By Robert Clark
On 9th October 2017, the Henry Jackson Society was delighted to host Amarjit Singh Dulat to Parliament to discuss matters of South Asian Intelligence. Mr. Dulat served as the Head of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s spy agency, under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He later joined Vajpayee’s Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), where his job was to ‘monitor, manage and direct’ the government of India’s peace initiative in Kashmir. Prior to his work at the R&AW, Mr. Dulat headed the Kashmir Group during the turbulent 1990’s. Since leaving government in 2004, he has been an active speaker on security related matters, and is the author of the best-selling book Kashmir. The Vajpayee Years.
After a considered introduction by Chairman David Hanson MP and Dr. John Hemmings, Mr. Dulat proceeded to discuss the nature of a range of varying south Asian relations; India and Kashmir; India and Afghanistan; Afghanistan and Pakistan; and, of course, India and Pakistan, each discussed briefly in turn. On the evolving threat of security in the region, Mr. Dulat acknowledged that indeed the threat had shifted somewhat from the bipolar international system of the Cold War, whereby the mean threats came from other states, to a more complex threat of terrorist organisations and non-state actors. This was telling enough when he decided to open the talk by discussing terrorism, stating that ‘we (India) borne the brunt’; a reference to the violence in the Punjab after partition and more recently in Kashmir.
Mr. Dulat’s considerable experience within counter-terrorism and security makes him an authoritative speaker. Stating that the violence between India and Pakistan was at root caused by the partition of India in 1947, he maintains that war is not an option between the two states, rather that lasting peace can only be achieved through dialogue. This was at once the main argument presented throughout his talk; that peaceful means to violent disputes can only be achieved through careful diplomacy and cooperation. By providing a historical narrative of how this strategy has proved successful in the past, Mr. Dulat added weight to his authoritative speech. Citing his opposite number in the Israeli Mossad communicating with leaders of Hamas, and maintaining that it was dialogue between the US and the Soviet Union which ultimately spared humanity during the Cold War, his arguments gained empirical authority.
Towards the end of the talk, and pressed by Chairman David Hanson MP a little further as to the evolving nature of security, Mr. Dulat illuminated that not just non-state actors and terrorism were a shifting focus; rather, it was the twin ideologies of radicalism and ultra-nationalism, which he phrased as ‘two sides of the same coin’. Europe and the Arab world, especially, are facing a growing transference to this realm for security focus, though he maintained that India’s primary attention would remain state focused, particularly on Pakistan. It was regarding state security which Mr. Dulat wished to conclude on, with current events on the Korean peninsula of particular concern. Maintaining that dialogue and cooperation was fundamentally critical to averting further destabilising escalations between the US and North Korea, Mr. Dulat praised the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, for maintaining lines of communication with Pyongyang. ‘You have to talk. Terror and talks do go together’. In an intelligence and security career spanning six decades, this is advice which can be transferred out of the South Asian region and applied to other contexts, of which there are plenty of opportunities.