Modi’s Muscular Policy for J&K Hasn’t Worked: Ex-R&AW Chief Dulat
Ex-R&AW chief AS Dulat lists what has gone wrong in Modi’s Kashmir policy.
Video Journalist: Sanjoy Deb
Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim
Amid growing discussions on Jammu and Kashmir, The Quint reached out to AS Dulat, former chief of R&AW, to talk about a lot of things, including India, Pakistan, Kashmir, intelligence, et al.
Here is an excerpt of the interview:
On the Difference Between Vajpayee and Modi
Are there any parallels when it comes to India-Pakistan relations between the Vajpayee years and the Modi years?
In their own way, I’m sure they are both great leaders. But, maybe, I’m a little partial because I served and observed Mr Vajapyee very closely for five-and-a-half years. He was a huge, huge person. I take him to be one of our greatest prime ministers, coming second only to Nehru. It’s a pity that time ran out on him. He didn’t expect to lose the 2004 election. When we look back to Agra and the summit in Islamabad, again three years were wasted.
Why would you say that three years were wasted?
Because Agra [summit] ended on a negative note. It didn’t end up the way Vajpayee expected it to.
Does it not vindicate Modi’s stand today that no matter how hard we try to get Pakistan to be friends with us, it is always going to fail, so we have to act the way we acted?
Modi ji is right. He will act the way he acted and Vajpayee acted the way he acts. Vajpayee never gave up. [When] Mr Modi won the 2014 election, there was a lot of hope, lot of expectation in Pakistan and much more, in Kashmir. The Kashmiris thought that here’s another BJP leader who’ll follow the Vajpayee way, and Vajpayee was the most revered leader in Kashmir.
Where did Modi go wrong in Kashmir?
It’s a way of thinking, you know. Vajpayee’s thinking was two-fold, two parallel things. One, to end this continuous confrontation with Pakistan. That’s why he took this bus to Lahore. And the second was that in Kashmir, we needed to move forward. I think Modi ji never felt any such compulsion.
But he also tried soft diplomacy. Getting Nawaz Sharif to visit India and dropping by in Pakistan unannounced...
He did, he did. But it was not consistent enough. It didn’t continue like that. Vajpayee never gave up.
On Pakistan, Pulwama and Balakot
In one of your interviews you said, Modi is milking the (Pulwama, Balakot) situation...
The feeling is that this whole thing was a gift in a sense from Jaish to Modi ji. The timing was such. Milking the system, in the sense...in the context of elections. I think the whole thing has been politicised too much. My view always has been that when it comes to national security, we shouldn’t politicise.
Despite all the noise we are making about it, Pakistan is still saying that nothing has happened. That only some trees have been damaged.
Well, that’s what Pakistan says. Who knows what happened? But I think enough [has] happened.
Do you think that with this, we have actually gone a notch higher on the escalation ladder? [That] This is a point of no return. That if something like this happen again, we have to do at least this much.
I don’t think so. People will argue this way, but every time is a new time, a fresh time.
On India’s Intelligence Agencies
There have been a lot of speculation as to how it [Pulwama] was a complete intelligence failure, that an attack of this magnitude could be carried out.
When these things happen, you can always say that there’s intelligence failure. The 9/11 could not have happened but for intelligence failure. From what I hear, there was intelligence but intelligence was not good enough, not specific enough.
We’ve been hearing how our intelligence infrastructure has been allowed to get rusted. Do you feel enough has been done to get the agencies up on their feet once again?
I don’t believe that our agencies are rusted. I could argue anywhere, anytime that our agencies are as good as any in the world. We always compare ourselves with the ISI. We refer to the ISI as deep state, a state within a state. Sure, they have more autonomy than we do. But I think, professionally, we are better than they are. And it’s been conceded even by their own officers.
How about inflicting similar costs on Pakistan, paying them back in the same coin?
These are political questions. Our agencies are not that autonomous. This is something that the politicians also need to answer.
On Separatism, Alienation, and Dialogue in Kashmir
Coming back to Kashmir, you’ve said how the Kashmiris were also hopeful when Modi came into power...
The Mirwaiz himself went on record. He welcomed Modi ji and he said that ‘We hope that you take forward the Vajpayee path’.
When it comes to these two strands, one of separatism and the other of assimilation, it just seems that there is absolutely no sync between the two anymore.
Yes, that’s because we made such hoo-ha about separatism. What are we trying to do with Kashmir? What we have been trying to do is mainstream Kashmir. And we have been successful to a great extent. And in that mainstreaming, you have to deal with separatism, only then will they be mainstreamed.
In 2002, some of the separatists participated in the elections, and in 2004, our deputy prime minister had two rounds of talk with the separatists. Even the prime minister went and met the separatists. So, that is the way to move forward.
Now, if you stop talking and you put them all in jail, how can you move forward?
But how can we deal with an organisation like the JKLF, and [people like] Yasin Malik?
We’ve been dealing with them for so long. We’ve been dealing with all of them for so many years.
Do we turn a blind eye towards the acts of violence, acts of terror?
Yasin has been a terrorist in his younger days. That’s why he’s a popular romantic of the movement. But he’s not involved in terror anymore. The Mirwaiz has never been involved in terror. And all the moderate Hurriyat have not been involved in terrorism. But they have been supported in the initial years by the terrorist organisations. That’s where the link is. And since then, that has not changed. Talking is the way forward.
Now, what we have done is, we have jailed everyone so there’s no one left except Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba and the Congress.
And they are also not very happy!
No, they are not happy because every now and then, it is implied that they are “Pakistanis”, they are anti-national. It’s a very sad state of affairs in Kashmir. And I’ve been on record earlier and I’ll say it again: this muscular policy will not work. It has not worked anywhere.
How is the BJP going to fare in Kashmir in the current climate?
The BJP, I don’t think, is going to do very much in Kashmir. They didn’t do very well the last time. But in Jammu, they got a lot of seats, about 25 seats last time. I think they’ll have to struggle to get 25 again because what has happened is that, as a result of the PDP-BJP alliance, both [parties] have lost out separately. Now, what happened at Balakot has revived some of their support in Jammu, but otherwise, people were very angry with the BJP.
So, the milking has happened to an extent?
Yes. Well, in Delhi, people say that the BJP will gain 40-50 seats in the general elections.
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