Book review: – The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace

Spy Chronicles

3/5 Stars, Kaash ke hum dost hote.

Pointing to the horizon where the sea and sky are joined, he says, ‘It is only an illusion because they can’t really meet, but isn’t it beautiful, this union which isn’t really there.’ —Saadat Hasan Manto

Asad Durrani  back in 2015 during his interview at Oxford with his frankness, even though I watched that interview in 2017, left me awestruck. Here was a man, owning up to things, however bad they might seem to me, which he deemed necessary irrespective of their morality (“Morality takes a backseat in statecraft” was what he said I believe, and I do grudgingly agree with that statement)  like supporting and actively helping the Taliban, supporting and funding militancy in Kashmir, double crossing US etc on camera and on record. That doesn’t happen often, that never happens I think.

Therefore, I expected a lot from this book, “ISI and RAW chiefs for God’s sake!”, which was wrong of me, as although not disappointing the opposite actually, it did leave something more to be desired. So no sensational revelations or jaw drooping confessions are present in this book, although the two head spooks don’t admit to any wrong doing they do not deny some of the things which come up in their conversations either, and in those evasions you have to take what you can, read between the lines and make up your mind, their’s the shadow world after all. But it sure in annoying, when you can’t see the dirt, these fellows actively worked against each other, locked horns in their nation’s ‘Cold War’ and here they are having a drink like old pals, chilled out and discussing peace.

But then again, it makes sense, as Mr. Durrani says, “We know the price.” The best people who can talk peace are the ones who have been in war, seen destruction, orchestrated it, they do indeed know the price. So, their insights were priceless, their frankness appreciated and their opinions and suggestions worth analyzing.

I enjoyed this book immensely, every issue was treated with a frank perspective steeped in facts and possible action and reactions. The terror question though posed here and there, was never actually pinned down and was evaded, which was annoying, both former chiefs seem to take such a thing as granted, which was surprising. Kashmir, Baluchistan, Wars, The deep state and the new great game, Terror and Talks, Dictatorship and Politics, the outrageous right wings in both nations, the past reconciliation attempts, the possible future en-devours, the current freeze, the futility of war, the necessity of its threat all are discussed in a very non lethal way.

I was in agreement with both the former chiefs on their road-maps for a way forward in the last section of the book. Reading that it might seem that peace is not all that elusive after all, that there is hope. But to let go of old grudges and still open wounds, to overlook the current cuts regularly exchanged, which they seem to do easily or with effort I cannot say, would that be possible for the rest, for the establishment most of all. Talk, keep talking, even with the cloak and daggers, as silence is no solution is what Mr. Dulat seem to suggest.

This was a very interesting collaboration, however much ‘non-serious way of writing’ about such inflammable topics it may seem. It is a start and worth commending. I appreciate the effort and enjoyed the read. Read it for that if for nothing else, see the bogeyman’s side and try to see what the bogeyman sees. Kaash ke hum dost hote, shayad ho jayen. Stranger things have happened in the world after all.


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