RAW Ex-Chief Dulat’s Book Serves no National Security Interests

In writing ‘Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years’, former RAW chief A S Dulat got carried away with only juicy details.

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Hindi Female
In writing ‘Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years’, former RAW chief A S Dulat got carried away with only juicy details.

Kashmir: the Vajpayee Years, written by former RAW chief A S Dulat reinforces the need for a relook at the Official Secrets Act (OSA). A clever reading of its provisions has encouraged him to make leaks selectively, create misinformed opinion and titillate. But it has denied the opportunity to others to counter his claims and half-truths with facts and put the events in proper perspective.

A few revelations Dulat has made are misguided and may harm India’s security interests in the long term. That a former RAW chief has chosen to do it is rather disconcerting. Psychological warfare is usually launched by agencies to disinform the enemy and create a favourable opinion for government policies in countries hostile to you. But he has chosen to create among Indians a sense of doubt about the wisdom of its political leadership and their capacity to rise in times of crisis. Take for example, his take on the hijack of IC-814 to Kandahar.

He says it was ‘goofed up’, the Crises  Management Group (CMG) squabbled, its members blamed each other and the political leadership in Delhi endlessly prevaricated, resulting in the release of three terrorists. However, by not revealing the nature of the squabbling, he has denied us a peep into the exact role of each of the actors, including his own, and understanding whether and how they goofed up and then draw correct lessons for the future. It should be no surprise to anyone that CMGs are mostly ineffective because it includes opposing interests and ambitions and, are severely constrained by uncertainty of how the political leadership will react.

CCS’ Mistrust

The NSG’s hesitation needs to be appreciated, for it knows the reach of its strength. The Punjab Police’s confidence in its commandos to call the terrorists’ bluff at Amritsar must at best be an empty rhetoric. They were simply not capable of carrying out an Entebbe-like raid. No wonder, the political leadership decided against blocking the run away, deflating tyres and storming the plane.

It is one thing to be rashly brave in projecting ideas and sound uncompromising on terrorism but quite another to foolhardily rush into action. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) rightly did not have trust in the capability of the security forces and therefore chose a saner option. They would have estimated that the terrorists could always be nabbed for the second time but the dead could not be retrieved.

In writing ‘Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years’, former RAW chief A S Dulat got carried away with only juicy details.
A S Dulat claims he had to face the wrath of the then Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on the issue of release of terrorists. (Photo: Reuters)

What is bizarre is that Vajpayee is everyone’s hero when he crosses the Wagah border to meet Nawaz Sharif and hailed as a great statesman for encouraging talks despite the Kargil war and yet vilified for not sacrificing the lives of hapless people for wholly sensible reasons. Farooq’s behaviour in this incident, as reported by Dulat, is childish, to say the least. You don’t react to such a complex human crisis like a petulant kid. Terrorism is a battle that you have to fight politically, socially, economically and militarily over a period of time and not get swayed into adopting an immature and obdurate stand.

It is difficult to comprehend why Dulat is apologetic about the safe return of passengers unless unlike a hard-nosed intelligence operative, he is also delusional about our capacity to strike without spilling needless blood. Since he has written the book after the Bombay massacre, he should have been at least wiser in hindsight in expressing his views on how far you can trust NSG and Punjab Police for rescuing hostages.

Compromised Separatist Leaders

Dulat’s reference to funding separatist leaders in J&K actually takes us nowhere. It would have greatly helped educate Kashmir on who received how much and from whom. This would have also made the separatist leaders suspect in the eyes of their cadres and created serious doubts in the mind of new recruits whether to continue trusting Indian agents amongst them.

In writing ‘Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years’, former RAW chief A S Dulat got carried away with only juicy details.
“(Syed Ali Shah) Geelani being alive is a tribute to our liberalism”, says former RAW cief A S Dulat in his book. (Photo: Reuters)

Additionally, the details would have presented a cost-benefit analysis of this humongous funding that has been going on for years, hugely benefiting not only the separatists but also the donors. Obviously Dulat’s intent was to ignite gossip rather than serve national security interests. It would have been interesting to know from Dulat details of the financial excesses during his years as advisor, but he disappoints. The fear of OSA probably held him back from baring the complete truth.

His other trite and well known revelation is about Brajesh Mishra’s unbridled power. Again he disappoints in merely telling us how the knight in shining armour held court, officers bowed and succumbed to his authority and politicians stayed clear of him out of fear. Some insight into Mishra’s financial dealings, his impatience to reasoning and how he ran the affairs of the state in his duel capacity as NSA and principal secretary to the PM, would have served historians well.

Disparaging Comments

Where Dulat has grievously erred as an intelligence officer is when he talks disparagingly of politicians and sources who are alive. It is just not done. All source operations are carried out primarily because of trust. He has not only exposed the sources but also made them unavailable for any future operational use. There are many important leaders in the subcontinent who are alive, hold important political positions and continue to be in contact with our security agencies. Fortunately, Dulat has spared them from exposure but surely they must be worried and wondering whether it is worth trusting RAW.

Can any agency now use Mohammad Salahuddin, Hizbul Mujahideen chief, to rein in Kashmiri militants and create division in their ranks or persuade him to return and join the mainstream? What is the big deal if his son was helped to get admitted to a medical school. RAW does it routinely for the wards of its contacts in the neighbourhood. Dulat may not be aware he has given a lease of life to Salahuddin. He would now be more determined to promote terrorism in the valley to disprove the allegation. The fact that he could not recruit S A S Geelani should have been best left unsaid. Geelani now emerges as a hero among his other compromised colleagues.

Unfairly Targeting Mufti

And why comment on Mufti Mohammad Sayeed when he is the chief minister of J&K? Even if you consider him anti-national and pro- militant, he is there in office by virtue of the people’s mandate and not through insurrection. Dulat may have a personal axe to grind but as intelligence chief he should have avoided making Mufti’s political standing suspect.

In writing ‘Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years’, former RAW chief A S Dulat got carried away with only juicy details.
Did former RAW chief A S Dulat reveal more than what was called for? (Courtesy: ANI)

Dulat should have also refrained from talking about Mufti’s weakness for whiskey. These are stuff that excite journalists, casual commentators and gossip mongers. Intelligence chiefs and serious historians dwell on evidence to draw a reasonably accurate picture of the times gone by and people who shaped events. No one should know it better than him that in the tavern all visitors irrespective of party affiliation and background are sinners. Mufti is no exception but appears to have been unfairly singled out.

The problem with Dulat’s book is that it neither adds to our knowledge of Kashmir affairs in the Vajpayee era nor illustrates his role in shaping or managing them. Dulat missed a great opportunity to inform readers of happenings behind closed doors during this period and got carried away by tid-bits and juicy stuff.

(The writer is a former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat)

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