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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It's right time for peace talks.

Home minister Rajnath Singh, who landed in Srinagar on Wednesday, has gone to Kashmir with the burden of India's geopolitical future on his shoulders. If he returns from the Valley without finding a solution to the current unrest after his two-day visit, the ramifications for India and Kashmiris could be worrisome.

Interestingly, the ground for Singh's peace mission has been created by the Indian Army. On Tuesday, during his visit to the Valley, Army chief General Dalbir Singh called for peace and restraint in Kashmir. The calls for peace and dialogue with all stakeholders should have originated from the Central government and India's political leadership.

The biggest problem for Rajnath Singh, of course, is who does he talk to for restoring normalcy in Kashmir. Not many Kashmiris are willing to listen to the mainstream parties, including Mehbooba Mufti's ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) that has become irrelevant in the current scenario because of its alliance with the BJP. Everything on the ground suggests the current unrest is being led by Kashmiri youths, who do not have a well-defined leadership hierarchy. Only Hurriyat leaders, whose calendar protesters are following, seem to have some clout left. But, since the Hurriyat insists on talks outside the parameters of the Indian Constitution, its leaders are persona non grata for the Centre.

During his previous visit, Rajnath Singh had returned empty handed from Srinagar. Except for PDP and National Conference leaders, nobody had come to meet him, making it impossible to start a dialogue. It would be interesting to see if the home minister has a different plan or a strategy this time.

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