Dulat’s Revelations Have Caused More Harm Than Good to Kashmir
What is the difference between Kitty Kelly’s muckraking volumes on famous leaders and “scrupulous” biographies by the late William Manchester, described as “one of the greatest popular historians of the 20th century”? If sales are the only criterion, both would be equal in their standing in the academic world. Fortunately it is not. This thought comes to my mind when we discuss A S Dulat’s book Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years.
It is not clear what Dulat has achieved by mixing his observations on Vajpayee’s Kashmir policy along with revelations on ongoing intelligence operations. This has only resulted in terrible embarrassment to all concerned. Dulat was the Centre’s trusted point man for Kashmir for a long time even before he became the RAW chief. None can equal his knowledge and experience on Kashmir. He was also one of our best chiefs of RAW.
He took over that charge when the reputation of that organisation was none too encouraging. Within months he restored morale among RAW operatives who were initially afraid of a “supervisory invasion” from the IB with whom they were not very comfortable due to traditional turf wars. But he treated them well and left a good legacy in recommending an excellent RAW insider as his successor.
Dulat’s book would have greatly contributed had he based it entirely on his work in Kashmir and why his efforts towards settlement failed due to political or international reasons. Instead he diverts readers’ attention to syrupy gossip like Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s preference for alcohol. He knew that his statement that Kashmir militants were on the take or that Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin had requested the IB for his son’s admission in a professional college would be challenged by all concerned including the government.
We know that intelligence agencies do maintain discreet contacts even with target entities to whom they extend discreet favours. But do we gain anything by exposing such secret relationship when we are still dealing with such militant outfits?
It would have been a different matter had Dulat exposed such transactions years later, much after the Kashmir militancy waned as the official British intelligence historian Christopher Andrew had done in ‘Defence of the Realm’ that British intelligence was paying fascist leader Benito Mussolini 100 sterling pounds a week from 1917.
The problem with sensational disclosures on secret subjects by retired spymasters is that they are not in a position to cite documentary evidence to back their claims. Other countries follow a policy of disclosures of even sensitive national security files after a lapse of time. We have no such practice. Entwining secret information with contemporary history is not easy unless readers are prepared to accept their versions.
Sensitive disclosures on political subjects are invariably disputed by the affected parties. These controversies affect the credibility of such books even if they are written by very senior spy chiefs who otherwise have good reputation. In 2007, B Raman, my friend and former colleague, published ‘Kaoboys of RAW’ with similar sensational disclosures. He said that the then Nepalese king had invited Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to shift to his country after her 1977 electoral defeat. But she rejected it on the advice of R N Kao. Raman made several such disclosures which were at best hearsay and not within his personal knowledge.
Since some of those claims were within my personal knowledge, I wrote a column on September 5, 2007, in a national daily putting the record straight on at least six such claims. I also knew that Indira Gandhi never consulted Kao during the period immediately after her defeat.
Dulat criticises the Vajpayee government’s handling of the IC-814 hijacking at different stages including the release of terrorists. He should not have done that, having been part of the inner core policy-making team of that era. Also Vajpayee had the sole priority over the safety of 178 passengers. There was no guarantee that the Punjab commandos who had no experience of storming an aircraft would have done that job without loss of lives. Declassified documents indicate that even Israel had initially thought of releasing 53 prisoners in 1976 under public pressure as the Entebbe hijackers had demanded. In 2011 they released 1,027 Hamas terrorist prisoners for one Israeli soldier.
The tragedy is that Dulat may finally be remembered as an RAW chief who wrote a controversial book. His great contribution towards Kashmir dialogue may be forgotten.
(The writer is a former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, and also member of the High Level Committee which enquired into the police performance during 26/11 Mumbai attacks.)
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