Sunday 20 August 2017 News Updated at 01:08 PM IST
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We need talks for peace, not peace for talks: Sinha - Deccan Herald
We need talks for peace, not peace for talks: Sinha
Deccan Herald
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Yashwant Sinha
Veteran BJP leader Yashwant Sinha is planning to lead a peace delegation for the third time to Kashmir, this time even as unrest in the Valley threatens to spiral due to political mobilisation aimed at thwarting moves to dilute Article 35A. Speaking to DH’s Dalip Singh, Sinha questioned the Narendra Modi government’s reluctance to hold a dialogue in Kashmir even as it is ready to talk to China to resolve the Doklam issue. Excerpts:

You have led peace initiatives in Kashmir twice in the past. What do you think should be done to end the unrest in the state?

We have made two visits to Kashmir and come back convinced that a multi-dimensional and multi-faceted dialogue is the way forward. We are saying it because the agenda of alliance, on the basis of which the present PDP-BJP government was formed, had made certain promises. Those promises are of national reconciliation and a commitment to follow the Vajpayee line on J&K. Therefore, it makes a clear commitment that we will talk to all internal stakeholders, including the Hurriyat. It also says the problem is political and we can’t merely take economic steps. It makes a firm commitment that the special status of J&K will not be interfered with. So, we are merely saying, start a dialogue.

The agenda of alliance talks of "internal stakeholders”. Who are they?

In the agenda, they accept it includes Hurriyat. But the Hurriyat is not the sole stakeholder. There are political parties, elected representatives and people in the J&K government, there are civil society and intellectuals. On top of that, there are regions like Kashmir Valley, like Jammu, like Ladakh. There is confusion now because talking to stakeholders is being equated with talking to Hurriyat. The state government has been in office for two-and-a-half years. Some developments have taken place, but the dialogue has not taken place. We are saying, resolve the political issue of Kashmir, it is the longest festering problem of our country.

But the government’s approach seems to be security-centric.

So it appears, and I am disappointed. There is a security aspect, there’s a cross-border terrorism aspect, but there are issues to be settled between the people of Kashmir and us. We need a dialogue to settle those issues. I have long been of the view that as far as Pakistan is concerned, terror and talks cannot go together. But nothing prevents us from talking to our own people in J&K. We can’t claim that Kashmir is an integral part of India but say we can’t talk to people there. Let us begin the process of dialogue with all internal stakeholders even as we put pressure on Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism. If Pakistan stops exporting terror, then it will be an appropriate time to start dialogue with Pakistan, too.

One of the apprehensions holding the government back from initiating dialogue is the relationship of separatists with Pakistan.

Why are they called separatists? It’s because they want to separate from India. A section of people in J&K, especially in the Valley, wants azadi, separation or to join Pakistan. Whose fault is it? If our own people are turning against us, it is our failure. Successive governments have committed a series of mistakes in J&K. The only prime minister respected in the Valley is Atal Bihari Vajpayee, because he talked insaniyat.

It’s not that we can’t reach out to the people. Hasn’t our prime minister (Narendra Modi) said recently that dialogue is the way out? Didn’t Sushma Swaraj say, we can’t have war, we will have to have a dialogue? So, the government itself is talking in terms of dialogue, but with China. We can say dialogue with China is the way out over Doklam, but we can’t say dialogue is the way out on Kashmir?

You have talked about Kashmiris having reservations over the role being played by the RSS in J&K.

They have mentioned it to us. That’s what we experienced on the ground. It’s not just the RSS, the whole change in the environment -- the lynchings, the beef controversy -- worry them a great deal, right or wrong. While we are on the subject, the role of the media also angers the people of Kashmir. They are angry that some (TV) channels are demonising the entire population of Kashmir.

So, what’s your agenda for the proposed visit to J&K?

I operate in a group and by consensus. If and when we go again, we will certainly put out a report as we did on the previous two occasions. There are many things that are bothering the people of Kashmir. The special status to J&K and the challenge to Article 35A of the Constitution bothers them a great deal. They are not steps in the direction of bringing normalcy and peace to Kashmir. The political parties in Kashmir are getting together. Therefore, we have to tread extremely carefully and do nothing that exacerbates the situation. If you want peace, then dialogue is a precondition. Peace is not a precondition for dialogue.