Interlocutors Get Mandate To Find Durable Solution To Kashmir Issue19 October 2010
New Delhi: The recently-appointed three-member team of interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir got a mandate from the government on Tuesday to find a “durable, lasting” and “comprehensive” solution to the 63-year-old political imbroglio in the state. The panel, headed by senior journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, on Tuesday also began the exercise of “starting a sustained uninterrupted dialogue” with a meeting with Home Minister P Chidambaram. Immediately after the meeting, Padgaonkar, flanked by the two other members – Central Information Commissioner MM Ansari and academician Radha Kumar – said they had been advised to focus on evolving the highest possible consensus around a political settlement of the Kashmir issue. The central government has given the panel a clear and explicit mandate, Padgaonkar said, adding: “There are no read lines. We are free to meet every political spectrum whether in jail or outside. We will meet the youth and everybody.” He said that while the group would look into issues such as governance, troop deployment, prisoners and various confidence-building measures, the primary mandate was to explore a “durable, lasting and comprehensive” settlement of the Kashmir dispute. The panel came in for criticism from both mainstream as well as separatist outfits, who suggested that the absence of a politician as a member indicated the government’s non-serious approach to Kashmir. Padgaonkar, however, said the criticism had not disheartened the group, and that the panel’s terms of reference did not restrict what the members discussed. “'We will discuss anything, every issue that is brought on the table,” he said. “We are going to address the entire range of issues. If a political issue is brought to the table, we will discuss that too. We are not going to shy away from discussing any subject.” The interlocutors, who are planning to be in Jammu and Kashmir for a week each month, will submit their report to the government within a year. As part of the eight-point peace package for Kashmir, the central government had on October 13 finalised the names of the three interlocutors to engage the Kashmiri leadership. Padgaonkar was earlier a member of the Kashmir Committee led by eminent lawyer and now Bharatiya Janata Party parliamentarian Ram Jethmalani. Radha Kumar, who till recently headed the Nelson Mandela Institute of Peace at Jamia Millia Islamia, was engaged in back-channel dialogue.