The image of political leaders throwing up doves in an open sky, though a bit of a cliche, continues to have a certain salience and meaning as a gesture: it is a signalling for peace, just as a white flag is one for surrender. Prime Minister Narendra Modi may not yet have thrown up a dove but his Independence Day message from the Red Fort ramparts, emphatically expressing his desire to reach out to Kashmiris, now has a real corollary: in his surprise choice of Dineshwar Sharma as the interlocutor for Kashmir. With the fear of violence having ebbed after a couple of fraught seasons and a modicum of calm returning, the time seems ripe for another spell of dialogue.
Sharma is an atypical man for someone from the heart of the intelligence establishment—he served two years as IB chief (2015-17). Not one of the prime-time screamers, the soft-spoken Sharma has made conciliatory remarks about stone-pelters and spoken of the universal desire to see peace in Kashmir. Perhaps precisely because of his low profile, he has managed to evoke interest in the restive Valley and beyond, forcing people to parse Modi’s speech to ascertain both the sincerity and the durability of New Delhi’s latest peace initiative.