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Interlocutors for more autonomy in J&K

The central government’s interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir are likely to recommend more powers for the state to strengthen its special status under the Constitution. Toufiq Rashid reports. Panel's peace plan

india Updated: Apr 20, 2011 11:36 IST
Toufiq Rashid

The central government’s interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir are likely to recommend more powers for the state to strengthen its special status under the Constitution.

The interlocutors favour a political solution that “upholds and fine-tunes the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 (of the Constitution), which means giving additional powers to the state so it can assert its independent character”, said noted journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, who heads the three-member team of interlocutors.

"For decades, India has been represented (in Kashmir) by just the soldier on the road. That has to change," he said. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/20_04_pg01b.jpg

The panel is likely to propose that the state’s governor and chief minister be given the titles of president and prime minister, respectively (as was the case before 1953).

The interlocutors, who include academic Radha Kumar and former central information commissioner MM Ansari, want greater devolution of power to the state legislature and elected local bodies. They also favour more confidence-building measures to create an atmosphere for talks with separatists, and a continuation of the dialogue with Pakistan.

While giving the state more political autonomy, the interlocutors want deeper economic linkages between the state and the rest of the country.

They are likely to propose that J&K be declared a free economic zone and that traditional routes of trade and commerce, including roads to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, be reopened.

“Give people an opportunity to invest in the state. Let the state have its own tariff laws and tax laws,” Padgaonkar said.

The interlocutors, appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last October, have been boycotted by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.

They have, however, met the main opposition BJP, which is unlikely to accept many of their recommendations, and the Left.