Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s experience in Pakistan affected him in a manner that he believes that the country must be dealt with an iron fist, according to former chief of Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), Lt General Asad Durrani (retd).
This is part of a new book, “The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace”, which has been co-authored by Durrani and former R&AW chief A S Dulat, along with journalist Aditya Sinha. The book is set to be launched in Delhi this week, but Durrani will not be able to attend the event as he has not been given a visa by New Delhi so far.
About Doval, who served in India’s intelligence agencies before retiring in 2005, Durrani says, “He hasn’t changed policy. He’s just a little more hardline but it’s still what I believe has been Indian policy for a long time. He shouts more, like Trump does, a lot of hot air. He provides that masala.”
“The upshot is he’s just doing what his boss wants done. Maybe more muscularly, more vocally,” Durrani adds.
Durrani attributes Doval’s attitude to his stint with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad in the 1980s, saying that “In Ajit Doval’s case it probably affected him in a way where he felt, ‘Oh God, this country must be dealt with an iron fist’.”
Dulat, however, argues about “his colleague and good friend” and “Modi’s henchman” Doval that “As far as his capabilities go, he’s one of our outstanding operational guys. He’s a field man.” “The trouble, though, with people who are so much into themselves, is that they’re lonesome and they stay aloof. In A Legacy of Spies there’s a relevant line that says, the trouble with spooks is that they find it difficult to invest in trust,” he adds, “Ajit is a guy who won’t trust anybody.”
Dulat goes on to say that Doval is “not necessarily a hardliner” on Pakistan, arguing that “He toes Modi’s line. He also toed Mani Dixit’s line. He at one point-toed [M K] Narayanan’s line… I’ll tell you something. He is convinced that Modi is the greatest thing that has happened to India. That I can vouch for.”
In turn, Durrani says that Doval “matters nowadays, as Modi matters. I agree he is smart and would not miss an opportunity for another spectacle. Win Modi or himself brownie points. But I’m not counting on him to turn around the relationship and make it stable. Next time he’s in Lahore or Islamabad, it will be for all the right reasons for India, but all the wrong reasons for the long-term relationship, and without wishing us (Pakistan) any benefit.”
Durrani cites the example of the Indian NSA’s meeting in Delhi in 2016 with six former Pakistani High Commissioners to India: “Six high commissioners had an invitation from the Aspen Centre, Sati Lambah was the moving force. They considered their most substantial meeting was when they called on the NSA. Ajit Doval treated them indifferently, saying: ‘We are watching you. If something good does not come out of our investigation, and if we find a link between Pathankot and Mumbai and a state structure, there will be consequences.’ “When the meeting finished he did not shake hands with a group that is highly regarded in both countries. Just walked away. The message was conveyed.”
Dulat, however, disputes that version, telling Durrani that what he “heard in Delhi was the contrary; the high commissioners were pleasantly surprised that he was nice and soft despite his reputation of being tough as nails.” “He softly put across the message that India didn’t want good relations, thank you for coming,” was Durrani’s response to Dulat.
Former R&AW chief A S Dulat has said that if the case of retired Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested by Pakistan on charges of spying, “were a RAW operation and he was a RAW spy, then it’s a pretty sloppy operation.”
He said this in the book “The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace”, co-authored by him with former ISI chief Asad Durrani and journalist Aditya Sinha.
Durrani says that “When Pakistan made this revelation (about Jadhav) the idea must have been to counter the Indian threat after Pathankot. Though that famous threat came later, at the end of April, and Jadhav was arrested in March.”
To Dulat’s question “What was the threat?”, Durrani replied “That India is looking for links between Pathankot and our establishment. So we came up with a counter-argument that we know you’ve been doing this (in Balochistan).”
Both Dulat and Durrani agree that intelligence agencies of both countries should have been discreet about the matter and ensured the exchange of spies of each other in their custody.
On Kashmir insurgency
Lt General Asad Durrani, who was ISI chief in 1990 when insurgency started in Kashmir, feels that his “biggest failure was when the Kashmir uprising happened we did not know how far it would go… When it became lasting, we wondered how to keep a handle on it. We didn’t want it to go out of control, which would lead to a war that neither side wanted. Could we micro-manage it? That was our challenge. ISI’s leverage on the Kashmir insurgency turned out less than successful.”
“I think the formation of the Hurriyat to provide a political direction to the resistance was a good idea. Giving up handle on the movement-letting the factions do what they bloody well wanted to-was not,” adds Durrani.