The Spy Chronicles. RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace

Authors: A.S. Dulat, Asad Durrani, Aditya Sinha

Category: Non-fiction, history, politics

SpyChronicles-min

When I first heard about the Spy Chronicles, my first reaction was, “That’s not possible! A book like this couldn’t possibly exist.” The idea that two ex-chiefs of the RAW and the ISI had gotten together and co-authored a book about the relationship between India and Pakistan seemed impossible. For people who don’t know about the rivalry between these two agencies, it is somewhat comparable to a book being written by a collaboration between the CIA and the KGB during the Cold War.

As it turns out, not only does the book exist but it’s also pretty informative. The fact that Aditya Sinha managed to get ex-heads from both agencies is what sets this book apart. Sometimes, in a conflict, it is necessary to look at the issue from both viewpoints, and the Spy Chronicles does exactly this. The entire book is divided into chapters, where each chapter is in the form of a dialogue between these two men.

If you’re someone like me, you’ll probably be disappointed in the beginning. Nowhere in the book have either of the spymasters revealed any confidential or classified information. But then again, why would they? The book covers a vast range of topics from the beginning of the Kashmir problem to recent events like the surgical strikes. Both the men put forward their views and try to be as frank as possible. Well, as frank as you could expect two spymasters to be. They provide an insider’s view on a lot of issues, and this makes for a pretty interesting read.

The India-Pakistan relationship has undergone numerous ups and downs in recent years. It was refreshing to see two cold analysists, sitting together, speaking about the dynamic based on pure facts. At certain points in the book, a noticeable feature was that whenever a topic came up which could cause embarrassment to one side, that person became extremely diplomatic. For example, when Asad Durrani was asked about the terrorist Hafiz Saeed and why the Pakistani government wasn’t taking action against him, he retreated behind a number of rhetorical questions and tried to sidestep the topic. A.S. Dulat didn’t press the issue. Both the men talked about “choreographed responses”, agreed that the enmity between the countries was promoted by their respective media and that politicians on both sides thrived on this animosity.

The last few chapters of the book were dedicated to an idea of “Akhand Bharat” or undivided India, comprising of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Both of the men presented ideas on how to bring this about, the potential problems and how it would benefit both sides ultimately. Frankly, I found this idea to be excessively optimistic. Both the viewpoints were based on the idea that if one side did the other a favor as a sign of goodwill, it would be reciprocated. However, this is highly improbable.

The book is fairly interesting to read. However, people who don’t know about the politics and history of the two countries will have a tough time keeping up. I’d give this book a 3.8/5 because the book does get a bit dull at certain points. Overall, it’s a pretty decent book and I’d recommend it to anyone who has an interest in world politics.

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