Sunday, February 06, 2005

PAKISTAN: Vertical interests, horizontal diplomacy

+ What did the IB get out of videotaping peoples’ activities under the sheets? I ask this because if Knightley is to be believed, there is never much positive upshot of what intelligence agencies do. Quite often, they fail just when they are required the most. September 11, of course, is a good example, as is the issue of WMD in Iraq with or without the sexed up information. Closer to home, while the Indian IB is so good at sneaking into people’s bedrooms, it, as well as other Indian intelligence agencies, failed to detect the incursion into Kargil. +

Vertical interests, horizontal diplomacy
Ejaz Haider


The kink of watching such a video aside, I don’t think the hidden cam affair is going to give an intelligence agency some real breakthrough or access to information that is not available through open sources, especially if an analyst is prepared to look around

Maloy Krishna Dhar, a former joint director of India’s Intelligence Bureau, has written his memoirs, Open Secrets, in which, among other things, he has given details of how some Pakistani diplomats were working horizontally for the vertical interests of their country. The book will surely sell, as all such books must, and I’m sending a request through this column to Aziz Khan Sahib to please get me one copy! Of course, I’ll pay for it!

I don’t know how Mr Dhar has titled the part dealing with the lateral activities of our diplomats but I’d have suggested, having stolen a term from Khaled Ahmed, “The Diplomatic Twinge in the Hinge”.

Spying is of course the second oldest profession or so Phillip Knightley, who penned his brilliant book by the same title, thinks it is. Of course, Knightley seems to have picked up the title from what Michael J Barrett, once assistant general counsel of the CIA, wrote in the Journal of Defence and Diplomacy: “Espionage is the world’s second oldest profession and just as honourable as the first.”

Talking of which, the oldest profession that is, I tend to agree entirely with Barrett about its being honourable. The only problem is that while the women in the profession are by and large honourable, the men who consort with them are, for the most part, quite dishonourable — if not, downright despicable. Consider the attitude for example: you look for a woman to have sex with, but after the roll in the hay you reject her as a slut. Nothing can be more dishonourable than that. There was a time when such dishonourable behaviour was associated only with scions of respectable families because they were the only ones who could afford having paid sex. Now, however, with the advent of democracy, this dishonourable attitude has even caught up with the lesser classes. This is what I call the seamy side of democracy.

But back to our diplomats. Mr Dhar’s revelations at least prove one thing. Spying is definitely more than a PG-13 exercise, indeed it must be rated “R”. I wonder who the audience were when they played the videos of the good work done by our diplomats. Would it just be Mr Dhar and some of his senior colleagues or would the lesser spooks also get to see the diplomatic loins? Does IB keep such videos in a store? I say this because if they do, the storekeeper would be a happy boy and wouldn’t need to do the nightly run to the video shop round the corner to get his daily dose of eye-candy.

Apparently, one of our guys was dealing with the sister of a famous Indian journalist who, at the time, was also very close to Rajiv Gandhi. I do hope that Mr Dhar has not given the identity of the characters involved because while it makes no difference to our guy (one has to do much for the sake of one’s country), it would probably be a tad embarrassing for the hack and his sister to have to put up with the consequences of an activity after so many years — when the passion is gone, the whole thing is over, the loins are tired and the hinge instead of feeling the twinge has come unhinged.

But there’s a more relevant question here. What did the IB get out of videotaping peoples’ activities under the sheets? I ask this because if Knightley is to be believed, there is never much positive upshot of what intelligence agencies do. Quite often, they fail just when they are required the most. September 11, of course, is a good example, as is the issue of WMD in Iraq with or without the sexed up information. Closer to home, while the Indian IB is so good at sneaking into people’s bedrooms, it, as well as other Indian intelligence agencies, failed to detect the incursion into Kargil.

Lest I be misunderstood. The Pakistani spooks aren’t any better or worse than their Indian or other counterparts. Brig Tirmizi’s Profiles of Intelligence also has sections about how the ISI was trying to use honey traps to nail down this or that diplomat. I can’t think of how that might ultimately have served the cause of Pakistan or whether it actually did. Of course, it does serve the cause of those who would ultimately get to watch someone else in action. But the kink of watching such a video aside, I don’t think the hidden cam affair is going to give an intelligence agency some real breakthrough or access to information that is not available through open sources, especially if an analyst is prepared to look around and knows how and where to find, collate and analyse the information.

But then that’s not sexy, now is it. Therefore, we shall continue to have spooks with their cameras catching unsuspecting people on tape while they indulge in the most private activity of human existence. What a shame!