On Thursday, J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti met Sharma during her visit to New Delhi to discuss modalities of the dialogue.
New Delhi: Dineshwar Sharma, the Centre’s interlocutor for talks with different groups in Jammu & Kashmir, will also interact with hard-line separatists in the Hurriyat. Top government sources confirmed to this newspaper that Mr Sharma, former director of the Intelligence Bureau, is also likely to extend a formal invitation for dialogue to Hurriyat leaders once the talks process is initiated.
On Wednesday, home minister Rajnath Singh, while announcing the appointment of Mr Sharma as the Centre’s representative for talks, had said that the interlocutor would decide which factions or groups to hold talks with.
Mr Sharma, who has been mandated to carry forward a “sustained dialogue” with all stakeholders in J&K, is considered a veteran on Kashmir affairs in the security establishment. For this assignment, Mr Sharma will hold the rank of a Cabinet secretary.
Sources also confirmed that in case the Hurriyat leaders, particularly the hard-line faction within the group, reject Mr Sharma’s invite for talks, the possibility of a back channel dialogue cannot be ruled out.
“The Centre is initiating the dialogue process from a position of strength and we would like to address all concerns of outfits, like the Hurriyat, provided they are within the four walls of the constitutional framework,” a senior government functionary told this newspaper.
On Thursday, J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti met Mr Sharma during her visit to New Delhi to discuss modalities of the dialogue. It is believed that Ms Mufti expressed her desire to Mr Sharma that he should initiate talks with all groups in the Valley, including different factions of the Hurriyat.
According to sources in the security establishment, the Centre’s decision to initiate dialogue was not taken in haste. It was finalised after a careful analysis of the security situation in the state which has shown considerable improvement over the last few months. The level of violence is down largely on account of sustained operations by security forces, leading to the elimination of more than 150 militants this year alone, and the National Investigation Agency probe into terror funding.
Both Mr Rajnath Singh and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval held several rounds of discussions over the last few weeks before the plan to appoint the representative was finalised.
“What is interesting is that militants, as well as other separatist elements, are currently on the back foot, and with winter approaching, we expect the violence levels to remain low. So, this was the right timing to start the dialogue process,” a senior official added.