Saturday, Oct 08, 2022

Peace Talks With Pakistan Will Be Futile: Former RAW Chief Vikram Sood

Pakistan, where general elections were held on July 25, will see cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan taking the oath as the country's prime minister this week.

A Pakistani Ranger in black uniform and his Indian counterpart, march during a flag off ceremony, at the joint Pakistan-India border check post of Wagah near Lahore, Pakistan. AP Photo

The Kashmir issue is now merely an "excuse" propped by the Pakistan Army to remain in control, said former RAW chief Vikram Sood, who described the neighbouring country's army as the "largest corporate" entity running a range of enterprises from "fertiliser to bread factories".

Speaking at the launch of his new book, "The Unending Game: A Former R&AW Chief's Insights into Espionage", Sood has said that any peace talk with Pakistan, which by default thinks of India as an enemy state, will be "futile".

"Kashmir is now an excuse for the Pakistan army to remain in control in Pakistan.

"It is now the largest corporate sector in Pakistan. It owns land, owns properties, runs fertiliser factories, runs bread factories, runs atta (wheat flour) factories... It also runs international logistic cell which supplies goons all over the country...(and)heroin," he has said.

Pakistan, where general elections were held on July 25, will see cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan taking the oath as the country's prime minister this week.

Having handled things covertly all his life, the former officer was -- for a change -- open about his opinion about Pakistan, which he said was a country or a state just "in name".

"I see very little hope that Pakistan's mindset will change in foreseeable future. So anybody who talks of peace with Pakistan, well these are noble thoughts we should all have them. But if you ask me if we can happily exist as neighbours I think not," he added.

With that, Sood was quick enough to clear that nothing of this means that "we (RAW) are into the business of making war".

He said when the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) are talking about war they "are trying to find out what the other chap is doing".

"We are no jihadi forces trying to disrupt lives elsewhere. We (RAW) are always finding ways to avoid war. We are providing our ministries and our defence personnel information so that they are aware and prepared to handle the situations," he said.

Underlining the major differences between the RAW and ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), Sood said while the RAW is a "service provider" to policy makers, the ISI is a part of the force that drives Pakistan's country's foreign policy and is like "clandestine core of their army".

"We don't make policies, we don't make suggestions like this should be done or that has to be done. It is the ISI which provides its country strategic weightage in India and Afghanistan. So you have to accept these things when you talk about peace and tranquillity with Pakistan," he explained.

Union Minister Smriti Irani, who was also in the discussion panel along with former NSA Shivshankar Menon and former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, among others, while congratulating the author for the book, stressed a lot on the prevailing threat of cyber-security in the times we are living in.

"People presume that surveillance is about catching you talking to somebody for a particular length of time. But what when a 20-year-old something knows how to turn your phone into a microphone. When you look at an officer you know they are bound by those ethics of functionality, the challenge is those who operate without that ethics, outside the ambit of that cover of either governance or outside the ambit of that... that is where the challenge is," she said.

However, the minister also admitted that whenever technology presents a challenge there is somewhere somebody who is ready with the solutions too.

"The idea is to connect the dot," she added.

The 269-page book, published by Penguin Random House India, provides a national and international perspective on gathering external intelligence, its relevance in securing and advancing national interests, and why intelligence is the first playground in the game of nations.