LONDON: 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 the national interest of both countries.
General (retd) Ehsanul 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.
The talk was organised by South Asia Centre, LSE’s Pakistan Development Society and the South Asia Future Forum.
Both former spymasters agreed that war was no more an option between the two countries and the leadership of both countries should move meaningfully toward speaking to each other at all levels and end communications boycott.
The event saw both Haq and Dulat speak at length outlining the intelligence perspective of their countries, answering questions of the audience and sharing 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.
Dulat said that intelligence sharing between India and Pakistan at one point may have “saved Pervez Musharraf’s life which in a way was acknowledged”.
Gen Ehsan told the audience in his opening remarks that the 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 Indian held Kashmir dispute which, for Pakistan, is the core issue and in order to punish Pakistan for supporting Kashmiris, India has been fomenting trouble in Baluchistan and mainland Pakistan through Taliban groups.
The former spymaster said Indian spy 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 in the most brutal war tactic. “Kashmir’s indigenous struggle has moved to a new generation. The former ISI chief said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “ratched up harsh rhetoric against Pakistan as a political and electoral tool” to play to the local sentiment for political reasons.
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 relation with every country in the world but no relation 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 Ehsan said that countries decide about such situations as per their circumstances. He gave examples of Northern Ireland, Britain and the American and Afghan approach of dealing with Taliban. He said Great Britain called Irish Republicans terrorists but brought normalisation after deradicalising and mainstreaming them.
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 sit-in by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its 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)”.
Dulat said that the Kashmir issue for the last 15 months was never mentioned by Pakistan and during the 2013 election campaign in Pakistan both Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and PTI did not bring it up.
He said that India was not ready to talk to Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir because it considered Kashmir its integral part. To a question, both spy bigwigs agreed that Pakistan and India should play cricket.
Speaking after the event to Geo News, both spy chiefs said that the resumption of dialogue is much needed between the two countries.
Dulat said that Modi visited Pakistan as a goodwill gesture but then “two separate incidents” happened and the dialogue ended. “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.
Ehsan said that mainstreaming of militant groups was being opposed over the methods used, not the reasons behind mainstreaming. The fact is these groups are Pakistani and our people, so the question is what to do with them and how to properly integrate them into the society.
He said the impression that Pakistanis institutions are fighting will die its death when Pakistani leadership decides to deal with all 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 reduce tensions”.
Others who took part in the discussion included Rahul Roy Chaudhry, Aamir Ghauri, Dr Mukulika Banerjee and Omar Bhatti.