Kashmir has “almost totally mainstreamed”, with Pakistan out of Kashmiri minds and separatism and the Hurriyat “all finished”, former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief AS Dulat said on Sunday. He maintained that there was no need to scrap Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, saying there was nothing left in it and it was only a “fig leaf”.
Speaking at the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival here, he cited Prince Harry’s recently released memoir “Spare” and said the former senior British royal wrote that “in the abnormalities of life, the only thing he found normal and enjoyed was Afghanistan”. Dulat said he could say the same about Kashmir.
Prince Harry had joined British troops on the front line fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Dulat was also of the view that militancy will continue to come down but “terrorism will stay unless we sort it out with Pakistan” and batted for dialogue with the neighbouring country.
“Pakistan has been an inherent part of Kashmir. Since 1947, what the government of India has been trying to do is to mainstream Kashmir and get Pakistan out of the Kashmiri minds. And I think we’ve succeeded to a very large extent.
“Today, Kashmir has almost totally mainstreamed. The separatism, the Hurriyat that we talk about is all finished,” said Dulat who headed the intelligence agency during 1999-2000.
He was in conversation with senior journalist Mandira Nayar about his latest book “A Life in the Shadows: A Memoir”, published by HarperCollins India.
“I had argued that we didn’t have to do away with Article 370 because there was nothing left in it. It was only a fig leaf which had provided a Kashmiri a little bit of dignity…,” the retired IPS officer of the 1965 batch explained.
The Centre abrogated Article 370 on August 5, 2019.
It was, however, unfortunate that Delhi had always viewed the region in “black and white” and ignored its “greys”.
While referring to Prince Harry’s remark on his stint with the British military in Afghanistan, he said, “I could say the same about Kashmir. We still love it, enjoy it, and go there… Unfortunately, Delhi has always been seen in it black and white. They don’t understand the greys.” “If you go to Kashmir, not just for holiday to Gulmarg or Pahalgam. But go and interact with the people in Srinagar, you’ll find they are the kindest, gentlest and nicest people. The grey comes from deviousness.
“But I’ve spoken to a lot of Kashmiri leaders, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is presently locked up. And he says ‘Yes, we tend to be a little devious, but that’s what you’ve taught us because you’ve never spoken the truth to us. So, we also lie to you,” he added.
Dulat, who is the only RAW chief to have visited Pakistan, said he had been to the neighbouring country four times between 2010 and 2012.
“I have been to Lahore twice and also visited Islamabad and Karachi. It was a great experience,” he added.
Dulat said he got to know Pakistan better through Track 2 or backchannel diplomacy.
In his latest book, “A Life in the Shadows”, he also talks about Ajit Doval, the current National Security Advisor of India.
At one point, there was a conversation about bringing Doval across to Pakistan, a chance, Dulat said, the neighbours lost.
Asked to draw parallels between the ‘Doval Doctrine’ and the ‘Dulat Doctrine’, the former head of India’s external intelligence agency said he didn’t have a doctrine.
“Mr Doval has a doctrine, I don’t know. People talk about it,” he added.
Dulat, who retired from service in 2000, said efforts were also made to start a military-to-military dialogue.
“We were talking over each other. When we began to talk, suddenly, the Pakistanis complained, nothing was happening. Everything is status quo ante. We must try to find a way to move forward. I said, ‘Just invite Ajit Doval to Lahore’.” Incidentally, Doval attended the first two sessions of the Track 2 diplomacy, he said.
“As 2014 got closer, he knew which way he was headed. And, so he opted out,” Dulat said.
He said he has often squabbled with his Pakistani friends who talk about Kashmir with “a lot of authority”.
“But I tell them ‘You don’t know Kashmir. Kashmir is India. We deal with them on an everyday basis so we understand them’.
“A Kashmiri will tell you something in Islamabad, something in Srinagar. It’s the same between Srinagar and Delhi, but at least we understand each other.” According to Dulat, a “new murmur” has started in Srinagar “that Sheikh Sahab made a huge mistake in 1947. That Kashmir should have gone with Jinnah”.
“But that’s a small, minuscule number,” he said.
India’s current “muscular policy” was paying dividends in curbing militancy in Kashmir, he said.
“My argument is militancy has come down and will continue to come down. But terrorism will stay unless we sort it out with Pakistan. It’s important to talk to Pakistan and also China,” said Dulat, who served in Kashmir when militancy was at its peak.
Dulat also talked fondly about Asad Durrani, his counterpart and former director general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Their equation took the shape of the 2018 book “The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace”.