Ex-RAW chief unfolds ‘game plan’ in Kashmir Valley?

  • AS Dulat says India looks at everything in black & white while Kashmir is mostly grey *|* ‘Imran Khan invites India with army’s full support. This is a plus point, as army is crucial in Pakistan’  *|* ‘Kashmir is a political, emotive, psychological issue that will not be solved by gun’

India’s former adviser on Kashmir AS Dulat, who served the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) intelligence agency as head from 1999 to 2000, has revealed the only game plan in the Kashmir Valley, saying the only news coming out is killing.

“You kill five militants, they kill three security forces. How will this sort out your problem,” he questioned during an interview with the First Post newspaper. “The only game plan unfolding in the (Kashmir) Valley is the danda (stick),” he said.

Presently, Dulat is active on the Track 2 dialogue with Pakistan, during which he met up and gelled with former ISI chief General Asad Durrani. Several meetings later, they decided to jointly write a book – Spy Chronicles: RAW-ISI and the Illusion of Peace.

“I have been associated with Kashmir for the last 30 years. Kashmir is very complex. Kashmiris are kind and generous. Every time, I meet Kashmiris, I get educated a little more. We haven’t tried to understand their psyche and at the same time, they have not tried to understand ours,” Dulat said.

“At times, Kashmiris will not speak the truth to you, because they believe that you are not speaking truth to them. India looks at everything in black and white. Kashmir is mostly grey. There is a vagueness that must be factored in,” he said.

“Sadly, I must say that Dr Farooq Abdullah, the Kashmiri who understood New Delhi, Srinagar, Pakistan and the international situation has been wasted by Delhi. He has been chief minister three times and could have been used much more effectively,” he said.

Jawaharlal Nehru with Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah in Srinagar

“The Abdullah-Gandhi relationship is fascinating. There is a Nehru-Sheikh correspondence available at both the sides. I have not been able to get my hands on it. That correspondence will help solve some of the riddles of Kashmir. The arrest of Sheikh Abdullah on August 9, 1958, has been the start of all our problems,” he pointed out.

“I’m talking of the post-independence period. He (Sheikh Abdullah) was a friend of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Some people say he became too ambitious, but whatever Sheikh Abdullah may have been, he should have been talked to. He spent more than 20 years in jail. What do you expect his family to feel? This left a huge impact on his family, as also Kashmir. That was a grave mistake,” he said.

“What we have now is a muscular policy in (Indian-held) Kashmir. It will not work. Muscle is required up to a point, but it cannot be a long-term solution. There is hardly any insurgency in the world that has been contained by the gun. The army, including many of our generals and army chiefs, have said repeatedly that we have done our job, you need to talk to the people,” the former adviser said.

“It’s a political, emotive, psychological issue that will not be solved by the gun. We need to engage,” he said. “Today, we talk to nobody,” he said, adding that the problem was that as far as Delhi goes, they were not talking to anyone of any consequence in the disputed Kashmiri state. “India is trying to engage with the youth – the university students. They are not talking to Mehbooba Mufti or to Abdullahs or even the Hurriyat,” he said.

He also said that Prime Minister Imran Khan provides an opportunity for India to reach out to him. “All of us keep saying that he is an army man and that he has army backing. This is a plus point,” he said, adding that the problem with Nawaz Sharif was that he was despised by the army. For a fact, “we know that the army is crucial in Pakistan,” he said.

“I have a theory that if a leader does not do anything in the first six months or in the first year of his tenure, then it is very unlikely that he will do anything at all. Imran Khan provides an opportunity to (Indian Prime Minister Narendra) Modi. It is up to Modi to take it,” he said and pointed out that Modi had a great opportunity in Kashmir when he became the prime minister.

“He (Modi) was supposedly of the same stock as Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He had all the goodwill. The Hurriyat welcomed him. After that, nothing happened,” he said. “I got an opportunity to visit Pakistan four times, and that gave me an opportunity to understand Pakistan much more,” he said.

“They are not very different from us, except that they are generals and we are not. Everyone sees things from their national point of view. We cannot expect Pakistan to speak our language and we cannot speak their language. But one thing that I have learnt from these interactions and from my work on Kashmir is that I am a great supporter of engagement,” he said.

“The other thing I have learnt is that being honest and speaking straight up pays more dividends than trying to be smart. When you are honest, it quite surprises the other side. For example, when you talk to the Kashmiris, it takes them quite a while to understand that you may be honest, and that goes in your favour,” Dulat said.

The former spymaster also said that no Pakistani leader in the last 30 years has been more reasonable than (former military ruler Pervez) Musharraf. “He (Musharraf) repeatedly said, and this is not insignificant, that whatever is acceptable to the Kashmiris, will be acceptable to Pakistan. It’s a big thing,” he said.

“We need to have peace for the sake of our own economic prosperity,” he quoted Musharraf as telling the Hurriyat in 2006-7. He said that Musharraf’s four-point formula was exactly what Dr Farooq Abdullah has been saying, except that he (Musharraf) had added some cosmetics to it. He said that Musharraf was accepting the reality that borders cannot be changed.