ISI most powerful spy agency in the world: ex-Raw chief

Published: November 30, 2015


In the first admission of its kind, former chief of India’s premier spy agency (RAW) said Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), is the most powerful in the world.

“The most powerful intelligence agency is either KGB which no more exists or ISI, because they are very anonymous”, AS Dulat said, while addressing a session at the Times Lit Fest in New Delhi.

When asked to rate RAW against the spy agencies of the rest of the world, the former spy master said, “I believe we’re as good as anybody else. We don’t have technical abilities but are fast catching up.”

India funded militants in Kashmir to counter ISI: ex-RAW chief

Dulat also upheld that he hasn’t exposed any secrets in his book titled “Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years” and only expressed his views on matters already dominating the public domain.

Earlier in July, in another startling revelation, Dulat admitted Indian intelligence agencies have over the years paid militants and separatists, along with mainstream politicians and political parties in Indian Kashmir to compete with Pakistan’s spy agency, ISI.

“So what’s wrong? What is there to be so shocked or scandalised by. It’s done the world over,” Dulat had said, while speaking to NDTV’s Barkha Dutt.

Destabilising Pakistan: ISI urged to counter plans of hostile agencies

Lieutenant-General Rizwan Akhtar took the reins of the chief of ISI in November last year. He took charge from Lt-General Zaheerul Islam as the director general, considered by many to be both the most powerful and the most challenging position in the country.

Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar to take reins of ISI 

In May, Army chief General Raheel Sharif directed the country’s intelligence agencies – including the ISI – to adopt a more proactive approach in order to counter the moves of the hostile spy agencies that are trying to destabilise Pakistan.

Gen Raheel’s statement came two days after gunmen massacred 44 members of the peaceful Ismaili community in a brazen attack on a bus in the Safoora neighbourhood of Karachi. It also came a day after the foreign ministry said that Indian military intelligence agency was using Afghan soil to fuel terrorism in Pakistan.

This article originally appeared on the Times of India.

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Reader Comments (62)

  • SGJ007
    Nov 30, 2015 - 1:23PM

    Yeah , Even Nawaz Sharief will agree with this ‘ revelation ‘ .Recommend

  • Ricoh
    Nov 30, 2015 - 1:26PM

    Still frequent attacks happens and Security situation in Pakistan remains patheticRecommend

  • Vicky
    Nov 30, 2015 - 1:29PM

    This is why in terms of security, Pakistan remains one of most unsecured n fragile stateRecommend

  • Strategic death
    Nov 30, 2015 - 1:35PM

    That’s why no civilian government in pak’s history able to complete its full tenure of 5 years, except the last one!Recommend

  • Indian
    Nov 30, 2015 - 1:38PM

    If at all it was powerful, then it could have stopped the split/ breaking away of Pak in two, when Bangladesh born!Recommend

  • optimist
    Nov 30, 2015 - 1:57PM

    something burning? so much smoke!Recommend

  • Alladitta
    Nov 30, 2015 - 2:00PM

    Being sarcastic :))).Recommend

  • Lion King
    Nov 30, 2015 - 2:01PM

    Since it’s giving credit time we should give credit to RAW too. Here goes:

    RAW is the most terrorist spy unit in the worldRecommend

  • Rahul
    Nov 30, 2015 - 2:01PM

    And yet they couldn’t find Osama bin Laden who was living just across the fence from an army cantonment. Recommend

  • Stranger
    Nov 30, 2015 - 2:07PM

    Err and I thought these intelligence agencies are supposed to live / operate in secrecy. They should not boast or scratch each others’ backs . Recommend

  • salman
    Nov 30, 2015 - 2:15PM


    It was only formed after 1971 debacle else India would had succeeded to do 71 again. Recommend

  • reply
    Nov 30, 2015 - 2:15PM

    the plan for break up was disclosed by intelligence but politicians failed to take necesary actions to resolve the situationRecommend

  • lol
    Nov 30, 2015 - 2:16PM

    and now indians wont create a slap game, just bcz he is a hindu. poor amir khanRecommend

  • lol
    Nov 30, 2015 - 2:18PM

    all the indians making fun of this statement need to realize tht its coming from raw chief .. if u think he is stupid, then u need to think why stupid people like him have been leading uRecommend

  • Waqar
    Nov 30, 2015 - 2:34PM

    Ask this question from Mr former chief of India’s Spy Agency so called RAWRecommend

  • Sharath Chandra
    Nov 30, 2015 - 2:45PM

    How has it helped Pakistan ?Recommend

  • junaid
    Nov 30, 2015 - 3:08PM

    Who said security situation is pathetic in pakistan… I feel safe, we can go out even after mid night with out any fear of a hindu or anyone would attack, btw no one can even dare to attack, pakistani civilians r strong enough to protect theirselves, Recoh n rahul indian u should visit us sometime, but come clean, we prefer cleanliness ;)Recommend

  • khalid
    Nov 30, 2015 - 3:11PM

    Pakistan Zindabad!Recommend

  • Harris
    Nov 30, 2015 - 3:14PM

    Powerful security agency?
    but still pak faced of 100 bn dollars losses…losses of 55000 civilians life….frequent attacks on regular basis….unsafe state who can’t organize big eventsRecommend

  • F
    Nov 30, 2015 - 3:39PM

    He is doing nothing but just filling the airRecommend

  • Fast
    Nov 30, 2015 - 3:50PM

    You know how much Kashmiri people lost their life’??? i tell you 80000 and now come towards indian Punjab how much Sikhs lost their lifes some 70000. I am not going towards naxalates rebels and also Tamil rebels and I don’t want to remembering you the Gujarat killings of Muslims.Recommend

  • pakistani bloach
    Nov 30, 2015 - 3:57PM

    @all indians. imagine having as many as enemies pakistan has? look at iraq iran lybia syria………..we survived we are surviving and we will survive.twice we had 2 super powers trying to crush us in past 2 decades but we survived. We had to bear bomb blasts. Our citizens were murderd in cold blood but hey we are still standing tall.Recommend

  • Shaggi3
    Nov 30, 2015 - 3:58PM

    @Ricoh: This security of Pak is bad due to improper planning of govt ISI on hundreds of occasions has warned govts of present & past about suicide & other attacks even by writing them letters but govt doesnt take appropriate measures which results in terrorist attacks. Further Pakistan doesn’t have a central intelligence hub where all the agencies of Pak like ISI, FIA, MI, IB etc can share data kind of like NSA of USA due to which the intelligence is not properly shared at right time and the credit of this negligence again goes to govt., Further the govt doesnt has any proper national security plan so u cant completely blame ISI there job is to warn if others doesnt notice it then its the fault of govt.Recommend

  • ASAD Ghulam
    Nov 30, 2015 - 4:02PM

    ISI is very Powerful when it comes to subjugating us( small poor Pakistanis…) But not when it comes to tackle Terrorists when they rip us apart everywherRecommend

  • bla bla
    Nov 30, 2015 - 4:32PM

    please stop doing sarcasm do live in reality . American and Russian intelligence are at the top Recommend

  • LOL
    Nov 30, 2015 - 4:34PM

    First time in my life I have seen Indians trolling Indian chief. Just look at their obsession, they dont even spare their own man if he praises Pak, and then they say they dont hate us. HAHAHAH.Recommend

  • RKN
    Nov 30, 2015 - 4:56PM


    Unfortunately when Pakistan broke up it was military rule for the last 11 years. don’t curse Politicians….Recommend

  • brar
    Nov 30, 2015 - 5:11PM

    @lol: Who told you that he is a Hindu, he is a Sikh.Recommend

  • brar
    Nov 30, 2015 - 5:27PM

    @ASAD Ghulam: I am reading the comments of both Indians and happy to read that sane people think about ground realities, If ISI or RAW are are the top agencies in the world how are they going to solve the problems being faced by common man in both sides. We want good education, good hospitals ,clean drinking water etc but our politicians are not bothered about it.Recommend

  • Nadeem
    Nov 30, 2015 - 5:45PM

    Is everything that he says about the ISI correct or just this bit?Recommend

  • Kishan
    Nov 30, 2015 - 6:26PM

    Indians have too much time honestly. What a sad life Recommend

  • Peace
    Nov 30, 2015 - 6:37PM

    @LOL: They should stop reading our newspapers too! Why are they so fixated on reading ET and commenting as well. Why not stick to The “Hindu” or Times of India? Recommend

  • JSM
    Nov 30, 2015 - 7:03PM

    @bla bla:
    And Mossad is above them all.Recommend

  • pakistani
    Nov 30, 2015 - 7:34PM

    Jealousy at its peak… what makes you think that blasts are happening everyday… oh yes.. figment of your imagination… Recommend

  • pakistaniat
    Nov 30, 2015 - 7:35PM

    @ASAD Ghulam:
    Not really… Mr Indian in disguise.. Recommend

  • A Malik
    Nov 30, 2015 - 7:36PM

    Please fact check your remarks about the formation date of ISI. Then reply with a clarification or apologyRecommend

  • Hasan
    Nov 30, 2015 - 7:45PM

    @Sharath Chandra:
    It has helped Pakistan in the sense that despite numerous tries it didn’t become another Iraq, Afghanistan or SyriaRecommend

  • Clockboy Ahmed
    Nov 30, 2015 - 8:09PM

    Ofcourse it is true, Indians are burning at both ends. All foreign aid is diverted in building this top class agency.Recommend

  • Raj - USA
    Nov 30, 2015 - 8:46PM

    ISI was, at one time more powerful than RAW. The reason: at that time ISI had full support of US intelligence agencies and received information and cooperation from US agencies. Not just US, but ISI had support from intelligence agencies of KSA, UAE, etc., which also were working in a cooperative manner. All these are no longer the case. Any intelligence agency in the world can be powerful and operate efficiently only to the extent it gets support from intelligence sharing from agencies of other countries. TTP has attacked ISI head quarters, GHQ, destroyed P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, attacked Pakistan’s Naval base, seized Pakistanis naval ship with missiles, and also slaughtered nearly 150 of children of army officers. ISI could not detect any of these because intelligence agencies of other countries stopped cooperating with ISI.Recommend

  • Animal farm
    Nov 30, 2015 - 8:52PM

    Hey fellow Indians,dont be so patriotic …I’m an Indian and we cannot ignore the fact that RAW isnt the best spy agency in the world… ISI is one of the best spy network in the world and the only reason they arent the best is that they dont have the resources CIA has…but still they operate well especially in the HUMINT department…

    But RAW was one of the best spy agencies in the world in 1960s and 70s when their inputs saved thousands of lives and thousand sq km of land durin the 1965 and 71 war…

    It was that idiot Morarji Desai who stripped RAW of his power and cut the fundings by a great amount..He even called Zia Ul Haq and informed about the Kahuta nuclear plant which resulted in the death of several high profile RAW agents

    The next idiot is I.K.Gujral who made this Gujral Pact where in he exposed many RAW agents in all SAARC countries and some of them in Pakistan suffered terrible fate..Had it not been him,Kargil War would have been avoided…

    Thats y I was so happy when Modi appointed Ajit Doval as National Security Advisor,I hope they restore the good old days Recommend

  • K.J
    Nov 30, 2015 - 9:17PM

    That’s what you were told.Recommend

  • Kamal
    Nov 30, 2015 - 9:30PM

    He is jealous. He was RAW chief and could not do things which isi could do without asking anyone’s approval. Most indians in india has never heard RAW as it is not involved internally and does not pick up its citizens willy-nilly. Yes police does in india. On hand, isi does interface in the lives of Pakistanis. Not Stange, he did not mention CIA or British. Look at track record of those agencies for their homeland security vs ISI. Don’t go by fear factor but evaluate results.Recommend

  • Sarfraz Khan
    Nov 30, 2015 - 10:15PM

    If it was powerful, Pakistan would not be a mess. ISI is probably the 2nd most incompetent agency in the world after the Iraqi intelligence. The country suffered 1500 bomb attacks in the past 14 years. Is that not intelligence failure?Recommend

  • Vectra
    Nov 30, 2015 - 11:36PM

    Ex-Raw chief says that ISI most powerful spy agency in the world but the irony is even ISI and whole pakistan fears RAW the most;)Recommend

  • mad
    Nov 30, 2015 - 11:45PM

    Its definitely true that ISI is the most powerful spy agency in the world because all other spy agencies are run by their respective govts.Recommend

  • Humanoids
    Dec 1, 2015 - 1:07AM

    …..this just made Pakistanis euphoric cause Indian retired RAW chief has said it. LOL Recommend

  • PrasadDeccani
    Dec 1, 2015 - 1:24AM

    @Animal farm:

    I don’t think Indians are saying their RAW is the best. They are saying, ISI is not the best in this world.

    There are countless Indians who think RAW is just another bunch of central government employees who take their pay check for doing nothing.Recommend

  • Hameed
    Dec 1, 2015 - 2:57AM


    It was only formed after 1971 debacle else India would had succeeded to do 71 again.

    ISI was founded in 1948 or thereof. It got prominence in 70s when Bhutto made a political cell in it.Recommend

  • ajeet
    Dec 1, 2015 - 3:48AM

    Tamils haven’t forgotten how Pakistan aided the genocidal Rajapakse regime, so don’t shed crocodile tears for Tamils.Recommend

  • Lunch Box
    Dec 1, 2015 - 3:58AM

    has anyone ever told you that we are in a covert war with the world’s agencies in our region for the last 35 years. Staggering na? Welcome to reality which brings in it’s wake bombing, devastation and suicide attacks. Still we survived. Amazing na?Recommend

  • usman778
    Dec 1, 2015 - 5:44AM

    @raj from amreeka, can you look in your crystal ball and tell me tomorrow’s lottery numbers…Recommend

  • Sandip
    Dec 1, 2015 - 7:06AM

    @junaid: Cleanliness should come from one’s own pocket, not from zakat.Recommend

  • JSM
    Dec 1, 2015 - 4:39PM

    Powerful yes; competent- no.Recommend

  • auginpk
    Dec 1, 2015 - 9:33PM

    There is not even a competition:

    Other countries have intelligence agencies.

    ISI have Pakistan.Recommend

  • Sarfaraz Abbasi
    Dec 1, 2015 - 9:48PM

    Sri Lankans are most distrustful of India than Pakistan. Recommend

  • Sarfaraz Abbasi
    Dec 1, 2015 - 9:49PM

    You are talking about 1970s when ISI was weakened by the government. You don’t know Pakistan history, better not comment about that. Recommend

  • MUHAMMAD Furqan Ijaz
    Dec 1, 2015 - 9:50PM

    All is drama by India only to bluff world. If ISI was so power full, then how could terrorism in Pak which killed more than 80000 martyerdoms .Recommend

  • Sarfaraz Abbasi
    Dec 1, 2015 - 9:58PM

    @Raj – USA:
    Totally wrong! intelligence agencies of the countries you have named, do not know the circumstances of this region.

    Where have you read that international agencies have stopped working with ISI? Don’t throw baseless opinions please.

    TTP has attacked ISI head quarters,
    GHQ, destroyed P-3 Orion surveillance
    aircraft, attacked Pakistan’s Naval
    base, seized Pakistanis naval ship
    with missiles, and also slaughtered
    nearly 150 of children of army
    officers. ISI could not detect any of
    these because intelligence agencies of
    other countries stopped cooperating
    with ISI.

    All that will never happen again, sorry to disappoint you. In that way, India’s RAW could not deter Mumbai attacks, Ayodhya riots, or guerrilla attacks from the Naxalite group (which is ongoing and dozens of Indian lawmen get killed). Recommend

  • Sarfaraz Abbasi
    Dec 1, 2015 - 10:04PM

    Mr. Dulat has further dismayed his already disheartened nation with such statements. Recommend

  • LS
    Dec 2, 2015 - 3:42AM

    @Sarfaraz Abbasi:
    Wow – blanket statement like “NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN”… really? Do you represent ISI or what? Recommend

  • Sarfaraz Abbasi
    Dec 2, 2015 - 1:26PM

    @LS: There was no need to press ‘Caps Lock’ :-)

    Well, you need to keep following Pakistan (impartially of course / and not only when statements are about India) to come to know as to who said that! Recommend

  • Naeem Khan
    Dec 29, 2015 - 8:44PM

    Pakistanis should not get swayed away by some one praising ISI, There has been failures on ISI’s part which can not be ignored. There is room to improve and they should do it. Recommend

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