New Delhi: In a sudden change of its tough stand, the Centre on Monday announced its decision to start a dialogue process in Jammu and Kashmir and appointed former Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director Dineshwar Sharma as its representative for talks with "all" stakeholders in the troubled-state.
"Carrying forward the conviction and consistency in its policy, we have decided that a sustained dialogue process should begin in Jammu and Kashmir," Home Minister Rajnath Singh told a hurriedly convened news conference here after having maintained for long that there could be no talks with the separatist Hurriyat.
"As a representative of the government of India Sharma will initiate a sustained interaction and dialogue to understand legitimate aspirations of people in Jammu and Kashmir. He will meet elected representatives, political parties, different organisations and individuals he wants to.
"The sustained dialogue and interaction with all sections of the society and to understand the legitimate aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly its youth.
"Now what we will do for Jammu and Kashmir, will do with clean intention."
Asked whether the interlocutor, who will have cabinet rank, would hold talks with Hurriyat leaders, Rajnath Singh appeared not to rule out such a possibility, saying Sharma had a mandate to hold a dialogue "with anyone he wants".
The Centre had been maintaining a tough Kashmir policy and had ruled out talks with separatists in recent months.
The Home Minister said after completing the exercise, Sharma, a 1979 batch IPS officer with intimate knowledge of the security situation and Kashmir affairs, will give a report to the Centre. Sharma was Director of IB from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2016.
Earlier, he was the Joint Director of the IB's Islamist Terrorism Desk from 2003 to 05. He headed the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Jammu and Kashmir and was the director of the BSF Academy, and Additional Director and Special Director in the IB.
Replying to questions, the minister said no time limit could be set whether it is three months or six months or more. "He can talk to any one he wants."
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had talked to all political parties as to what could be done to find a solution to Kashmir problems.
"People told us that the dialogue process should be started. We are doing this," he said and recalled the Prime Minister's August 15 speech saying "neither by bullet, nor by abuses but by embracing the people we can solve the problems in Jammu and Kashmir".
Asked about the status of the resignation reportedly given by Governor N.N. Vohra and whether it would be accepted in the new context, Rajnath Singh merely replied that the elected government is there and the Governor is there.