Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invocation of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee to reach out to the people of Jammu and Kashmir has few takers as political analysts feel that the present NDA government has “failed to walk the talk”.
The former PM, during one of his visits to Kashmir, had extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan amid heightened tensions between the two sides.
Addressing a public meeting in Srinagar on 18 April 2003, Vajpayee had asserted that both “internal and external” issues could be resolved by following the three principles of Insaaniyat (humanism), Jamhooriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Kashmir’s age old legacy of amity). Modi invoked these principles on Tuesday.
Analysts recalled that Vajpayee took many “bold” steps during his tenure. He started the Delhi-Lahore bus service, visited Pakistan and met his counterpart Nawaz Sharif in February 1999.
“These were significant steps. Whatever Vajpayee stated, he meant it and accordingly acted by reaching out to both Pakistan and Kashmiris. But the present government has not shown any such inclination,” said MM Ansari, who was appointed J&K interlocutor by the UPA government after the 2010 unrest.
Vajpayee’s message to Pakistan from Kashmir was well crafted. He was the first PM to hold a rally in Srinagar since the onset of militancy in 1989-90. “I have come here to share your pain. Whatever complaints you have, we will try to address them collectively,” he had said. This was followed up by the Centre’s first talks with the separatists. It was during Vajpayee’s tenure that India and Pakistan announced a ceasefire.
“Vajpayee admitted there is a problem and understood the need to address that,” said Prof Noor Ahmad Baba of Kashmir University. Baba said Vajpayee’s legacy was to some extent carried forward by Manmohan Singh but lamented that there has been no forward movement after that.