The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace has been co-authored by former RAW chief AS Dulat and former ISI chief general Asad Durrani, in conversation with journalist Aditya Sinha. In a fascinating back-and-forth, the two former spy chiefs discuss a range of "shared interests", including Kashmir, Raw vs ISI, Hafiz Saeed, Kulbhushan Jadhav, America under Donald Trump – and India-Pakistan ties under Narendra Modi.
An excerpt from the chapter titled "Modi's Surprise Moves":
AS Dulat: As surprising as it may sound, Modi did more in his first two years for India-Pakistan relations than his predecessor. It’s a different, instinctive diplomacy in which the foreign office has little role. It fully flows out of the PMO… Even the foreign minister is often not in the loop …
(Modi) had the imagination to invite Mian Saheb for his swearing-in. That it was messed up by the foreign secretary is unfortunate… the politics is too mixed up, unlike with Manmohan Singh and Vajpayee, who kept it in the background… Every prime minister is political, but we don’t have to make it so crude.
'Modi's Pakistan policy is Ajit Doval'
Sinha: What is Modi’s Pakistan policy?
Dulat: Frankly I don’t know. There is no Pakistan policy.
Durrani: Doval is his Pakistan policy.
Dulat: Yeah, but you know, Doval and Modi are the same thing. After all, he’s his NSA and he wouldn’t do anything different. It’s more opportunism.
He went to Lahore, but those were better days. Everyone said the chemistry between Mian Saheb and Modi was good, perhaps because Mian Saheb went out of his way; his political instincts maybe tell him that better relations with India would help him….
At one point in time, Modi was going along with that. Till Pathankot…. Then he could sort of live with Pathankot. But after Uri, Modi’s feeling was, we tried you guys and you failed us… so how can we do business? …
'Pakistan felt, let Modi destroy India's inner balance'
Durrani: The reaction in Pakistan to Modi’s election was that it served India right. Let Modi take care of India, destroy its image, and possibly destroy its inner balance.
I’ve not been impressed by his antics.
What did he mean crashlanding after giving Pakistan an earful in Afghanistan? He comes to Raiwind to attend Nawaz Sharif’s granddaughter’s wedding, and his drama and tamasha merely created spectacular confusion. People were shell-shocked and just stood there.
I prefer someone like Vajpayee who did not deliver but his approach was right. A person who manages the relationship well will not keep you on tenterhooks. Not that there is any intention to equate Vajpayee with Modi. World of difference. We would be happy if someone like Vajpayee was prime minister in Pakistan. Poet, philosopher, he could have been a good prime minister for us.
Dulat: Does Pakistan prefer Dr Manmohan Singh or Narendra Modi? There’s a contradiction because somewhere general Saheb has said that a hardliner in India may be in Pakistan’s interest. That’s why I believe Pakistan is happy if Kashmir is in a mess.
A lot of people think Modi is the greatest thing to happen to India. I’ve earlier said that Vajpayee was an exceptional prime minister, and he led an exceptional government. But Modi doesn’t have much of a cabinet. There’s Modi, and the next guy is a mile away. The only one Modi holds close is Doval. Even his home minister, a decent person who is keen to do something in Kashmir, is quite helpless.
Dulat: Rajnath. Vajpayee, who was head and shoulders above Modi, still had to deal with Advani. Modi is on his own trip. He doesn’t even bother about the RSS at times… As a hard-nosed intelligence officer he (Durrani) said that whether he liked Modi or not, this was still a good opportunity for India and Pakistan to move forward. He felt that it is a BJP Hindu government with which Pakistan can do business…
Now Modi’s is the perfect BJP government. It won’t get better than this. More Hindu, or more numbers…
'ISI prefers to deal with a hardline Indian govt'
Durrani: The ISI’s preference is because hardliners can take hard decisions. This reminds me of… the end of 1997, before the 1998 election that the BJP won. I published an article in the News, Islamabad, "Who’s afraid of the Indiana wolf", on how we need not worry about the BJP coming to power because it might turn out to be good for us. If nothing else, the illusion of India being a secular country would go….
The Vajpayee government gave us the impression that a Muslim baiter in power in India would not necessarily be a bad thing. This party may be able to take decisions the Congress was unable to.
Sinha: When the US invaded Iraq, people said it can’t get worse. Now they call George W Bush a moderate. If Yogi Adityanath becomes prime minister, you will say Modi bada shareef aadmi tha.
Dulat: We still say it, Modi is a very decent man. The point is if he shook up the system, he’d create an opportunity.
During Dr Manmohan Singh’s early days, when I had just left the PMO, I told a Hurriyat leader, why don’t you carry on with what we were doing? He laughed: "You want us to do business with him? Our problem is with Hindu India." That’s why Dr Manmohan Singh got the wrong end of the stick. Vajpayee left it all for him on a platter, but the BJP would not leave him be. He was more afraid of the BJP than 10 Janpath…
'Modi is a showman – he likes to keep people guessing'
Durrani: Modi is a showman. He likes theatrics. He likes to keep people guessing. He knows that after reading the riot act to Pakistan… if he crashlands in Lahore, people will be wonderstruck and say, here is the man of the moment. Here is a man we can do business with.
But he has no intention of doing good for the region; his only thought is of creating an impact back home. He’s smart… on international relations (Nawaz Sharif) has the acumen of a camel.
Sinha: … and Modi is?
Durrani: A fox. Modi is smart. Absolutely. So is Doval… On both fronts, PM and NSA, you have a huge advantage…
(Yet) … people like Vajpayee…knew how to manage it by cooling the situation with Kashmiriyat-Jamhooriyat-Insaaniyat. But these people are not cut out for it. They’re not likely to do it…
Sinha: Modi has a year left. How does Pakistan see his prospects?
Durrani: First, he’s likely to get a second term. Second, whether or not he remains… the relationship remains the same.… Third, the environment in India is such that even the public would say there was no point in making another gesture…
Dulat: I don’t totally agree with general Saheb. He said it’s always the same, the actors don’t matter much. But there’s clearly a world of difference between Vajpayee and Modi. Vajpayee was a towering personality, a philosopher… unfortunately, he became prime minister too late…
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