Saturday August 13, 2022

Former ISI, RAW chiefs co-author book

May 21, 2018

ISLAMABAD: In an incident that reads like the script of a Bollywood spy thriller, Usman Durrani, son of former ISI chief retired Lt. General Asad Durrani who was arrested in Mumbai in May 2015 was rescued and sent safely back home by the Indian intelligence RAW.

The episode has been revealed in recently published book “The Spy Chronicles” jointly authored by General Asad Durrani and former chief of Indian Raw A S Dulat.

It stated that in May 2015, former director general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) General Asad Durrani’s son Osman Durrani came to Kochi for work on behalf of a German company. Osman should have exited the country from the city that he entered from. But his office booked him from a flight back via Mumbai. He was stopped by authorities in Mumbai and what followed were 24 hours of backchannel networking to get him out of India despite the visa violation. Durrani and former secretary of India’s external spy agency Research &Analysis Wing (RAW) A S Dulat discuss this in the upcoming book- The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace - by the two spymasters and journalist Aditya Sinha. “We were in a panic because we did not know what would happen. But even those people (Mumbai special branch) did not say to him, ‘you don’t have a visa for Bombay, what are you doing, pakro, andar karo (arrest him and consign him behind bar.)’ That could have happened, but it didn’t. All this while my wife and I had another concern-what if someone reported that Osman, the son of a former ISI chief, was roaming around Mumbai, which hadn’t forgotten 26/11,’’ recalls Durrani. When Durrani heard that Osman had been detained, he called Dulat for help. Dulat called several people including then RAW chief Rajinder Khanna. The wheels of the Indian intelligence establishment began to turn even as Osman was stonewalled. Things however worked out, and Osman was able to fly back to Germany after a day from Mumbai.

Dulat recalls the most touching part of the incident was that when he called Khanna to thank him for his help, the RAW chief said in reference to Durrani, “It’s our duty,’ he said, ‘after all, he’s a colleague.”

General Asad Durrani while talking briefly with The News Sunday evening confirmed the episode about his son and said that he is co-author of the book that will shortly be available in Pakistan. The book has also discussed so-called surgical strike of the Indian Army in Azad Kashmir, arrest of Kalbhsh Jadev, Nawaz Sharif, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Kashmir, Muzaffar Burhan Wani Shaheed and Akhand Bharat.

Former Indian RAW chief AS Dulat has reminded Indian leadership to address the Kashmir first of all. The book has also indicated possibility of resumption of talks between Pakistan and India in the wake of the polls in Pakistan.

Interestingly after months of tough posturing, Pakistan and India renewed Track II diplomacy when an Indian delegation held talks with a Pakistani team in Islamabad on April 28-30. While officially insisting that such informal talks did not signify any watering down of India’s position that terror and talks can’t go together, a senior bureaucrat privately admitted that such a dialogue would not be possible “without the blessings, or at least a wink or a nod, from the government”.

The revival of the so-called Neemrana Dialogue, named after the fort in Rajasthan where it was first held in October 1991, was shrugged off by the Indian side, with Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar saying that “...functional exchanges between the two sides have continued and is actually a part of normal process between the two countries. So there is nothing new which we see in this dialogue”.

A former Pakistani politician and MNA, who requested anonymity given the “sensitivity” of the subject, said the talks were “probably part of an exploratory probe by Hindustan to see whether a formal dialogue can be resumed, probably after the elections in Pakistan in July. But much depends on what happens between now and then, and the reports that each side submits to their respective governments after the meeting last month.

The ceasefire offered by the Indian side in Kashmir for Ramzan should be seen in that context.” While both sides remained tightlipped about the composition of their delegations for this meeting in Islamabad, media reports said the Indian delegation was led by former diplomat Vivek Katju while the Pakistani side was headed by former foreign minister Inam-ul-Haq.

Professor Rakesh Dutta of Department of Defence and National Security Studies, Panjab University, who was part of the delegation, however, said the nine-member Indian side was led by former Cabinet Secretary Surinder Singh and comprised, apart from him, Katju, Rakesh Sood, Lt-Gen (retd) Aditya Singh, Women Political Watch President Veena Nayar, former NCERT director Jagmohan Rajput, Director of the Energy and Research Institute Vibha Dhawan and coordinator Suresh Mathur.

The Pakistani side, led by former foreign minister Inamul Haq, included former high commissioner to India and foreign secretary Salman Bashir, Lt-Gen Asif Yasin Malik, former law minister Barrister Shahida Jamil, National Defence University Dean Perviaz Iqbal Cheema, former I&B Minister Javed Jabbar, former State Bank of Pakistan governor Ishrat Hussain, Islamabad Policy Research Institute Fellow Muhammad Munir and a few others.

An Indian diplomat who has served in Pakistan expressed “deep skepticism” over the possibility of formal talks resuming anytime soon. “You see, as long as Pakistan keeps harping on Kashmir and we keep stressing on terrorism, there is really no common ground. So what’s there to really talk about?”

Dulat reminded that the track II talks restarted in 2016 and the same took place in Istanbul, Kathmandu and Bangkok.

He observed that IPL was underway for last seven years. Some cricketers like Shahid Afridi could amuse the Indian spectators although he is retired but cricket fan in India would like to see him in action who can provide good entrainment. Dulat revealed that “they” don’t want that any Pakistani should earn some money.

General Durrani is of the view that Pakistan and India should initiate back channel dialogue. A person who is acceptable to major political parties, Foreign Office and Army should head such talks. He reminded that such a team was appointed to sort out differences between Eastern Communist Europe and Western Europe.