Authored by Iqbal Chand Malhotra, released by Amitabh Kant, the book release event was marked by a panel discussion featuring them both along with Lt. General Vinod Bhatia (Retd), Major General Jagatbir Singh(Retd), Ambassador Vivek Katju and journalist Sandeep Unnithan. The event was organised by Destination India magazine, the discussion was anchored by Navin Berry, Editor.
On the Background to the Book
Iqbal Chand Malhotra, Author
The book deals with the brazen and vain glorious nature of the men in charge of Pakistan from 1964 to 2004, the period during which the events in my book take place.
You will recall that from 14th of August, 1947 till 23rd of March, 1956, Pakistan was a monarchy within the British Commonwealth. And its two monarchs were George VI, and Elizabeth II. It then became a Republic on the 23rd of March, 1956. So, firstly, Pakistan is a byproduct of the policies of the British and their proxy, the politician, the famous politician from Gujarat, Mr. Jinnah, and their clash in turn, with the policies and philosophy of another famous politician from Gujarat, Mahatma Gandhi. These two politicians dominated the political discourse during those days. Some things never change.
Secondly, the Indian army was expanded greatly to fight in World War II. By 1945, the strength of the army had risen to about 2.5 million men, with about 34,500 British officers and 15,740 Indian officers. By early 1947, all three branches of the Indian Armed Forces had undergone large-scale de-mobilization of over 1.25 million service personnel. Of the over 1 million Indians who served abroad some 480,000 came from Punjab. The war had led to overt militarization of a large chunk of the population. The manifold expansion of the Indian Armed Forces provided military training and combat experience to hundreds of thousands of men on de-mobilization. They joined in droves the self-defense units and volunteer outfits of all communities that were mushrooming in postwar India. To these outfits, the former soldiers brought their professional skills in the organized application of force and the ability to impart basic training to other recruits. Those with combat experience were not only inured to the idea of killing people, but capable of improvising in rapidly changing and violent circumstances, nor were the skills that they had picked up during the war restricted to using force.
The organizational techniques learned in the military enabled them to construct safe havens for their communities and ensure safe passage through hostile territory. Indeed, during partition, the districts in Punjab that had higher numbers of men with combat experience saw significantly higher levels of ethnic cleansing.
Thirdly, the National Unionist Party was in power in unified Punjab till March, 1947. The creed of the Unionist party emphasized “dominion status and a united Democratic federal constitution for India as a whole.” On 26th December, 1942, Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan Unionist Chief Minister, or you can call him the premier of Punjab, unexpectedly, died. Khizr Hayat Khan Tiwana was unanimously selected as a successor on 23rd January, 1943 about four weeks later. Tiwana suffered a blow in January, 1945 with the death of Sir Chhotu Ram, the unionist leader of the Hindu Jats in southeastern Punjab. Sir Chhotu Ram was a pillar of the Unionist Party and was greatly respected by Muslims in the province.
And in fact, Sir Chhotu Ram, Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, and Khizr Hayat Tiwana were three vertices of the triangle of the Unionist Party that kept the Punjab intact till that time. However, violence engineered in the Punjab by Jinnah, the Muslim leader led to Tiwana resigning as chief minister on 2nd March, 1947. Sir Evan Jenkins, as governor of the Punjab assumed direct control of the Punjab until the day of partition 14th August, 1947. And all the violence between 2nd March and 14th August was under the ages of the British. Tiwana remained opposed to the partition of India to the end. He felt that Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus of the Punjab all had a common culture and was against dividing India to create a religious segregation between the same people. Tiwana himself a Muslim remarked to the separatist leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah, “there are Hindu and Sikh Tiwana’s who are my relatives. I go to their weddings and their ceremonies; how can I possibly regard them as coming from another nation?”
Ishtiaq Ahmad, the author of a well-researched book, the Punjab Bloodied Partitioned and Cleansed, puts the death toll between 6-8 lakh people during those fateful days. But he also refers to Pakistan’s Census of 1951, which showed that 14 million Punjabis moved across the frontline, 8 million Muslims from East Punjab and 6 million Hindus and Sikhs from West Punjab. From the time when Mohammad Ayub Khan, took over as Chief of the Pakistan army on 23rd January, 1951 from General Gracey, the ensuing contest between the ‘Mulki latt sahib and janggi latt sahib’ – latt sahib was a term for Governor or Governor General, and ‘Mulki latt sahib’ was the Governor General, or the apex of the civilian political power. And ‘janggi latt sahib’ referred to the apex of the military hierarchy in India. So, the contest between the ‘Mulki latt sahib and janggi latt sahib’ weakened forever the power of the civilian authority in Pakistan. The Punjabi core of the Pakistan army wanted to dispense with niceties and take charge. However, they were restrained by the fact that until 23rd March, 1956, they were ruled by the British Crown. The action started after that date. So please do read my introduction before starting the book, because it will fill you in on the details.
What Shines Through is the Role of India as a Responsible Nuclear Power
Amitabh Kant, G20 Sherpa
This particular book is titled The Bomb, the Bank, the Mullah, and the Poppies. And what an incredible title Iqbal, only you could have given such a great title. And this book takes us on a very riveting journey into the intriguing world of spies. And we are in a world where secrecy, espionage, and covert operations have always fascinated us. And this particular book brings forth a very gripping narrative.
And it delves into the clandestine operations of intelligence agencies and their influence on global affairs. Iqbal is a great master of knowing the inside stories of all intelligence agencies from across the world. And he knows more about the intelligence agencies than the intelligence agencies know themselves So, in the midst of his latest book, you’ll find a very intense narrative. I mean, there’s an intense narrative, but one thing really shines through and that’s India’s role as a responsible nuclear power. And the civil nuclear agreement actually between India and US in 2008 really stands as a testament to the international community’s recognition of India’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. It really demonstrates that in this book, I really thought that comes out, how India has been such a responsible nuclear power.
India’s been a very responsible democracy. We are all argumentative Indians, but as a country, we have remained very, very responsible as a global power. We’ve actually actively embraced nuclear energy to move away from fossil fuels, making significant strides. And now we are making very significant strides towards a greener and cleaner future. But the book, this particular book, offers all of us a very enthralling exploration of espionage and intelligence operations. And it presents a very thought-provoking perspective on the delicate balance that exists between nations and the crucial roles actually played by the intelligence agencies. And they play a very critical role. Many of them actually go rogue in several operations, and therefore, they need in a democratic system, intelligence agencies, to my mind need to be need to be kept under a very close watch.
But they, they play a very important and critical role. And therefore, I personally feel that this is a very thought-provoking perspective.
From Ground Zero, with nuclear tipped micro weapons to 2750, meaning reach the furthest end of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia
The book goes into the psyche of the politico military religious dispensation of Pakistan. One thing I must say, I don’t know why we call them the deep state, but it is not the deep state. It is the current dispensation. When you look at the actors, the players, the elite players, it is the chiefs of the army. It is the political dispensation. It is the religious dispensation, the financial dispensation there.
But the fact is that there are finances involved. The end state is very important. Why did they want the bomb? And that is the key question. Why did Pakistan want the bomb? It seeks parity with India. It’s a perceived threat. It’s a perception of Pakistan that India will not let Pakistan survive. We divided them in 1971. They feel we invited them. The fact is that they asked for it. It is not that we divided Pakistan, that is an outcome which had to happen in any case, because it was a non-viable nation……. So, the book structures the systems and the thought process behind the endgame.
And coming down to the question, it is very interesting. We talk of the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir. If I were to put a date. And why did Pakistan start the proxy war? It is because it had the bomb. Under the nuclear rhetoric, Pakistan was waging a proxy war in India, and it succeeded. And succeeded very well. They have waged the proxy war and terrorism with impunity on the basis of nuclear rhetoric, right from the 1990s. And it’s not only Jammu and Kashmir. It is well outside, all over our metros. The ‘93 Bombay bombings, 2005 Delhi, the attack on the parliament and more. But why did we not we do anything about it?
Because they had the nuclear bomb. And they thought that they could do anything under the umbrella of the nuclear bomb. And their doctrine was first use, right? And then later on, when we started our cold start, you know our cold start doctrine, after the attack on the parliament after our proactive operations, they came up with a tactical nuclear weapons. And today they have graduated to something, which is their new doctrine, which has been propagated and turned around. It is zero to 2750.
And this is the result of the 2016 Uri surgical strikes. And the 2019 Balakot strikes, because they had to grow from there after 2016, there’s been no terror attack outside of J&K. And after 2019 Balakot, which is wrongly called Balakot. Balakot is a Pakistan construct. We did not touch Balakot at all.
You know, when you talk about sub-metric accuracy of our Air Force, which is an impartial Air Force, we struck at a place called Jabar Top, which is a known terrorist training camp, which is about 20 kilometers from Balakot. And Balakot is something which all of us, including the strategy community of India, has bought Balakot. You, you would know Balakot much better. And this doesn’t do with Balakot. It is a construct by the Pakistanis. We won the battle, but lost the war. That is a separate issue altogether. But what I am seeing under the nuclear rhetoric, we challenged that in 2016 with the Uri strikes, and again, 2019, the Balakot strikes and we realised that after 2016, there was no terror attack outside of J&K.
So, they have changed that to now zero to 2750. What does this imply? Zero means that they will employ nuclear tipped mines, nuclear tipped micro weapons at ground zero within both the horizontal space and vertical space. And I’m giving you some food for thought on this. And 2750 means that from their bases in Pakistan, they can reach the furthest end of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. So that is a threat. And if we do not have a counter to this possibility, I think we will see more and more terror strikes.
Because under the nuclear rhetoric, going back to the main question, I will put the date of the proxy war, if I was to put the date of the proxy war to 13th December, 1989. Why do I say that?
On, I think the 3rd or 4th of December 1989 when we had a new government and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed became the home minister of India. And on the 7th of December his daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed, gets kidnapped. And on the 13th, December there was an exchange, and she was released. All over Srinagar, in the month of December, which is very cold, at 7:30pm in the evening the entire populace was out on the streets celebrating. So that is, the starting point of the proxy war. And we suffered the proxy war, and it led to the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from January of 1990. And this is all under the, what we saw the end, the bomb. That’s why they wanted the bomb. And they got the bomb by all means. They got it. And we had to factor that in a Pakistan strategy, right?
And that strategy continued. 26/11 happened. We couldn’t do anything; they had the bomb. The Parliament attack happened. In Kargil – they came in, it was a blunder by the Pakistanis, but they sent a signal to us that, look, we got the bomb. There’s nothing you can do. And unfortunately, we did not cross the line of control. And we had to attack, and we suffered casualties. It took some time. Some of the, you know, Fauji’s setting out here will bear me out. If you were to give the solution of the Kargil war even in the lowest of tactical courses, you’ll fail because you never hit head on. You always won’t hit the shaft, right? So, if you hit the shaft, we could easily cut off the source of the brazen stance.
All the Pakistan army were there in Kargil, but we did not do it because of the nuclear bomb. So that is why I think this book is exceedingly important. And it is not only now. We will have to look at their revised doctrine. What else do we need to do in the light of this new development?
Escalation begins with a terrorist act and not our response to it
Ambassador Vivek Katju
It is a tale of deception. As you subtitle this book correctly. It gives an account of what has transpired impacting Indian interests over the last 50 years in India’s western neighborhood. And it weaves in all the important facets which relate to Pakistan turning nuclear. The way it turned nuclear, the way it managed its programme, the way it financed that programme including the bank, which helped it in moving funds, in generating funds to people involved in that process. And finally, it also focuses on the changes that took place in Afghanistan over the last four decades and more, and taken together these changes in Pakistan and in India and in Afghanistan have influenced us negatively.
There’s no doubt that Pakistan succeeded in its objective of going nuclear after its 1971 defeat. And I’m particularly happy that Iqbal has focused on the meeting that Bhutto took in early 1972, soon after becoming Prime Minister, where he called in his scientists and said that Pakistan, in order to ensure its security had to go nuclear. The reason why I’m mentioning this is because the Pakistanis have all through these decades spread the canard that their decision to go nuclear was a response to India’s, what is called the PNE or the peaceful nuclear explosion. So, it was a reaction to India’s step taken in 1974. In actual fact, the Pakistanis had decided under Bhutto in 1972 to become nuclear.
And we have been a most responsible nuclear state, I guess the world acknowledges it. And that is why we got the NSG exemption, which I don’t think they will get. But let’s be straightforward here. The Pakistanis decided that they will employ every means possible to go nuclear. If that required deception, which required setting up a network for smuggling, for doing things that involved breaking laws, if it required setting up a front bank which would assist in the transfer of funds, if it required pandering to the greed of Western companies, they would do so. Indeed, if you talk to many Pakistanis today who have held important positions, they’re not in any way shy of acknowledging what they did. In fact, if anything, they take pride. They say that if national security requires that these tactics be employed, then so be it.
For those of us who have been in the business I’ve been involved in, during my professional career, that is in the Game of Nations. It that a morality play, or is it the pursuit of interest by any means? But as far as the Pakistanis are concerned, they have no doubt in their mind that they’ll employ every means to achieve their objective. And in this respect, they earned little respect in the world, but they achieved their objective now. The second is about the bank. And I think, Iqbal, you’ve done a great service by profiling the BCCI.
And you brought out the connections of the BCCI with some of America’s major banks exceedingly well. And then how the bank got involved in the narcotics trade and money laundering. And eventually the game was up and it had to go, but it served its purpose. And that purpose was to enable Pakistan to get the finances moving for the smuggling network it had set up in Europe to acquire the equipment and the materials needed for its clandestine nuclear programme. I think there is material now available of the connections, which Iqbal mentions of some of the most respected figures in American history, in American politics of the late 20th century with the BCCI. And quite frankly, these figures who pretend to be very respected and respectable, are shown as having feet of clay.
That brings me to the third part of the book, which is narcotics. I’ve served in Afghanistan. And professionally in Delhi, I was responsible in the Ministry of External Affairs, for looking after Afghanistan for a long period after the Taliban came to power and were sent back. Americans made this big mistake. And not eliminating the Taliban leadership and the Al-Qaeda leadership that’s another story. I was India’s ambassador there. So many of the things that Iqbal describes in this book I saw developing in Afghanistan. How the growth and the expansion of the opium poppy took place, and how it overpowered every aspect of Afghanistan’s national life. But where Iqbal makes a very significant contribution is in defining the nexus between the Pakistani army and narcotics that is seldom focused on. I believe, I may be wrong here, but I believe that it, it was there in far larger measure at one stage, but it still exists. And that needs constant focus by us and by the rest of the international community.
Because I, for one, I’m convinced that Afghanistan cannot return to peace, and our region cannot be stabilized till the narcotics problem remains in Afghanistan. It is from the 1990s, the largest producer of illicit opium in the world by far. And there is no serious endeavor on the part of the international community, unless I’m wrong, at controlling this. There is also this wild plant ephedra, which grows wild. It is interesting because from the little that I’ve read I think that needs more investigation. The regions where the ephedra grows and what is suitable for ephedra is different from the traditional regions where the opium poppy is cultivated.
This will bring about fundamental changes if ephedra related money starts flowing into Afghanistan. The areas that have hitherto been impoverished will grow further. But I think Iqbal, your focus on the Taliban, their emergence, is interesting. It still remains a very controversial subject about how the Taliban rose. What was the connection of the Pakistan army in their rise, the nature of the theology that the Taliban pursued? I think part of the problem is that on account of the turbulence and unsettled conditions in Afghanistan, there hasn’t been the opportunity for genuine scholarly research taking place there. So, there are different theories about this and while that may be so one thing is certain that the Pakistanis have used the Taliban as an instrument in Afghanistan.
And whether we like it or not they were, they managed to sustain this insurgency for 20 years and eventually got the Taliban back in Kabul. That’s also a fact. And I think, I for one, always believe in looking at things realistically. Because I think it serves our interests, our national interests, if we have a cold and clear analysis of the situation that we confront. But the Taliban are giving the Pakistani’s a taste of their own medicine.
And all throughout, this period has impacted on us very, very greatly. In many respects, we’ve groped to find solutions. I end with just one observation. Now, the Pakistanis turned an aspect of the nuclear doctrine on its head. If you study the period of the Cold War in its entirety, the Americans and the Soviets played games all over, and they were involved in a terrible struggle, ideological and power, but they never, never were adventurous on each other’s territory. The one time when things became very, very tense, and troublesome, apart from 1962, which is Cuba was in 1983, which was the Able Archer Exercise. But apart from that, they took great pains in ensuring that there was no aggravation, no escalation on either Soviet territory or American territory, or for that matter, the territory of each other’s close Western allies. The Pakistanis, on the other hand, having acquired the nuclear umbrella, turned this doctrine on its head. And used it as a shield to engage us. That is why I think the Balakot strike was so important.
At that time Foreign Secretary Gokhale said that even if we see that there are plans afoot in Pakistan to strike us through terrorism or any other means, we will reserve the right to take military action. That is the doctrine of preemption. And I think that was very important because that signaled not only to Pakistan, but to the world, that the Indians won’t take it anymore. And that escalation begins with a terrorist act and not our response to it.
For Pakistan, Terrorism is a Continuation of War
Major Gen. Jagatbir Singh
Iqbal has this rare knack of connecting the dots and revealing so much more. Everyone thought they knew everything, but when you start reading this book and trying to go over the multiple layers that it has, more and more comes out, and then you wonder, what were you doing for so long? Couldn’t you just see it? So, you know, it’s just staring you in your face. And as everybody’s talked about these three things, so I’ll also cover these three things.
And you know, in the Army generally, before we speak, we mention Clausewitz, particularly in the Armoured Corps.
So, Clausewitz said, you know war is a continuation of politics by other means. Now everybody’s turning things on their heads. Pakistan feels terrorism is a continuation of war by other means. And that’s what they’ve done right from the beginning.
So, this bomb, you know the book about which Iqbal has written, that title is straightforward, but as I said, there are so many layers within layers, and it comes out slowly, slowly as you keep reading. And the next important event, what has also been mentioned by my fellow panelists was soon after the war in 1971 when Pakistan suffered that defeat at the hands of the Indian army, when actually we reigned in short on the Western front. And we only went for an all-out offensive on the Eastern theatre that time, because that was the aim at that time.
And if you read General Candeth’s book, he talks about this, what were the instructions given by Field Marshall, at that time, General Manekshaw, the Chief of the Army staff. But post the 1971 defeat, when Bhutto took charge at that time, his main aim was to get the bomb for Pakistan. And there’s a famous statement of his that we will even eat grass, but we’ll get the bomb. And that happened in March ‘72. But what I want to bring out is that in July 72, we had this Shimla agreement where we literally handed everything back to Pakistan. So, did we not see this happening at that time? That they are, you know, trying to get us in a different need in a different manner. And yet we gave into whatever Bhutto had to say in Shimla couple of months later. So, this March ‘72 Multan meeting, and the person whose house it was held in, eventually became the chief minister of Punjab when Bhutto took over.
1979, I say, is a turning point in the history as far as we are concerned, the subcontinent is concerned, and the reverberations of which are still being felt today, because certain events took place in ‘79, which have had far reaching impact. And one of them was, you know, what we saw in Afghanistan, the Soviets coming into Afghanistan. Apart from that, you had the Shah being removed from Iran. And Iqbal says that after that, the westward flow of opium stopped.
But then you saw what happened in Afghanistan itself. The American Embassy was taken over by the Iranians, towards the end of ‘79, and they got involved with Oliver North. And other people got involved with funding the Contras, and they gave weapons to Israel, who in turn sold them to Iran at a hyped-up price in exchange for the release of the embassy hostages. And that money was paid to a fund through BCCI, which went to the Contras, to the rebels over there. So, it’s extremely complicated. And that is the time in Iraq also. What Saddam came to power, and I talked about the Contras. So, who gained the most from 1979? And the first country, which gained the most from 1979 was Pakistan and Bhutto had been hung in early 1979, and Zia was in the bad books of everybody.
But the minute the invasion of Afghanistan took place, Zia was the most feted general in the Pakistan army. They really prospered during this time. And as my fellow panelists talked about, the nexus between the army and the drugs that came to the fore at that time. In fact, in Iqbal’s book, it clearly brings out that during Zia’s time, the bank prospered the most.
The fact is that the army has always been controlled in a different manner.
I mean, this all comes out in Iqbal’s book. It’s all fascinating. So, I mean, as far as this is concerned, and the more you read, as far as America is concerned, their interests are paramount, their personal interests are paramount, and they can make friends with anybody, use anybody for anything, whatever they want. And then you go on to the nuclear aspects and the nuclear aspects started in ‘72 then how AQ Khan pulled out nuclear blueprints from Holland. And this was you know, covered in German TV I think in the early eighties, yet nobody took any action against him. And people start speaking, of blacklisting certain countries, but Pakistan has had nuclear dealings with countries, all the countries who people talk about Libya, that’s Gaddafi, North Korea, Iran, I mean, all these countries, their nuclear weapons have been, you know, nuclear weapon, nuclear technology has been acquired from Pakistan.
And now back to BCCI, the Chinese said, we will only route money through, you know, proper means. So, the bank that was chosen to send money to China for nuclear things was again, BCCI. Basically, Pakistan depends on two things. They want to have a nuclear weapon and they want to threaten India with a nuclear weapon that’s one side. And at the same side, they want to carry on with bringing up the Kashmir issue and carrying on with terrorism. So, you have sub- conventional warfare where they don’t want to raise the escalation, raise the critical mass to that level where India will react as far as using conventional forces go.
So, this is extremely important and as Mr. Kant said, India has come out as a responsible nuclear power, and I think that’s something that Pakistan is fearing. So, Taliban 2.0 is far removed from what Taliban 1.0 was. Because today, Pakistan is not in control of this Taliban as it was in control of the earlier Taliban. So, they’re having more problems within their borders, and the TTP is now rearing their head. And what they used to say, and what they’re saying now is that as per the Doha Accords, the Taliban was not to provide safe sanctuaries to terrorists, and they’re blaming the Taliban for providing safe sanctuary for terrorists, and the TTPs now attacking them. And they’ve been two, three attacks recently, which have come out. So, this is something which I say that the leopard cannot change its spots, and the ISI remains the ISI.
Now Ambassador Katju talked about the surgical strikes, and you know, how we went about it and about Balakot.
That was very clearly said, and well, we did it, and there is a manner in which it was done, and then the message has gone across. So, I think that’s something that is there. And the last point I have to say is that today where do we stand? How are we today? So that’s something that we need to see. Today, Pakistan is in disarray into a great degree because they have internal problems. The economy is in problems, their political system is in problems. The army as an institution is under attack, and they are more threatened externally by India. They see India’s global stature has risen, India’s capabilities have risen.
There is No Difference between the Pakistan Army and the ISI, Both are the Same Thing
Sandeep Unnithan, Journalist
It’s more like a Rosetta Stone, if I could put it that way. It actually decodes the entire period of the seventies, the eighties, and the nineties, which actually tracks this entire descent of Pakistan into becoming a narco state. And this, that, that single biggest trigger for this, I feel, is that and my co-panelists have said this, that that one year was 1979.
And it’s one of the most tectonic years in the 20th century where you had the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan, you had the Iranian revolution, you had the siege of Macca, all of these events in just that one year. And I sometimes think that if, what if the Soviets hadn’t invaded Afghanistan? Because literally everything that’s happened in South Asia, or the Indian subcontinent over the last four decades has been a result of that. You had the United States coming in and the Cold War. It was a battleground for the Cold War. You had Pakistan’s nascent nuclear weapons programme that’s taken off and so beautifully captured over here, the bomb, the Bank, and the Mullah and that nuclear programme, that’s actually a result of what happened in 1971, because the Pakistan military went into deep shock.
Because it’s not just about a defeat in war, it’s also the vivisection of the country itself. When you lose half your country, you have the most powerful institution in Pakistan that’s in a state of deep shock. And they say that, what do we do now? If this continues, Baluchistan is going break away. The Sindhi’s are going to break away. Pashtunistan is going to be formed. And which is why the nuclear weapon is actually an act of desperation, that Bhutto said, if you don’t have a nuclear bomb, Pakistan is going to break up further. It’s going be four or five different countries. And that’s the reason they went in for that and using all the means that they did. Because let’s face it states are like organisms. They want to survive. So, if you have Syria, the way it’s been bombed, and there there’ve been attempts at regime change there, they’ve all manners of wars that’s going on there.
And the regime has to survive somehow. And it’s done that in the way that many other countries have in the past. It’s turned into a narco state. Syria is today one of the largest traffickers of narcotics, and this is exactly what’s happened to Pakistan over the last couple of decades. And so, the nuclear weapons, the West turned a blind eye to nuclear weapons because of the frontline role that Pakistan played in that Cold War theatre in Afghanistan from 1979, right up to 1988. And when the West turned a blind eye to this nuclear weapons programme that was playing out there, the narco terrorism that was you know also taking place, the covert war that Pakistan began using the proceeds of that war against Afghanistan, a war against the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. And that entire full weight of that was felt on India.
And that is actually the crux of what this book is all about. And I think this is one of the first books that captures all of this in one seamless narrative of over three decades. And I think a lot of us have been like those blind men feeling the sides of the elephant. So, there are these little isolated incidents that you can, you know, someone’s feeling the, the, leg of the elephant and someone’s holding onto the trunk of the elephant, and someone’s holding onto the tusk and they see a different object altogether. But you know, it’s to Iqbal’s credit that he’s actually brought out the elephant in the room, which is actually the Pakistan military. And this is something that we are always, I don’t know what the reason for this is – we are always afraid of calling out the Pakistan military, and we always seem to have this, you know, extreme diffidence about it.
Oh, you know, it’s the rogue ISI that carried out these attacks. You know, the ISI is different from the Pakistan army. This is absolute nonsense. The Pakistan ISI, is an arm of the Pakistan military, and they’re as responsible as any other military organization. And in Pakistan’s case, it is, it’s their duty to carry out covert wars against their neighbours, to destabilize their neighbours.
And the perpetrators are always these cutouts. They’re either the Lashkar-e-Taiba or they’re SIMI or they’re Indian Mujahideen, the so-called Indian Mujahideen. But the puppeteer here is always the same. It’s the Pakistan military. And somehow, we’ve kind of chose not to see that until recently when this was called out. And I think as Ambassador Katju mentioned, the fact that the Balakot attacks were extremely significant. And I think it’s the first time the effect of that attack that can be questioned? Did the bombs hit the building? And that can be debated, but the bombs actually may have fallen on Jabbar Top, but the impact was felt in GHQ Rawalpindi. And that messaging was very clear, and it’s possibly the first time that India has kind of responded to this sword and shield strategy that the Pakistan military has employed over the last 40 years ever since they got the nuclear weapon, which is the, the shield of nuclear weapons and the sword of this war of a thousand cuts that they’ve been waging against us.