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In this context, the Prime Minister’s reiteration of his government’s commitment to fostering grassroots democracy in the UT for which he sought the cooperation of all parties in first completing the delimitation exercise for Assembly seats, and the eventual restoration of full statehood, is welcome.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

Eight mainstream political parties from the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir represented by 14 leaders, the Union Home minister and the Prime Minister of India were all in one room.

But nobody was greatly concerned, perhaps understandably so, about addressing the elephant in the corner looming large over the interaction in the Capital on Thursday. And that is a good thing.

For it is precisely because all parties, for their own reasons, essentially seemed to skirt the issue of the reading down of Article 370 of the Constitution save the usual suspects making a few proforma noises for the media that there is cause for hope in the Valley.

There is a level of maturity in the approach of the greater autonomy seeking Jammu and Kashmir parties in accepting that the restoration of Article 370 ~ while it may be devoutly wished for by them ~ is a non-starter regardless of the political dispensation in New Delhi, and this must be appreciated. Yes, they may raise the issue to a higher pitch when it suits them politically, and certainly they would never admit to this new reality in public.

Nonetheless, an acceptance even in private of the fait accompli regarding the abrogation of the temporary Constitutional arrangement which was Article 370 is a huge step for those who have spent their entire political lives swearing to uphold it.

Naturally, the messaging by these regional leaders to their cadres and to the public would be on the lines of ‘we will live to fight another day’ or, indeed, that the matter is sub-judice, a fact the Prime Minister reminded them of.

Here is where the Centre too needs to exhibit a level of political maturity by ignoring even marginally incendiary public postures for the greater good of both the residents of Jammu and Kashmir and for its complete integration into the Indian mainstream.

In this context, the Prime Minister’s reiteration of his government’s commitment to fostering grassroots democracy in the UT for which he sought the cooperation of all parties in first completing the delimitation exercise for Assembly seats, and the eventual restoration of full statehood, is welcome.

The next step must be to set a firm timeline for both these endeavours.

The Home Minister is thought to have been unequivocal at the meeting that holding the Assembly election would have to be the percussor to any move to restore statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. While some political parties argued in favour of reversing the order, Mr Amit Shah’s view will likely prevail. But the “constructive engagement” with all political parties ought not to end with Thursday’s interaction.

Overcoming the trust deficit between Jammu and Kashmir and the Union government, which all participants agreed was essential, needs constant work. Continuing to talk to each other would be a good beginning, setting up a permanent mechanism to do so would be even better.