ON 13 OCTOBER 2010, the Government of India named a panel of three interlocutors to start a fresh peace dialogue in Kashmir. The chosen ones were Radha Kumar, an academic and peace practitioner who teaches at Jamia Millia Islamia and has been involved with the think tank Delhi Policy Group; M Ansari, a senior bureaucrat who has worked as the Information Commissioner; and the former editor of the Times of India, Dilip Padgaonkar, who also flirted with public policy by running a short-lived foreign policy magazine.
Each one has been a successful professional in his or her chosen field, but when we place them against the canvas of the seemingly intractable and highly sensitive Kashmir conflict, they are featherweights. Expectedly, their appointments were met with angry reactions from both pro-independence and pro-India parties in Kashmir.
Defiant Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani described the Union government’s pronouncement as a dilly-dallying tactic. Geelani further asserted that unless the Government of India accepted his already spelt-out key demands—recognising Kashmir as a dispute, demilitarisation of Kashmir and the release of prisoners—his faction of Hurriyat would not engage in any talks. Moderate Kashmiri separatists such as Mirwaiz Umar Farooq described the appointment of these interlocutors as a “mere waste of time” and called on the Indian government to accept his proposals, which more or less mirror Geelani’s preconditions for peace talks with India. Even the pro-India People’s Democratic Party’s Mehbooba Mufti criticised the choice of interlocuters as reflective of the central government’s failure to understand the magnitude of the problems in Kashmir. Mufti had hoped to see some political faces on the panel.