A five-member delegation led by India’s former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday initiated a Track II diplomacy in restive Indian-controlled Kashmir to end an ongoing deadlock in the region.
The move is aimed at reaching out to separatists and help breaking the ice between separatist groups and New Delhi.
“Soon after delegation arrived here, they drove straight to the residence of Syed Ali Geelani at Hyderpora and held meeting with him,” a police official said.
Sinha along with his team later called on other separatist leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and others.
Geelani is under house arrest, while as Mirwaiz was shifted to his residence on Monday from a sub-jail after about 60 days.
“We talked in a very cordial atmosphere. Our aim was to talk (to separatists) and we have been successful in that,” Sinha told reporters after coming out of Geelani’s residence.
“We are few people, who I must call, people of goodwill. We have come here on humanitarian grounds and to share the pain and sufferings of people.”
The delegation led by Sinha comprises of India’s former Chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities and the first Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah, former Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, veteran journalist Bharat Bhushan and executive director of a Delhi based policy group and think tank – Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation – Sushobha Barve.
The delegation is scheduled to stay in the region for three days, during which they would be meeting civil society members and pro-india politicians, besides region’s chief minister.
The meeting comes more than a month after separatist leaders refused to meet some members of Indian parliamentary delegation during their visit to Srinagar.
Though the delegation refuses having any backing of New Delhi on holding meetings with separatists, however, release of Farooq from sub jail and shifting of another separatist leader Mohammad Yasin Malik to hospital was seen as government’s approval to the affair.
Currently Indian-controlled Kashmir is grappling with the violent unrest. The region has been witnessing the largest anti-India protests in recent years since July 8, following the killing of a popular militant commander in a gunfight with Indian troops.
Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan, is claimed by both in full. Since their Independence from Britain, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.
A separatist movement and guerrilla war challenging New Delhi’s rule is going on in Indian-controlled Kashmir since 1989.