(October 14, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Currently heading an intelligence think tank in Chennai, Raman served in India’s Research and Analysis Wing for 28 years—from its inception in 1964 until his retirement in 1994. Raman was head of RAW’s counterterrorism division, and an additional secretary of the Cabinet Secretariat. Newsweek Pakistan’s Jahanzeb Aslam spoke with him on email recently. Excerpts:
What has India’s role been in the U.S.-led war on terror?
India’s primary role is exchange of intelligence, knowledge, experience and capabilities, and mutual assistance in legal matters with interested countries, including the U.S.
How do you see anti-terror cooperation between Pakistan and India?
I don’t see there being much scope for intelligence exchange or mutual legal assistance between India and Pakistan since the bulk of New Delhi’s jihadist threat originates from Pakistan-based organizations that are allegedly under the control of the ISI. Terrorism has historically been one of the weapons in Pakistan’s anti-India arsenal, and it is not in their interest to blunt that weapon. This does not mean there should be no institutional interface between the ISI and RAW; in fact it is essential to reduce the high level of distrust between the two agencies.
What long-term role do you see for India in Afghanistan?
India can help prevent the Taliban from regaining a foothold in Afghan society by helping economic development and the spread of modern education. We can also assist Afghanistan in strengthening the capabilities of its armed forces.
Is the Haqqani network still based in Pakistan?
My assessment is that the Haqqani network no longer operates from North Waziristan. It now operates from Pakistan’s Kurram Agency. The cadres and the training camps are in Kurram, but the leaders, who are high-value targets for U.S. drone attacks, are spread out across the country to avoid airborne attacks. The cadres carry out hit-and-withdraw raids into Afghanistan.
Does India benefit from souring Pakistan-U.S. relations?
The U.S. will never strategically cooperate with India against Pakistan. While the CIA and the Pentagon are not averse to ideas of limited Indo-U.S. cooperation in dealing with threats originating from Pakistan, the State Department has always been cautious in endorsing such ideas. I saw this when I was in service and I continue to see this in my retirement. The only role India can play is to keep nudging the U.S. to act more strongly against Pakistan without unrealistic hopes that the U.S. will, in fact, do so. When the U.S. talks of strategic cooperation with India, it has China in mind, not Pakistan.
Does India still consider Pakistan its greatest threat?
India is fully capable of dealing with Pakistan and has no concerns. What we are worried about is the increasing strategic threat from the developing Sino-Pakistani axis. Washington does not seem to view this alliance with the same concern as India. This developing axis is the real axis of evil.
Will there ever be peace between Pakistan and India?
It is very unlikely that Pakistan and India will enjoy good, neighborly relations in the short- and medium-term. The Pakistan Army still considers India a major enemy and such complexes will always come in the way. This doesn’t mean the two countries should not try for a more benign, friendlier approach to each other. There is a need for a common vision. The leaders of both countries need to meet more frequently to get to know each other, and like each other, and work painstakingly without undue expectations toward a common goal of peace.
After Al Qaeda, which terrorist group is the biggest threat to stability in South Asia?
Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the two Taliban factions, in that order, are probably the biggest threats to the region. I do not consider the Haqqani network as a separate terrorist organization, as it is a wing of the Afghan Taliban with some autonomous operations.
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