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September 11, 2015 / subramanyam

Kashmir : The Vajpayee Years —- My Take

I was getting my daily dose of news from one of the English channels and this was scrolling that I saw.  “Former R&AW chief accepts a goof up on the Kandahar Hijack”.   Trust me, the curiosity that this one statement  generated was the only reason for me to pick A.S.Dulat’s book “Kashmir : The Vajpayee Years”

This is a former R&AW’s book on the job he did. So it is very very interesting.  We all know the fact that in the 90’s extremismKashmir_TheVajpayee_Years was on the rise in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and thousands of men picked up guns with the dream of “Azaadi”.  One of the agencies helped them was Pakistan’s ISI. ISI was not in the picture with noble motives for humanity at large and Kashmir in particular.  The testimony of this fact is the abysmal living conditions of people in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).  While Pakistan calls POK as Azad Kashmir it makes it PM and a council of 13 rule the state. So much so for the tall claims of Azaadi.

Then what was the agenda of ISI ?  This agency was seeking a revenge on India for whatever has happened in 1971. (Liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan.)  They simply wanted to break Kashmir from India and get it under their rule. So we have ISI with its motives, India with its interests to protect and the  youth of Kashmir who believed in the claims of ISI, armed struggle and Azaadi.

It was in this sensitive times that A.S. Dulat heading the Intelligence Bureau in Kashmir.  His job was to find out ways and means in which normalcy can be restored in the state.  He explains the way in which he operated for years in Kashmir. He speaks about the ways in which he reached out to separatists, militants, religious heads and religious minorities in the state.  This part is really educative and I was thrilled at the way talking helped above everything else.

Now , where did Vajpayee come from ?  The book title says this doesn’t it ?  Let’s get there.  As I said before, Kashmir witnessed strife in the early 90’s. The militancy in Kashmir came down after the 1996 assembly election there.  It was the prudence of Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao and the hard work of his team (IB, ministers and bureaucrats ) that the 1996 election was a success in Kashmir.

The author says that this was a master stroke by the then Prime Minister Shri P.V.Narasimha Rao . He then speaks about the various hurdles they had to overcome in making this election a  success.  He speaks about the way he was involved in persuading the separatists to join the democratic process. He was not entirely successful in that endeavor but then what ever was achieved  was sufficient to subdue the violence in the valley.

Now getting back to Vajpayee ji, the author says that it was Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee who gave real hope to Kashmiris. The tenth Prime Minister of India wanted to resolve the Kashmir dispute at any cost.  He picked A.S.Dulat (who retired from R&AW) and made him a member of his PMO.

The author then goes on to explain how Shri Vajpayee stuck to the process of peace in Kashmir irrespective of the blows he received.  We get to see details about the Kandahar Hijack , the  Agra summit the effect of the Kargil war, the negotiations of   Shri L.K.Advani with the Hurriyat , Vajapayee’s meetings with Musharraf and all in the book.  When you finish reading the book you would feel sorry for the fact that Vajapayee did not get another term in 2004. If only, NDA returned to power in 2004 Kashmir issue would have been solved by now.

What did I like ? 

I love politics so the genre in it self will pull me towards the book. The author speaks about the psyche of Kashmiris, he speaks about the way in which many militants got disillusioned when they saw the true colours of ISI. That was an eye opening experience for me.  He speaks about a Kashmiri killing a Kashmiri and the effect it had on the militants.  He speaks about the  Hurriyat Conference and the way Pakistan tried to control the movement.  The episodes on Abdul Ghani Lone, Shabir Shah, Firdous Sayeed are all good ones in their own sense.  I felt sad for the people who ISI, then realized the truth, wanted to cooperate with India and were killed by the hired goons of ISI.  It feels sad when you read about their lives.

This book brings out an interesting side of Shri Farooq Abdullah.  Never knew that this man was staunch supporter of the Indian Union.  It is unfortunate that he did not get his due and was time and again let down by New Delhi.  He comes across as one man who wanted Kashmir to be with India at any cost.  This book made me see him in a different light.

The book also speaks about the mistakes Indians committed while handling Kashmir.  This is a real value from the book as the author does not shy away from criticizing the mistakes of Indian policy makers.

What I did not like ? 

There are places where you would see a pointed getting repeated multiple times and you would feel a drag.  I felt like putting the book off as the same story was getting repeated.  That could have been avoided.   Then at some point I felt that the author was practically trying eulogize  Farooq Abdullah.  I felt that those parts could have been avoided.

I was able to read the first half of the book fairly quickly, the second half needed a conscious effort for me for the completion.


A real nice book with loads of learnings for anyone who is interested in the statecraft of India.  Nice book to understand as to what happened in Kashmir  from 1990-2004.  Happy reading.


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