LONDON - What happens when two former chiefs of intelligence agencies of India and Pakistan meet in London – not covertly but openly in the company of diplomats, students and current operatives in the academic environs of the London School of Economics?
AS Dulat , the former head of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and Ehsan-ul-Haq, former chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), retired long ago but the unique event on Friday night was marked by much banter and barbs, delighting the packed audience that was left wanting more.
Lost in the air was the theme of the seminar – “Can intelligence services do good?” – when “Ehsan-sab” and “Boss”, as Dulat called him, focussed on Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism in his opening remarks, setting the stage for the two issues that dominated the event.
Dulat and Ehsan, who served in their respective offices in the early 2000s, were key players in sensitive issues, often taking adversarial postures and actions, but at LSE they could not agree more with each other on Jammu and Kashmir, terrorism and peace talks.
Ehsan dwelt on what he called the “mass uprising in Jammu and Kashmir since July last year”, following the death of jihadi commander Burhan Wani, and harped on the need to resume the stalled dialogue between the two countries. Dulat agreed with him that India had committed “mistakes” and created “a mess” in the state. Dulat also agreed that talks should be resumed between the two sides, since war is not an option and dialogue is the only way out. India, he said, needs to make an exception and talk along with terrorism (New Delhi has ruled out parleys until Pakistan-backed terrorism is stopped).