Two spymasters from Pakistan and India – nuclear-armed neighbors who have fought three full-fledged war since their birth – have co-authored a new book “The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace” which has become a hot topic of discussion in both countries.
The 344-page Harper Collins book is flying off the shelves because of its format. It’s essentially a very long dialogue between A.S. Dulat, ex-chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and Lt. General Asad Durrani, former head of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), moderated by journalist Aditya Sinha.
The racy, conversational style makes the hardback readable, especially as the topics dealt with are still in the news and Indians and Pakistanis are curious to know what the retired spymasters have to say about them.
Additionally, the organizations they once headed are household names. While Indians hold ISI responsible for most problems plaguing the nation, Pakistanis think that RAW’s lone agenda is to destroy the Muslim country.
The topics the book covers range from Kashmir and Afghanistan to what goes on in Delhi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi behind closed doors.
Relations to the brink
The individuals dissected by Dulat and Durrani include Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Osama bin Laden, Hafiz Saeed, Pervexz Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif, Narendra Modi and Ajit Doval, India’s National Security Advisor Pakistan holds responsible for pushing India-Pakistan relations to the brink.
Significantly, while Dulat is the toast of New Delhi since the book hit the stands and spends his waking hours giving interviews to print and television journalists, Durrani is being interrogated and barred from leaving Pakistan until an investigation into his ‘revelations’ is over.
Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani expert on her country’s armed forces teaching at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), says that Durrani’s ordeal stems from the current phase of internal Pakistani politics.
“Durrani’s confessions about Pakistanis creating militant groups in Kashmirr or the suggestion that the army had a hand to play in finding Osama bin Laden have come at an inopportune time for GHQ.
While a war of narratives was being launched against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, especially after his statements regarding the Mumbai attacks, many of Durrani’s statements neutralize Sharif’s ‘anti-national’ image”, said Siddiqa.
Detention in Mumbai
One of the most heart-warming episodes in the book is about Durrani’s son who was on a professional visit to India in 2015. He informed his father about some shortcomings in his travel papers which might have led to his detention at Mumbai airport.
Durrani sent an SOS to Dulat who spoke to then RAW chief Rajendra Khanna. Khanna not only sorted out the problem but when Dulat thanked him, Khanna replied: “It’s our duty. After all Durrani is a colleague”.
Clearly, there is honor among spies. While Durrani exclaims that ISI is better than RAW, Durrani corrects him insisting that RAW is a superior organization as it is run by career intelligence officers and not majors and colonels.
Dulat seems to have a penchant for befriending ISI chiefs. Last year he roped in Ehsan-ul Haq, ex-ISI chief, for a seminar on “Can Intelligence services do any good?” at the London School of Economics (LSE).
One of the gems that emerged during the brainstorming was a confirmation that India had indeed tipped off Pakistan in 2004 about an assassination bid on Pervez Musharraf, which ultimately saved the general’s life.
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