Spy Chronicles: How and where was the book written secretly in two and half years by Pak India former spy chiefs?

Spy Chronicles: How and where was the book written secretly in two and half years by Pak India former spy chiefs?

ISLAMABAD: It began with hushed conversations in hotels dotted around Asia, and resulted in a nearly unthinkable book: “Spy Chronicles”, a secret collaboration by former intelligence chiefs of India and Pakistan that has caused uproar in Islamabad.

The book, published last month, was co-authored by retired General Asad Durrani, head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) between 1990 and 1992, and his counterpart A S Dulat, who led India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) from 1999-2000.

They are the two most powerful intelligence agencies in the neighbouring countries, who have been fierce adversaries since Partition in 1947.

“The CIA and the KGB had lines of communication, even at the height of the Cold War. But ISI and RAW don’t,” Indian journalist Aditya Sinha, who facilitated the conversations, told AFP.

The project, which he said was conducted covertly, took two and a half years to complete.

It required four marathon sessions in neutral territory - Istanbul, Bangkok and Kathmandu - organised on the sidelines of meetings between Indian and Pakistani officials seeking to hold dialogue.

“We did not wear overcoats or glasses. But the two chiefs have a lifetime habit of being discreet,” Sinha said.

“We met in each other’s hotel rooms. In (Kathmandu), we found a corner of a lobby. If somebody came near our corner, everybody would stop talking.”

Among the topics discussed are longstanding allegations that Pakistan uses proxies in India and Afghanistan, such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, and provides them safe haven.

The US has repeatedly demanded that Islamabad take action against militancy. In the book, Durrani asserts that - if the fighters are indeed in Pakistan - doing so would be a “disaster”.

“(By) going against them, we would not only turn some more of our own people against us but also these groups who have never harmed us,” he writes.

Durrani, who was no longer Pakistan’s top spy in 2011 when Osama bin Laden was killed in a US raid in the military town of Abbottabad, also suggests that Islamabad probably knew where the Al Qaeda leader was hiding - though he provides no smoking gun.

“Cooperating with the US to eliminate a person regarded by many in Pakistan as a ‘hero’ could have embarrassed the government,” he writes.