Opposition doubts government's sincerity on Kashmir

New Delhi


The Opposition, including the Congress and Left, on Tuesday voiced doubts at the government's "intent and sincerity" behind its sudden Kashmir initiative and wondered if it was linked to the visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad on Tuesday said the Modi government after three years of "hot pursuit" was talking of dialogue for the sake of publicity, while Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury termed the Modi government's approach on Kashmir as a "flip-flop policy".

Commenting on the government's fresh initiative of dialogue on Kashmir, Azad, a former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, summed up his feelings through an Urdu couplet.

"Tamannao me uljahaya gaya hoon/khilone dekar behlaya gaya hoon (I have been trapped in wishful thinking/I have been mollified by toys)," Azad said, underlining his views on the government's dialogue initiative which he said has come too late and lacks a fixed timeframe.

"For three-and-a-half years, the Modi government followed hot pursuit. Now, towards the fag end of its term the government is talking of dialogue to garner some publicity. We seriously doubt the government's intent and sincerity," Azad said at a presser here in which Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) rebel Sharad Yadav were also present.

In a sudden shift of its tough stand, the Union government on Monday said it would start talks on Jammu and Kashmir with all parties, including separatists, and appointed former intelligence chief Dineshwar Sharma as its pointsman for the troubled state.

Azad said that for the past three years, the opposition parties, including the Congress, had been stressing on the need of confidence building measures in Kashmir but it fell on deaf years.

"Kashmir is a political issue and no political issue across the world has ever been resolved by hot pursuit or muscle power. If this government had listened to us earlier, so many precious lives of soldiers and of civilians would not have been lost and hundreds of children as young as three and four years would not have lost their eyes to pellet guns," Azad said.

He said the Modi government has "no policy at all" on Kashmir.

Addressing the media separately, CPI-M chief said the overnight sudden shift in the government's policy on Kashmir coincided with US Secretary of State Tillersons' visit to India. 

Tillerson arrives in India on Tuesday night on a three-day official visit.

"The Modi government's Kashmir policy has been a flip-flop policy. Given the background of this government and the flip-flop, we don't know whether it will be a flip or a flop. We will have to wait and see," Yechury said.

"In 2016, I and some colleagues met some of the separatist leaders and they objected to it. Now they say interlocutors will talk to all stakeholders, which I presume includes separatists. In which case why did they not not do it earlier?" Yechury said. 

He said that the CPI-M supports "any move or measure taken to restore normalcy in Kashmir", but it was still not clear as to "what is the mandate given to the interlocutors, or what is the framework under which they have to act".

"There is a sense of betrayal amongst the people in Kashmir because this government has not implemented the promises it itself made earlier. Last year, after the all-party delegation returned from Kashmir, two promises were made. 

"One, immediately a political process will start of talks with all stakeholders, and through political dialogue we will try to come to a solution. Two, immediate confidence building measures would be introduced including finding a substitute to pellet guns and creating employment avenues for the youth," he said. 

The Left leader said that more than a year has passed and "none of this has begun to be addressed at all". 

"Naturally, there is a sense of complete betrayal and alienation is deepening...Now overnight there is a shift in the government's policy that interestingly coincides with the visit of US Secretary of State to India," Yechury said.  - IANS