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Home > News > Interview

The Rediff Interview/A S Dulat, former RAW chief

Kashmir: 'Everybody knows the solution'

July 26, 2007


A S Dulat
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When he was in service, A S Dulat was known as a seasoned bureaucrat who could talk like politicians to Kashmiri leaders. He virtually monopolised Kashmir affairs for many years and knows all the major players in Kashmir personally.

Dulat served in the Intelligence Bureau as special director, and headed the Research and Analysis Wing too.

During the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime, he served as an advisor on Kashmir in the Prime Minister's Office and worked closely with then national security advisor Brajesh Mishra.

Dulat -- currently a member of the National Security Advisory Board -- spoke to Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt about terrorism, Pakistan and Kashmir.

For ages now, you have been part of the team handling the nation's security. How do you see the issue of terrorism faced by India?

Before 9/11, there were no takers in the West for our woes but now they do acknowledge that we are having rough times. Now, we don't have to keep proving any longer that Pakistan is involved in sponsoring terror attacks in India.

We have borne the brunt of terror for the last 20 years. It is very clear in my mind that when we talk about terror in India -- as it was in Punjab and now in Kashmir -- it comes from across the border.

In Kashmir things are improving but there are ups and downs.

In the middle of April 2006, the situation was good. It was better than the best times. Then, there were four by-elections when 60 to 70 per cent voter turnout was seen. Then came the killings of Hindus in Udhampur, and then selective killing of political activists.

Recently, newspapers have reported Al Qaeda's [Images] presence in Kashmir -- whether they belong to Al Qaeda or not, terrorists come from Pakistan. Mostly, it is cadres of the Lashkar e Tayiba, which is close to Pakistan's establishment, who are coming in.

I see the Mumbai bomb blasts and other terror attacks outside Kashmir as part of a broader strategy of terrorists. The terror killings outside Kashmir are partly to give respite to Kashmir and Kashmiris, because Kashmiris have put their hands up a long time ago. They say enough is enough.

When General (Pervez) Musharraf came here in 2001 in Agra [Images], he had a tea party with leaders of the Hurriyat Conference. In that now-famous meeting, (Abdul Gani) Lone saab had reportedly told General Musharraf: 'Kashmiris ab thak gaye hai (Kashmiris are now tired).'

Terror is spreading in the hinterland because Kashmir needs a break. (But) that is just one of the reasons.

Second, in Kashmir even if 10 to 12 people die every day, it's not getting attention or focus. If you blow the bombs in Banaras or Bangalore pictures go all over the world --that is what the terrorists want.

I know what is your next question is. Are Indian Muslims involved in it?

Are they?

Indians have been involved. We know well that in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, Indians were involved. Possibly, we still don't know who were involved in the 2006 blasts on trains in Mumbai. But, I think they (local Muslims) were merely foot soldiers. I believe the motivation, leadership, training and financing comes from Pakistan. There are some boys who are misguided, there are some who are hurt after the Babri Masjid demolition and surely after the Gujarat riots. And there are some young boys, who are part of the underworld, who are doing it for money.

That sounds like an easy explanation.

Why do you want to make an easy explanation a difficult one? Please don't exaggerate and make it as a part of some global conspiracy.

Our Muslim boys haven't gone to Iran or Afghanistan. Despite provocation at times, we, Indian Muslims have by and large behaved extremely well.

Are there any new trends?

As I said, terrorism is shifting to the hinterland of India; some of these events are Kashmir related.

Do you think India's security risk has increased because the world increasingly perceives it as a US ally?

Yes, I think the perceived closeness with the American is a factor. But it's not a big issue. Let me just say that it doesn't help our cause.

Can you please elaborate?

In the sense that when you look at the whole problem of what we call Muslim terrorism, in that context our closeness with Americans is not a big help.  

Don't you think the crux of the issue is that there is a need to give political justice to the minority of India, which will solve the problem?

You can't force political power on anybody, even on those who don't have it. Here, the Muslim leadership has also been found wanting. I was in London [Images] when the blasts occurred and I saw that the Muslim leadership came out immediately. They spoke against violence and some Muslim leaders explained to the people why it happened -- but they did speak up, loudly.

In our country we haven't heard as much from the Muslim leadership. Yes, there are some archaic statements. The Muslim leadership needs to get its act together.

Do you think the Kandahar event cost India dear?

It cost India nothing! The Jaish-e-Mohammad was already there; its leader, who happened to be the ideologue, was released. But many lives were saved.

How do you see the bigger picture?

We should take a holistic view. Naxalism and Kashmir are India's big problems. I want to add here that we need not connect very fast our case with what is happening in the West. Our problems are different. Our terror is coming from Pakistan, or it is Pakistan inspired.

If Pakistan turns its tap off, much of the terror will end very quickly in Kashmir.

Any Pakistani who reads your statement will say: 'It will be better if you solve the issue of Kashmir.'

Am I saying you don't solve Kashmir? There is an issue here. We need to solve it.

The ball is in India's court.

The ball is bouncing; I don't know which side of the court it is today.

Many Indians feel the Kashmir experts, including you, are not doing enough to solve the issue quicker.

If you are talking about the dialogue and peace process, there are two clear tracks. One is the Indo-Pakistan dialogue and one is between New Delhi and Srinagar [Images]. These are two parallel dialogues and if they continue and sustain in the right spirit then somewhere down the line the two should meet. Maybe then we will have the solution of the Kashmir issue.

Do you think the dialogues are on track?

No way. The peace process is in shambles. Look at the public opinion after the Mumbai blasts.

For a change, can you see the Kashmir issue from the Pakistan side?

You see, things looked rosy in April 2006 but went bad in May 2006. Because, Pakistan has wished it that way. Something is not clicking for them. We have seen that when Pakistan wants, terror does come down.

In that case, what are the options left with India>?

The peace process is the best option we have.

Is India a soft State?

I am not saying that. What is the definition of a soft State?

Is India a State with limited options and constrains to strengthen its own security?

No, I don't think we have limited options. At the end of the day we do have military options. Unless there is a grave and extreme provocation one doesn't like to think about it. It's a terrible option.

It is often debated that because of nuclear weapons on both sides, India's conventional strength has declined.

No, I don't think that nuclear weapons will close the other conventional options. After all, the Pakistanis did Kargil, didn't they?

Have the changes in the neighbourhood increased the American say in Kashmir?

The American presence in South Asia has increased, but in India it has not increased. Let us not exaggerate America's influence. You don't see Americans as much as they are present in Pakistan. They are quite conspicuous there.

You have handled Kashmir for many years. Tell us, what is the solution for the Kashmir issue?

Everybody knows the solution.

What is it?

On the LoC (Line of Control). The Americans have said so. General Musharraf has acknowledged it in different ways. Everybody is ready for it. What people are lacking is the confidence to get there. It's the process of getting there, which people don't believe in. After knowing a little bit of Kashmir I can tell you that Kashmiris know it, Pakistan knows it and we should also know it.

If there is a resolution of the Indian Parliament (passed during the P V Narasimha Rao government's tenure in office) against it, then why should we have a problem in passing another resolution?

Why do you stick to things which don't have meaning or substance? I am sure a settlement on the LoC is acceptable to us, including the Indian establishment. It should be acceptable to everybody, even the RSS (Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh). As far as the issue of Pakistan occupied Kashmir is concerned, for the last 60 years, we haven't bothered about PoK; why bother now?

How will it benefit India?

It will save us from confrontation for the time being. In Kashmir, 90 per cent of the violence will go away. Once, Pakistanis were saying Kashmir is the unfinished agenda of Partition but now a survey says 70 per cent Pakistanis believe they will accept the LoC as a border. At last, they are seeing sense; I think Indians should also now see sense in it.

Let me change the subject. Do you think the distance between Hindus and Muslims is growing in India?

Muslims have been under trial not just here -- it happened in the US and in London too. I hope Indian Muslims don't become defensive.

I believe Indian Muslims have behaved in an exemplary manner. They should not start feeling that they are being persecuted. In some pockets they do feel an alienation but Indian Muslims, at large, are not feeling alienated.

Those who criticise Muslims with jihadi tendencies should know that these kind of people are small in number. After all, how many members does SIMI have? Hardly 3,000 sympathisers? How many are active members? Hardly 500 to 600? We are a nation of 1 billion-plus and we should not have fears.

You were in the Prime Minister's Office when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was leading the government. For some 40 years you have served in government. You have worked with the Congress and the BJP leaders closely. The BJP claims to be more sensitised towards the feelings of Hindus, while the Congress is considered more secular. What is the difference in their approach when the communal issues come up?

My impression is that the distinction between two is very little. I didn't see much of Hindutva in the Vajpayee government. Secularism and Hindutva are played out more in politics when you are in the Opposition. When you are in power, the realities of governance take over.

The Gujarat riots happened during Vajpayee's tenure.

Gujarat was an unfortunate episode. Probably it would have happened even if the Congress was in power. It would have got a different shape and they would have made much more noise about it. Gujarat was an embarrassment for the BJP and it cost them heavily. It was a factor in their losing the (2004 Lok Sabha) election.

Coalition politics has changed the Indian politics on the issue of secularism and other such related issues. The Congress was the only ruling party for many years. The role that the Congress played earlier is now being played by Mulayam Singh Yadav and others.

As a result the BJP and the Congress are coming closer in their approaches on some issues. Some people even suggested that the BJP and Congress should join hands. Of course, that will never happen, but the point is that coalition politics has changed things.

There is a subtle change in ways we handle Hindutva and issues related to Indian Muslims.


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