India-Pakistan Spy Chronicles; Trump-Sharif Troubles

What are Asad Durrani and AS Dulat, ex spooks of India and Pakistan, trying to accomplish with their joint appearances and book collaboration? What is “Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace" all about? What have the two revealed about the work of ISI and RAW spy agencies with Kashmiri insurgents? Has the Modi government lost control of the situation in Kashmir? Why does Durrani say that all Pakistan has to do now in Kashmir is "sit back and watch"? Why have both spy agencies been bribing the militants to buy influence? Is "corrupting someone with money more ethical than killing them" as AS Dulat has put it? Is Dulat's optimism about solution to Kashmir issue justified?

Why are both Nawaz Sharif and Donald Trump attacking the "deep state" or "establishment" in their respective countries? Why are they both spinning conspiracy theories? Is it to deflect public attention from the serious allegations against them? How serious are the problems of Russia collusion in the US case and money laundering in Pakistan's case? Are they succeeding in their efforts? Are their defense strategies causing major harm to the national cohesion in Pakistan and US? How will it all end?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with panelists Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq (

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Ex Indian Spy Documents RAW's Successes Against Pakistan

Mohanalal Bhaskar: An Indian Spy in Pakistan

Sharif's and Trump's Strikingly Similar Narratives

Who's at Fault for Failure to Resolve Disputes: India or Pakistan?

700,000 Indian Soldiers vs 10 Million Kashmiris

UK Says Pakistan Among Top 3 Money Laundering Sources

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel


Riaz Haq said…
Spy Chronicles: A one-sided narrative
in Book Review — by Murtaza Shibli — May 30, 2018

Durrani comes across as candid and frank, even nonchalant at times but wedded to a narrative that has currency within the American policy circles. In comparison, Dulat is cautious, mostly diplomatic and quite circumspect in his responses. He remains guarded and even deliberately obfuscating when it comes to his own role or that of his organisation in scheming subterfuge and planning insurgencies in the region.


For example Durrani appears to support Indian notions that the non-state actors in Pakistan are capable of launching the Mumbai like attacks and that it must warrant India to extract revenge by attacking targets inside Pakistan. Durrani sleepwalks into the setup as he starts to sympathize and endorse the Indian official view that the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008 had backing from the elements within the ISI, a position that was recently articulated by Nawaz Sharif. Durrani uses a false claim from a CIA mole, David Headley, within the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba about “an ISI major” to try to support Indian claims on the atrocity. The Mumbai Attacks remain couched in controversy amid gaping holes in the declarations that put the blame on the Pakistani state structures. Durrani also discredits Kashmiri political movement, Hurriyat Conference, and suggests that it was forged and later managed by the ISI. Although Durrani had left at the time the Hurriyat was formed, his claims have thoroughly embarrassed the Kashmiri leadership and compromised their prestige, including perhaps their future political weight and character.

In comparison, Dulat is always slippery and evasive and avoids any references or acknowledgments to the incidents that might reveal unpleasant events and distasteful things. In fact, he does not reveal anything and even sounds insincere by deliberately choosing to ignore or deflect from the topics or events that needed his honest input to build trust in the exercise that this book sought to advance. While he talks about ISI’s role in specific terms, there is hardly any acknowledgment forthcoming on the RAW’s role in creating deadly and vicious counterinsurgency that was unleashed in Jammu and Kashmir or the murders in Wandhama or Chattisinghpora that targeted Hindus and Sikhs to malign the Kashmiri insurgency. He mentions in passing the first state-sponsored terror outfit Al-Faran that kidnapped some western tourists who are still untraceable after more than two decades. Dulat rejects the most authentic investigation into the kidnapping as revealed by two western authors Adrian Levy and Cathy-Scott-Clark in their famous book, The Meadow, which blames the Indian security agencies for the drama. While Dulat emphasizes a joint investigation of the Mumbai terror attack, he does not even bother about the 2007 Samjhuta Express train bombings that killed 76 civilians, mostly Pakistanis. In fact, there is no mention of the tragedy in the whole book. The former Indian spy chief shows utmost hesitation in talking about the alleged Indian spy, Kulbhushan Jadhav, and when he does he is extra cautious not to say anything that might incriminate him or his organization, RAW.
Riaz Haq said…
Spy Chronicles: A one-sided narrative
in Book Review — by Murtaza Shibli — May 30, 2018

Both of them seem unwilling to acknowledge the changing atmosphere in India – the rise of mass hatred and paranoia against Muslims, its official patronage and even justification, growing militarization of nationalism and its ever-changing new narratives as well as phenomenal increase in hatred against Muslims and Pakistan, and ossification of this revulsion across the elite society – from the military to politicians and media to diplomats. This informs the public opinion and their behaviour; causing an unprecedented surge in public violence, including murder, against the Muslims in particular. In his self-propelled enthusiasm, Durrani even proposes a confederation between the two countries – a fanciful prospect that Dulat is even reluctant to admire. I found interesting similarities between Durrani’s vision of Akhand Bharat and a US-funded official study about the future of South Asia. The study, Asia 2025, conducted by the US Undersecretary of Defence (Policy) in 1999, envisaged India taking over Pakistan after the US neutralizes Pakistani nuclear weapons to avoid a nuclear war following deadly ‘terrorist incursion’ from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) into the Indian side of the territory. As Pakistan loses control of the situation, it fails to respond to the Indian calls to reign in the militants, and as a result, India moves into AJK. According to the study, India also launches an unsuccessful conventional strike on Pakistani nuclear arsenal, prompting Pakistan to launch nuclear strikes against Indian forces along their common border. The US threatens China to keep away from the theatre of war and attacks and destroys the remainder of the Pakistani nuclear forces leading to total anarchy. In the American imagination, Pakistan disappears by 2020, and the Indian confederation emerges as a regional super state. In the meantime, Afghanistan is also dismembered and annexed by the neighbour states – Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – per their ethnic proximity. In the end, India and Iran emerge as great powers and become allies of the US willing “to participate in combined peace operations with the US” and also as a countervailing force against China.

When discussing Kashmir, Durrani comes across as cold and distant. Shockingly, he admits being overwhelmed by the public reception of the idea of militancy in the early 1990s in Kashmir and how the ISI worked desperately to control the situation lest it got out of hand to cause a direct confrontation with India. Back then in Kashmir, the narrative that was advanced by his organization or their assets on the ground talked about nothing but complete azadi. This got millions of Kashmiris excited and provoked thousands to cross over to AJK for arms training and fight for a free homeland. In the process, thousands have perished while millions have been affected. Despite Pakistan’s several U-turns on the issue since, or regardless of how fanciful or impractical the idea of azadi might seem, the Kashmiri youth continue to mount a resistance which is but symbolic. Dying for a predetermined failure is extremely painful and deeply unsettling!
Riaz Haq said…

The reality is a lot more complicated than this Eurocentric view of Pakistan’s civil–military relations, which tends to reinforce a perception of Pakistan that serves Western powers and interests. At the core of this Eurocentrism is a tendency to view Pakistan’s civil–military relations through a foreign policy lens, while almost entirely neglecting the domestic political and structural issues at play. Western commentary also tends to treat civilian political leaders as passive actors, overlooking their role in the imbalance.

The civilian and military leadership in Pakistan are on the same page when it comes to foreign and security policies. Disagreements are only over the right methods for achieving these foreign policy goals, and reflect an internal power struggle rather than an ideological difference between civilian and military factions.

For instance, after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif took power at the 2013 elections, he was interested in bold steps to move quickly on peace with India — often even going beyond state protocol and opening backdoor channels. The Pakistan Army was not disinterested in peace with India. Military leaders just wanted to mend relations in a systematic way that would not compromise Pakistan’s interests and that would make peace last beyond rhetoric.

Military leaders advised caution and small steps to achieving sustainable peace with India — advice which Sharif ignored. After several months of futile attempts to court Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who pressed hard on Pakistan after his rise to power, Sharif faced an embarrassing situation. He accepted that his strategy had been a failure and allowed the military to devise a new strategy to engage India.

Civilian and military leaders were similarly split over issues of method when it came to tackling terrorist safe havens inside the country. In 2013, the then new government under Sharif was not interested in launching operations inside the country against the Taliban and other extremist actors. The government instead began peace talks with the terrorist outfits despite repeated advice from the Pakistan Army to the contrary.

The Pakistan army pushed the view that terrorist outfits use ‘peace talks’ as a pretence to regroup, develop credibility and then launch attacks again when the government is vulnerable. Months later, when the terrorists continued their attacks on Pakistan and US forces despite the ongoing negotiations with the Pakistani government, Sharif again was sheepish in front of Pakistan’s security establishment and allowed the military to launch an operation.

When it comes to Pakistan’s current foreign policy posture, there appears to be no rupture in civil–military relations. Both civilian and military leaders support deep ties with China, opening up to Russia, balancing the Middle East, defying the United States and finding a sustainable peace with India and Afghanistan. Even the ‘Dawn leaks’ controversy was less a matter of disagreement over foreign policy than a case of the civilian government trying to embarrass the military establishment.

While civil and military leaders in Pakistan are locked in a power struggle, they are on the same page in terms of foreign and security policy — which is why Pakistan has seen much policy continuity over the past four decades. Civilian leaders pitch this domestic power struggle to international audiences as a matter of ‘foreign policy’ and a ‘fight for democracy’ for the purposes of seeking international endorsements that can be leveraged in the local power tussle.

This absence of nuance in Western academic writing and commentaries on Pakistan is not just a blind spot. It is deliberate neglect whereby the dominant characterisation of Pakistan’s civil–military relations is constructed to suit Western political interests that include aligning Pakistan’s national security policies with that of the West, and having a strong check on its nuclear program.

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