Amit Shah to visit Kashmir today, focus remains on development and security

On his first trip to Kashmir as Union home minister on Wednesday, Amit Shah will discuss the consolidation of recent military and non-military gains in the Valley. He is also expected to ask governor Satyapal Malik about the developments that led him to conclude that leaders of the separatist Hurriyat Conference were ready for a meaningful dialogue with the Centre, according to people familiar with the matter.

Shah and home secretary Rajiv Gauba will fly to Srinagar on Wednesday afternoon and return a day later.

A senior government official told Kashmir Post on condition of anonymity that the home minister will review the security situation in the state and the progress of development projects undertaken by the Centre. Shah will also chair a meeting of the Unified Command – which comprises officers of the Indian Army, Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the state police – to review steps taken for a peaceful and terror-free Amarnath Yatra, and discuss ongoing and future counterterror operations.

On June 22, Malik said at a function in Srinagar that the separatist amalgam, Hurriyat Conference, was ready for talks with the Centre. It was after his speech that the Hurriyat’s chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said that a dialogue was the only way of resolving the Kashmir problem.

A second official indicated, however, that North Block is not in agreement. He added that the Hurriyat had always made peace overtures when a high-ranking US dignitary comes to India, alluding to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s ongoing visit.

The two officials cited above added that the Hurriyat was under pressure because of the ongoing security operations in the Valley, where about 120 terrorists have been neutralised this year – mainly from the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) – albeit at a cost of casualties to Indian security forces. A total of 49 paramilitary troopers, including 40 in the February 14 Pulwama attack; 13 Army soldiers; seven Jammu and Kashmir police personnel; and three special police officers have lost their lives this year in terror operations, according to state police data.

A third North Block official said that Shah was opposed to any dialogue with “pro-Pakistan elements” in the Valley, and will instead push for good governance, better infrastructure, and improving tourism.

Shah is unlikely to take up the contentious issue of abrogating Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution that accord special status to Jammu and Kashmir in his first visit to the Valley as home minister, indicated the official, who asked not to be named.