SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh today said talks can be held even with those separatists arrested by the NIA, as the Centre asserted that the newly-appointed interlocutor will decide on whom to engage with in the troubled state.
The main opposition party Congress, meanwhile, said it doubted the "intent" of the NDA government in resolving the Kashmir issue, and alleged that it appointed an interlocutor towards the end of its rule "only for publicity".
Former Intelligence Bureau(IB) chief Dineshwar Sharma was yesterday appointed by the Centre as its special representative for a "sustained dialogue" with all stakeholders in J and K, in a fresh move aimed at bringing peace in the border state.
The J and K government welcomed Sharma's appointment, observing that dialogue was the only way forward to address the Kashmir issue in the larger interest of peace and stability in the state while the state unit of the BJP asked all stakeholders to "give peace a chance".
"As far as dialogue is concerned, if it is felt that those people, even if they are behind the bars, they can be consulted, no problem in that, because it is happening. It happens everywhere," Nirmal Singh told reporters in Srinagar.
He was responding to a question as to whether Sharma would hold talks with the separatists who have been arrested by the National Investigation Agency(NIA) or are under the investigating agency's scanner.
"Actually, we must not link the two things (talks and NIA investigations) because NIA is an autonomous body. It has its mandate and NIA has found certain acts which are not as per the law. So, NIA is taking action," he added.
Nirmal Singh said talks could be held with the separatists and they should come forward with their grievances with an open mind.
"If there are grievances, then they should be placed on table with an open mind and there are no preconditions. Talks should be held and what would happen would be decided later." "As our Home Minister (Rajnath Singh) has said that all stakeholders can come. In our (PDP-BJP) Agenda of Alliance, on whose basis our government was formed, we have made it clear that the Jammu and Kashmir government will try to create an environment in which talks can happen because talks are the only solution," he said.
The deputy chief minister termed the announcement of talks as a right step in right direction.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh when asked by reporters if Sharma would hold talks with the separatist organisation Hurriyat Conference, as suggested by some state politicians, responded by saying, "It depends upon him(Sharma) whom he talks to or engages with".
Singh was speaking on the sidelines of the 56th Raising Day parade of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police in Greater Noida, near Delhi.
The minister ducked questions by reporters on what signals the Indian government sought to send to Pakistan with the appointment of the interlocutor.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Congress and other opposition parties had asked the government to talk to all stakeholders to resolve the "political issue" in the Valley through confidence-building measures rather than "hot pursuit", but it "wasted" three- and-a-half years during which many precious lives were lost.
"We are not opposing the decision of the government. But at the fag end of their tenure, they have done this. This is only for publicity. This government has no Kashmir policy.
They have no policy on demonetisation, GST, farmers issues and unemployment. We doubt their intent as they have no policy," Azad said at a joint press conference of opposition leaders in Delhi.
A meeting of the J and K Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti last evening welcomed the Centre's decision, an official spokesperson said in Srinagar.
The Cabinet observed that dialogue is the only way forward to address the issue in the larger interest of peace and stability in the state.
It noted that the initiative is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day speech that laid emphasis on embracing the people of J and K.
BJP state unit's chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi asked stakeholders to avail of the opportunity to usher in peace.