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Book Review: The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace

Book Review: The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace
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Ahsan Akram 

Authors: A S Dulat, Asad Durrani, Aditya Sinha

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication Date: 21 May 2018

Co-authored by the former RAW Chief Amarjit Singh Dulat, former ISI Chief Asad Durrani and Indian journalist Aditya Sinha, the book “The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace” was released on 21st May 2018. To begin with, this book is crafted and narrated conversationally, where Sinha initiates the conversation between Durrani and Dulat. Quite interestingly, Durrani speaks more than anyone else among the authors and almost major part of the book is composed of his words whereas Dulat does not speak much.

The book comprises 7 sections, each of which is subdivided into 3 to 7 chapters. The first part of it is all about setting the stage for the discussion between both chiefs and the second section speaks about Pakistan’s deep state and comparison between ISI and RAW. The third one on Kashmir, fourth mainly on Indo-Pak relations and PMs of both countries, fifth on Flashpoints, sixth on the ”New Great Game” being played across the world in the 21st century and in the last part, the authors gave their viewpoints on what should be done in future.

As far as Kashmir is concerned, both A.S.Dulat and Asad Durrani agree that the core issue between India and Pakistan is the long pending Kashmir dispute. In the first chapter, Asad Durrani agrees that the status quo is helping Pakistan in a sense that movement is getting stronger than ever apart from the fact that people are getting killed. (page. 69)

Durrani gave special attention to Amanullah Khan, founder of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), whom he had also called as the only leader who was serious and sincere to the cause. That is why the third chapter in Kashmir section is, “Amanullah Gilgit’s Dreams for Independence”. In this chapter, Durrani argues that people in Pakistan fear of an independent Kashmir for its disastrous results. He also says that Amanullah was not handled well by ISI, so was not ISI’s favourite. Despite the fact that people of Pakistan have shown willingness to accept ‘third option’ over the years in different surveys, he contradicts his own statement by saying that Nawaz Sharif asked for support from Iranians for an independent Kashmir during his visit to Iran in his first tenure, Ghulam Ishaq Khan accepted the ‘other option’ and Pervaiz Musharraf used to say that ‘whatever is acceptable to Kashmiris is acceptable to Pakistan’. (pages 85, 113.) Asad Durrani favoured the idea of Independent Kashmir as the Kashmiris’ hearts have always been with Pakistan and an independent Kashmir would gravitate towards Pakistan.

Durrani also mentioned that investment per capita in Azad Kashmir is maximum in the country. No other region received such an amount and Pakistan administered Kashmir was far more developed than Indian administered Kashmir when he was chief of ISI. (page. 79)

In the last chapter of the Kashmir section, A.S. Dulat narrates a story of meeting between Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Farooq Abdullah, and in hidden words holds Bhutto responsible for Indra-Abdullah accord in 1975. According to him, “The story is that before Shiekh Abdullah went up with the Afzal Beg accord (Indra-Abdullah accord) 1975, he sent Dr Farooq Abdullah to Pakistan. He went and met with ZA Bhutto, who supposed to have told him, ‘At this moment we can’t do anything to help you. So, take what you can get. If you’re offered peace and power in Kashmir, take it’.” (page. 98)

It was endorsed by Asad Durrani in following words, “Bhutto’s advice was so good. I don’t know how these things keep getting missed; do we want all or nothing? Is it just take it or leave it? When we want all or nothing we get nothing. But also whoever asked you to take it or leave it was also likely testing your nerves. So, Bhutto said: ‘Take what you can get’.” (page.98.)

On the other hand, in an exclusive interview with the then Rising Kashmir Editor-in-Chief, Shujaat Bukhari and Political Editor, Faisul Yaseen at his Gupkar residence, Farooq Abdullah was asked about his meeting with Bhutto and whether Bhutto had said anything like that. He replied, “I had met Bhutto on my first visit, but he didn’t (say anything like that).” (Rising Kashmir, 13th August 2017). Apart from the fact that Farooq himself rejected this story, Indra-Abdullah accord had angered Bhutto most. It was on his appeal that countrywide strike was observed on the next day of it.
All this shows how carelessly the book has been written and one can get a better idea of the authenticity of other material in this book. As I have already mentioned that dialogs of Asad Durrani cover the most pages, who speaks much on many sensitive issues at the cost of Dulat’s pretended silence. He speaks little and remains conservative for most of the time. For example, Durrani speaks how the armed struggle in Kashmir was initiated in 1989, how Pakistan helped Amanullah and JKLF at that time, but on the other hand Dulat doesn’t tell us how they contacted and compromised the leadership of JKLF, negotiated and asked them to surrender. He also fails to tell us how counter-insurgency played its (reprehensible role) on the scene by Indian agencies.

As the book has created buzz across the whole subcontinent including Kashmir since the day it was released, many Kashmiris are of the opinion that RAW and ISI had worked together in Kashmir. Let me clear that sitting together and writing a book after the retirement doesn’t mean that ISI and RAW worked in collaboration with each other in Kashmir. Book itself clears this misconception on page no. 160 where A.S. Dulat says, “We blame Pakistan and then ask for help, but there’s no understanding or co-operation or even communication (between us).”

This book is more based on their personal views rather than the facts. That’s what bores the reader. As Durrani have dominated most of its pages, the people must read this book so that they could learn from the past mistakes which Durrani had aptly described. Although the book is more partial and biased, based on personal opinions rather than facts, and alternatively its source material lacks due credibility. Rest it is recommended to one and all so that they can derive their own assessments.

Author can be mailed at ahsanakram661@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial policy of Oracle Opinions.

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