- At the epicentre of all such dialogue has remained Partition’s unfinished agenda
The book, The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISIS, and the Illusion of Peace has garnered a lot of attention by both Pakistanis and Indians alike. The idea of an ex ISI chief candidly conversing with an ex RAW chief is something that has affected the nationalist sentiments of thousands of Pakistanis, all over the world. With the initial fervour and heat surrounding the launch of this book, one begins to wonder how a nationalist perspective of a country has revolved around mutual hate against an ‘enemy state’. The book can be interpreted in a lot of ways, depending to which end the writer is able to make sense of it.
Aditya Sinha, the Indian journalist who has authored the free-flowing manuscript offers an insight into the personalities of the two ex-spy chiefs. The two madmen share the same expertise. The book addresses it in Manto’s eloquence:
Pointing to the horizon where the sea and sky are joined, he says, ‘It is only an illusion because they can’t really meet, but isn’t it beautiful, the union which isn’t really there.’
The choice of Manto in the introduction sets the tone for the entire book – the illusion of peace between India and Pakistan. For institutional functionality on both sides of the border this illusion, or the mere possibility of peace, has kept successive governments and diplomats engaged with one another.
At the epicentre of all such dialogue has remained Partition’s unfinished agenda: the issue of disputed land of Kashmir. The unsolvable crime, the division awaiting judgement has largely affected the progress of any dialogue between the two independent states. What this book sheds light on is how the two madmen (not accounting for the level of their judgement) could’ve laid the foundations for negotiated peace, given the political leeway. It’s interesting to understand that contrary to popular belief of there being institutional linkages, there’s a clear divide between the political and military lobbies, and further divisions within each lobby. It is because of this divide that multifaceted decisions, exhausting the agencies of political and military lobbies, remain rather elusive – a problem which prevails in both India and Pakistan. The madmen were able to sort this out and find similarities in each state’s institutions, but not gather support or find a solution to this.
Each successive government prioritises the issue in a different manner. So is the case with the states’ intelligence agencies – but the fact remains, the Kashmir dispute has never been subsided in this grand list of priorities. Many at the domestic level and international level have said that this is what strengthens the might of and validates the strengthening of both militaries – but the madmen disagree. Aside from Pakistan which has always sided with the Kashmiris, AS Dulat shares in the sentiments of Kashmiris as well, however, this can’t be said for the entire Indian population as a whole. Both Dulat and Asad Durrani have shared in the need to catering to the rights of Kashmiris, but have also highlighted the geo-political crossroads where the region sits, the cost of freedom for which is an extensive compromise on the political gains – the indigenous movement in Kashmir as inspiring indigenous movements in regions across India and Pakistan.
This idea is synonymous to political game-theoretic models and has historically helped diplomats understand the ways in which cooperation between states can be possible
In the face of three inconclusive wars fought between the two states and Pakistan’s growing problem with regional terrorism that’s over-spilling to India, the regional solution rests with the states’ intelligence organisations cooperation. It might appear to be a foreign concept, the two arch enemies, borne out of colonialism sharing an engineered hatred, as cooperating on intelligentsia, but the madmen make it seem like a possibility. A possibility that might ease hostilities and work for the betterment of the entire region where a number of ideas could then be actualised. The basis of this cooperation, a word which Dulat highlights should never be taken as substituting compromise, in this case a compromise over Kashmir. Perhaps this is because whenever the two are seen to be talking, Kashmir has to be addressed, and it can’t always be. To this point Durrani agrees and draws a linkage of how talks have always been an integral part of understanding the Taliban. The two then create parallels with increasing the stakes for war and dialogue, to increase the efficacy of cooperation.
This idea is synonymous to political game-theoretic models and has historically helped diplomats understand the ways in which cooperation between states can be possible. But much like states, each organisation works differently under different people. Post madmen, the cooperation between the arch rivals, Pakistan and India hasn’t emerged as an idea worth materialising.
While both countries juggle with multitudes of domestic and international problems, perhaps with the historical baggage kept aside, cooperation for the greater benefit of the region might actually be a better idea. As the political game-theoretic models explore the possibilities of swaying domestic consensus in favour of international gains; a recurring event in the case of Pakistan, cooperation on geo-political grounds (outside the realm of Kashmir) might create an environment where a later dialogue on Kashmir might be more conclusive.
This book has engendered various narratives on Indo-Pak relations. These narratives no longer seem too foreign after two ex-spy chiefs from the states’ top intelligence agencies have seen to be collaborating on a joint project. Perhaps from this deewangi, we can end those which are to be unleashed.