Friday.
“They (Kashmiri people) should gain confidence that they have a stake in this country and that they are equal partners. The feeling of alienation must go,” he added.
Sharma was named interlocutor for Kashmir by Union home minister Rajnath Singh on 23 October, a first since Narendra Modi NDA government took charge three years ago. Sharma has been accorded a cabinet secretary rank.
Sharma, who met Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti in Delhi Thursday, said he was “ready to reach out to everyone”. “I met Mehbooba Mufti yesterday and it was a courtesy call. She, of course, expects that I am able to do something. I am ready to reach out to everybody. I have been given a free hand by the central government.”
The former chief of the Intelligence Bureau has first hand experience of the situation in Kashmir in the 1990s. “I will go and meet people. If I am able to do something good for Kashmir I will do… Kashmir is a delicate issue,” Sharma said. “I have myself seen the youth and people suffering so much. I really feel pain in my heart when I see the situation turning bad again. I hope I meet the expectations of people.”
On talks with the Hurriyat, Sharma said he would visit the Valley next week and then take a call. “I am hopeful that good sense will prevail. I will visit Kashmir and then see from there. I will surely try my best to see that problems of people of Kashmir are solved,” he added.
The Hurriyat has so far boycotted talks with the Centre. It has also blamed the central government for failing to start a dialogue process in the Valley.
Asked about his view on previous interlocutors, Sharma said he would “try to be different”. “Right now, I am going through the reports of the previous interlocutors. The approach to Kashmir will depend on what kind of response I gain.”
In 2016, a few delegations, including the one led by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, had tried to open unofficial talks with Kashmiri groups.
“Reports are filed, committees are formed and within years they are forgotten… One can write a 100-page report but my idea is to understand the practical problems of the people of the Valley and gain confidence,” Sharma said.
On the issue of return of Kashmiri pandits, Sharma said they are definitely natives of Kashmir and their problems should also be addressed.
On whether Pakistan is going to be included in talks, he said: “At this stage, I have only been asked to speak to the people of the Valley. The rest is secondary. If there is a problem, I must address the sentiments of my own family members first and then come the neighbours.”
Sharma ruled out the possibility of inclusion of any BJP minister in his team, saying he would constitute a separate team.
“I will make a separate team of officers and no politician would be included in it,” he said, adding that he would definitely need political support in holding any dialogue.
He also downplayed the statement by a BJP leader in Jammu who said “no dialogue with Hurriyat”. “Individual views can be there, but let me visit the state and see things myself,” Sharma said.