Just days before Pakistan raises the Kashmir issue at the 115-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, India dragged its Kashmir policy out of deep freeze and appointed a new emissary to negotiate with Kashmiri Muslim political groups. The appointment of N. N. Vohra, a retired civil servant, as India's new point man for Kashmir, was welcomed by Kashmiri political leaders. 'My government was eagerly waiting for this decision,' said Kashmir's chief minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, whose People's Democratic Party came to power at the head of a coalition government after last year's state assembly elections. 'It is a golden opportunity for those who did not participate in the polls and also for those who wield guns. It is unconditional dialogue and they should come forward.' This is not the first time that India has appointed a special emissary to negotiate with Kashmiri groups. But the optimism generated this time has much to do with Mr Vohra's personality and reputation. Known to be sincere, skilful, diligent and politically neutral, Mr Vohra, 66, held top positions at the home and defence ministries, and was the principal secretary of former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral. Mr Vohra is likely to begin his dialogue with the newly elected members of the Kashmir assembly. But his first real challenge would be to persuade leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, the grand body of separatist Kashmiri Muslim political groups, to come to the negotiating table. Mr Sayeed has been trying to build bridges with the Hurriyat leadership. He successfully persuaded the Indian government to release the jailed separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, a leading Hurriyat member. He has also reportedly been able to block the arrest of Hurriyat chairman Abdul Ghani Bhatt after the organisation was accused of receiving illegal funds from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. But the real challenge facing Mr Vohra - and Mr Sayeed - would be to initiate a process that would allow Pakistan-based armed rebel groups to participate in the talks. At the moment, neither the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in New Delhi nor the Pakistan-based rebel groups appear interested in a dialogue on Kashmir's future. The BJP faces a series of state assembly elections this year, and a national election next year. As a result, domestic political issues are expected to prevent India normalising relations with Pakistan. Although Pakistan is certain to raise the Kashmir issue at the NAM summit in Kuala Lumpur, it is unlikely that the leaders of the two nuclear-armed neighbours will even hold casual talks on the issue.