SRINAGAR: The appointment of Skandan Krishnan as an advisor to the J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik has sparked rumours that the BJP-led Centre, after years of iron-handed approach, may be contemplating to resume Track-II diplomacy on Kashmir.

The J&K government yesterday issued orders for appointing Krishnan, a 1982 IAS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre, as fourth advisor to Governor Malik. The order came a day after the union home ministry cleared decks for the retired IAS officer’s appointment.

According to official spokesperson, Krishnan, who has direct experience of dealing with the Kashmir problem in his stint with the central government, has worked on senior positions in the state of Tamil Nadu where he served for 25 years before joining the Government of India.

“He held the important assignments of Joint Secretary in-charge of Centre-State Division, Kashmir Division from 2007 to 2012 and was assigned charge of the Additional Secretary (Centre-States) Division from 2012 onwards,” the spokesperson said.

A senior J&K government officer said Krishnan will be allocated portfolios after he takes charge. “The order will come from Raj Bhawan,” the officer said, wishing to remain anonymous.

The former MHA joint secretary (Kashmir) was the point-person for the group of interlocutors comprising of Dilip Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and MM Ansari who were appointed in October 2010 by the UPA government after 120 civilians, mostly teenagers, were killed by security forces in Kashmir.

The Congress party was in power in a coalition government with National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir at the time and Omar Abdullah was the chief minister. In that hot summer of 2010, a mass uprising broke out against New Delhi’s rule, prompting a harsh crackdown on protesters.

Sources said Krishnan was involved in formulating the rehabilitation policy for surrendered militants in Kashmir. In an interview with the New York Times, he said “having a return policy is important because it gives people trying to come back psychological relief that they will be welcomed.”

“There is not one important stakeholder in Kashmir that he (Krishnan) does not know or hasn’t met in person. He is seen as a moderate in Kashmir policy circles. And his return to Kashmir after serving in the home ministry certainly has more to it than meets the eye,” Prof Noor Baba, who teaches at Central University of Kashmir, said.

Governor Malik has already appointed three advisors including retired Kashmiri IAS officer Khursheed Ganai, to help him in running the state which came under President’s rule last December, months after the BJP pulled out of the coalition government with the Peoples Democratic Party.

After clamping down the President’s rule, New Delhi intensified the counterinsurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, resulting in the killing of more than 250 militants last year which includes the top commanders of different militant outfits.

However, others believe Krishnan’s appointment is part of the BJP’s “political agenda” on Kashmir, “If the governor needs another ‘advisor’, it is just to sharpen and further delegate the instruments to implement the BJP government’s political agenda. So nothing benign about it,” Siddiq Wahid, an academician who has been involved in Track II diplomacy, said.

Regional parties, including National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, have been urging the BJP-led centre to give up its iron-hand policy and initiate talks with separatist groups and Islamabad in order to find a resolution for Kashmir problem.

However, the central government has only become aggressive over the years after the BJP came to power with last year’s death toll in insurgency related violence at all-time high in a decade, with more than 250 militants and 100 civilians killed by security forces.