Maya Mirchandani interviews the former Intelligence Bureau director, recently appointed point-person for the government’s Jammu and Kashmir dialogue.
Maya Mirchandani: After nearly a year and a half of turbulence in the Valley since Burhan Wani was killed on July 7, 2016, some overtures to help perhaps restore peace in the turbulent Jammu and Kashmir region. Joining us to talk about these efforts is the interlocutor appointed by the government this week – former director of the Intelligence Bureau, Mr Dineshwar Sharma. Sir, thank you for speaking to us. I think everyone has looking to you now to help restore some atmosphere at least where dialogue can resume in the Vealley. Does that mean some sort of overtures to the Hurriyat as well from your side?
Dineshwar Sharma: See, I have clarified in my earlier answers also that I am open to dialogue with everybody – all Indian citizens living in J&K. If Hurriyat people are willing to come forward to find a solution, I will definitely see, let me see how it goes. And I am sure people of J&K will cooperate because everyone wants peace to come immediately.
MM: So in your view, right now what is the most significant challenge for you when you plan your trip next week?
DS: During the first visit?
DS: First visit will be basically to understand the ground situation and prepare ground for interaction with people from all shades of life in Kashmir.
MM: Are you hopeful for a positive response? Have you received any feedback already?
DS: Not really, but I am hopeful that the people of Kashmir will definitely cooperate, because nobody wants violence to continue and everybody wants peace. I am sure that people will cooperate.
MM: So the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir has also welcomed your appointment, as have other mainstream political parties. The mainstream parties always say that they are already in constant conversation and dialogue with the Centre. You have already made your point that everybody who is an Indian citizen and wants peace in the Valley is welcome to be a participant in these conversations. I think the next question really would be what would happen across the border. Pakistan has reacted predictably to your appointment saying that this entire exercise is a sham. Your response to the Pakistanis on this?
DS: You see, Pakistan has always been a factor in Kashmir. On Kashmir, wars have also been fought. But the people of Kashmir will have to realise whether to fall into the traps of Pakistani or not. And it is for their children, their well being, they will have to realise what is good for them.
MM: Finally, there have been interlocutors in the past – reports have been written and submitted to the governments in the past. What will make this exercise different from people who have done similar work in the past?
DS: Let me see… Let me see how talks progress. At this stage I will not be in a position to comment, let me see depending on the progress of talks. After some time I will be able to comment on this.
MM: And I think sir the final question. We were chatting earlier you were saying you were engaged in a similar conversation as far as the northeast was concerned over the last 6-8 months. You have an extremely full plate. Are you now going to divert a 100% of yourself to the Kashmir conversations? How are you going to manage this for your own schedule?
DS: As far as I am concerned, I am emotionally attached to Kashmir, almost all the time is available for Kashmir.
MM: So we are hoping that very soon we will be able to see some kind of an atmosphere that is created.
DS: Definitely, I am sure that people will cooperate.
MM: Dineshwar Sharma, thank you so much for giving us some time.