DULAT-DUR­RANI: SPY vs SPY

The Spy Chron­i­cles brings the for­mer spy mas­ters of two hos­tile, nu­clear-armed, and neigh­bour­ing na­tions to­gether, who give an in­sider’s ac­counts on sev­eral con­tentious is­sues. How­ever, af­ter build­ing up the an­tic­i­pa­tion, the book falls short on facts and

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THE book, jointly au­thored by In­dia’s for­mer In­dian Re­search & Anal­y­sis Wing (RAW) chief Amar­jit Singh Dulat and the Pak­istan’s for­mer In­ter Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI) chief, Lt. Gen. Muham­mad Asad Dur­rani, was re­leased amidst fan­fare by a galaxy of In­dian lead­ers. The au­gust gath­er­ing in­cluded for­mer Vice-Pres­i­dent Hamid An­sari, for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh, for­mer Kash­mir Chief Min­is­ter Fa­rooq Ab­dul­lah, and leading politi­cians and for­mer min­is­ters from dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties such as Kapil Sibal, Yash­want Sinha and Omar Ab­dul­lah The co-au­thor from Pak­istan could not be present as he did not get an In­dian visa (later, travel re­stric­tions were im­posed on him by his home coun­try). Pub­lished by Harper Collins and edited by jour­nal­ist Aditya Sinha, who mod­er­ated the dis­course be­tween the au­thors, The Spy Chron­i­cles: RAW, ISI and the Il­lu­sion of Peace, eludes any star­tling rev­e­la­tions. It is a com­pen­dium of gos­sip be­tween the two for­mer spy chiefs con­ducted over three ses­sions held at Is­tan­bul, Bangkok and Kath­mandu. They couldn’t have ob­vi­ously met on their re­spec­tive home turfs. The book throws light on the ca­reers of the co-au­thors, but is opaque about their ex­ploits. It does, how­ever, chron­i­cle their per­cep­tions about the RAW, ISI and other agen­cies such as the CIA (US), MI6 (Bri­tain), BND (Ger­many), Mos­sad (Is­rael) and the erst­while KGB (for­mer Soviet Union). The di­a­logue, which emerged as a book, was fa­cil­i­tated by the Track-II ef­fort spon­sored by Canada’s Uni­ver­sity of Ottawa, in which for­mer Cana­dian diplo­mat, Peter Jones, acts as the pivot. This Track-II ini­tia­tive has three com­part­ments: nu­clear, mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence. It is the last com­po­nent which brought Dulat and Dur­rani to­gether in the process named Chao Praya di­a­logue (named af­ter a river in Thai­land). In this, the for­mer top func­tionar­ies met at pic­turesque lo­ca­tions to seek the il­lu­sive peace be­tween the two South Asian neigh­bours, whose post-In­de­pen­dence his­to­ries are a saga of con­fronta­tion. Twenty-four ses­sions have been held so far. The date of the 25th is not yet fixed. The trust deficit be­tween the two govern­ments ex­tends to these ex­tra-govern­ment ses­sions too. In a re­cent ar­ti­cle, re­tired Lt. Gen. Syed Ata Has­nain, who com­manded the In­dian Army in Kash­mir, com­mented that the trust deficit in TrackII di­a­logues makes the par­tic­i­pants non­com­mit­tal. Par­al­lely, a Track-I di­a­logue be­tween the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sors (NSAs) of the two na­tions is at­tempt­ing to break the dead­lock. While the NSA-level talks yield some re­sults (though they don’t pre­vent a Pathankot or Uri-kind of in­ci­dents, or cause ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties across the LOC), the tan­gi­ble re­sult of Track-II is yet to emerge. The of­fi­cial es­tab­lish­ments on both sides have taken a dim view of

The of­fi­cial es­tab­lish­ments on both sides of the border have taken a dim view of the Dulat-Dur­rani jointven­ture. While Pak­istan has re­acted openly and put re­stric­tions on Dur­rani, the In­dian es­tab­lish­ment has cho­sen to keep mum

the Dulat-Dur­rani joint-ven­ture. While Pak­istan re­acted openly and put re­stric­tions on Dur­rani, the In­dian es­tab­lish­ment choose to keep mum. How­ever, for­mer sleuths that this re­viewer spoke to were crit­i­cal of the book. They felt that it was mere gos­sip and not gen­er­ous on facts. The cur­rent In­dian NSA, Ajit Do­val, fig­ures in the dis­course. Dur­rani, re­call­ing Do­val’s stint in Pak­istan, is not very com­fort­able with his per­sona. But Dulat heaps praises on Do­val. How­ever, In­tel­li­gence Bu­reau (IB) hands, who worked with Do­val and Dulat, do not re­call any great chem­istry be­tween the two. For­mer RAW hands re­call that when Dulat headed the agency, af­ter a life­time in IB, he had hinted that he would pre­fer if Do­val, who han­dled Kash­mir in IB those days, be kept out of the loop on some op­er­a­tions in Kash­mir, es­pe­cially cen­tring around the Hur­riyat.

IN the book, while talk­ing pos­i­tively about Do­val, Dulat con­fesses that he has not met the for­mer in his present NSA days. Ap­par­ently, while Dulat was pow-wow­ing with Dur­rani in Is­tan­bul, Bangkok and Kath­mandu, he did not feel the ne­ces­sity to brief Do­val in New Delhi. Dulat is open about dis­cussing the In­dian se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment, in­clud­ing fis­sures be­tween the IB and RAW. Dur­rani re­mains de­fen­sive about the Pak­istani es­tab­lish­ment and does not di­vulge much in his guarded an­swers. Dulat has no rea­son to worry in In­dia as he is re­spected for the work he did in Kash­mir and for his book, Kash­mir: The Va­j­payee Years, in which he has em­pha­sised that “em­pa­thy is the key to un­der­stand­ing Kash­mir”, which is echoed in this book as well. Dur­rani had rea­sons to be guarded. He is be­ing probed in Pak­istan for what is known as “Mehran­gate”. It’s al­leged that the ISI chief, along with the then Army chief, Mirza As­lam Beg, used funds pro­cured from Mehran Bank to in­flu­ence the 1990 elec­tion to the detri­ment of the late Be­nazir Bhutto. As in In­dia, the ju­di­cial process in Pak­istan moves at its own pace. In 2012, the Pak­istan Supreme Court held the duo guilty in the case filed by re­tired Air Mar­shal As­ghar Khan in 1996. It was al­leged that Rs 14 crore was spent by the Army and ISI to in­flu­ence the 1990 elec­tions in which Nawaz Sharif ousted Bhutto. The book has given the Pak­istan es­tab­lish­ment a rea­son to look at the case closely now, and led the Pak­istan GHQ to sum­mon Dur­rani. Sharif ’s rev­e­la­tion that the ISI had a hand in 26/11 has put Pak­istan on the back foot. The Dur­rani-Dulat book is the last straw on the camel’s back. Iron­i­cally, nowhere in the book Mehran­gate finds a men­tion. Post-launch, Dulat hogged the head­lines, but he was silent on Mehran­gate. In­ci­den­tally, he ad­mits that money was used in Kash­mir when he worked for the IB. But, un­like Dur­rani, there are no charges against his pro­bity. While be­ing crit­i­cal of this book, his for­mer col­leagues in IB and RAW vouch for his straight­for­ward­ness. The ISI was formed soon af­ter in­de­pen­dence in 1947, while the RAW was bi­fur­cated from IB in Septem­ber 1968. The ISI has been re­ferred to as Pak­istan’s “Deep State”—Dulat prefers to call it “a State within a State”. RAW, though looked at with awe and sus­pi­cion in In­dia, has not been ever ac­cused as a “Deep State”. Un­like the ISI, which is con­trolled by the mil­i­tary, RAW is a civil­ian setup, and re­ports to the Cabi­net Sec­re­tary. In its for­ma­tive years, as the 1969 Congress split fol­lowed within a year of its for­ma­tion, the op­po­si­tion in In­dia viewed the RAW as Indira Gandhi’s Prae­to­rian Guards. This led Mo­rarji De­sai to cause ir­re­triev­able dam­age to the or­gan­i­sa­tion when he be­came PM in 1977.

In the book, Dur­rani ad­mits that while in 1965, Pak­istan had in­tel­li­gence on the In­dian Army, in 1971 the ISI was taken by sur­prise at the out­break of war in the erst­while East Pak­istan, which was won by the joint forces of In­dia and Bangladesh lib­er­a­tion fight­ers. Per­haps, the 1971 war was the finest chap­ter for any in­tel­li­gence or­gan­i­sa­tion in the world. Led by RN Kao, Shankaran Nair and IS Has­san­walia, RAW in its third year of its ex­is­tence, out­wit­ted the CIA and its ally, ISI, in East Pak­istan (now Bangladesh).

UN­FOR­TU­NATELY, while Dur­rani ad­mits ISI’s lapses, Dulat does not flag this sin­gu­lar achieve­ment of RAW, of which he was the only “out­sider” head, hav­ing been sec­onded from the IB in 2000, where he served for 18 months. Dur­rani was the ISI head a decade ear­lier, af­ter a stint as the head of Mil­i­tary In­tel­li­gence. Dulat was a ca­reer sleuth; Dur­rani was an ar­tillery of­fi­cer de­puted to spy­ing. The di­a­logue recorded in the book there­fore is not be­tween two coun­ter­parts but two spy chiefs who had brief tenures sep­a­rated by a decade. Through­out the di­a­logue Dulat is rev­er­en­tial, re­fer­ring to Dur­rani as “Sir”. Dur­rani, who worked closely with the CIA, feels that the Amer­i­can agency is “over­rated”. He cites the Iraqi oc­cu­pa­tion of Kuwait, when ISI had more spe­cific in­for­ma­tion com­pared to the CIA. He feels the CIA de­pends too much on tech­nol­ogy and less on Hu­mint (hu­man in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing on the ground). “They set the place on fire, bombed it,” he says, and is scep­ti­cal of the CIA’s dis­cov­ery of weapons of mass de­struc­tion (WMD) in Sad­dam Hus­sain’s ar­se­nal. “They only pro­vided ex­cuse for US mil­i­tary ac­tion,” he laments. He asks where were the US satel­lites, which spot­ted WMDs in Iraq, when In­dia car­ried out its nu­clear tests in 1998. Dulat echoes the im­por­tance of Hu­mint. “You may lis­ten in but un­less you have peo­ple on the ground you can’t in­ter­pret the con­text. Of­ten, you land with mis­in­for­ma­tion.” He has a good word for the Bri­tish MI6, which analy­ses the tech­ni­cal in­puts as­sid­u­ously and they “talk the least, do their jobs qui­etly,” he says. As for the CIA, Dulat re­calls his con­ver­sa­tion with an Amer­i­can op­er­a­tive dur­ing his post­ing in Kath­mandu in 1979. The lat­ter was cer­tain that Babu Jagji­van Ram would emerge as PM in In­dia, while Indira Gandhi was sweep­ing back to power. “They of­ten back the wrong horse,” he says. Dulat feels the Rus­sians are crude but tough. Vladimir Putin’s days as the KGB head shaped his style and he is try­ing

For­mer RAW hands re­call that when Dulat headed it, af­ter a life­time in IB, on some op­er­a­tions in Kash­mir, es­pe­cially cen­tring around the Hur­riyat, he had hinted that he would pre­fer if Do­val, who han­dled Kash­mir in IB those days, be kept out of the loop

to push Rus­sia back to the days when Moscow was a dom­i­nant power. Dur­rani re­calls that once the Mos­sad had warned the US on the fu­til­ity of hos­til­i­ties with Iran. He praises the Ger­man BND, but points out that the BND failed to pre­dict the col­lapse of the Ger­man econ­omy post re­uni­fi­ca­tion. The un­rest in the Kash­mir val­ley sparked off dur­ing Dur­rani’s ten­ure as the ISI chief. He says Islamabad did not an­tic­i­pate that the dis­quiet will last this long. They were ex­pect­ing it to sub­side within “six months”. How­ever, both the spies are full of praise for Fa­rooq Ab­dul­lah. They feel he could be the best in­ter­locu­tor in the val­ley. Dur­rani even says that Ab­dul­lah could make a good for­eign min­is­ter for In­dia. But they over­looked the fact that the youth turned to­wards mil­i­tancy in the val­ley af­ter Ab­dul­lah’s fail­ure in the late 1980s. He car­ried the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing a “Disco CM”, and his golf­ing and mo­tor­cy­cle rides with a Bol­ly­wood star­let caused much hu­mour to the cha­grin of the lo­cal peo­ple. In a re­cent book, re­tired Jammu & Kash­mir cadre IAS of­fi­cer, Son­ali Ku­mar, re­called her ex­pe­ri­ences in J&K. She says that all elec­tions in the val­ley prior to 2002 were un­fair. Ab­dul­lah lost the 2002 poll as the Chief Min­is­ter. Dur­rani makes a rev­e­la­tion about the cause of the Kargil in­tru­sion. He says the then Pak­istan Army chief, Pervez Mushar­raf, was keen to re­gain the Kargil heights from In­dia, which it had claimed in 1965, but with­drew af­ter the Tashkent pact was signed be­tween Lal Ba­hadur Shas­tri and Ayub Khan (as it did in Haji Pir pass). In 1971, In­dia again cap­tured the heights, which are of strate­gic im­por­tance, but Mushar­raf wanted to recre­ate the 1965 sit­u­a­tion. The in­fa­mous wire­tap on Mushar­raf re­gard­ing Kargil also fea­tures in the di­a­logue. Dulat laments that as In­dia rushed to the me­dia with the story, an im­por­tant source of in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing was lost for­ever.

THE book refers to an in­ci­dent in which Dulat went out of his way to en­sure that Dur­rani’s son, Omar, a tech pro­fes­sional based in Ger­many, who had strayed from his visa rou­tine while on a visit to Ker­ala and was held up by im­mi­gra­tion in Mum­bai, was al­lowed to board a flight back to Ger­many. Dulat, then re­tired, sought the help of his for­mer IB and RAW col­leagues, who were happy to help say­ing, “Af­ter all he (Dur­rani) is a col­league.” This bon­homie be­tween the spy­mas­ters across the borders is high­lighted through­out the book. How­ever, the so­lu­tions sug­gested in the book are utopian. At one point it is sug­gested that a South Asian Union on the lines of EU should be formed with New Delhi as its head­quar­ters. The ex­pe­ri­ence of the SAARC, per­haps, does not au­gur well in this con­text. Ak­hand Bharat too fig­ures in the dis­course. Dur­rani sug­gests that the State Bank of Pak­istan (SBP) be al­lowed to open branches in In­dia to fa­cil­i­tate trade, since the SBP is the coun­ter­part of the Re­serve Bank of In­dia. The wake­ful­ness of this and, many other sug­ges­tions made in the book, need closer scru­tiny.

Dur­rani makes a rev­e­la­tion about the cause of the Kargil in­tru­sion. He says the then Pak­istan Army chief, Pervez Mushar­raf, was keen to re­gain the Kargil heights from In­dia, which it had claimed in 1965, but had with­drawn af­ter the Tashkent pact was signed be­tween Lal Ba­hadur Shas­tri and Ayub Khan

Ti­tle: The Spy Chron­i­cles: RAW, ISI and the Il­lu­sion of Peace Au­thor: A.S. Dulat / Asad Dur­rani Edited by: Aditya Sinha Pub­lisher: Harper Collins Price: ` 799.00 Pages: 344

Amar­jit Singh Dulat and Lt. Gen. Mo­ham­mad Asad Dur­rani

1965 War Tashkent Agree­ment

Ajit Do­val

Kargil War 1971 War

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