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Khurshid sees Kashmir ‘bungle’

New Delhi, Aug. 22: The Congress feels the Modi government has badly bungled its first engagement with Pakistan because of “poor understanding” of the “complex problem” of Jammu and Kashmir.

Congress spokesperson Salman Khurshid today said the government “panicked” because of “extreme short-sightedness and lack of understanding” of the complexities in dealing with Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan.

“The government was completely unprepared and it should have talked to all the stake-holders in J&K before taking any decision,” the former external affairs minister said.

Khurshid blamed the PMO for the bungle, saying “inadequate inputs were taken from the foreign office”. He possibly took a dig at national security adviser Ajit Doval when he said “the Indian Foreign Service can do certain jobs that the Indian Police Service can’t”.

Several Congress leaders have been informally discussing what Khurshid put on record today about Doval’s suitability as NSA, especially in comparison to Shiv Shankar Menon or Brajesh Mishra who worked with the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime.

Without taking names, Khurshid said: “Kashmir is not a law-and-order problem as is understood by this government. You cannot ignore the historical perspective.”

He added: “The government is not realising the harsh realities of dealing with Pakistan. The Kashmir problem has existed for long…. You can’t take anything for granted.

“The problem is that some people… believe they have magical powers and can instantly solve every problem. They should have talked to the Congress, National Conference, PDP and other stake-holders in Kashmir before drawing up a strategy.”

On the Centre’s statements on Article 370, Khurshid said: “Our approach of reaching out to the soul of the Kashmiri people succeeded in bringing normalcy. But they are making half-baked, short-sighted and insensitive statements, which is worrying.

“Some people suffer from perpetual Opposition syndrome and they continue to behave like that even if you put them in government. The statement on Article 370 that binds India to Kashmir was insensitive in the extreme.”

Khurshid said the Congress had never opposed resumption of talks with Pakistan but only asked the Modi regime what had led to the change in its perception about the neighbouring country.

The Congress, which has a history of committing blunders in Kashmir, had tried to show maturity under Sonia Gandhi by supporting Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s healing-touch policy in 2002 and then allowing the Omar Abdullah government to complete its term despite the contrarian views of local Congressmen.

The party is in a bad way in the state, having almost lost its clout to the BJP in the Jammu and Ladakh regions. Neither the NC nor the PDP is in a position to win majority. The BJP is aiming for gains huge enough to enable it to wield power in the state for the first time.