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Kashmir and the Spymasters of Pakistan and India

Book review of the Spy Chronicles by A.S. Dulat and Asad Durrani

by Nyla Ali Khan, 9 June 2018

print version of this article print version - 9 June 2018

In November 2017, I wrote an article in response to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of Pakistan’s statement which he made at a conference on the ‘Future of Pakistan 2017,’ held at the London School of Economics (LSE), explicitly rejecting the idea of an ‘independent Kashmir.’ He claimed that there was no demand for an independent and sovereign Kashmir. I contended that for me, a Kashmiri Muslim from the Valley, that was news. I pointed out that Abbasi’s statement reinforced the status quo and further reduced my neck of the woods into a battlefield.

That’s probably the only reason I read the recently published book Spy Chronicles by former Director General of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Asad Durrani, and former chief of the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), A. S. Dulat, to the very end. Asad Durrani’s stance that the Pakistani establishment’s erasure of the narrative of an independent and secular Kashmir was an egregious mistake piqued my interest.

The book is not sensationalist or revelatory in any way, shape, or form, particularly for those who are rooted in the politics, culture, and society of Kashmir. It certainly doesn’t contain classified documents, either about the policies of the two nation-states vis-à-vis Kashmir or their respective alliances with world powers. Both Durrani and Dulat are clearly familiar with the etiquette of small talk and idle banter. Some portions of the book were speculative and more like cocktail party conversation.

And that’s probably why several people were surprised to hear that the Interior Ministry of Pakistan had placed former Director General of the ISI and Lieutenant General Asad Durrani’s name on the Exit Control list. This measure was taken on the recommendation of the Directorate of the Military Intelligence of Pakistan.

Although Durrani’s and Dulat’s advocacy of unconventional solutions to the Kashmir issue came across as a little facetious at times, nevertheless there was an attempt to think beyond UN resolutions. The conversation between the two, which was moderated by journalist Aditya Sinha, gives credence to the idea of an autonomous, semi-sovereign Jammu and Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), and emphasizes ‘Kashmir as the core issue between India and Pakistan.’

For me, the most interesting part of the “Kashmir” section of the book was Durrani’s admission that although Pakistan has had its “militants, extremists, hardliners, and fundamentalisms,” the current phase of militancy in Pakistan is attributable to Musharraf’s decision to send the army into South Waziristan in 2004, which led to further radicalization and the legitimization of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Durrani doesn’t take issue with Dulat’s assertion, which I am paraphrasing here, that the result of India’s policy of coercive diplomacy, post 9/ 11, was that the Musharraf regime was pressured by the US to take strict military action against the mercenary and militant groups bolstering the insurgency in Kashmir. Not everyone in the Pakistani establishment would subscribe to this narrative.

Back then, as I have observed elsewhere, New Delhi was successful, with the United States keeping a close watch, in getting Islamabad to both privately and publicly renounce its support to insurgents in J & K.

Going back to the aftermath of 9/ 11, Durrani categorically says that US Seals were successful in eliminating Osama Bin Laden in 2011 because of the cooperation of the Government of Pakistan and deep state. He observes, “The denial of any (Pakistani) role was because cooperating with the United States to eliminate a person regarded by many in Pakistan as a “hero”[Bin Laden] could have embarrassed the government,”

The two spooks, Durrani and Dulat, admit that whenever there is a spell of camaraderie between India and Pakistan, the two nation-states put Jammu and Kashmir on the back burner. Several people in the establishment, on both sides of the divide, would be hesitant to admit that J & K and AJK have been used as a bargaining chip by them.

In opposition to the official position of the Pakistani establishment, Durrani recognizes the feasibility of independence for Jammu and Kashmir besides the option of acceding to either India or Pakistan. He clearly regrets the earlier brusque dismissal of the option of independence by the powers-that-be in Pakistan, which instead chose to give the initial political movement a religious hue by empowering the Jammat-i-Islami, “So overwhelming was our desire that Kashmir accede to Pakistan, towards Sardar Qayyum, the slogan ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan’, to the Jamaat-e-Islami, that these got our political support. . . . We had no business to make value judgments. If after having been in India for 60-70 years they still want independence, that sentiment must count for something. . . . If independent they [Kashmir] would keep good relations with India, I’m sure of that. They would reach out to China for various reasons. But Kashmir’s heart would be with its western neighbor. That’s why if someone talks of independence then we have no business getting in the way.” For a Pakistani military and ISI old hand to even consider the possibility of an independent J & K, albeit strategically, must’ve ruffled feathers.

Nevertheless, I continue to believe that the IB and the ISI have greatly contributed to eroding indigenous democratic and political institutions in Kashmir. Indigenous politics is now, sadly, more of a chimera in our state.