Hardening their position in their first formal response to the appointment of Dineshwar Sharma as the Government of India (GoI) representative on J&K, the separatists on Tuesday described the offer for dialogue as “futile and a ploy to strike a hard bargain” despite New Delhi’s “informal” attempts to persuade them.“In principle, the [separatist] leadership advocates and supports sincere and productive dialogue as a means of conflict resolution. It entails all participants to acknowledge that there is a dispute. However, the GoI continuously refuses to accept this basic premise,” said separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik in a joint statement. Taking exception to the recent remarks of Mr. Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau (IB) director, the separatists said his assertions “limit the scope of any engagement with him and makes it an exercise in futility.”They said Mr. Sharma’s remarks that he will come to Kashmir to “prevent it from becoming Syria is misleading.” “Comparing the internationally recognised 70-year-old political and humanitarian issue of Kashmir to sectarian war and power struggle in Syria is deception and propaganda. There is no correlation,” they said.The leaders described the appointment of the interlocutor as “a tactic to buy time adopted under international pressures, regional compulsions and due to the abysmal failure of the policy of military repression.”“Unless the Kashmir dispute is understood and addressed in its historical context and in the background of international commitments made over it, lasting peace can neither be achieved in J&K nor in the subcontinent,” they said.The Hurriyat leaders opposed engagement by any other group with Mr. Sharma, who arrives in Srinagar later this week. The leaders also asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explain his earlier outright dismissal of former UPA Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s suggestion of restoration of autonomy for J&K.“If the GoI even rejects the demand of its co-political party for restoration of autonomy guaranteed by its own constitution, calling it a betrayal with soldiers and hence unacceptable, how will such a dispensation in New Delhi address or engage with the Kashmiri people’s political will and aspiration of self-determination,” the separatists asked.They said that to talk of peace and dialogue was also a ploy by the GoI “to strike a hard bargain, to which the people of Kashmir and leadership will never succumb to.”Sources said the GoI, through an “informal” engagement, did try to persuade Hurriyat leaders for an engagement. Sources said there were “continuous efforts” to break the ice, adding that Mr. Sharma was scheduled to meet representatives of youth, besides the civil society groups, as he formally begins his Kashmir visit later this week.