Home Digital Magazine April 2019 Issue Post Pulwama: Revisiting ‘The Spy Chronicles’

Post Pulwama: Revisiting ‘The Spy Chronicles’


Lt Gen ® Asad Durrani |

One of the few points on which the two co-authors, Dulat and I, had a back and forth was: who had the worse media; India or Pakistan! Since I’ve never been fond of ours, I volunteered to accept the title. But when Dulat insisted that theirs was beyond repairs, I was glad to let him walk away with the award.

During the mayhem that followed the arrival of The Spy Chronicles in Pakistan—described as cacophony in this journal’ January issue—I reclaimed the honor. Post Pulwama however, the Indian media descended to such depths that it can keep the trophy for all times to come. Ours on the other hand pulled-off a coup—and hosted my comrade in arms (Dulat’s description) so lavishly that a former colleague asked me how did I win him over for our side? I didn’t have to.

When Dulat insisted that theirs was beyond repairs, I was glad to let him walk away with the award.

It was his worldview that made me accept his offer to jointly write this book. Too bad, Modi and his team haven’t read it. Indeed, Pulwama was waiting to happen, as so many of the regional watchers have commented. Dulat and I can still take credit for mulling over this syndrome and its consequences for nearly a decade now.

He reminded me of a bilateral discussion on the sides of a conference in Islamabad, in which we did a bit of loud thinking about the possibility of a choreographed response: a mutually agreed management of a crisis created by loose cannon. Dulat believed, as recorded in the book, that the 2016 “surgical strike” fitted the bill nicely. India could claim that after the Uri debacle in which eighteen of their soldiers were burnt, it had taken revenge.

Read more: Interior ministry puts ex-spymaster Durrani’s name on Exit Control List

And Pakistan’s relaxed reaction conveyed just the right message—if killing a few goats a hundred meters inside our borders helped defuse the crisis, we would let it pass. But when Modi-Doval duo failed to read the small print—that this mantra only worked if the other side could live with it, and that too only an odd number of times—the disaster struck. The forest strike in Balakot could’ve been whitewashed as avoidance of human cost—like Pakistani bombing an uninhabited area—but for the claim to have killed hundreds.

Violating our territory might have been understood as the piecemeal strategy; to test Pakistan’s patience or judging its tolerance threshold. Results of aerial combat, or if Pakistan could respond by a political surgical strike (return of the downed pilot within a couple of days) were difficult to predict. Indian miscalculations, the skill of our airmen, and Pakistan’s astute management, handed-over the round-one to us. But indeed, Pulwama would not be the last of its kind. And of course, the crisis management would be increasingly more complex with every recurrence.

Dulat and I can still take credit for mulling over this syndrome and its consequences for nearly a decade now.

What would not however the matter is—whodunit. By all means crack down on Jaesh-e-Muhammad, arrest anyone you like, and closedown seminaries or camps: when the next episode in this serial takes place—and it will come hell or high water—it will be Pakistan with some version of Jaish or Lashkar, which will be back in the dock. So get ready for a bit of ‘do more’ again, and of course whatever it would take to tide over the next crises.

At some point down the line, we would finally have relearnt an old lesson. Standing up to external pressure has always had its reward: our China Policy of the 1960s; refusing to break with the post-revolution Iran; the nuclear programme; and indeed most recently, refusing to burn our boats with the Taliban. But succumbing to pressures regardless of any vulnerability provided only temporary relief. Incidentally, I am not aware of any country in a comparable environment that has abstained from employing proxies—Dulat agreed that India too did not.

Read more: Why Spy chronicles’ won’t rescue Nawaz?

And if it’s the label of non-state actors that was bothering our good-for-nothing liberals, let’s re-Christian them as state-actors (defense contractors might be better). The rest of the world, in any case, believes that they are state-sponsored. One way or the other, do not let yourself be defanged of any assets; especially the non- and the sub-conventional. The test of their potential is that those who are not aligned with our interests, shout the loudest precisely against these entities.

The non-option that we and those who can only shoot from their mouth, plead ad-nauseam—let’s talk and resolve our problems—has never impressed our eastern neighbor, or for that matter anyone else. When the other day, an old colleague remarked in a conference that it’s the Taliban who have brought the Americans to the table, I readily agreed.

Violating our territory might have been understood as the piecemeal strategy; to test Pakistan’s patience or judging its tolerance threshold.

Only when we have ensured that our responses to all that could now follow Pulwama, there was a chance that some Indian regime, no longer able to fire its Kashmir policy from our shoulders or those of our strategic allies, might agree to talk—reluctantly, because in Indian calculations the cost of conflict was more affordable than the price for peace, for which it will have to compromise, more substantially on its Kashmir policy. But if and when that happens, some of the less wishful options too have been suggested in The Spy Chronicles.

Read more: Spy Chronicles: Chronicles of Durrani, Dulat, Nawaz & Rabbani..

Dulat spells out a few measures, and I have proposed a structured approach. In the discussion that followed the launching of this book on the 23rd of May 2018 in Delhi, I was gratified when Shiv Shankar Menon, a former high commissions to Pakistan who went on to become their foreign secretary and then the national security advisor, supported my framework (a good reason though that both in India and amongst my detractors here, it would be a ‘no-no’).

By all means adapt it suitably to help someone else take the ownership, as it has often been suggested for Musharraf’s four-point formula, as long as its algorithm was not lost. And while we are at it, no harm revisiting concepts like a sub-continental confederation or a European Union model—unless of course we can think of better ideas to come to grips with some of the other problems that are believed to be more crucial than Kashmir: water issues on both our eastern and western borders, for example.

Asad Durrani is a retired Lt Gen who headed the MI and then the ISI in the late 1980s/ early 1990s. He also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Germany and Saudi Arabia. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.