AS Dulat says heavy-handedness has never worked in Kashmir, Ehsan-ul-Haq concurs and says all problems can be resolved through dialogue
LONDON: India has created a “mess” in Kashmir in the past 15 months, India’s former intelligence chief AS Dulat said during a debate with a former Pakistani head of intelligence in London on Friday night.
“Heavy-handedness has never worked in Kashmir… actually it doesn’t work anywhere as we’ve seen recently in Spain,” Dulat said at the start of the debate.
“It is high time we started talking,” said Amarjit Singh Dulat, former head of RAW (Research & Analysis Wing), speaking at a packed event held by the London School of Economics’ South Asia Forum.
“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 anything by force. That is the mistake we have made in the past 15 months,” Dulat said. “Kashmir is part of India, an integral part of India, and it is not going anywhere, but we need to deal with Kashmir in a more civilised manner.”
Dulat added that while there was “anger” and “even disgust” against India in Kashmir, there was “no love lost for Pakistan either”.
“They (Kashmiris) realise there is nothing to be gained from Pakistan… Pakistan is only a convenient fallback position for Kashmiris,” he said.
The former RAW chief said that India had borne the “brunt of terrorism for a long time”, but there was no way out but to talk. “I would say, in the case of Pakistan we need to make this one exception and talk with them…. Kashmir needs to be discussed and discussed upfront, not only between us but between Delhi and Srinagar,” he said.
Ehsan-ul-Haq, former director-general of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), said that the situation in Kashmir had taken a “turn for the worse” since last July (when popular militant commander Burhan Wani was killed).
Haq said that government forces had tackled protest with singular “ruthlessness” and 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 adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his “extremist allies” were using harsh rhetoric against Pakistan for electoral and political advantage. “This does not bode well for the future,” he said.
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.”
He said there been instances in the past where Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies had cooperated, which had produced more than the “desired results”.
“We need imagination. Let us think ahead – not just of the immediate crisis that faces us – but let us think ahead with compassion,” Dulat said.
Haq declined to confirm if secret meetings had taken place in the summer of 2003 with his Indian counterpart at the time – CD Sahay. He only said that intelligence agencies should keep channels of communication open, no matter what happens at the political level.
Dulat, though, credited the talks held in 2003 with bringing about the 2003 ceasefire, and noted that a tip-off from India had succeeded in saving the life of General Musharraf in 2003.