Centre's interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday said there was a need for reducing the trust deficit between the government and the people, but confidence building measures and focus on development should not distract the pursuit of a political settlement.
"CBMs and development should not distract from finding a political settlement to the Jammu and Kashmir problem while a political settlement should also not impede the development scenario," journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, who is leading the three-member team of interlocutors, told reporters.
On the question of talks between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue, he said it was up to the two countries to take a decision on the matter.
"The (issue of) dialogue with Pakistan was raised, the position in Delhi is that the Centre is ready to talk to Pakistan on all issues including Jammu and Kashmir," Padgaonkar said.
He added that it was between New Delhi and Islamabad to decide on the timing of the talks. Padgaonkar said during their latest round of interactions with people of the state, they felt there was a need for serious and urgent efforts to reduce the trust deficit between the government and the people.
"Serious and urgent efforts have to be undertaken to reduce the trust deficit between the rulers and the ruled. Governance has to be transparent and accountable. Due process of law must be observed to resolve human rights-related problems," he said, reading out from a prepared statement.
Padgaonkar, academician Radha Kumar and former Information Commissioner M M Ansari briefed the media after concluding their third visit to the state since their appointment by the Centre as interlocutors on October 13.
Radha Kumar said the interlocutors were informed that 3,050 persons were arrested during the summer unrest in the Valley and so far 3,000 have been released.
"We have also been informed that 15 political prisoners will be released in the next few days," she said.
The chief interlocutor said a visible difference on the ground would create a congenial atmosphere to explore various options for a political settlement that is acceptable to all regions and communities of the state.
Asked about the demand of Kashmir's Langate area's legislator Shiekh Abdul Rashid for holding talks with militants, Padgaonkar said violence has to end from both sides for a fruitful dialogue to begin.
"No dialogue can be held in the presence of guns," he said, adding that the settlement of the Kashmir issue must emerge after a sustained dialogue with all stakeholders including the Hurriyat and other allied groups, to ensure that it 'genuinely reflects' the will of the people of the state.
Padgaonkar said during their meetings with various groups of people in Jammu and Kashmir, it emerged that the settlement should include free flow of people and trade across the Line of Control.
"More routes need to be opened and more people to people contacts must be encouraged. Permits to cross the LoC must be delivered without prolonged bureaucratic hassles," he said.
The chief interlocutor said regions of the state in both eastern and western parts of the LoC must emerge as hubs of intellectual, cultural and economic activities along the ancient silk route.
"This would end the isolation of Jammu and Kashmir and project it as an area crucial for the welfare of the people in all the adjoining parts of Asia," he added.
Padgaonkar said consultations with different groups and organisations during their visits to the state were conducted on issues pertaining to governance, development, matters related to conduct of security forces, fate of detainees involved in stone pelting incidents, release of political prisoners, human rights violations and Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Responding to a question, Radha Kumar said it was disturbing that youths are still being arrested in Kashmir.
On the removal of security bunkers as per the interlocutors' recommendations, she said 36 such bunkers have been removed so far. "(But) we are saying (to the government) can you not speed up the process," she said.
Padgaonkar said whatever has been done so far constitutes 'baby steps' taken to find a political settlement to the Kashmir problem and 'giant strides' will be taken later.
"Like you, we are also impatient to see that (our) recommendations are implemented, (but) appointment of interlocutors will not change the situation overnight," he said.
Padgaonkar said the interlocutors will reflect in their next report the ideas gathered during the visit and make suggestions and recommendations to the Centre within 10 days.