Former RAW Chief wants to engage Pakistan military establishment

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Former RAW Chief wants to engage Pakistan military establishment

DUBAI - Truthful, honest talks between India and Pakistan are the only way to conclusive peace. It is important that the two sides are clear about their objectives and take all stake-holders along in the process, including the so-called Deep State in Pakistan, said A. S. Dulat, former chief of India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and co-author of The Spy Chronicles: RAW ISI and the Illusion of Peace that has stoked a controversy in both India and Pakistan.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, he said: "We need to engage honestly. While acknowledging our shortcomings we should be willing to give peace a chance."

Dulat, who worked with Pakistan's former ISI chief Asad Durrani and journalist Aditya Sinha on the book, said the Deep State must be engaged 'constantly', a reference to the establishment. Durrani, in a message during the launch of the book in New Delhi last week, had said: "When you meet someone and start talking, then a certain understanding seems to develop on its own."

The two neighbours, who were separated at birth in 1947, have been embroiled in border skirmishes and military stand-offs, and have fought four wars.

Efforts of both governments have failed to find a resolution to more than seven decades of distrust and violence.

"I think Manmohan Singh (India's former prime minister) and Pervez Musharraf almost settled the Kashmir issue, but it is not easy to go back to that (now). The two sides need to sit across the table and ask if they can start afresh from where they left. What is not acceptable to either side should be put away, and other points should be taken up," said Dulat.

He did not agree with Durrani's assessment in the Spy Chronicles that 'Modi may not be cut out for this job (peace between two nations)', and argued that the Indian prime minister, in fact, has done more than what former Indian prime ministers could achieve. "Modi has done more than Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh's governments. And who knows, if he gets another chance then he might be able to get more done in the next five years."

After the book's release, the former ISI chief was reprimanded by Pakistan's Army for his comments on the Kargil war, and the high political cost of prosecuting Hafiz Saeed, terrorist wanted by India.

But Dulat pointed to one positive development since the book's launch: the reinstatement of the ceasefire between the two countries along the line of control (LOC) near the Kashmir border.

This week, the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan agreed to implement the ceasefire pact of 2003 in letter and spirit to stop cross-border firing in Jammu and Kashmir.

"It's heartening that our (India's) home minister has said we are prepared to talk on Kashmir. A lot of what we have been dreaming for has happened. I am not suggesting that all this has happened because of the book, but I am sure that the General (Durrani) is as delighted as I am delighted that it happened," added Dulat.

Ceasefire violations along the line of control (LOC) have increased dramatically this year. Reports suggest there were about 880 incidents in the first four and a half months of this year, compared to 850 last year. Notably, this is for the first time in 18 years that a ceasefire was announced during the holy month of Ramadan.

Dulat and Durrani have authored a couple of essays together in the past and the idea for this book took shape during several Track 2 meetings between Indian and Pakistani officials hosted in different countries.

*suneeti@khaleejtimes.com *