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Osama op cannot have happened without help from Pakistan, says Dulat

Last updated on: May 05, 2011 13:59 IST
Since Osama's end at the hands of an American special forces team, the question uppermost in New Delhi is how will it impact the ties between the US and Pakistan. A S Dulat, former chief of RAW, gives his take on the operation to Sheela Bhatt

If America really didn't take any help from Pakistan in conducting the military operation in Abbottabad to take out Osama bin Laden, as they claim, then the relationship between Pakistan and the United States will go for a toss," says A S Dulat, former chief of Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency. 

Dulat firmly believes that at some point and in some manner, the Pakistani Army must have known about the US's special operation.

After bin Laden's death, in New Delhi all eyes are on what impact it will have on the US-Pakistan relationship.

Speaking about the special operation, Dulat says, "It was a first-rate operation. There is no doubt that America planned and executed the audacious operation perfectly. But, I cannot imagine how America can make it happen without any help from Pakistan."

Dulat is a rare intelligence officer who was special director of the Intelligence Bureau – India's internal intelligence agency – before being shifted to RAW as its head. He is more well-known for his handling of the Kashmir issue for some 20 years. He recently visited Pakistan as a member of a peace mission. 

Dulat says, "It is inconceivable for me that the Americans did it alone. Also, I have no doubt that the particular house where Osama was killed was an Inter-Services Intelligence (Pakistan's external intelligence agency) safe house."

He also dismissed the argument that there was zero-trust between America and Pakistan. He said, "They have a trust deficit but to say that there is zero trust is going too far. If it is so, then how are they conducting a joint operation since the last so many years in Swat valley and other places? How are they functioning in that case? Their military engagement is known to world."

Dulat also drew attention to US President Barack Obama's mention of Pakistan in his first statement after Osama's killing, that 'it's important to note that our counter-terrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.'

Dulat too recalled what Hillary Clinton had said about Pakistan in her statement:  'Indeed, as the president said, bin Ladin had also declared war on Pakistan. He had ordered the killings of many innocent Pakistani men, women, and children. In recent years, the cooperation between our governments, militaries, and law enforcement agencies increased the pressure on Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and this progress must continue and we are committed to our partnership.'

Dulat says, "These two remarks clearly suggest that the "entire operation" was not "hostile". How can they risk their men? Why should they?"

When asked if he thinks that India has the capability to conduct such an operation deep inside Pakistan, Dulat retorted: "We must be mad if we think so. It will lead to war. Can you imagine the hostility that would follow?"

When asked whether India has enough intelligence inputs to conduct such an operation, Dulat dismissed the question by saying, "It can't happen. It won't happen."

"Do you know how many intelligence operatives work for America inside Pakistan? What is India talking about? There are around 3000 intelligence operatives helping Americans collect information."

When presented with the argument that if he believed such an American operation was not possible without Pakistan's some help, why would Pakistan invite so much embarrassment and disgrace by allowing Osama to be caught right inside Abbottabad, so uncomfortably close to Islamabad, when they could have shifted him to Waziristan or some mountains, the spook with a trained mind said, "We must understand that we don't know the facts. Even the CIA is capable of harbouring such entities. We don't know the facts. Also, we have heard that Osama was so ill that he was incapable of living in caves and in rugged mountains. He needed medical treatment all the time." 

Winding up, Dulat says, "If you want me to believe what the Americans are officially saying -- that they didn't inform Pakistan till they re-entered the skies of Afghanistan -- then I would like to say that this friendship will not last longer. Pakistan won't take such humiliation quietly."

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi