NEW DELHI: The former chief of India’s spy agency, A. S. Dulat, has urged New Delhi to embrace peace overtures by neighboring Pakistan.
Dulat, who used to lead the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), said Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was indicating that he wanted to move forward with India.
“We say that Khan is a stooge of the army and he says that he and the army are on the same page,” Dulat told Arab News. “Whichever way you look at it, it’s an asset. Part of our problem has also been with the Pakistani army. If the PM of Pakistan gets along well with Rawalpindi it is easier for us,” said Dulat.
Dulat was an adviser on Kashmir between 2000 and 2004 after retiring from RAW and wrote a book about it: “Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years.” In it, he wrote about how close India and Pakistan came to working out a solution for the dispute.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
An armed campaign for independence or a merger with Pakistan has riven the Indian side of the divided territory since 1989.
India and Pakistan both claim the territory in its entirety.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989 with India accusing Pakistan of arming and training rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
“We need to make use of the opportunities that Imran Khan offers to us, otherwise there is no option,” said Dulat. “You cannot live in denial of Pakistan’s existence in the subcontinent. As an important neighbor you need to respond to Khan’s gesture.
“I want the Indian government to respond to Imran Khan’s gesture but I am giving an excuse on its behalf, that it might respond after the elections next year,” he added.
His comments were welcomed by Kashmir-based Prof. Siddiq Wahid.
“Dulat is intimately aware of what’s going on in Kashmir. So certainly he should be viewed by Delhi with some gravitas,” Wahid told Arab News.
But he said that Kashmir had changed considerably since Dulat’s time at RAW and that a more creative solution might be needed.
“Unless Kashmir is made a participant in any dialogue between India and Pakistan, the talk will not make any progress,” said Wahid, who is a senior fellow at a New Delhi-based think tank.
“Narendra Modi regime’s objective is polarization and therefore it does not want an image that paints it as a reconciling force. Therefore, it desists from talks with Pakistan,” Wahid said.
Prof. Harsh V. Pant, from the Observer Research Foundation, said Dulat’s words had little sway.
“The bigger point is whether we should take Imran Khan seriously or not,” he told Arab News. “I won’t be surprised if Modi comes back to power after the 2019 elections there would be a significant outreach. But before the general elections, I don’t see any possibility of reaching out to Pakistan in any significant way.”
Pant added that Khan and his government were under pressure from the US, casting doubt on the prime minister’s motives for extending an olive branch.
“The Modi government has succeeded in marginalizing Pakistan at an international level and that is putting pressure on Islamabad. If you have the Trump administration coming down heavily on Pakistan, it has something to do with what New Delhi has accomplished in Washington.”