Two former spy chiefs of Pakistan and India have stressed on the urgent need of diplomatic talks and communications between India and Pakistan, terming it essential and helpful for national interest of both the countries.
General (R) Ehsan-ul-Haq, the former Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Amarjit Singh Dulat, the former Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) took part in a public debate here at the London School of Economics’ packed Sheikh Zayed Theatre, organised by South Asia Centre, LSE’s Pakistan Development Society and the South Asia Future Forum.
Both former spy masters agreed that war was no more an option between the two countries, and leadership of both the countries should move meaningfully toward speaking to each other at all levels and end communications boycott. The event saw both Gen (r) Haq and A S Dulat speak at length outlining the intelligence perspectives of their countries, answered questions of the audience and shared jokes with each other.
“Interaction must be such that even when there is a breakdown in diplomatic relations between states and entities, the intelligence channel must continue because that becomes the last resort for venting and pre-empting crisis, the initiative for this has to come from the political level down,” said Gen Ehsan, answering a question and stressing that the Indian govt had done no favour to the region by ending communication channels.
A S Dulat said that intelligence sharing between India and Pakistan at one point “saved Pervez Musharraf’s life which, in a way, was acknowledged”, saying it is important to talk.
Gen Ehsan told the audience in his opening remarks that potential of the whole South Asian region is stunted because of differences between India and Pakistan and mainly because of the issue of the unresolved Kashmir dispute which, for Pakistan, is the core issue and in order to punish Pakistan for supporting Kashmiris, India has been fomenting trouble in Balochistan and rest of the country through Taliban.
The former spymaster said Kulbhushan Jadhav’s arrest and revelations in Pakistan provided irrefutable evidence of India’s involvement in Balochistan and other parts and the use of terrorist means to harm Pakistan. He said that over the space of around one year, more than a 100 Kashmiri youth have been martyred by Indian occupation army through use of pellet guns which is the most brutal war tactic. “Kashmir’s indigenous struggle has moved to a new generation. The former ISI chief said that Narendra Modi “ratched up harsh rhetoric against Pakistan as a political and electoral tool” to play to the local sentiment for political reasons.
A S Dulat agreed that “lots of youth have been killed” in Indian held Kashmir by the Indian occupation forces, but he claimed that “lots of Indian soldiers have also been killed”. He said that India has borne the brunt of terrorism and “Pakistan is also suffering because of terrorism”. He said it makes no sense to him that India has relations with every country in the world but no ties with Pakistan. “Even in worst days and coldest days of the Cold War, the CIA and KGB talked to each other and it saved the world from a world war. There’s no reason why Pakistan and Indian agencies cannot cooperate. In good and bad days, it has produced desired results, let’s think ahead.”
Answering questions about the controversy surrounding mainstreaming of militants in Pakistan, Gen (r) Ehsan said that countries decide about such situations in accordance with their circumstances. He gave examples of Northern Ireland, Britain and the American and the Afghan approach of dealing with the Taleban. He said Great Britain called Irish Republicans terrorists but brought normalisation after deradicalising and mainstreaming them. Gen Ehsan said that Pakistani extremist groups are “entities which have been involved in various militant activities and we have to tactically deradicalise them. The approach must be correct and must be part of our national strategy”. He said that there was a need to develop consensus on how to do that.
He said he was encouraged by the continuity of democracy in Pakistan and that 2014 Dherna by the PTI and allies was not to seek military intervention but to seek “good governance, better system and accountability? The parliament remained in session, then came Panama Leaks, the issue went to court and the court made the decision to oust the sitting Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif).
Amarjit Singh Dulat said for the last 15 months Kashmir was never mentioned by Pakistan and during the 2013 election campaign in Pakistan both the PMLN and the PTI didn’t bring it up. He said that India was not ready to talk to Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir because it considered Kashmir as its integral part. To a question, both spy chiefs agreed that Pakistan and India should play cricket.
Speaking after the event to Geo News, both spy chiefs said that resumption of dialogue was most needed between the two countries. A S Dulat said that Indian PM visited Pakistan as a goodwill gesture but then “two separate incidents” happened and the dialogue snapped. “I believe that dialogue between ISI and RAW should be institutionalised. He said the use of pellet guns and the resultant deaths in Kashmir were most unfortunate and shouldn’t have happened.
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Geneal Ehsan said that mainstreaming of the militant groups was being opposed over the methods used, not the reasons behind mainstreaming. The fact is these groups are Pakistanis and are our people, so the question is what to do with them and how to properly integrate them in the society.
He said the impression that Pakistani institutions are fighting, will die its death when the Pakistani leadership decides to deal with all the issues at the institutional level. He said dialogue between India and Pakistan is essential “so that we could talk about Kashmir and India can talk about terrorism and rest of the issues to give relief to the people, and it will also reduce tensions.
Others who took part in the discussion included Rahul Roy Chaudhry, AamirGhauri, Dr Mukulika Banerjee and Omar Bhatti.