Five-member Indian team visits Kashmir separatists to talk peace

The five member team, led by former Indian minister Yashwant Sinha, in?Kashmir has battled for "unconditional talks"?in front of senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, sources privy to the meeting said. Photograph:( Getty )

WION Srinagar Oct 27, 2016, 11.30 AM (IST) Anees Zargar

A five-member team currently visiting Kashmir has met with several local stakeholders in an attempt to break the three-month-long political deadlock. The visit is seen as the first "successful" outreach by a team from outside the state.

The team—former civil servant, Wajahat Habibullah, former Air Vice Marshal, Kapil Kak, executive director of the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, Sushobha Barve, senior journalist Bharat Bhushan and senior BJP leader, Yashwant Sinha—met with separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq on Tuesday.

The Bhartiya Janata Party has distanced itself from the initiative, calling it a personal outreach by Sinha, and not an official one. The separatist leaders met with them after shutting their door in September to a delegation comprising of Members of Parliament D Raja, Sitaram Yerchury and Sharad Yadav.

Soon after the meeting, the visitors said that the talks were "successful".

The meeting was seen as the first move towards breaking the stalemate in the state, which is currently witnessing unrest following the July 8 killing of militant commander Burhan Wani. Since then, more than 90 civilians have been killed and close to 13,000 left injured as the violence erupted.

The five-member team has battled for "unconditional talks" in front of senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, sources privy to the meeting said.

“During the meet, Geelani said the government of India has to accept the problem in Kashmir as a political ‘dispute’ and address it accordingly,” a Hurriyat Conference insider told Wion.

However, according to the sources, the team of visitors had suggested against putting any conditions before the talks, to find a middle ground between the state and the separatists. 

During the group's three-day visit to the strife-torn Valley, they met with Geelani at his Hyderpora residence for about half an hour to discuss the ongoing unrest in Kashmir. It is seen as an attempt to break the ice in the rising hostility between the state and separatists. Many, including the former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, have hailed the move.

Reported as a possible initiation of a Track two dialogue, the members, however, claimed the visit was strictly in personal capacities and without any agenda. “There was no delegation,” Wajahat Habibullah told Wion, adding, “the visit was quite nondescript”.

The team also met with the Valley traders and members of civil society to hear their viewpoint on the situation and put forth their views as well. The traders also battled for the initiation of an unconditional dialogue among all the state stakeholders.