Kashmir a political issue, solution is in sight, says home minister

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 11 2010, 04:47am hrs
Home minister P Chidambaram on Thursday said the contours of a political solution to the Kashmir problem should emerge over the next few months. Addressing a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee, the Chidambaram said that while the first and second reports of the group of interlocutors dealt with confidence-building measures, the interlocutors will now focus on evolving a political solution for Kashmir.

On the issue of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Chidambaram stated that a proposal to amend the Act is under consideration of the government.

Expressing confidence in the progress made by the interlocutors, Chidambaram pointed out that Kashmir is essentially a political issue for which a political solution must be found but peace and good governance are pre-requisites for reaching it. The minister said that while on one side the violence perpetrated by militants and infiltrators must be dealt with in a strong and resolute manner, the violence witnessed during protests by residents of Jammu & Kashmir also requires deft and sensitive handling.

The interlocutors will complete the third round of negotiations and discussions in Jammu region during their visit from December 17 to December 23 after which they are expected to get down to the task of evolving a political solution for the state. Journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, academic Radha Kumar and former CIC member MM Ansari have been appointed as government interlocutors for the conflict-ridden state.

The Union home minister also pointed out that after the recent 8-point plan for Jammu & Kashmir announced by the government, there has been considerable improvement in the situation in the state. He, however, conceded that this process needs to be strengthened with space for peaceful protests, reduction in the visible presence of security forces and improvement of governance and delivery on the ground. The home minister said that efforts must be made to win the minds and hearts of the people of the state.

Participating in the Consultative Committee meeting, members emphasised upon the need to evolve a political consensus on the Kashmir issue at the national level besides working on creating employment opportunities, especially for the educated youth. They also suggested amending the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and speedy rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants.

Responding to the suggestions made by the members, the Union home minister pointed out that two Special Task Forces -- one for Jammu and the other for Ladakh -- have been constituted to examine the developmental needs of these regions and that the Prime Ministers Office had also constituted an expert group under the chairmanship of Dr C Rangarajan to formulate a job plan for J&K. With the reports of all these groups due next month, their recommendations are likely to be considered by the government and factored in next years budget, the minister said.

The Centre has released special plan assistance of Rs 100 crore to the government of J&K for improving the infrastructure in schools and colleges. On the tourism front, some 5,56,370 tourists visited J&K this year up to December 6 registering an increase of about 25% compared to last year's figures and the Amarnath Yatra was also largely peaceful with 4,58,000 pilgrims participating in it.

Amongst those who attended the meeting were Ram Gopal Yadav, Bhubaneswar Kalita, Rishang Keishing, HK Dua and Ashok Sekhar Ganguly from the Rajya Sabha and Thokchom Meinya, Rattan Singh Ajnala and N. Dharam Singh from the Lok Sabha. The Minister of State for Home, Mullappally Ramachandran, was also present at the meeting.