Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said the contours of a political solution to the Kashmir problem were expected to emerge in the next few months.
He said this while addressing a meeting in New Delhi of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to his Ministry and the subject of the discussion was "Matters relating to Jammu and Kashmir."
Chidambaram said the first and second reports of the group of interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir dealt with confidence-building measures and added that he had now asked the group to focus on finding the contours of a political solution.
"The contours of a political solution to the Kashmir problem are likely to emerge in the next few months," an official statement quoted him as saying. He appreciated the work done by the group of interlocutors and asserted that the "Kashmir issue is a political issue for which a political solution must be found. However, peace and good governance are pre-requisites for reaching a political solution. The members on the Consultative Committee suggested amending the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and speedy rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants to which the Home Minister stated that a proposal to amend the Act is under consideration."
Chidambaram said that the violence being witnessed in the state was of two types and a different approach must be adopted to deal with each. "The violence perpetrated by militants and infiltrators must be dealt with in a strong and resolute manner. On the other hand, the violence witnessed during protests by residents of the state requires deft and sensitive handling," he said.
The minister pointed out that after the government announced an 8-point plan for the state recently, the situation there had improved considerably. "This process must be strengthened. Space must be allowed for peaceful protests. Governance and delivery on the ground must improve," he said and added that visible presence of security forces must be reduced.
The home minister said efforts must be made to win the minds and hearts of the people of the state. Taking part in the discussion, the MPs welcomed the steps taken by the government to improve the situation in the state and some of them felt efforts must be made to evolve a political consensus on the Kashmir issue at the national level.
Responding to suggestions made by MPs, Chidambaram pointed out that two special task forces - one for Jammu and the other for Ladakh - had been constituted to examine the developmental needs of these regions. The Prime Minister's Office has constituted an expert group under the chairmanship of Dr C Rangarajan to formulate a job plan for the state.
"It is expected that the reports of all these groups will be received by next month so that their recommendations can be considered by the government and factored into next year's budget. The centre has released Special Plan Assistance of Rs 100 crore to the state government for improving infrastructure in schools and colleges," he said and informed members about steps taken for rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants.
Drawing attention of members to some recent positive developments, he said 5,56,370 tourists visited Jammu and Kashmir this year up to December six which shows an increase of about 25 per cent over the number during the corresponding period last year. The Amarnath Yatra this year was one of the most peaceful yatras ever conducted and 4,58,000 pilgrims took part in it."
Those who attended the meeting included Ram Gopal Yadav, Bhubaneswar Kalita, Rishang Keishing, H K Dua and Ashok Sekhar Ganguly from the Rajya Sabha and Thokchom Meinya, Rattan Singh Ajnala and N Dharam Singh from the Lok Sabha, besides Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran.