“Its high time we started talking,” said Amarjit Singh Dulat, former Research and Analysis Wing head, who spoke at a packed event held by the London School of Economics’ South Asia Forum, on the ability of intelligence agencies to do good — seen as a rare occasion when top figures from both services had come together at a public venue.
“Heavy handedness has never worked in Kashmir…actually it doesn’t work anywhere as we’ve seen recently in Spain,” Mr. Dulat said at the start of the debate.
Futility of force
“I think if there is one message that comes out of Kashmir , not today, not yesterday or the day before but as far back as one can remember…you can achieve a lot through love and compassion but you can never achieve it by force. That is the mistake we have created in the last 15 months,” Mr Dulat said. “Kashmir is part of India, an integral part of India and its not going anywhere but we need to deal with Kashmir in a more civilized manner.”
However, while there was “anger” and “even disgust” against India in Kashmir , there was “no love lost for Pakistan,” he added. “They realize there is nothing to be gained from Pakistan…Pakistan is only a convenient fall back position for Kashmiris,” he said.
The former R&AW chief said while India had borne the “brunt of terrorism for a long time” there was no way but to talk. “I would say in the case of Pakistan we need to make this one exception and talk along with them….Kashmir needs to be discussed and discussed upfront, not only between us but between Delhi and Srinagar.”
Opening the debate Ehsan-ul-Haq, the former director general of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence said the situation in Kashmir , which had remained the oldest unresolved international dispute and the core issue in India-Pakistan relation, had taken a ”turn for the worse” since last July.
He said security forces had tackled protest with singular “ruthlessness” and flagged the “shocking and indiscriminate” use of pellet guns.
“The Kashmir dispute cannot be wished away…if left unresolved it will keep returning as a crisis with increased intensity,” he said adding that there were no problems between the two countries that couldn’t be resolved “through dialogue.”
“We must now structure a détente that reduces tensions and move meaningfully towards dispute resolution,” he said, though warned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his “extremist allies” were using harsh rhetoric against Pakistan to electoral and political advantage. “This does bode well for the future.”
Mr. Dulat concurred that dialogue was the only way forward, and India’s strategy of not engaging “makes no sense at all…because if you look at the worst days…even the coldest days of the cold war the KGB and CIA never stopped talking, Kennedy and Khrushchev never stopped talking…many believe that because of their letter writing it saved the world from a possible world war.”