The move to resume political engagement in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is welcome. After the break-up of the state into two and demotion from full statehood to Union territory status, along with abrogation of Article 370, the state had been under President’s rule and its political leaders under various degrees of restraint. It is essential to move towards full democracy as in the rest of the country — after all, integration with the Indian mainstream
is the avowed goal of the move to remove the state’s special status. It is welcome that no major political outfit has rejected resumption of political engagement in the changed circumstance, waiting for restoration of the status quo to resume dialogue. The all-party meeting, slated for June 24, will bring representatives of 14 parties of J&K, the prime minister and other Union ministers together. So far, political parties with a presence in J&K have been positive about the meeting.
Congress, for instance, has not made the restitution of Article 370 aprecondition for its participation. Speculation on the agenda notwithstanding, the discussion would focus on the delimitation exercise, development-related projects and security-related aspects. Representatives of the political parties can be expected to raise the issue of restoring statehood. It would be a mistake to set high expectations from this first all-party meeting, a mere first step in a process of engagement.
Apart from domestic reasons, for New Delhi, it is vital to reemphasise its democratic credentials amidst the geopolitical divide setting in, centred on democracy, with China at one end and the US-led western alliance at the other. India does not want to be clubbed with China and its crackdown in its Muslim-majority province.