Indian agencies have been paying off militants, separatists and mainstream politicians alike in the disputed Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir, a former chief of the country’s premier spy agency has revealed.
“Indian intelligence agencies regularly pay terrorists, [All Parties] Hurriyat [Conference] leaders and mainstream Jammu and Kashmir political parties, including the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),” former head of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) A S Dulat told The Hindustan Times on Friday ahead of the launch of his book ‘Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years’.
“Nobody is immune to bribes. Not the militants, not the politicians and not the separatists. Over the years, they have all been paid by intelligence agencies,” Dulat said. “We paid money to demonstrate that what the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] can do, we can do better, except kill people.”
Dulat was posted in Indian Kashmir in 1988 as an officer of India’s Intelligence Bureau. He went on to head RAW before becoming an adviser to India’s prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
“I had bribed my way through Kashmir, but the fact is that when I was posted to Srinagar in 1988, the first thing I got to know was who was paying whom and how much. It is not a big deal. Intelligence agencies all over the world pay slush money,” Dulat told The Hindustan Times in the interview.
“As militancy grew in the 1990s, so did the payments. They grew from the hundreds to lakhs of rupees,” he revealed.
Dulat admitted that “there were some honourable exceptions in the Hurriyat who did not accept the money,” but refused to name anyone. The ex-RAW chief also said that he could only confirm payments made till 2004 – his last year as Vajpayee’s adviser.
However, in another interview with India’s NDTV news channel, Dulat claimed that the Kashmiris who received payments included Syed Ali Shah Geelani. In the same interview, the former RAW chief also claimed that “one of India’s most wanted terrorists Syed Salahuddin was in touch with me and was ready to leave Pakistan and return to India.”
In his book, Dulat also revealed that Vajpayee had wanted to make NC leader Farooq Abdullah vice-president and his son, Omar Abdullah, the state chief minister in 2002. He claimed this was the reason the two did not walk out of the Vajpayee government after the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Both the NC and PDP have denied the charges. “Our political party has been struggling and striving with the people of Kashmir and we have always functioned in a very transparent way. These allegations are unsubstantiated and we totally deny them,” NC’s Junaid Azim Mattoo was quoted by The Hindustan Times as saying.
“People say all kinds of things post-retirement. One needs to look into the timing of these allegations, why now and why not before. We don’t know who Dulat is trying to benefit and who he is trying to harm by these baseless allegations but he is definitely not helping national interest,” said PDP spokesman Wahidur Rehman Parra.
In his HT interview, Dulat also said “there is no getting away from talks with the Hurriyat.”
“You can’t only be talking to Mufti Saeed,” he said in response to a question about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to call off foreign secretary-level talks with Islamabad after Pakistan’s high commissioner met with Hurriyat leaders last year.
“The Kashmiris initially welcomed Modi because they thought he would carry the Vajpayee policy forward. Calling off talks was disappointing,” he said.
Asked about the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Dulat said the party’s chief Altaf Hussain was a guest of British intelligence agency MI6 in the United Kingdom. He refused to comment on recent allegations that India had been funding the MQM. “Please ask MI6 about the MQM funding,” he told the interviewer.
Kandahar hijacking ‘goofed up’
Indian authorities botched the operation to defuse the 1999 hijacking of Indian Airlines flight IC-814, Dulat said. “No one wanted to take a decision fearing the loss of lives,” he claimed.
Dulat, who was a member of the Crisis Management Group handling the hijack, said they could not decide that the plane should not leave Amritsar. “Let me say, we goofed up... what was upper most in everybody’s mind was security of the people,” he told NDTV.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2015.