Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, while talking to some TV channels in New Delhi, hoped India will share the outcome of the probe into the Samjhauta Express blast before the March 6 meeting of the Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism so that ‘meaningful contribution’ can be made to the fight against terror.
Asked whether the intelligence agencies of the two countries could work together, he said, ‘They will have to if South Asia is to live in a civilised manner.’ He added that if both the governments ‘put their weight behind’ such an endeavour, it will work. ‘After all, both countries have suffered. It’s your territory but majority of them are from Pakistan,’ Kasuri said, and asked, ‘Why shouldn’t it work?’
Apparently, Mr Kasuri is not aware that an exercise towards regular intelligence cooperation between Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and India’s Research and Analysis Wing was initiated when Gen Zia-ul-Haq was the President of Pakistan and Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India. This exercise, which started well with promising results, ended in a flop due to an act of perfidy by Lt Gen Hamid Gul, who was the Director-General of the ISI in the late 1980s, not only towards R&AW, but also towards Mrs Benazir Bhutto, the duly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan between 1988 and 1990.
These are the facts of the case: In the 1980s, the Khalistani terrorist movement was at its height. The ISI was training and arming the terrorists. It had given shelter to terrorists of the Dal Khalsa, who had hijacked Indian planes to Lahore. Whenever the Government of India raised this issue with the Government of Pakistan, the latter denied the presence of any training camps or of the hijackers in Pakistani territory.
In June 1985, Rajiv Gandhi went to the US on a state visit at the invitation of President Ronald Reagan. The Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered a plot by Lal Singh alias Manjit Singh of the International Sikh Youth Federation to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi during his stay in the US. Before they could arrest him, Lal Singh, who was a permanent resident of Canada, escaped to Lahore and was given shelter there by the ISI.
In the same month, June 1985, the Babbar Khalsa of Canada, headed by Talwinder Singh Parmar, planted an improvised explosive device in the luggage hold of Kanishka, an Air India aircraft, before it left Toronto for India. The IED exploded off the Irish coast. All the passengers and crew of the plane perished. Parmar, after having organised this, fled to Lahore and was given shelter there by the ISI. Lal Singh and Parmar lived in Lahore as the guests of the ISI from 1985 to 1992.
Every year, Sikh jathas from India visit Lahore to worship at the Nankana Sahib. Many members of the jathas used to report to the Indian intelligence agencies on their return that Lal Singh and Parmar used to meet them and appeal to them to support the Khalistan movement. Whenever the Government of India took up with the Government of Pakistan the question of arresting and handing over the Dal Khalsa hijackers, Lal Singh and Parmar, the stock reply from the Pakistani Foreign Office was that they were not in Pakistani territory. Requests made by India through the Interpol also did not produce any results.
The then Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan was a good personal friend of Rajiv Gandhi and Zia. Hassan’s wife was of Pakistani origin, and he had known Zia from the days when he was a middle level officer, and was posted in Amman as the commanding officer of a Pakistan army unit based there. He contacted Zia and Rajiv Gandhi separately and suggested that the chiefs of the ISI and R&AW should meet secretly and discuss these issues away from the glare of publicity instead of levelling open allegations against each other. He offered to arrange the first meeting at Amman. His offer was accepted and he arranged a meeting at Amman between Lt Gen Hamid Gul and A K Verma, who was the head of R&AW. He introduced the two to each other and then disappeared from the scene. The two had two meetings — the first at Amman and the second at Geneva. The atmosphere in the two meetings was positive. The agenda included not only the question of stopping the ISI’s support to the Khalistani terrorists and handing over the terrorists given shelter in Pakistan, but also ways of solving the Siachen issue.
While there was progress in the discussions on the Siachen issue because the Pakistan Army was keen to have the Indian Army withdrawn from there, on the terrorism issue Lt Gen Gul took up the standard position that the Sikh terrorists wanted by India were not in Pakistani territory.
However, through a carefully worked-out operation, he enabled the Indian authorities to get the custody of four Sikh soldiers of the Indian army who had deserted while they were posted in Jammu and Kashmir and sought sanctuary in Pakistan. He wanted the operation organised in such a manner that it would not appear that the ISI had handed over these deserters to R&AW. R&AW agreed to this and kept its word of honour to Lt Gen Gul that it would not tell the media about it.
When this exercise for a dialogue between the ISI and R&AW started, Zia-ul-Haq was in power. He was killed in a plane crash in August 1988. Following the elections to the Pakistan National Assembly held a few weeks later, Benazir Bhutto took over as the Prime Minister after she accepted three conditions imposed by the Pakistan Army: First, Gen Mirza Aslam Beg would continue as the Chief of the Army Staff; second, Lt Gen Gul would continue as the ISI chief; and third, Pakistan’s nuclear establishment headed by Dr A Q Khan would work directly under Gen Beg. It would not report to Benazir. Crown Prince Hassan as well as Lt Gen Gul kept her informed of the exercise for a dialogue with R&AW. She agreed that it should continue.
Some months after Benazir took over, Lt Gen Gul, without consulting her, organised a raid on Najibullah’s Afghan Army post at Jalalabad with the help of Afghan Mujahideen, Osama bin Laden’s Arab followers and Pakistani ex-servicemen. The raiding party managed to surround the Jalalabad post for some days. Everybody thought they would ultimately capture Jalalabad and that would be the beginning of the end of the rule of Najibullah. It did not happen that way. Najibullah’s Army post managed to repulse the raiders, inflicting heavy casualties.