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The Rediff Interview/A S Dulat, expert on Kashmir
'We need to talk to the Kashmiris'
July 09, 2008
A S Dulat, member, National Security Advisory Board, is one of India's leading experts on Kashmir. A former special director of the Intelligence Bureau and former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, he also served as then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's adviser on Kashmir.
In the inaugural curtain-raiser feature on the Jammu and Kashmir election, Dulat discussed the situation with Managing Editor (National Affairs) Sheela Bhatt. An interview conducted before the violence over the Amarnath shrine land transfer:
The situation is much better now; violence is less. You will find lots of Gujarati and Bengali tourists enjoying Srinagar [Images]. But this doesn't mean that militancy is over; I would say that militancy has reduced considerably.
I believe there was a great opportunity last year, which we missed. In March-April 2007, President Pervez Musharraf [Images] was still in control and he was apparently very reasonable on the issue of Kashmir. That was the best time to move forward.
The Kashmiris are a very adaptable people. They will wait. From India's point of view, I think we have lost a great opportunity. I don't think we should keep talking to Pakistan. We should talk to the Kashmiris. Ultimately, this matter has to be settled between New Delhi and Srinagar.
Nothing came out of the talks because results don't come that easily. I don't know why the dialogue stopped and whether the Hurriyat or the government is responsible for it. I don't see any particular reason for discontinuing the dialogue.
The political scenario is very much in election mode. At one time, there was hope that the Hurriyat leaders and separatists would participate in the election. Now, it is definite that the Hurriyat is not going to participate. There is some talk about some separatists, some secondary leaders on the fringes of the Hurriyat, who might participate -- but there is still a question mark over it.
The main contest is between the National Conference, the Congress and the People's Democratic Party. It is too early to judge what will happen eventually.
An easy assessment would be that there might be a hung assembly. No party will get an absolute majority. But anything can happen as we get close to the election.
There are reports that clashes are taking place on the border and infiltration attempts are also on the rise.
I told you the situation is much better, but that does not mean Kashmir is now normal or that militancy is over. There are problems and we will have to keep our fingers crossed that this election passes off peacefully. One bad incident in Srinagar -- like when Lone saab (Hurriyat moderate Abdul Ghani Lone) was assassinated in 2002 -- one such incident will put the whole election process backwards.
I don't think the central government is going to make any such gesture. This election is going to be fought as it is, where it is and on the status quo. All parties know it. This question of autonomy and all this will come up only after the election.
The Pakistan factor is there when you talk about terrorism. I'll attribute the improved situation in J&K partly to the fact that Pakistan is holding back. If Pakistan decides to disturb the election, then violence will increase. In that sense, Pakistan is a deciding factor and it will also be a factor in the election. Even though the separatists may not participate, Pakistan might still support some of the candidates.
But now, Musharraf is not the same. The situation in Pakistan is fluid and uncertain and our dialogue with the Hurriyat is currently at a standstill. After (External Affairs Minister ) Pranab Mukherjee's visit (to Pakistan), there is talk of grand reconciliation and all that. That is fine but I think as far as Kashmir is concerned, we need to talk to the Kashmiris.
We often say the Kashmir issue will not get solved in our lifetime. What do you think?
But last year, he was very optimistic. That again is a very positive indication. He said, 'Whatever can save Kashmir and Kashmiris should be acceptable to both sides'. I thought it was a very positive statement. You can interpret it in whatever way you want. It means you have to be realistic. It also means 'take whatever you can get'.
They only have the separatist label in common. But, Gilanisaab has decided to be a pucca hardliner and he is too old to change now. But if he could be assured of becoming the chief minister, then it would be a different thing. But he knows that he cannot become the chief minister. After all, it is all politics.
Nobody comes to the assembly to secede. They come for power. If they try any such thing, they will lose the power. People used to say that if the Akalis came to power, they would implement the Anandpur Sahib resolution. How many times have the Akalis come to power? Where is the Anandapur Sahib resolution? The Akalis are having a jolly good time in power.
(Laughs) In Kashmir, you can use any currency. If you have dollars, you are all right.
What is currency? It means nothing. The Pakistan currency will be exchanged into Indian currency. What else? In a sense, this is expected.
I think the advantage of having separatists in the election is that they raise such agendas and people forget. When the separatists are out of the election fray, their agenda -- to some extent -- is being taken up by mainstream parties.
The PDP has a stronghold in southern Kashmir but that is weakening as important leaders are defecting.
The Rediff Interviews
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