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Spymaster’s tale — four key takeaways, and their backstories

Several events from India’s recent history have been recalled in reports on the contents of former RAW chief A S Dulat’s forthcoming book, Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years. The backstories to four of the more significant assertions that Dulat makes.

Written by Praveen Swami | Published: July 6, 2015 2:19:24 am
A S Dulat, RAW, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Vajpayee, Gujarat riots, Modi, Brajesh Mishra, NDA, L K Advani, NSA, IC-814 Hijacking, Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen, india news, news, nation news, indian express explained The backstories to four of the more significant assertions that Dulat makes.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was upset by the Gujarat riots
The idea of Vajpayee as a moderate appalled by the Gujarat carnage is popular media trope — but isn’t quite consistent with the record. What Dulat recalls Vajpayee as saying is “shayad Gujarat mein hamsi galti hui” (perhaps we made a mistake in Gujarat). This falls short of criticism of now-Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At the time, Vajpayee seemed anything but hostile to Modi. In a speech at Goa in 2002, for example, he sided with Hindutva hardliners, saying: “Aag lagayi kisne? Aag fayli kaise?” (Who lit the fire? How did it spread?)”. He also appeared to lash out at Muslims: “In Indonesia, Malaysia, wherever Muslims are living they don’t want to live in harmony. They don’t mix with society.”

Vajpayee’s National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra pretty much ran the NDA government
The claim that the PM basically subcontracted strategic business to his éminence grise was the stuff of  Delhi gossip right through the Vajpayee years. The Dulat book tells us Mishra’s power made Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani profoundly uncomfortable. This is along the lines of what Mishra himself had said in an interview to Karan Thapar in 2009, in which he gave some indication of disagreements at the top of the government. Interestingly, Mishra later came out in favour of scrapping the post of National Security Advisor, on the grounds that the NSA was not accountable to Parliament.

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The NDA government goofed up the IC-814 Hijacking
The facts on this are pretty well-known. Back in 2000, KPS Gill and Ajai Sahni wrote a blow-by-blow account of the disastrous handling of the hijacking. The system was so poor that the Crisis Management Team in Delhi didn’t even have phone numbers for officials in Amritsar, who were left waiting for authorisation to storm the aircraft. Dulat tells us what’s long been known. Sadly, no lessons were learned — which meant pretty much the same mistakes were made again on 26/11.

Indian intellingence got the Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen chief’s son admission to medical college
This story too isn’t new: Frontline magazine reported it back in 2002, and elements have since appeared elsewhere. This is, however, the first official admission that India was involved in handing out favours to Mohammad Yusuf Shah, aka “Syed Salahuddin”, the Hizb’s portly, Pajero-driving boss. In essence, Wahid Yusuf had the grades for admission to a privately-run Jammu college, but the government arranged for his transfer to a more prestigious, government-run institution in Srinagar. The favour, Dulat’s books suggests, was part of a larger pattern of payoffs meant to sweeten up secessionists.

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