Will all-party team's visit ease tension in the Valley?

INDIA-KASHMIR-UNREST Kashmiri protesters shout slogans during a protest in Srinagar | AFP

The proposed visit of an all-party delegation to Kashmir early next month is expected to set the tone for the way the Central government proceeds in its approach towards handling of the Kashmir unrest that has spilled over to rural areas and affected children and youth. The delegation will have representatives of all major political parties and would draw a roadmap with its suggestions on quelling the existing unrest and suggest the road ahead.

Sources in the government said that unlike 2010, when the previous UPA government was unable to implement the suggestions of a three-member interlocutor panel which was formed on the basis of the suggestions of an all party delegation that had visited the valley, the incumbent government was confident that it would be able to fulfil its promise.

"The fact that the suggestions were not implemented in the past does not mean that we also will not be able to do it. We will assess the situation and whatever suggestions are made will be taken seriously and worked upon," said an official. What is expected to come as a challenge to the Union Home Ministry, which handles the Kashmir desk in the Central government, is the fact that almost all the issues it is expected to confront are not new and that it can only go by past precedents on certain issues and not jump forward.

Among the basic suggestions given earlier were revocation of the AFSPA, reviewing cases of Public Safety Act detainees and withdrawing the cases, granting relief money to victims of the violence, re-opening schools and colleges and building infrastructure and empowering the Panchayati Raj institutions.

The proposed visit of the all party delegation to the Valley already has certain pointers to begin with. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has shown the way forward by suggesting a five pointer roadmap. These include asking the Centre to initiate the political process of dialogue with all sections of Kashmir society to bolster confidence among the people, passing orders to stop forthwith the use of pellet guns, ordering the removal of AFSPA from civilian areas and starting talks with Pakistan to see if India's concerns are addressed through this.

For the NDA government, the first suggestion is already taken into account by proposing the visit of the all party delegation. Now it remains to be seen whether the critical suggestions of a review of AFSPA , withdrawing PSA cases against protesters and talks with Pakistan are able to draw the Centre's willpower given the hard stance it has already taken on these issues.

The ministries of home and defence had already made it clear that AFSPA could not be diluted and said that the protesters participating in the ongoing clashes with security forces were acting as stooges of Pakistan. It remains to be seen if the charges being slapped under the PSA against some of the youth will be reviewed. Moreover, while the Centre decides to open the dialogue for long term solutions, any suggestion to discuss Kashmir with Pakistan will be a tough call. The Modi government cannot afford to dilute its existing tough stand where New Delhi has already made it clear that Islamabad has no stake in Kashmir and that Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir(PoK) is legally a part of India and Islamabad must vacate this area.

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