The appointment of an interlocutor is not a U-turn in the government's Kashmir approach as militants and their supporters would be tackled militarily while those who want to have a dialogue can come and talk, BJP leader and its Kashmir in-charge Ram Madhav said on Saturday.
Madhav rebutted opposition criticism to the move, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Kashmir policy was "consistent" in a sense that tackling the issue needed a multi-pronged approach that called for different activities to be taken up simultaneously.
"And one of them is to tackle terrorists through strong military action. Whoever indulges in anti-national activities in the Valley - whether in the form of indulging in terrorism or in the form of promoting it, sponsoring it, supporting it - will be caught. That will continue. But if somebody wants to come and talk to the central government, they can talk to the representative," he said.
Asked if it was not a complete shift from the government's approach of refusing to talk to the Hurriyat and an acknowledgement that the solution to the Kashmir problem lay in dialogue, Madhav said talks would be held with "sections that are ready to engage... but you will deal with sections in an appropriate manner that are out to indulge in terror".
The government on Monday appointed former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma as an interlocutor to open talks with all stakeholders in Kashmir.
Madhav ruled out any involvement of Pakistan in the government's Kashmir approach, saying it would talk to the neighbouring country but only about the parts of the state under Islamabad's control.
"Otherwise, the Kashmir issue is an internal matter for our government. We will talk to the people of the state, to different groups of the state. No outside power has any locus standi on that."
He also said Kashmir was moving towards peace as "things have gradually settled down" in the Valley.
"Normal political activity has also started. The government of the day, BJP and PDP, is now focusing more and more on development. Now why a special representative has been appointed to talk to different groups in the state - you see the Home Minister has made it clear that the government's doors are open for groups that want to talk.
"It also should be understood that it cannot be done by the Home Minister or somebody at that level. So we decided that Dineshwar Sharma will be the government's representative to talk to different groups, and talking is never an option we shut down."
He said the approach was "very different" from the previous UPA government.
"They (the UPA) had a great Kashmir policy, which landed the state in such a big turmoil and complete mess. This is the result of the so-called Kashmir policy of the Congress government. Today in power, we are putting a different approach in tackling the problem, and we are sure that at the end of the day we will have an amicable solution."
Reacting to Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad's remarks that hundreds of lives of civilians as well as security forces could have been saved if there was no confusion in the BJP government's approach, Madhav said: "Under their government, the loss of life was maximum -- loss of lives of innocent people.
"Under this government, yes there are people dying, but those who are dying are terrorists. And if Azad's sympathy lies with terrorists, I can't help. We are trying our best to ensure minimum civilian casualties."
Asked about the possibility of Sharma talking to the Hurriyat leadership, Madhav said it was up to the separatist leadership to decide if they were "willing to talk". It "is a question you have to ask them".
"We have appointed a representative to engage with the groups. It cannot go on eternally. At some point we will have to assess the results. While I wouldn't say any specific timeline, this cannot be an unending process. Dialogue has to start and end somewhere."