It was a rare event for the Pakistani experts and strategists dealing with India when former chief of Research and Analysis Wing A S Dulat went to Lahore in the last week of January. He was there to attend a closed-door seminar to discuss range of issues concerning India and Pakistan.
RAW is as ugly a word in Pakistan as ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) is in India. So, it was a pleasant surprise that for the first time ever in history of intelligence agencies of both countries a high-ranking Indian sleuth -- that too an expert on Kashmir-- could visit Pakistan.
Talking to rediff.com about his low-profile visit, Dulat said, "It was kind of Pakistanis to give me visa. It was a good experience. In the conference, it didn't bother people that I belonged to RAW. I spoke on how to take the dialogue forward."
What was on your mind when you landed in Lahore? Was it different from what you had all these years when you were dealing with Pakistan sitting in New Delhi?
Dulat said, "Yes, it's quite different. Warmth and hospitality and what all can happen in Pakistan are quite different from India. Even before we passed through immigration, our organisers came to greet us. These kinds of things are impossible in India. In any case, we were not VIPs or anybody. There were lot of partying and receptions. A lot of things that I saw were very good. We may not approve some of the things like military being in control, but people were very hospitable. Like, I cannot do certain things in India that Pakistanis can do for us."
Did you have to face some awkward questions? He said, "I wasn't asked anything awkward. Actually one of my requests was to meet ex-ISI chiefs. Later on, I got message from former ISI chief General Assad Durani that he missed meeting me."
So what is the situation? "I could see that the mood in Pakistan is changing. In one-on-one meetings, they are very warm, but since last September, I think their stand is hardening. They are not as keen to improve the relations with us as they were earlier. I think they felt that India is dragging the issues of Mumbai attack. They felt terrible when Mumbai was attacked but, now, they think how long can you drag it? Why India is not talking to Pakistan, they were asking."
Dulat added, "My observations are also based on my earlier interactions with Pakistanis in Track-II meetings. Let me put it like this that our goodwill in Pakistan has been considerably weakened or eroded. After the flare-up in Afghanistan, things have changed."
Asked about how the issue of Kashmir is being viewed in Pakistan, Dulat said, "Since the last two years I have been saying that post-Musharraff Pakistan is not keen on talking Kashmir nor are they keen on settling the isue. So, that window of opportunity to settle the issue of Kashmir that we had in 2006-07 has gone. Now, Pakistanis say that we don't know what Musharraf was up to. He was on a solo flight. Pakistanis disown all that Musharraf told India. As I have said many times, I have never seen any Pakistan head of state be as reasonable as Musharraf was on Kashmir. I have not seen anyone like him. We may not see a similar Pakistan leader for a long time to come."
So how do you sum up the trip? Dulat said, "The reality is that in Pakistan you can have whatever democracy you have, but for a long time to come the military will keep calling the shots. That fact hits you as you arrive in Pakistan. That fact is very clear. Also, my own judgment is that President Zaradari will survive his term because he suits everybody."