Written By: Brig (r) Mehboob Qadir
It is quite appropriate to identify the components of the Indian deep state. This great adversary, the devouring nemesis of peace in the region, is quite extraordinary in its composition and uniquely organized in tiers. The collage is as varied as is the improbable state of hodgepodge Indian Union. In this arrangement the top tier deals with core interests policy formulation and the other but on a lower plinth with operational methodology.
As the governance becomes more pervasive, sheaths of secrecy become thicker and numerous. Various related interest groups find it easier to interact clandestinely with each other and within themselves, and by the same token eavesdrop into each other’s working and trajectories of thought. A kind of super-custodial ambience prevails which substantiates the notion that there has to be a remote but powerful alliance of like minded entities and individuals who take it upon themselves to safeguard core national interests from being compromised while vast government machinery including the politicians are busy minding their petty little turfs. They also seem to contest alien influences trying to penetrate state systems. This core group or nucleus has come to be known as the ‘deep state’ in the modern diplomatic idiom. It denotes crusty ideologues and entrenched interest groups who claim to have identified best national interests and guard the same relentlessly, regardless of who runs the national government. Problem with such an exclusive prerogative is that since it is inscrutable therefore becomes fossilized and an impediment in national development rather than its locomotion.
The term ‘deep state’ or in Turkish ‘Derin Devlet’ literally meaning inner state, originated from Turkey and caught everybody’s fancy. Every country has invariably felt their presence in their own particular way but were unable to really name or denote the same. As soon as the phrase was introduced it fitted the description perfectly and was soon viral. The moment it is referred to, a dark, faceless but immensely powerful cluster of men carrying inscrutable brief on hard-baked state interests as a weapon of coercion swoop into the back of one’s mind, to wrap around logical responses to evolving national and regional issues. In the modern idiom these brooding custodians appear to have attained a mythically ethereal status. Political agenda of the deep state involves an allegiance to rigid nationalism, political corporatism and state interests. An inventory of coercion, destructive kinetics and multiple pressures is employed, mainly covertly, to manipulate political and economic elites and ensure specific state interests are served behind the facade of the democratic political framework.
Quite typically and interestingly they claim to be grooming men to be administrators, legislators and better parliamentarians with a view to populate those spaces of the state, as also prepare cadres to insert in various policy planning and higher management streams of the state structure where possible. We will revert to this revealing fact as we proceed.
The more powerful a state the more possessive its deep state and the more it rocks the regional equilibrium. Regions become hostage to their policy swings which tend to force countries around into a web of, mostly, raw diplomatic options. Such tentative surrounding environment is the favourite playfield of the manipulative senior Foreign Office bureaucrats and ambitious military commanders. They become willing tools and protégés of the deep state and with the passage of time, junior partners too. South Asia has since long been in the grip of such a coercive ideological and diplomatic combine which has long prevented the region from stabilizing. The architect of this paralyzing environment is the predominant state: India.
It is quite appropriate to identify the components of the Indian deep state. This great adversary, the devouring nemesis of peace in the region, is quite extraordinary in its composition and uniquely organized in tiers. The collage is as varied as is the improbable state of hodgepodge Indian Union. In this arrangement the top tier deals with core interests policy formulation and the other but on a lower plinth with operational methodology. This core is a mosaic of very powerful autocratic clique of senior Union bureaucrats, Hindutva ideologues, Akhand Bharat political philosophers, upper caste Hindu ultra nationalists, senior BJP and Congress mentors, Sangh Parivar tribe, Vishwa Hindu Parishad savants and Simla Accord bilateralists/supremacists. The menu may seem long but in fact quite a few and many more wear more than one hat within this super elite. The net effect is an incomparably powerful synergetic pulse that runs through the state sinews demolishing any internal or civil society resistance or differing points of view. Notice what happened to India’s illustrious intellectuals, artists, scientists and writers when they returned their national awards as a dignified protest against Modi’s gruesome anti-Muslim posture. None in the power wagon even feigned to be concerned. In fact a country wide witch-hunt has already been initiated to muzzle into silence those whose hearts and minds are in the right place.
On the lower tier, External Affairs Ministry diplomats and the armed forces’ leadership act as face and muscle of the veiled state and are more often used as clattering spanners in the works. While the benign state continues to appear reasonable, the saber rattling military and scheming diplomats are made to look like the spoilers of the process. Indian military actively obstructs resolution of the Kashmir/Siachen dispute on grounds of security, the diplomats talk of a hairy fairy instrument of accession and spurious elections in the disputed territory and the Hindu ultra nationalist is hoarse crying Kashmir as integral part of India. This is more like a hall of mirrors rather than an honest desire for peace. In this show RAW and shrill Indian media are merely the shadow puppets.
A brief review of the range of the baffling power and practice of the Indian deep state is in order. Let’s spread the cloth by laying first the fact that India is at peace with none of its neighbours let alone a deep seated unrelenting loathing for Pakistan. Botched invasion of Sri Lanka, ongoing siege of Nepal, a short changed Sikkim, submission of Bhutan, a crippled Bangladesh and a chronic territorial standoff with China which has been thoughtlessly raised to regional power rivalry in line with US global strategy, by dangerously dipping into their backyard in South China Sea and needlessly threatening their Indian Ocean Sea Lines of Communications (SLOC) at Malacca by fortifying Andaman-Nicobar Islands are objective examples. Their methodology is to engage with a benign friendly facade and simultaneously undermine the interlocutor by subterfuge, disparage and guile. Inseminate discord between the leadership and the led and fertilize divisions among populace based on ethnicity, sectarianism or inequitable financial dispensation in the target country.
With reference to Pakistan, destructive interventions of the Indian deep state are many and instructive. Pakistan’s ex Foreign Minister and author of the book ‘Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove’, Mr. Khursheed Mehmood Qasuri, in an interview on a private TV channel on November 2, 2015, made an emphatic reference to the Indian deep state’s manoeuvres to defeat various Pakistan initiatives to resolve contentious issues between the two countries. Earlier while in Mumbai for his book launch in 2015, he disclosed to Mumbai Mirror that talks between India and Pakistan, in Agra in 2001, failed because of inflexibility of L.K. Advani, senior BJP leader after PM Vajpayee. Advani’s hit man was an External Affairs Ministry Joint Secretary known as Vivek Katju. This fellow quite strangely insisted to remain present despite being asked to be left alone by President Musharraf during one-on-one talks with PM Vajpayee and took copious notes of a discussion where he had no moral title to be present. These notes were meant for the deep state’s privilege who promptly scuttled the talks; perhaps the last fair chance for peace. Katju’s brief was confirmed by A.S. Dulat, ex RAW Chief in his recent book ‘Kashmir, The Vajpayee Years’ (2015). Talking of the failure of Agra Summit he wrote ‘The villain was one of (then foreign minister) Jaswant Singh’s joint secretaries, Vivek Katju’. The firing squad comprised Advani, Jaswant Singh and Sushma Swaraj.
Mr. Katju went on to become India’s Ambassador to Kabul in 2002. Earlier he had figured prominently in tandem with RAW operatives negotiating with Indian plane hijackers at Kanadahar Airport in 1999. It was this curious hijacking which inflicted yet another character called Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Muhammad fame on Pakistan. Jaish-e-Muhammad is being blamed for the raid on Pathankot Air Base which has practically torpedoed upcoming FS level talks between the two countries. By 2010 Mr. Katju was promoted as Secretary (West) in India’s EAM as a senior Union bureaucrat of immense authority. This is a fairly representative case where one can see various cogs and wheels of the Indian deep state inexorably hammering away at good neighbourliness on the blood stained anvil of opaque national interests. President Musharraf’s rueful remark made to PM Vajpayee before leaving Agra sums up the whole thing, ‘Today you and I have been humiliated because there is someone above us’. Indian deep state smiled in its sleeves.
Advani had been the chief oracle of BJP for a long time till upstaged by Modi’s team-mate, and also the man who kicked off infamous Rath Yatra which very inauspiciously culminated in destruction of Babri Mosque, Ayodhia in 1992. With that snapped the delicate Hindu-Muslim communal balance in that tormented country. In this wantonness, VHP, RSS and Bajrang Dal – extreme right Hindu factions colluded willingly. Congress was in power in the centre and did nothing to stop the madness. Muslims as a community felt utterly and decisively vulnerable. Communal riots broke out all over India, 900 Muslims were killed in Mumbai alone. It set up a vicious cycle of reactions which extended to Bangladesh and Pakistan and has not stopped since. That single demolition has become a major article so called jihadi faith in their bitter discourse in the Subcontinent. Mehmood Ghaznavi destroyed Somnath Temple long ago (few say for treasure); Advani destroyed Babri Mosque for ire in 20th century. Treasures do not last but ire does and for a long time. The way Agra Summit was dismantled is an objective lesson in how the Indian deep state operates. Let’s pick up a few more incidents from the bedeviled history of the two mismatched neighbours to see how it doctored their outcomes to the detriment of peace and prosperity in the region. One of the most significant events had been the Simla Accord between the two countries, following dismemberment of Pakistan by India in 1971. During the entire period of negotiations, the veiled state was again at work despite the fact that late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was an unusually strong willed person. Diplomacy’s debilitating doctrine of bilaterism between India and Pakistan was forged at Simla, much against the grain of behavioural sciences and conventional wisdom. If bilaterism could resolve issues between the two interlocutors then why would the disputes arise in the first place? This devil’s doctrine effectively killed all possibilities of an honourable mediated resolution of contentious issues between the two countries placing them in a mutual gridlock. Since 1972 no issue between the two countries has been successfully negotiated, bilaterally.
Indira Gandhi was assisted by a team of experienced officials rather than seasoned political colleagues during Simla parleys. These were formidably powerful Union bureaucrats like P.N. Dhar Secretary to PM, Foreign Secretary T.N. Kaul, M.K. Kaw and N.K. Bakhshi India’s Assistant High Commisioner in Karachi then, to name a few. M.K. Kaw in his book titled ‘An Outsider Everywhere’ captures the rues and regrets of those moments quite vividly. P.N. Dhar was acting as the prima donna in Indian delegation as he was the one who was extracting explanations from late President Bhutto to set the narrative right. While T.N. Kaul had the temerity to leave Simla when PM was still there anticipating an imminent failure of talks, as mentioned in his book titled ‘A Diplomat’s Diary’. That indicates the power of deep state apparatchik.
Bhutto’s diplomatic skills began to take a toll at Simla. It was in the final stages that the gauntlet of bilateralism was thrown which Bhutto had to pick up in view of his other gains. What appeared to be a diplomatic finesse then proved to be a messy manoeuvre later, going by its disappointing consequences. It placed the onus of success of future negotiations upon India, the larger and more powerful of the two, which she never made good. The deep state must have been pleased with itself for having nailed Pakistan to bilaterism water board, which meant it could turn and twist, thrash and toss issues with Pakistan as and when needed in future, concede nothing and blame her for being recalcitrant. That must have been a delightful feeling then but actually turned out to be a shoddy stratagem from which India could never benefit. Twice the two countries came perilously close to a nuclear war after Simla.
With Modi in power India turned up the heat. It is also for the first time that the deep state is shooting straight from the hip. PM Modi is an honours graduate from one of the deep state’s indoctrination schools; the inveterate RSS, which is the mother root of BJP, Bajrang Dal, VHP and the larger Sangh Privar. Modi’s flip flop with Pakistan is remarkable. He delivers a scathing attack on Pakistan in an international forum and the next moment arranges a photo shoot with Nawaz Sharif engaged as an honest, concerned broker. He berates Pakistan before the Afghan Parliament and then flies into Lahore in feigned spontaneity to greet Nawaz Sharif on his grand daughter’s wedding. His EAM says that both Foreign Secretaries will discuss all outstanding issues including Kashmir, next day (December 14, 2015) their High Commissioner in Islamabad said, ‘India is prepared to discuss only the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan’. The measly manner in which future meetings of the Foreign Secretaries and National Security Advisors is being handled by the South Bloc is simply in bad taste. Concessions extracted under duress tell on national self esteem and can devastate the process. Then came the real clanking spanner; Pathankot Air Base ‘raid’ on January 2, 2016 pasted to Pakistan’s door albeit slowly. While they were congratulating each other for the ‘great understanding’ shown this time, India upped the ante by referring the matter of ‘killed Pakistani raiders’ to Interpol for a black corner notice. This simply means determining their nationality and then feed UN Security Council that Pakistan was involved. There are plenty of Pakistani prisoners held incognito in India. Interpol works closely with the Security Council.
This brief overview may sufficiently establish the historic methodology of the Indian deep state, its preference for a unilaterlist bilaterism with Pakistan and the technique used to keep that country on the edge all the time. The result is an increasingly prickly Pakistan, widening distance between people of both the countries, strengthening of belligerent narrative and deafening nuclear saber rattling in South Asia. It severely limits peaceful coexistence options for the leadership and serves nobody’s purpose to keep the furnace roaring except those who want to gain from the dangerous brinkmanship. No amount of well meaning overtures by Pakistan will make any difference unless the Indian deep state has a qualitative change of heart and develops a taste for objectivity. Longing for Emperor Ashoka’s nostalgic Hindu empire is fundamentally flawed. He was a Buddhist not Hindu.