In a fresh move for peace in Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre today announced a "sustained dialogue" process with all stakeholders in the Valley and appointed a former Intelligence Bureau director as its special representative.
Dineshwar Sharma would hold talks with all sections of people and organisations, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said at a hurriedly called press conference here.
The home minister made it clear that Sharma, who would hold the rank of a cabinet secretary, would have complete independence in deciding who to hold talks with. He was replying to a question on whether Sharma would hold discussions with the Hurriyat Conference.
"The Centre has shown conviction and consistency on Kashmir issue and carrying forward this policy, we have decided to begin a sustained dialogue policy for Jammu and Kashmir.
"And for this we have decided to appoint Dineshwar Sharma as special representative of the Government of India," Singh told reporters.
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day address, Singh said the government was sensitive to issues related to Jammu and Kashmir.
The prime minister's Independence Day statement that problems in the state could be solved "neither by bullet, nor by abuses but by embracing the people" clearly underlined the governments policy and intentions, he said. Singh said the prime minister had held a series of meetings with political representatives on the Kashmir issue.
"All of them were clear that the process of dialogue shouldbegin in the Valley," he said. Asked about the failure of similar initiatives undertaken earlier, Singh said, "Please take it from me that whatever we do, we will do with saaf neeyat aur neeti (good intentions and clear policy)."
In another supplementary question on previous reports of interlocutors gathering dust in the home ministry, he said,
"You cannot pre-judge that this initiative will not be successful. Our announcement shows how serious we are about initiating dialogue."
The home minister said the special representative would initiate sustained interactions and dialogue to understand the legitimate aspirations of people, especially the youth, and try to fulfil them, he said.
Sharma, a 1979-batch (retired) officer of the Indian Police Service, served as director of the Intelligence Bureau from December 2014 to 2016.
Asked whether a police officer was capable for holding talks on such a sensitive issue, Singh shot back, "What's wrong in that. He is an apolitical person having no political affiliation which is his greatest advantage. Besides he is well aware about the internal security situation of the country."
Singh also made it clear that there was no time-frame set for him as the issue was sensitive.
Sharma is the fourth interlocutor appointed by the Centre since 2002. The first one was former Union minister K C Pant, the second N N Vohra, the present governor of the state, and the last a three-member panel comprising former bureaucrat M M Ansari, academician Radha Kumar and late journalist Dileep Padgaonkar.