As Dineshwar Sharma, the Narendra Modi government’s newly-appointed special representative for Kashmir, got down to work in Srinagar this week, it’s becoming clear his task will be far from easy. Mr Sharma retired as Intelligence Bureau director about a year ago. Far from this being an advantage, his having served as an IPS officer and top spook dilutes the fact that he’s well acquainted with the Valley and the state of militancy, that reached a peak while he was in charge.
Confronting any militancy or extremism has a police and military aspect, and a political one, and the former IB chief will hardly be seen as one equipped to deal with politics. New Delhi might have been better off choosing a politician or someone of high social standing as its interlocutor.
The separatists, particularly the Hurriyat, are unlikely to agree to talk to Mr Sharma. This is partly because they’ll be scared of the gun. At a time when India-Pakistan ties are at a low ebb and the militant onslaught from across the Line of Control is practically a daily affair since July 2016, the ISI-sponsored Pakistan-based terror outfits are unlikely to look kindly on Kashmiri separatists engaging in any dialogue with New Delhi, even indirectly. At the moment, Islamabad is busy escalating militancy even further. Proof of this is that Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar’s nephew was among those killed by the security forces in Pulwama on Monday. With military action afoot, someone from outside the security establishment may have been better suited to engage the people of Kashmir in a conversation.