By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: Strongly pitching for resuming dialogue process with Pakistan and the people of Kashmir, top political leaders, former ministers and former spymasters Wednesday slammed the present BJP-led Indian government’s policy towards Kashmir and Pakistan and using it for ‘domestic political purpose’ at a book launch-function here which was released by among former Vice President Hamid Ansari, former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. Reiterating “status-quo” as the solution to the Kashmir dispute, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah pronounced that he will “never die as Pakistani national”.
The book titled as “The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the illusion of peace”, was co-authored by former chiefs of intelligence agencies of India and Pakistan – A S Dulat and Asad Durrani respectively besides author Aditya Sinha.But former ISI chief Durrani did not get the Indian visa to attend the function.
However, his pre-recorded video message played during the event in which Durrani said “At the end, a very special thank to the Indian deep state. By denying me the visa, they have saved me from the wrath of our hawks. They will be happy to know that I have not yet been cleared by the South Block (which houses India’s PMO and Ministries of Defence and External Affairs).”
Former ISI chief called the book an “unprecedented” effort where two former intelligence chiefs from two “hostile countries had tried to work together.”
Durrani further said that “Under the present environment, people interested in people to people ties have no options, but it is hoped that keeps us going (Duniya ummeed pe qayam hai).”
Speaking in the panel discussion after the book release, former BJP senior leader Yashwant Sinha derided the Modi government’s attitude towards Kashmir. Sinha, who was the External Affairs Minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, said a ‘muscular policy’ on Kashmir is a brainless one as muscles do not have a brain.
“And with all due respect, a muscular policy is bound to be a brainless policy because muscles don’t have brain.”
He suggested that a tough security-based policy was not effective in Jammu and Kashmir and warned that “the Modi govt attitude towards the Kashmir would not solve any issue, but would aggravate the problem.”
He strongly recommended that India must resume talks with Pakistan in order to resolve the Kashmir issue.
“There are voices coming from the deep state, now not only in media but I am aware they are also one on one, which I would say are quite friendly and they create a hope. Now we should respond to those overtures from the deep state in Pakistan in a positive way so that if we can find a way through minefield we should discover that way,” Sinha said who has been actively involved in resolving the Kashmir issue.
He also suggested that dialogue should begin at two levels but not at summit level.
“The problem is we rush into the summit. Summit raises euphoria and when that euphoria is not met there is a disappointment and that is regarded as a failure. So let us not begin at the summit level. There are a whole lot of levels including that of spymasters,” Sinha said.
Referring to the Indian media stating that Pakistani Rangers are pleading for mercy now, the former minister said such reporting is aggravating the situation.
“And the next day the Rangers started bombarding and shelling and all. And so much damage had been done to that entire area. What is this ‘moonhtod Jawab’ (befitting reply)? he said.
The Border Security Force (BSF) on Sunday said that the Pakistan Rangers had “pleaded” with them to stop firing along the International Border (IB) after being pounded with heavy artillery that also left a trooper dead across the border.
Sinha also supported Rising Kashmir Editor-In-Chief Syed Shujaat Bukhari intervention saying we do not bother about the problems and sufferings of the people in Kashmir as we are “morally dead” in rest of the country.
Pleading for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, former CM and patron of National Conference Farooq Abdullah said the people in Kashmir have been suffering for last 70 years. He said India and Pakistan were still carrying the “baggage of partition” and should now accept the Line of Control as a boundary.
“I always maintained that Pakistan keeps its part of Kashmir and India for its part, Abdullah said “he will never join Pakistan and will prefer to die as an Indian’.
Quoting former Prime Ministers A.B. Vajpayee and Dr. Singh’s statements made in Kashmir that countries can choose friends but not neighbours, Dr. Abdullah said it was time to forget “past bitterness” after 70 years,
“Ek taraf se to wo maar rahe hain, dusre taraf se aap mar rahe hain, bataiye ham jaye to jaye kahan (from one side they are killing us and from another side you are killing us. Tell us where we go?).”
He said ‘nothing has moved forward’ in resolving the crises. He also made a passionate appeal to the government and people of India to forget past and move forward.
“I recommend one (thing). Time has come. Let us forget the past. Let us forget the past bitterness and let us learn that we have to live with Pakistan”.
He dismissed the suggestion that religious fundamentalism is taking root in Kashmir. He said the Kashmiri people are ‘Sufis” and they respect all other religions and faiths.
Moderating the discussion, TV journalist Barkha Dutt also spoke about past attempts at India-Pakistan dialogue and the reasons for their failure.
A.S. Dulat, former secretary of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and the co-author of the book, said Pakistan should be invited for talks who cited the example of a thaw in North and South Korea and US president Donald Trump’s willingness to talk to North Korea leader Kim.
“Who could have thought that the Koreans could speak to each other? Or that Trump would want to meet [Korean leader] Kim Jong Un? In which case what is the problem with inviting the Pakistan Army Chief to India?” Dulat said.
Pointing out double standards in dealing with Pakistan, former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon said one of the problems is that there is a “double standard” when it comes to talks with Pakistan.
“There is a “double standard” when it comes to talks with Pakistan, as talks with other countries like China continued despite transgressions that took place in September 2014, whereas there have been no talks with Pakistan since terror attacks in Pathankot and Uri.”
Senior Congress leader and former union minister Kapil Sibal said the present militancy in Jammu and Kashmir could not be solely blamed on instigation from Pakistan and accused the government of allowing the present situation where “30 boys have turned to militancy in 3 months.” In an apparent swipe at the Modi government, Sibal said the current establishment is utilizing the conflict with Pakistan for electoral gains. His observation was shared by other speakers also and suggested that foreign policy and Kashmir policy should be de-linked for the domestic politics.
On the occasion, former Intelligence Bureau Chief K.M. Singh also spoke saying demand for “azadi” in Kashmir is not mean “azadi’ from India. He said there are very few people who want independence from India.
However, making the intervention into the discussion, Rising Kashmir Editor-In-Chief Syed Shujaat Bukhari said we must not live in delusion as a majority of the new generation in Kashmir hate India. The generation born after 1989 only see barrel of guns and the execution of Afzal Guru (for whatever reasons) has had only fueled the militancy in the state, he said and added that New Delhi’s Kashmir policy since the beginning has been not based on justice and fairness while the Modi government pushed them to wall.
The book, which has been styled as a conversation between two spy chiefs, covers a wide range of subjects including NSA Ajit Doval’s way of functioning, the Kashmir issue, and several thorny issues between India and Pakistan including Kulbhushan Jadhav, Balochistan and surgical strikes.
It is a treasure trove of anecdotes and insight on India and Pakistan’s fraught history and the way forward. It was published by Harper Collins.