India’s former National Security Advisor (NSA) Mayankote Kelath Narayanan has called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi government to reopen a dialogue with Pakistan.
Speaking at The Hindu’s thought conclave in Bengaluru, Narayanan said the Indian government is “running out of time diplomatically” to explain its actions on the decision to amend Article 370 in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the communication shutdown and mass detentions that have followed.
“The truth is, despite all the misgivings on the subject of Pakistan and its support to terror, we did see a relatively more peaceful time in Kashmir when there were talks in the period between 2003-2008,” said Narayanan, known to take a hard line during his tenure as NSA under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from 2005-2010.
“I am known as a hawk, and I am not in favour of Pakistan, but I believe we must move towards a dialogue with Pakistan,” he added.
Narayanan was speaking as part of a panel that discussed the Article 370 decision and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, entitled “The Kashmir Gambit: Can it pay off?”
According to Raghavan, the government’s decision was spurred by a desire to change the entire political dispensation in the erstwhile State as had been done by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru when he dismissed the State government and imprisoned Sheikh Abdullah for a decade in 1953, as well as by subsequent Central governments that installed alternate chief ministers over the past 70 years.
“However, it is important to remember that Indira Gandhi had also acknowledged the error in those actions when she worked towards an accord with Sheikh Abdullah in 1975. It remains to be seen how the present situation in Jammu and Kashmir will be judged in the future,” he said.
Assistant Professor at the University of Kashmir Mohammad Ibrahim Wani, another panelist, said the difference in the 2019 Kashmir decision was that there is no alternative leadership in place when the government decided to detain former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti and other leaders.
The Indian government has explained its decision as necessary for law and order in the Union Territory and filed charges under the Public Safety Act against the leaders.
Acknowledging that there was widespread support in the rest of India for the government’s decision, Narayanan said there is a divide in the country between those who think the government’s decision was unwarranted, and those who support it as overdue.
“This section believes that the root cause of Kashmir issue is an excess of freedom of choice. India is not united in looking at what happened in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, adding that the continuing detentions and the strictures on communication were leading to misgivings about the situation there.