When India & Pakistan Joined Hands

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IN MARCH 2016, Pakistan’s national security adviser, Lt Gen (Retd) Naseer Khan Janjua, shared intelligence with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, about a plot by Pakistani terrorists to attack Shivaratri celebrations in the Indian state of Gujarat. Janjua told Doval that ten suicide terrorists from Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad had entered Gujarat with plans of a series of attacks similar to those that left 166 civilians dead in Mumbai in November 2008.
The Pakistani warning resulted in massive mobilisation of security services in Gujarat. Four teams of the National Security Guard (NSG) were stationed at Ahmedabad airport, armed police moved to protect vital installations and public areas, and the historic Somnath temple was turned into a fortress to ward off would-be attackers. Similar security measures were put in place in Delhi, just in case the terrorists targeted the Indian capital instead of Gujarat.
In the end, Shivaratri passed without terrorist attacks. Pakistan’s decision to share intelligence was likely related to Indian and American pressure following January’s terrorist attacks on the Pathankot air force base in Indian Punjab. India had cancelled scheduled talks in response to the attack and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was eager to resume dialogue.
Diplomats in Delhi described the Pakistani gesture as an effort “to preempt a potential crisis in bilateral relations, even war”.
That it reflected genuine concern for possible Indian casualties was less likely. Jihadist blogs in Pakistan accused the civilian government of selling out to India by sharing intelligence that might enable India to target Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent, with one article claiming that Janjua had earlier also conveyed information that allowed India to shut down a terror cell in December 2015.
Warnings about a possible attack in Gujarat were not the first time India and Pakistan had exchanged intelligence about impending terrorist attacks on each other’s soil. More than a decade earlier, India’s external intelligence service Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) communicated information obtained from intercepted phone calls about a planned 15 December 2003 assassination attempt on Pakistan’s then president, General Pervez Musharraf. The ISI decided to let the attack go ahead so that it could identify and trace the perpetrators, but the Indian forewarning enabled Pakistani security forces to protect Musharraf when the attack occurred.
Janjua and Doval had opened a direct channel, which led to the Gujarat warning, but the heads of Pakistani and Indian intelligence had done so much earlier, when they had begun meeting secretly in the summer of 2003 to reduce terrorism across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.
The intelligence sharing that saved Musharraf’s life was the result of communications between CD Sahay, head of R&AW, and Lt Gen Ehsan-ul-Haq, chief of the ISI. Meetings between Haq and Sahay in third countries also resulted in an unwritten ceasefire along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, enabling India to fence-off terrorist infiltration routes.
The effort at intelligence sharing that began with the US prodding of Musharraf and Vajpayee in 2003 did not, however, lead to prosecution of Pakistani terrorists in India. Both sides eventually felt there was little exchange of usable intelligence, and the arrangement, or whatever little there was of one, collapsed after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai five years later.
An earlier effort in 1987, involving a secret meeting in Switzerland between R&AW chief AK Verma and his Pakistani counterpart, Lt Gen Hamid Gul, had collapsed with the beginning of militant insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. Verma and Gul had met at the behest of Pakistan’s dictator General Zia-ul-Haq and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Their objective had ostensibly been to diminish the risk of war that India felt had been created by Pakistan’s support for the Khalistan insurgency in Indian Punjab.
The fact is, the ISI and R&AW simply do not trust each other enough for the two intelligence services to consistently exchange intelligence about likely terrorist attacks. In the ISI’s worldview, R&AW caused Pakistan’s break-up in 1971 by supporting Bengali nationalists, and wants to repeat its success in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pashtunkhwa. For R&AW, it is the ISI’s repeated use of terrorism and its efforts to encircle India through covert operations in neighbouring countries that perpetuates the India–Pakistan conflict. Both agencies have played “Spy versus Spy” for several decades.

India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t we just be Friends?: 
Husain Haqqani
Available at Gulshan Books, Residency Road, Srinagar

 

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