The working group that will officially decide and define the Indian position on Delhi's relationship with J&K, is meeting in New Delhi on December 12, in the first such major exercise in the past 17 years of turmoil in the state.
This working group’s mandate is to deliberate upon matters relating to the special status of J&K within the Indian union and matters of strengthening democracy, secularism and the rule of law in the state.
This group will also deliberate on effective devolution of powers among different regions to meet regional, sub-regional and ethnic aspirations.
This was one of the five groups announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the conclusion of the second round table conference on Kashmir in Srinagar on May 25 this year.
The debate is going to be ferocious. All the political groups have fielded their best brains and powerful speakers for the group, for the recommendations of this group, which is to deliberate on both autonomy and self-rule, two main theses for resolution of the crisis, would formulate the policy statement of India on J&K.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s latest four-point formula on J&K solution will also come up for discussions at the meeting, where a notable absentee would be J&K's main opposition party - National Conference.
Although separatists have boycotted the working groups, but they, too, are watching out keenly the outcome of this particular group. "Let’s see what they come up with, but we are clear that status quo is not acceptable to us," says All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
The absence of J&K's main opposition group, National Conference, will be felt," concedes even PDP president Mehbooba Mufti. "If Hurriyat Conference and National Conference were there, their participation can compliment the process."
While separatists have boycotted the round table conferences on J&K from the very beginning, National Conference has done it in mid-way to protest against the "rising human rights violations in the state."
"Unless the human rights violations end, there is no way that we would participate in the deliberations of the working groups," National Conference President Omar Abdullah told Hindustan Times. He said that the party’s absence would not harm its position – restoration of greater autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir.
"Our stand is very well known. It is documented in a report passed by more than a two-third majority in the two houses of the legislature in Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
That would leave the stage open for Kashmir centric parties, like PDP and nationalist groups like BJP, Panun Kashmir and Jammu Mukti Morcha to slug it out. Congress and other groups, which toe middle path, would be stepping in to reconcile the two extremes.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti – the tireless champion of the self-rule for Jammu and Kashmir, said that she "thinks that President Musharraf’s proposals would be deliberated upon at the meeting. That is a good thing."
Mehbooba Mufti’s line of argument would be that self rule that proposes economic integration of the two parts of Jammu and Kashmir to be followed up with the meeting political aspirations of the people without challenging sovereignty of either India or Pakistan's the best solution.
"We have said it before in the first two round table conferences on J&K, and we would say it again with better draft and articulation," she told Hindustan Times as she prepares for her crucial date with the political definition of the Centre-state relations.