August 2016 News

With Time Running Out, Mehbooba Has Only One Option: Dialogue

26 August 2016
Iftikhar Gilani and Manan Kumar

New Delhi: Trapped in perhaps the worst phase of her career, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday to draw the broad contours of the plan she discussed with Union home minister Rajnath Singh to end the continuing turbulence in the valley. The coalition government, led by Mehbooba, is fast losing out on time that was amply visible in her outburst against the stone-pelters in Thursday's press conference and the only hope left to get things back on track is the quick initiation of political outreach to pave the way for a dialogue with stakeholders who matter. Sources said that Mehbooba will discuss the first step of her political outreach - an all-party delegation - that is scheduled to leave for Srinagar in the first week of next month. Nearly all opposition parties have asked the government to initiate dialogue with the separatists and Pakistan. But here is where the jinx begins, said sources. The Hurriyat has given a clear-cut message that there cannot be any talks unless the government accepts its five-point charter, whose first three points are very difficult for the Modi government to even consider, let alone accept. These five points include acknowledging the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir, withdrawing armed forces from the valley, repealing AFSPA, registering cases against the police, CRPF and the J&K government for killing youth and releasing all detainees. The last two can be considered. But there is a great deal of doubt if these will act as a fig leaf with the separatists, said sources. For an immediate gesture of relief, Mehbooba is expected to press for the removal of central armed forces from government-run schools, occupied by them during the current unrest, and greater relaxation in curfew in relatively peaceful areas. The two are also expected to discuss the recommendations of the working groups, earlier reports of all-party delegations and recommendations of interlocutors formed by the UPA-I government. 'PM Modi may have to fall back on the initiative of his predecessor Manmohan Singh, who had formed five working groups to discuss all issues related to J&K and give tangible recommendations to find a permanent solution,' said sources. Mehbooba is expected to come out with a statement of intent, which may include some announcements to take the process of political outreach forward, after meeting the Prime Minister.