Dineshwar Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau chief has been appointed by the Narendra Modi government as its interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir, home minister Rajnath Singh announced.
He said Sharma would have “complete freedom“ to talk to “all groups and individuals“and has been accorded a cabinet secretary rank.
After the announcement, Sharma went and met the home minister and discussed how to go about his assignment.
Explaining why the government had gone for the interlocutor, Rajnath Singh said there had been suggestions from across the political spectrum that the government should hold dialogue with all revelant parties.
Singh has visited J-K several times in the last three years -five times in the last year alone, and had recently talked about coming up with a permanent solution to the J-K problem.
He said the move was a follow-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day speech in August where he had stressed the need to reach out to people.
“As a representative of the government of India, Dineshwar Sharma will initiate a sustained interaction and dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of people in Jammu and Kashmir,“ the home minister said. He added that there was no bar on him to talk to one group and not another. “We want to understand aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir,“ the minister said.
Home ministry officials said the move was part of a three step process adopted by the centre to address the situation inthe valley.“We have strengthened our security. The implementation of the development package is going on well too so the only thing left was to start a dialogue which will happen,“ an official said. He added that Sharma was the first choice for the assignment and several meetings had been held to take the matter forward.
In the last few months the centre has beem focussing on cracking down on foreign funding for separatists and in Srinagar, police and army teams have taken out dozens of local commanders of terrorist groups active in the Kashmir Valley .
Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the move. “Dialogue is a necessity of the hour and the only way to go forward,“ she said.
Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, however, said he would “keep an open mind and wait to see results of the dialogue process.“
Before this, Journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, NN Vora, academician Radha Kumar and former Information Commissioner MM Ansari were appointed as India's interlocutors to Kashmir.