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'Dialogue is the only solution'

Interview: Murali Krishnan, New DelhiSeptember 5, 2016

In a DW interview, former Indian intelligence chief A. S. Dulat said India's inaction has contributed to the continued unrest in Kashmir. He wants the government to reach out to both sides of the conflict.

Indien Srinagar Unruhen Opfer Zivilisten
Image: Reuters/C. McNaughton

It has been an explosive two months in Kashmir. Young people have taken to the streets. Seething crowds have thrown stones and attacked security installations. In return, Indian security forces have used tear gas canisters, pellets and even bullets.

Since the outbreak of protests following the killing of the Kashmiri separatist leader Burhan Wani on July 8, the death toll in Kashmir has risen to above 70 with thousands more injured. This latest unrest is the worst since 2010 in a decades-long rebellion against Indian rule by Muslims living in the Indian section of Kashmir.

A. S. Dulat is a former chief of the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). He says that despite the violence, nothing has been done by the Indian government to reach out to an "angry and isolated" citizenry.

In an interview with DW, Dulat stressed that both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister of Indian Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti were at a total loss in dealing with the spiraling violence.

DW: The latest violence in the Kashmir Valley has been going on for two months. What needs to be done to assuage tempers?

A.S. Dulat: The government in New Delhi has managed Kashmir poorly. There is a lot of anger on the streets and we need to pay attention to this. The current situation is worse than the earlier upheavals in 2008 or 2010, when there was also large-scale violence. This pent-up anger was waiting to explode and the killing of the separatist leader Burhan Wani proved the perfect trigger.

A S Dulat
Dulat: 'Dialogue must never be interrupted and you must talk with everyone because everyone is a stakeholder'Image: Privat

Has the alliance between the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) angered Kashmiris and is this why violence is breaking out in the PDP heartland in southern Kashmir?

Kashmiris were angry when Mufti Mohammed Sayeed took over as chief minister in his second tenure in March 2015 and they have been disturbed since by the PDP-BJP alliance. New Delhi had the chance to make the relationship work and smooth relations between Jammu and Srinagar. Instead, the BJP has been trying to meddle in Srinagar and this has scared and angered the Kashmiris. Most of the problems have been in the PDP heartland. It is getting out of control and Mehbooba Mufti doesn't seem to know how to react.

Is there a new kind of Kashmiri youth that are willing to stand up, fight and even die? Does this frighten you?

Yes, it is frightening. This is a new generation that has lived in the shadow of violence since the early 1990s and they have gone through a lot. Where is all of this headed? The youth feel there is no future and a lot of this is borne out of helplessness and hopelessness.

Do you see Pakistan playing a role in the current unrest?

At the beginning, unrest in Kashmir was spontaneous. But when unrest persisted, influence from across the border in Pakistan stepped in. In the current situation, unrest is lingering because of Pakistani support that is returning. Despite public posturing, Pakistan does not want what's best for Kashmir, but nevertheless the situation is favoring them.

You have said that India needs to build public confidence through humanitarian means in Kashmir to help solve the conflict. How can this be done?

What I have been arguing for all along is dialogue. When we stop talking, we create problems for ourselves. Dialogue must never be interrupted and you must talk with everyone because everyone is a stakeholder. We must talk to both mainstream parties and separatists. Unfortunately, the current attitude is that the separatists are Pakistanis - so why talk to them? This is why open dialogue is imperative. The separatists are an important part of the issue and right now we are not inclined to engage with them.

We have seen all-party delegations visit Kashmir after every major upheaval. Will the current visit achieve anything?

I won't say it is a botched attempt. But signals are already coming from Kashmir that the all-party delegation must meet with the separatists. I don't know if everyone is on the same page.

What is the bottom line on Pakistan?

Of course we have to engage with Pakistan, there is no other option. But we cannot forget Kashmir while engaging with Pakistan. These are two parallel concepts that we can merge together if handled properly. These lines were beginning to merge during the time of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Today, Pakistan is just as angry as the Kashmiris and India is also just as angry as Pakistan. Sadly, the Kashmiris are left out in the cold.

Last week, the Indian public broadcaster, All India Radio, started a new service in the Balochi language. Is there a political motive for this?

The Indian government can do whatever it wants with Balochistan but it won't solve the Kashmir problem. The more that it appears India is meddling in Balochistan, the worse it will get for the Baloch people living there. The Pakistani government will only come down even harder on the Baloch people. Similarly, the more Pakistan meddles in Kashmir, the more difficult it becomes for Kashmiris. It is all counterproductive and I think it is just a distraction from the real issue of Kashmir.

A.S. Dulat is former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, and was the advisor on Jammu and Kashmir to former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Dulat is currently a member of the Indian National Security Council.