ISLAMABAD: The retired spy chiefs of arch rival nuclear armed Pakistan and India point out strengths and weaknesses of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Research and Analysis Wing of India (RAW) while admitting that each agency is as good as the other is.
“Once an American journalist with poor posture came up to me at a conference, casually posing a question, how do you rate RAW ?,” said Lt-Gen (retd) Asad Durrani while narrating his point regarding what he thinks about his rival agency in the latest book published in India titled, “The Spy Chronicles, RAW , ISI and Illusion of Peace,” available to this correspondent.
In the chapter of the book titled ISI vs RAW , Asad Durrani further adds that, “It was obviously not so casual a question and was probably intended to catch me off guard and provoke me into analysis and say nothing. He was likely to go to the RAW chief and say look, this is what the other fellow said, and get the response from him."
Durrani said instead almost reflexively I said, “at least as good as we are." The book is based on marathon sittings of former ISI and RAW chiefs namely retired Lt Gen Asad Durrani and A.S Dulat moderated by Aditya Sinha, an Indian author and journalist.
Former ISI chief Durrani in this chapter further says that, “About 10 years ago, a ratings website called Smashing Lists came out with, among other lists, the world’s 10 best spy agencies. Out of the blue, ISI was number one, followed by Mossad, CIA, and all the others”.
He thinks, “For me, the best way to judge ISI was that during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, it got all the help from most of the big players in the West but allowed no interference in its role, organising the resistance. But then the Cold War was over and we had to change our objectives in the region, and the ISI was key to that. Another accomplishment is that none of our operators ever defected or was ‘caught on camera’.
Dulat said our biggest failure against Pakistan is that we’ve not been able to turnaround an ISI officer or have an ISI officer working for us. Or not to my knowledge, at a level where it counts. If you go back to the Cold War, what was the main task of a CIA officer? It was to somehow find a defector. If a CIA guy found a defector then for the rest of his career he didn’t need to do anything, because he had done what was supremely required. On our side, I don’t think we’ve even imagined it properly and I don’t think we’ve succeeded."