Sunday, 17 December 2017

ISI, RAW’s ex-chiefs urge Pakistan, India to re-start dialogue

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AS Dulat, former RAW chief (left), LSE academic Mukulika Banerjee (centre) and Ehsan-ul-Haq, former ISI chief (right), in London

LONDON: Former spy chiefs of Pakistan and India have said that the diplomatic talks and communications between the two countries are essential and helpful for the national interest of both the countries.

Former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general Ehsanul Haq and former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Amarjit Singh Dulat took part in a public debate at the Sheikh Zayed Theatre of the London School of Economics. The event was organised by the South Asia Centre, Pakistan Development Society and the South Asia Future Forum.

The former spymasters were of the view that communications boycott should end as war was no longer an option between the two countries. During the event, both Haq and Dulat spoke at length about the intelligence perspective of their countries and answered the questions of the audience.

“Interaction must be such that even when there is a breakdown in diplomatic relations between states and entities, the intelligence channel must continue because that becomes the last resort for venting and pre-empting crisis, the initiative for this has to come from the political level down,” Gen Ehsan told a questioner.

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He emphasised that the Indian government had done no favour to the region by ending communication channels. Intelligence sharing between Pakistan and Indian at one point may have saved former military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s life which in a way was acknowledged, Dulat said.

In his opening remarks, Gen Ehsan acknowledged that the differences between Pakistan and India, especially because of the Kashmir issue, had led to regional instability. He said that India has been fomenting trouble in Balochistan and mainland Pakistan through different militant groups.

He said that arrest of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav from Pakistan and revelations made by him proved that India has been using terrorist means to harm the country. Shedding light on Indian atrocities in Kashmir, he said that over the period of around one year, through the use of pellet guns, more than 100 Kashmiri youth have been martyred by Indian army.

“Kashmir’s indigenous struggle has moved to a new generation,” he said. To this, Dulat, while agreeing that many Kashmiri youth have been killed, said that lots of Indian soldiers have also been killed. He went on to say that India should not cut ties with Pakistan as it makes no sense to him. Even in worst days of the Cold War, the CIA and KGB talked to each other, he pointed out.

Answering questions about Pakistan providing ‘safe havens’ to militants as accused by US President Donald Trump and some foreign media outlets, Gen Ehsan said that the countries decide about such situations as per their circumstances, giving examples of Northern Ireland, Britain and the American and Afghan approach of dealing with Taliban and added that Great Britain called Irish Republicans terrorists but brought normalisation after deradicalising and mainstreaming them.

He said that extremist groups in Pakistan were “entities which have been involved in various militant activities and we have to tactically deradicalise them. The approach must be correct and must be part of our national strategy.”

Lauding political stability in Pakistan, he said that it was encouraging to see Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and its allies not seeking military intervention during 2014 sit-in but the democracy remained which was only disrupted when the sitting prime minister (Nawaz Sharif) was ousted by the court in Panama Papers case.

Talking about Kashmir issue, Dulat claimed that none of the mainstream political parties in Pakistan have mentioned the Kashmir issue in the last 15 months and during 2013 election campaigns. He said that India considers Kashmir its ‘integral part’ and would not discuss the matter with Pakistan.

To a question, the former spy bigwigs agreed that Pakistan and India should play cricket. Rahul Roy Chaudhry, Aamir Ghauri, Dr Mukulika Banerjee and Omar Bhatti also took part in the discussion.

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