A backchannel mechanism between the national security advisers (NSA) of Pakistan and India to discuss security and terrorism related issues is in danger of being scrapped after the name of Ajit Doval surfaced in the ongoing controversy surrounding the arrest of an Indian spy.
Security officials claimed that Kulbhushan Yadav’s confessional statement has confirmed the Indian NSA’s role as being the architect of Research and Analysis Wing’s current policy of stoking violence in Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan.
On Tuesday, chief military spokesperson Lt Gen Asim Salim Bajwa minced no words while pointing fingers at Doval. He claimed that Yadav was being directly handled by the Indian NSA and the RAW chief.
The serious nature of the allegation against Doval has compelled Pakistan to reconsider the arrangement the two neighbours had put in place at the NSAs-level last year to discuss counter-terrorism issues through back channels.
Both Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua were instrumental in normalising ties between the two countries. They held secret talks in Bangkok in December that eventually paved the way for an agreement between the two countries to resume bilateral dialogue. Since then they remained in contact, particularly after the January attack on the Indian airbase in Pathankot.
Recently, the Pakistani NSA even shared crucial intelligence with Doval about the infiltration of some militants into India to carry out terrorist attacks.
However, in the aftermath of Yadav’s arrest and his subsequent confession, Pakistan is now assessing whether to continue engagement with the Indian NSA, who in the past advocated the policy of supporting militant groups to neutralise terror threats emanating from Pakistan. “Is it appropriate to talk to a person who is directly involved in creating instability in Pakistan?” asked a security official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
It is believed that the military establishment has already conveyed its concerns to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about the role of Doval. The final decision, however, will be taken by the premier, who has so far not directly commented on Yadav’s arrest and his confession.
The government is understood to have been waiting for details before taking any decision. Sources said scrapping the backchannel mechanism between the NSAs will lead to the derailment of the entire peace process.
The two countries are already struggling to fix a date for a key meeting between their foreign secretaries, who were to originally meet in January but the Pathankot attack led to the cancellation of talks. There were hopes that the foreign secretaries might meet in April but their talks are now far from certain in the wake of the latest war of words between the two neighbours.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2016.