Former RAW chief A S Dulat: We refused to talk… invited Pakistan back into Valley

The former R&AW chief, with years of experience working in Kashmir, feels the situation there has never been as bad as it is now

Written by Sheela Bhatt | Updated: May 3, 2017 10:57 am
Some bright sparks here think that engagement means pampering if not anti-national… My view is that even if it’s pampering, it still helps. If it helps, then commonsense says no harm in pampering, says AS Dulat.

Former Research & Analysis Wing chief A S Dulat’s connection to Kashmir goes back more than three decades. As an Intelligence Bureau officer, he served in Srinagar in the 1980s; as IB special director he supervised the intelligence network there. In the PMO during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure, he was adviser on Kashmir, work that formed the basis of his book Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years. In this interview, Dulat discusses the current situation in Kashmir.

Critics of the government say the Kashmir situation is going from bad to worse. Do you agree?
Yes, the situation is turning worse. Is it worse than in 1990? My answer is yes and no. It is worse in terms of atmospherics. Because of alienation and the anger of youth, young Kashmiri minds have gone out of control. There is a sense of hopelessness. They aren’t afraid to die. Villagers, students and even girls are coming out on the streets. This has never happened in the past. However, that terrorism, that intensity of violence and militancy that we saw in 1990 is not there now. There were more guns then… Actual militancy was more then but today the situation is scarier. When stone-pelting is done by youth and girls it’s abnormal… Today, they are proud of being stone-pelters. They are no longer hiding. Schoolgirls and women are coming out to throw stones. The Kashmir situation has never been so bad.

What should be done about it?
Talk. In Kashmir, perceptions are so wonky. They say Kashmir is going to Pakistan. Some say Kashmir is Pakistan. Come on, 70 years have passed by, kahan gaya Kashmir? Kahan jayega Kashmir? Na Kashmir kahin jayega, na bichara Kashmiri kahin jayega. Marega! He knows he has nowhere to go. He doesn’t want to go to Pakistan. For them Pakistan had lost out… I interact quite a lot with Pakistanis in Track-II. They had just started avoiding discussion on Kashmir. they would say, “Uska koi hal nahin hai.” My point is there is no solution to Kashmir but why does India not want to give hope to Kashmiris? When India talks you give hope, shayad kuch ho jayen… I would again and again say, please talk. Talking to Kashmiris is not subversive. It’s not anti-national.

Do you agree, as is being argued in the government, that the unrest has erupted due to a deepening of radical Islam?
I don’t agree with this argument. Radicalism increasing in Kashmir is well-known. It’s also known that radical Islam is affecting more the youth than the older generation of Kashmiris, who still respect Kashmiriyat and Sufism. In fact, the older generation of Kashmiris, who find themselves so vulnerable, would be happy to have Pandits back… But among the youth, radical Islam is spreading, due to continuous conflict in their society. Unless we are able to lessen this conflict, whether by force or by cajoling or talking with them, radicalism will increase… It’s a hopeless Kashmir today.

What is in store in the short term?
It doesn’t look good… The sad part, frightening part and really scary part of Kashmir is that these boys and girls with stones in their hands don’t seem to care what their parents feel. There is so much distrust in Kashmiri families that a father doesn’t know what his son is doing and the son doesn’t care anymore what his father thinks.

How do you see the government’s efforts to improve relations with Pakistan? Its stand is that PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Lahore helped set the tone but Pathankot brought hopes crashing.
I have never understood, why is India afraid to talk about Kashmir with Pakistan? They have more explaining to do. I agree Modiji started well. He surprised all of us by going to Pakistan. The snag here is what happened after it. The crux of the whole thing is that Pakistan is not an easy state to engage with. In a way it’s a mad state. But, our stand that talk and terror can’t go together is also meaningless vis-à-vis Pakistan. Here things happen at many layers. We have to talk disregarding incidents here and there. Surely, we need explanations for Uri, Gurdaspur and Pathankot. But I am told the NSAs of both sides are talking even now… Dialogue must happen between the foreign secretaries and PMs. Modiji is a master of theatre, so he can make it happen. Nawaz Sharif is also a karigar. In a sense, it’s an even scale… I am sorry to say but it’s easier to talk to Pakistan than to Kashmiris.

Do you agree with the government that Pakistan is behind the crisis in Kashmir?
Definitely it is. It goes back to last summer. When 9/11 happened President Bush had read the riot act to Pakistan. Since then Pakistan had withdrawn considerably… The uprising after the killing of Burhan Wani surprised Pakistan. They returned with a vengeance… ISI, Lashkar and Mujahideen are back… In the last five years, Pakistan tried its best to unite all factions of Hurriyat. They failed but now they have got together because this Indian government doesn’t even look at them… When we refused to even talk, what options do Kashmiri leaders have? They have only one fall-back position: show the green flag to Delhi. It’s a sad situation.

Isn’t it a failure of the government that it couldn’t anticipate and address the uprising after Wani’s death?
Yes, absolutely. Let me say that we have invited Pakistan back into the Valley. By October things had climbed down. Kashmiris hibernate in winter wearing firan and with their kangadsi. That’s the best time to engage Kashmiris. We didn’t. Last winter we didn’t exploit the relative calm. Now children are out on the streets. Modiji had an edge when he came to power. But talks didn’t happen.

Why?
There is a feeling in Delhi that talks are not necessary. Some bright sparks here think that engagement means pampering if not anti-national. “Why should we pamper Kashmiris?” — they think they have been pampered a lot. My view is that even if it’s pampering, it still helps. If it helps, then commonsense says no harm in pampering.

Maybe the government isn’t pampering separatists because the ruling party’s core constituency might not like it.
Of course. You know that. I don’t want to go into it.

This government is sensitive to so-called Hindu sentiment. Is that why it doesn’t want to pamper Kashmiris?
Possibly, yes, it is. But I want to say that pampering is good… Kashmiris are disappointed to see that nothing happened after Modi took over. Where has Vajpayee’s insaniyat ka daira gone?

Kashmir has turned into a challenge for the government. There is a demand for stronger action; do you agree?
Whenever and whatever actions are needed should be taken, but my point is there is no military solution for Kashmir. Anybody who had brains in our recent history understood it… Normally, I insist the Army should be kept away and the ground situation should be dealt with by J&K police and paramilitary. It is the state government that has failed in Kashmir today.

Do you think governor’s rule will help calm the situation down?
No. It’s not a good idea to impose central rule. At that time Mufti Saab had no option but to go for an alliance with the BJP. In Kashmir every chief minister knows that no government can survive without the Centre’s support. Mufti Saab had no realistic option even though the Congress and the NC had offered support. The ruling party at the Centre had expressed a desire to join and Muftiji couldn’t have ignored it. He would have failed on day one if he had opted for any other option.

What’s the best option now?
Mehbooba Mufti. The Centre should extend genuine support to her. She is not listened to in Delhi. Nobody goes to her. She is a chief minister and she should be fully supported. Governor’s rule will bea retrograde step and it will take a long time to get back to the democratic route… Modiji must show his support to Mehbooba. only then would things start getting better.

Who should take the blame?
Mufti saab was saying this PDP-BJP is a North-pole-and-South-pole alliance. I think it would have been a great alliance if it had been handled with care. Jammu would have come closer to Kashmir and the Valley people would have gone closer to Jammu. Instead the distance has increased, polarisation sharpened. An opportunity has been lost.

What will be the impact on bilateral relations if, just in case, Kulbhushan Jadhav is hanged?
It will have a serious impact. I think Pakistan can’t be so insensitive to human life. A level of decency is involved here. Whatever he may be — I am not going into the merits of case, I don’t know who he is, why he is there — whatever he may be, people are not hanged for the crime he is allegedly involved in. I must say that Pakistan has handled the case very clumsily. These types of matters are handled quietly between intelligence agencies… Unfortunately we don’t have communications between our intel agencies. The good communication is between the NSAs. I think at that level the issue should be discussed discreetly. I am sure they are doing it. I don’t expect Jadhav to be hanged.

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  1. M
    Muhammad Naeem ul Fateh
    May 5, 2017 at 9:36 am
    The new paradigm presented by the former RAW chief is not correct. If he really want to prevail truth, he knows that Jammu and Kashmir was not the part of British India. As per rule, either it goes for independence or to be with stan. However, it is entirely up to the people of the area. A time will come when things will explode in such manner that will be beyond anyone control. Very much biased about Kulbhushan and he should be biased to save him. Muhammad Naeem ul Fateh
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    1. Q
      Qamar
      May 5, 2017 at 1:24 am
      It is a realistic approach. I, being a Kashmiri ( stan-administered), agree with Dulat sahib that Kashmiris are not going to stan. But his understanding that they are not going anywhere is not correct. Kashmiris need freedom from both the countries. But at the same time, we believe that it wouldn't happen overnight. A gradual withdrawal of armed forces from both the sides, a flexible cease-fire line and free movement of Kashmiris across the line could normalize not only the situation in Kashmir but also the relations of two nuclear powers. However, we wish Dulat Sahib to come up with a solution. We read w the "Wajpaee years" but didn't find it. Mr. Dulat should share it now.
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      1. L
        liberal
        May 4, 2017 at 3:44 pm
        Arrey bhai baat to karo.......kaha gya kashmir???? arrey bhai baat to karo....... oye kashmir idhar aa.......bhai kya chahta hai tu????? hum kya chahte azadi........hum leke rahenge azadi........la illaha illalha.........arrey bhai baat to karo :D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D Aa lelelele kashmir aa pamper karu tujhe aa lelelelele :D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D Arrey bhai baat to karo........LOOOOOOOOL
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        1. P
          Pakistanisaterroriststate
          May 4, 2017 at 2:15 am
          nO MORe SHOWING WEAKNESS. jUST KILL, KILL AND KILL MORE IF NEED . Arrest stone pelting s and take them to borders, tie them at the fence and let them be first casualty once army fires on Porki dogs.
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          1. R
            Rangye khan
            May 4, 2017 at 3:28 pm
            Do author wants asylum in stan. We he is so pessimistic. I doubt whether he was a RAW chief.
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          2. R
            Rajiv Pande
            May 4, 2017 at 1:24 am
            For him to say that "Modi is a master of theater" shows a certain bias in his views. The rest of his opinion becomes suspect.
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            1. M
              Mani
              May 3, 2017 at 8:56 pm
              We every Indian feel that the Kashmir is an integral part of India and there is no second thought in this. Inspite stan is propogating and fighting for Kashmir with out any rest ever since both the countries have formed. We are also equivocally condemning stan on every platform. A midst of this I am hearing very frequently about the “doilogue negotiation and Composite dialogue” words. To my understanding any doaligue or negotiation efforts are nothing but accepting that there is some dispute in the Kashmir matter and both have to work to sellte those disputes for peace in the issue. So I fail to understand how thse two phenomena can coexist and what is that we are doing in thse efforts? Can somebody explain what is this composite dialogue and wjhat we are expecting for this?
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              1. G
                Gopal Sriniwasan
                May 3, 2017 at 6:57 pm
                AS Daulat says talk to Kashmiris.He says to talk to stan short, he says GOI should bow before the Hurriyat's who are stani agents and talk to them offer Ministerial posts as a Gift.No election no Democracy and no need of Political parties WISE KING Daulat says talk to stan.?Again whom?Who are interlocutors.The Prime Minister,the COAS,Intelligence Chief or Terror leaders. Let him spell out in clear terms who is the point person to talk to instead of parroting talk talk
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                1. S
                  Srinivasulu Mekala
                  May 3, 2017 at 6:15 pm
                  Dulat handled a lot of cash in the name of appeasing the leaders. That included who is who of the entire Kashmir. The ones that ruled, the ones that created problems, terrorists, separatists and a lot others. So, he must have seen that the ones who distributed and the ones who received were all happy, with the tensions always on the boil. The Tiananmen square episode appeared as if China was going to turn a democracy, but it did not. Let all those who hurl stones get tired, Kashmir is not going anywhere. Dulat was the wrong man to have headed RAW. With his heart in Islamabad, this man was enjoying Indian funds and hospitality with impunity.
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                  1. K
                    Kabir Me
                    May 3, 2017 at 3:22 pm
                    So if Mr.Dulat was in IB and ex-RAW and such an expert on Kashmir how the did he miss the stani army build-up and ingress in Kargil despite being in the PMO !! All so-called experts who want to talk to stan please explain what happened after Vajpayee went to stan or Manmohan talked to Zardari - the biggest terrorist attacks happened. First kargil then Mumbai. stan is a terrorist state and you can't talk to terrorists.
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                    1. A
                      Ajay
                      May 3, 2017 at 3:54 pm
                      Actually the IB knew about it and even informed the Army and Govt.but they just slept over it thinking it would be impossible to happen
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