Time to end lists

India’s endless handing over of lists of wanted terrorists has become something of a joke with continuing shifting of focus and redlines which can be mitigated by establishing a hotline between ISI & RAW

Each time there is a terror attack, India adds new list of terror suspects on the most wanted list. This list is handed over to Pakistan after much hullabaloo. Much is being made of reported arrest of Maulana Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) after the recent Pathankot attacks. What we seem to be missing is that Pakistan arrested the 26/11 mastermind Lakhvi within a week. He became a free man in no time. Masood Azhar is an interesting case because it was India who handed him over after the infamous swap after Kandahar hijacking in 1999.

The Multi Agency Centre (MAC) of India coordinated a two week effort with various other agencies to hand over the latest list. Former Research & Analysis Wing(RAW) chief Vikram Sood says that India is tracking so many groups and attacks that we lose focus. Another RAW chief AS Dulat has a different view who says that let us forget Dawood Ibrahim and we should focus on getting Masood Azhar for the Pathankot attack now. There is merit in what the RAW chiefs say having had the ring side view of talks and diplomatic initiatives at the apex level.

My colleague, Pranay Kotasthane in his analysis has laid out some assumptions one of which is that Pakistan can be brought to target militants of all hues and colours (Peshawar school tragedy in December 2014 altered its calculus). The perpetrators of that massacre have been hanged after due process of law.  Presently, there is a hotline existing between the DGMOs of both the armies. This hotline pertains to matters which are more of operational nature pertaining to infiltrations on the border.

Establishing a hotline between ISI & RAW can be one of the policy options. If a hotline between ISI & RAW is realised, then the question of these endless lists will no longer become salient or generate the emotive appeal that they do at present. Even at the height of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency(CIA) & Russian KGB maintained contact with each other. Otherwise, the US could not have exchanged its spy pilot Francis Gary Powers for captured Soviet agents. All the indications are that such arrangements do not exist at present. Even if it exists, it does not seem to be working. A hotline between the spymasters shall surely keep the escalatory matrix in check. Because both know what their own ‘boys’ are up to. This is not to argue that just by establishing a hotline, we can expect peace. The spy chiefs, after all further the national interests of their own countries. The aim is to ensure stability in a highly volatile environment.

Guru Aiyar is a research scholar with Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar

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