Indian spies and their superiors do not usually write memoirs, they do so in accordance with the subcontinent’s system in which bureaucrats, judges, ministers and others who do write usually hold the circumstances or superiors to blame. a. S. Dulata was the Intelligence Bureau chief when the insurgency broke out in Kashmir in 1988-90 and I.C. He was the head of the Research and Analysis Wing when 814 was abducted in 1999.
He has written a great piece titled ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’ which gives us an idea of the broad thinking of India’s spy agency especially in the last three decades. The book is a compilation of memoirs, vignettes, and reflections on appointments, etc. In a way, the book is a fine 50-page essay on the art of espionage, Indian espionage itself in the eyes of the world. The method used by Soviet spies to outwit their rivals was described as the Wilderness of Mirrors by another spy agency.
Dulat exposes a few such practices but not Zazi, especially not what spy officers actually do! They say deskwork is really important. His man of the field and wants to be known as such but it is clear that he speaks of superior men. Dulat M.K. Talking about Narayanan, he describes Narayanan, his senior in the Intelligence Bureau and the country’s former National Security Advisor, as The Great Narayanan in three ways. He also paints a vignette of National Security Adviser Doval and admits that he is attracted to such thinkers as opposed to entrepreneurs like Bond. His writing makes it clear that he is a thinker himself.
He writes that there were days in the Intelligence Bureau when it imparted such elite training that even policemen and writers became spy officers. Other things have also changed with the passage of time. Previously, the activity of employing foreign spies for us was very important in the field of counterintelligence espionage. Not anymore. Because counter terrorism has taken place. When the insurgency was raging in Kashmir, the Indian government did not have any information or link. The spies had no contact in the separatist system and because of this the insurgency was growing in the valley and we had no link to stem the tide of rebellion.
In January 1990, the Intelligence Bureau lost four officers, my officers wrapped me up and told me to send them back home. We cannot stay here for long. It is remarkable how much the situation has changed now. What is the meaning of the spy system in such a place, spies thinking of themselves or thinking now we know the enemy by being in their midst but the governments of India have gone on a reverse path in thirty years and this attitude will not continue in Purvanchal and Kashmir.
Spy agencies will not spy on Muslims out of suspicion, and Dulat writes that the government finds it futile to speak out against organizations like the Hurriyat and why is it not getting tough on extremist groups? My fellow detectives consider this attitude to be a hoax. Pakistan will respond somewhat favorably to the Indian apparatus and Pakistan is overly suspicious of its tradition of playing spy games in Kashmir. As the counter-insurgency national security and military focus changed after 1990, we believe that Pakistan is our only adversary and we do not want to respond with it. E.g. The appointment of the ISI chief is our fear that Pakistan will be difficult for us to defeat.
Dulat writes that the CIA chief’s first question in the morning at his staff meeting is, did you hire a new spy? We are not there because we do not want to do that. We have stopped weaving the web of espionage and it has not helped us in Kashmir. What this RoA chief and a senior Intelligence Bureau official has written is astonishing. Dulat, who also held a senior position in Vajpayee’s prime minister’s office, writes that spy and author Johnla Carr says that if you want to see the mindset of a country, it is not unreasonable to look into its intelligence service. Next week we will see the wider impact of what Dulat has written.
– The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.