Putting Out Intercepted Pak Comms During Kargil A Setback: Ex-Spy Chief

Double agents provide about the best intelligence you can get, said former spy chief AS Dulat who has written a book with ex-ISI chief Asad Durrani

Indian intelligence agencies have been sceptical about double agents, AS Dulat told NDTV


  • AS Dulat is former chief of India's external intelligence agency R&AW
  • He co-authored a book with Pakistan's spymaster General Asad Durrani
  • General Durrani writes about limitations of technical intelligence
New Delhi: Getting a senior Pakistani spy agent based in India to 'turn' or become a double agent would have been an intelligence coup, says AS Dulat, former chief of India's external intelligence agency R&AW (Research & Analysis Wing).

''In public perception, not getting Dawood, Hafiz Saeed or Masood Azhar are glaring failures. But if instead of putting out a supari (contract killing) for Dawood, you 'turned' the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) station chief in Delhi, that in intelligence would be a much bigger thing, says Mr Dulat in a book titled 'Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace'.

In an interview to NDTV, Mr Dulat, who has co-authored the book with one of Pakistan's well-known spymasters General Asad Durrani, says ''I don't think it (getting a Pakistani spy to become a double agent) has ever happened. I am not in the know of it but we have been very sceptical in our community whether it is in the R&AW or in the IB (Intelligence Bureau) about double agents. I think double agents provide about the best intelligence you can get.''

The book, put together by journalist Aditya Sinha, is based on a series of conversations between Mr Dulat and General Durrani that took place in cities like Istanbul, Bangkok and Kathmandu in 2016. It's due for release later this week.
dulat book

The book is based on conversations between Mr Dulat and Mr Durrani

General Durrani, who headed the ISI in 1990-1991, writes extensively about the limitations of technical intelligence which spy agencies like the American CIA rely on extensively.  ''I never rated CIA assessments highly. Never. They don't believe they have to carry out good assessments. Because in any case, they are going to set the place on fire. Bomb it.''

At the same time, the General does admit that the ISI did not always have the technical means to monitor areas of interest, like India's nuclear-test range in Pokhran. 

''It became clear as soon as the BJP came to power in 1997, I went openly and said they are likely to conduct a nuclear test because that is how the things were building up. Though we may have been generally correct, we did not have the means to watch that area,'' he told NDTV.

We didn't have the means to keep watch on Pokhran, said Mr Durrani

In 1998, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister, India conducted its second nuclear test in Pokhran.

Speaking about the importance of technical intelligence, specifically audio intercepts, Mr Dulat who headed R&AW from 1999 to 2000 told NDTV he was against the public release of excerpts of a conversation between Pakistani army chief General Pervez Musharraf and Lt Gen Mohammad Aziz Khan, his Chief of the General Staff during the 1999 Kargil war.

''It was a setback,'' said Mr Dulat, recounting a conversation he had with his predecessor, asking him whether revealing the conversation was a mistake by the Indian government.

"He said, 'well it's too late. It is a political call and the politicians have decided that it will be made public'. I thought it should not have been done. It was a very big scoop and we got lucky,'' Mr Dulat told NDTV.

Mr Dulat also said the conversation indicated that then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may not have had the full idea about the nature of the Kargil conflict.

''There was a question that General Musharraf asked from Beijing --- 'I hope the politicians are alright, not too shaken up by what has happened'. This connects to another question that has often been raised --- whether  Nawaz Sharif knew about what was happening? It seems that he knew about certain things but he did not have the whole picture,'' said Mr Dulat.