Stressing that successive governments have committed the mistake of looking at Kashmir in black and white, without bothering to understand the nuances and improvise with the change in ground reality there, former RAW Chief AS Dulat feels it would do good for politicians in Delhi to realise that nothing can be taken for granted when it comes to the Valley.
“You just cannot predict anything in that region, things change overnight. There has to be enough flexibility in approach to ascertain that the situation remains balanced,” he tells IANS in a special interaction.
Stressing that most Kashmiris do not live in utopia and understand that Section 370 is not coming back, Dulat, who served in Kashmir as Joint Director in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) from 1988 to 1990, arguably the most troublesome time in the Valley, however, emphasises on the need to revive the political and democratic process there.
“There has been enough of the Governor’s rule, it is now time to for an elected government that the people in the Valley can call their own. A certain sense of ‘normalcy’ needs to be interjected. Elections are bound to lead to optimism. The local leaders there have an important role to play, it is a different debate about how they were treated when the article was abolished. Elections will give the people hope and empathy. At least they will have dignity,” he says.
Dulat, whose book, ‘A Life In The Shadows: A Memoir’ (HarperCollins), completed in 10 months, recently hit the stands, which also has a chapter on the former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, says he owed him.
“In fact, I knew him extremely well and wanted to write a book on him. There is one on the current NSA Ajit Doval too — someone I worked with, and I feel I have really praised him.”
Stressing that he put his “sharp memory” to use to recall different incidents in his professional life, Dulat assures he has not concealed anything.
“Of course, some matters of intelligence cannot be put in fine print,” says the former RAW Chief, who feels no Prime Minister supported the intelligence agencies as much as the late Rajiv Gandhi. “He was quite fascinated by our work,” he recalls.
On his widely reported statement that Prime Minister Modi may “bail out Pakistan”, Dulat says what he really wanted to convey was the fact that by the end of the year, the PM may reach out to Pakistan. Adding that with respect to Kashmir, the Pakistan factor is not completely out, he says both sides are being kept in dialogue though it is not in the open.
“People do not stop talking. It may be happening quietly, but it is always on. Pakistan is in a mess right now and we need to watch it very carefully as it will have an impact on Kashmir. The TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) factor has to be taken very seriously.”
Talk to him about former NSA MK Narayanan, who headed the IB from 1987 to 1990 before heading the Joint Intelligence Committee, and Dulat says, “He was a big man in the true sense of the word. While he was an expert on communism, he had a broad world view. We would always say that Rajiv Gandhi could not function without him,” says the spymaster whose book was recently launched in Chandigarh by ‘Novel Bunch’.
Dulat, who has been producing books regularly ( 2015, 2018, and now in 2022), smiles that he would need another four years to write a new one.
“Ever since the pandemic, I have been reading a lot — three-four at a time. And I still remember all the important things, so why not?” he concludes.