Former ISI chief Gen Durrani says Gilani-Manmohan meeting produced path-breaking agreement which bureaucracies on both sides trashed.
NEW DELHI — Former spy chief A.S. Dulat asked the Indian government on Monday to invite Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to kick-start the stalled talks between the two countries.
Speaking to NDTV together with former ISI chief Lt Gen Asad Durrani ahead of the release of their joint book — The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace — Mr Dulat said there was a new inflection in diplomatic and strategic fields across the world. “Who could have thought a few days ago that President Donald Trump would be talking to the North Korean leader? We should also think out of the box, as Dr Manmohan Singh used to say. Roll out the red carpet and invite Gen Bajwa, and see what happens.”
Both authors described people-to-people contacts as a low hanging fruit that could be plucked easily, including easing of visas and resumption of cricket ties.
Gen Durrani, speaking from his home in Pakistan, said he believed the meeting between former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani in Sharm el Sheikh had produced a path-breaking agreement, which bureaucracies on both sides had trashed. “The agreement to have a joint anti-terror mechanism would have been a great achievement for both. Alas, that was not to be.”
Earlier, The Indian Express quoted Gen Durrani as saying in the book that Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s experience in Pakistan had affected him in a manner that he believed that the country must be dealt with an iron fist.
About Mr Doval, who served in India’s intelligence agencies before retiring in 2005, Gen Durrani says: “He hasn’t changed policy. He’s just a little more hardline but it’s still what I believe has been Indian policy for a long time. He shouts more, like Trump does, a lot of hot air. He provides that masala.”
Local reports said Gen Durrani would not attend this week’s book release in Delhi as he had not been given a visa.
“The upshot is he’s just doing what his boss wants done. Maybe more muscularly, more vocally,” Gen Durrani adds in the book.
He attributes Mr Doval’s attitude to his stint with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad in the 1980s, saying: “In Ajit Doval’s case it probably affected him in a way where he felt, ‘Oh God, this country must be dealt with an iron fist’.”
Mr Dulat, according to The Indian Express, argues about “his colleague and good friend” and “Modi’s henchman” Doval that “as far as his capabilities go, he’s one of our outstanding operational guys. He’s a field man”.
Mr Dulat goes on to say that Mr Doval is “not necessarily a hardliner” on Pakistan, arguing: “He toes Modi’s line. He also toed Mani Dixit’s line. He at one point toed [M.K.] Narayanan’s line… I’ll tell you something. He is convinced that Modi is the greatest thing that has happened to India. That I can vouch for.”
Gen Durrani says in the book that Mr Doval “matters nowadays, as Modi matters. I agree he is smart and would not miss an opportunity for another spectacle. Win Modi or himself brownie points. But I’m not counting on him to turn around the relationship and make it stable. Next time he’s in Lahore or Islamabad, it will be for all the right reasons for India, but all the wrong reasons for the long-term relationship, and without wishing us (Pakistan) any benefit.”
Gen Durrani cites the example of the Indian NSA’s meeting in Delhi in 2016 with six former Pakistani high commissioners to India. “Six high commissioners had an invitation from the Aspen Centre; Sati Lambah was the moving force. They considered their most substantial meeting was when they called on the NSA. Ajit Doval treated them indifferently, saying: ‘We are watching you. If something good does not come out of our investigation, and if we find a link between Pathankot and Mumbai and a state structure, there will be consequences’.
“When the meeting finished he did not shake hands with a group that is highly regarded in both countries. Just walked away. The message was conveyed.”
Mr Dulat, however, disputes that version, telling Gen Durrani that what he “heard in Delhi was the contrary; the high commissioners were pleasantly surprised that he was nice and soft despite his reputation of being tough as nails”.
Mr Dulat reportedly said that if the case of retired Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested by Pakistan on charges of spying, “were a RAW operation and he was a RAW spy, then it’s a pretty sloppy operation”.