KASHMIR ISSUE: New Delhi missed chances

Stating that Prime Minster Narendra Modi has missed a chance of moving forward in Kashmir, former RAW Chief A.S Dulat has said that Modi’s focus after assuming office was more Pakistan than Kashmir. The Former Indian Spy master however, said that Kashmiri leadership has also not been very effective and there was a great void of leadership after Sheikh Mohamamd Abdullah in Kashmir. Dulat also doesn’t look satisfied with the Center’s represent Dineshwar Sharma’s preferences of engagement in Kashmir, saying Mr. Sharma should have gone straight way to Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s home from airport instead of searching for youth. An admirer of Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Mr. Dulat advocates a double –Omar accord between Farooq Abdullah’s Son Omar Abdullah and separatist leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, and says, there should be an audit of credibility and popularity for Kashmir leaders. The Kashmir Magazine caught up with the former Indian Spy Chief at Taj Viventa in Srinagar, who spoke extensively about the Kashmir Problem and his regret to have not met Syed Ali Shah Geelani and former Pakistan President General Musharaf.

Here are the excerpts.

Q : Don’t you think sir that New Delhi has failed to read Kashmir-Issue as they have been looking at it only through Security Prism . Even the interlocutors are being picked up from Security agencies sidelining the politicians.

Ans : Kashmir Issue is not in my view going to be resolved easily now. We missed some good opportunities. You would remember Dr. Manmohan Singh (Former Prime Minster) , when he was demitting office , said that the Problem was almost solved .
As long as there was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Dr. Manmohan Singh general Musahraf, there was a chance, an opportunity, because there were similar thinking people from both sides who were keen to resolve the issue. Nobody was more keen than Dr, Manmohan Singh, but he too missed an opportunity in 2006-07.

Q : What opportunities you are referring to .?

Ans ; As long as General Mushraf was in control, there was an opportunity. In my view,General Musharaf has been the most reasonable Pakitsani leader in the last thirty years that I have watched Kashmir. He said everything which was right. He said that whatever is acceptable to Kashmiris was acceptable to Pakistan. I don’t think any other Pakistani leader has ever said that and that is the most reasonable thing. Then he came with a four point formula. He acknowledged that boundaries can’t be changed.

Q : If it was so, then why did Agra Summit fail even as you were the key member of the Vajpayee team.?

Ans : I was not at Agra. I have two regrets in my life. One that I couldn’t meet Syed Ali Shah Geelani and the other, I couldn’t even meet General Musharaf either though I was very keen and am in fact still keen to meet him
In Srinagar also , I met almost everyone except Geelani Sahab. I have met him just once at Pakistan Day function where I introduced myself to him. I could not also meet Gen. Musahraf but I am still looking for him because I have some question for him to ask. And one of the questions is that, does he not regret what happened in Agra? A beginning was almost made in Agra.

Q : Do you concede that Modi Government has been harsh and more unwilling to address Kashmir issue as compared to the previous governments at Centre.?

Ans : Everybody had welcomed him when he was elected to Power. Even Mirwaiz welcomed him .He said that. ‘We welcome an NDA government and we hope that it will continue the Vajpayee way in dealing with the Kashmir problem” because they had Vajpayee era back in the mind, but that didn’t happen. Modi ji missed the opportunity of moving forward in Kashmir and instead his focus was more on Pakistan than Kashmir. He showed overtures to Pakistan, invited Nawaz Shareef to oath Ceremony, went Raiwind etc. But then unfortunately Pathankot happened.

Q : On one side India claims that Kashmir is an internal issue, but on the other side they want to engage Pakistan like you said Modi showed overtures to Pakistan. Why is this confusion, why is being Kashmiri leadership sidelined?

Ans : I agree with you that we should never forget Kashmir while we engage with Pakistan, because Kashmir is part of India. In fact the whole concept of the Vajpayee team was that an effort would be made on both these channels simultaneously. That is why in that period ( 1999-2008) , we had 08-09 years of comparative peace . Pakistan also held back. There were gestures from India. If you remember, Vajpayee Ji had announced that unconditional ceasefire in Ramdan, then 2003 ceasefire lasted for so many years. So those were good times.

Q : if it could happen then, why cant it happen now. Is Modi Govt. consciously discrediting Kashmiri leadership whether that may be pro-India or Hurriyat. If it is so, what New Delhi wants to achieve by doing this?

Ans : One thing you will have to accept, there has been a political leadership void in Kashmir. Many Kashmiris won’t agree with me, but you will have to accept that no one has emerged as leader after Sheikh Mohamamd Abdullah, and even if there is any, it is Dr. Farooq Abdullah, whether you accept him or not. Second was Mufti Mohammd Syed but unfortunately we don’t have him now..
Why can’t the Kashmiri mainstream parties get together? I had once asked Mufti Sahab that why can’t he and Dr. Farooq gets together, he said two regional parties are a necessity.

Q : But how can they do it when Delhi is unwilling to give them credibility. Even relaxation in curfew is being announced from New Delhi .?

Ans : No, New Delhi is not discrediting anyone here. If one thinks like that, it can counter- productive. But Separatist Camp has to be accepted. Again I am quoting Mufti Sahab. Unfortunately he is not here and I hope nobody will take objection to it. As Chief Minster Mufti Sahab had once asked me that why is it, New Delhi was not talking to Hurriyat. Why is not there a regular dialogue? My reply to him was that you are the chief Minster and are regularly talking to Prime Minster, why shouldn’t you speak to him about it. I also asked him, why you can’t hold round table conferences.

Q : What do you think is the way forward now.?

Ans : I say, double Omar- accord is a must. Few years back even two senior leaders of National Conference Dr. Mustafa Kamal and Ali Mohamamd Sagar had also hinted for the need of such an alliance. Nearly seventeen years back, I used to say, why Kashmiri Youth doesn’t think of a National government. This time too you have Omar Abdullah, Umer Farooq Mirwaiz, Mehbooba Mufti , Sajad Gani Lone. These four I have mentioned in my Book as having political future.Why can’t they get together?

Q : Why is GOI discrediting the mainstream politicians in Kashmir.? What they want to achieve in doing this?

Ans : GOI doesn’t discredit Kashmiri leadership. The kashmiris have been always thinking that nothing can be done without New-Delhi which is not true.

Q : When Prime Minster rebukes the elected Chief Minster publically saying, “ I don’t need anybody’s advice.” What is that? He was obviously referring to a leader whom more than seventy percent people had chosen as Chief Minster.

Ans : I agree that was an embarrassing moment for Mufti Sahab and a very uncomfortable moment too. But you can’t belittle Mufti Sahab. He was not a small leader. He was union Home Minster. In 2003, Geelani Sahab was very active. Thinking in New Delhi was that Geelani sahib should be restricted and Chief Minster should be spoken to. I met Mufti Sahab and said that Geelani should be put under house arrest for some time. But he bluntly refused saying that he will not put Geelani under house arrest. He said there were political ways of dealing with it and I ( Mufti ) do not want to make a martyr out of him. What I mean to say is that it depends upon the Chief Minster. He didn’t listen to New Delhi then.

Q : But same Mufti Mohamamd Syed had released Masrat Alam as a political outreach and had to put him behind the bars again due to pressure from New Delhi. When Prime Minster says, “I don’t want you advice” what is the message you are trying to convey to an elected Chief Minster.”

Ans : Yes that was an uncomfortable moment for Mufti Sahab . It would not be a comfortable moment for any Chief Minster.

Q : Even former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was not allowed to work independently. He pleased for the removal of AFSPA. Had to face embarrassing situation when union Home Secretary announced Curfew relaxations during 2010 agitation. ?

Ans : Omar Abdullah had pleaded for the removal of AFSPA. Even then ,then Home Minster P. Chidambarm had supported him, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

Q : When Union Home Minster supports the Chief Minster in his call of removing AFSPA, then who plays the spoil sport. Do you think Army and Intelligence agencies sabotaged the process?

Ans : No. To put a blame on Army or Agencies is not Correct. A similar question propped up during my conversation with Pakistanis on Siacheen issue. I told them that we don’t have ‘Gernalism ‘ in India. It is political call and yes it was a ‘political weakness’ for not taking a call then.
I have myself been a votary of gradual removal of AFSPA , but the current situation is not suitable. But, what is the desperate need of the hour is the engagement with Kashmiris which has stopped. I thnk it is the single thing which is absent.

Q : Engagement ! With whom? New Delhi is not willing even to call Mr. Dineshwar Sharma an Interlocutor. What kind of engagement you are referring to. ?

Ans : I was the happiest person to hear about Dineshwar Sharma’s announcement , expecting things to move forward in next six months. But if they are not moving forward, it is unfortunate.

Q : What is your understanding on Dinshwara Sharma’s engagement process. Has it yielded anything .?

Ans : My Understanding is that he should have gone straightway to Geelnai, Mirwaiz or Yasin Malik’s residence once he landed at Srinagar Airport. Meeting Chief Minster or Governor is of no use.

Q : Why should GOI pick up an inelegance man instead of a politician for engagement. ?

Ans : I was also from inelegance agencies. I had prepared a ground then asked then Prime Minster Vajpayee Ji to go ahead with engagement. It always starts with someone laying the ground. Dineshwar also should be laying ground for ultinatley Geelani, Mirwaiz and Yain to come to Delhi.
Today I see a greater craving among Kashmiris for peace, for dialogue. The Kashmiris have never been so desperate to talk than today.
The unfortunate thing is the civilian killings since Burhan Wani’s killing. When I came here in 2016, the boulevard was full of tourists, flights were jam packed . But when I was talking to my friends here in Kashmir, I could feel . that under the surface, things were not good. Something is going to happen . I even spoke to my friends after I returned . what I want to say that Burhan was a catalyst only.
You would remember before the Burhan Wani episode, some nasty events had taken place in South Kashmir. The then Norhern Army Commander Gen. Huda had said that when people come out during ant- militancy operations, what can army do. The same General then issued many reconciliatory statements. Even now the Army Chief has said that guns can’t do it. But the problem is there is a political weakness.

Q : What should be the road map ahead according to you. ?

Road map is clear, that whosoever is the interlocutor, you should go to Geelani, Mirwaiz and Yasin Malik and the dialogue begins. Sharma is searching youth, but a dialogue has to be with Politics and politicians. Regular engagement with leaders who are credible is a must. L.K Advani spoke twice had with Hurriyat , they asked for release of prisoners and the people were released subsequently. They achieved something that is how you start. We need to talk.
Q : we had the Kathua crises where two BJP ministers had to resign for their alleged support to accused.

Ans : Kathua rape and murder was a very sad and tragic incident. But I think, this has been exploited by PDP. It had not an opportunity to exploit anything. Now they feel they have an opportunity, so this is being probably exploited.

My understanding is that PDP exploited it more than BJP. How can BJP exploit it, they can distort things. I don’t know what the reality is, but if anybody si exploiting it, it will be PDP

Courtesy: Kashmir Magazine