The clock has turned full circle for former IB chief Dineshwar Sharma, who was appointed the Centre's special representative in Kashmir on Monday, 25 years after his first posting for the bureau in the Valley.
It was May 1992. Militancy was at its peak and Sharma,then 36, arrived in Srinagar after completing a year of customary training at the Intelligence Bureau headquarters in New Delhi.
The Kerala-cadre officer, who was posted as assistant director between 1992 to 1994, went on to head the IB from 2014 to 2016.
On Monday, he was appointed special representative for the government's 'sustained dialogue' process for peace in the Valley.
"It's like homecoming for me. I am sure that I will be able to fulfil the expectations of the government and people of the country," Sharma told PTI.
The 61-year-old -- at present the Centre's point person for dialogue with Assam-based militant groups -- said he feels honoured that he has been assigned such a challenging task.
Kashmir has been a running thread through his career. After his return from the Valley in 1994, Sharma was again posted at the Kashmir desk in the national capital.
"The times were tough and I hope that now we will together bring peace in the Valley," he said.
Asked whether he would talk to separatist groups in the Valley, Sharma said, "The modalities are being worked out but I would like to talk to everyone who is interested in bringing permanent peace in the Valley."
"Let me make it clear that peace is the priority and for that my doors will be open to everyone," he said.
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day speech, Sharma said, "... We have to work towards the goal set by the prime minister and embrace Kashmir is and ensure that lasting peace is achieved."
Sharma, who has also served in Uttar Pradesh and northeastern states besides holding sensitive posts at the IB headquarters in New Delhi, called on Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
The home minister made it clear that Sharma, who would hold the rank of a cabinet secretary, would have complete independence in deciding who to hold talks with.
“The Centre has shown conviction and consistency on Kashmir issue and carrying forward this policy, we have decided to begin a sustained dialogue policy for Jammu and Kashmir," the minister said.