ISI infiltrates Indian think tanks and the media? by Lt Gen Prakash Katoch in IDR.http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/isi-infiltrates-indian-think-tanks-and-the-media/
It took a gutsy lady like Ayesha Siddiqa to pen down what has been known for many years now – that the ISI has successfully infiltrated foreign think tanks. In the instant case, she mentions in particular the ones based in Washington. According to her, a Pakistani diplomat had to an American six years ago that the ISI had set up funds to infiltrate Washington DC think tanks and had boasted they “finally did it”. Siddiqa would know better as she herself has been a visiting scholar at john Hopkins University. She talks of individuals with inadequate educational qualifications being positioned and has even has pointed out that Arif Rafique, a Pakistani serving with the US Institute of Peace (USIP) belongs to this category. But then if the fellow is on ISI mission, what educational qualifications are needed? Such individuals would get periodic briefs of what to do, what to say and how to mould perceptions. This again, need not necessarily come all the way from Islamabad.
The Atlantic Council of US, headed by Shuja Nawaz (brother of a former Pakistani Army Chief) based in Washington DC, is closely chaperoned, financed and supported by the Pakistani Military and ISI. Kiyani, Pakistan’s Army Chief has taken keen interest in this institution in the past five years, facilitating its expansion and providing more scholars. Atlantic Council of the US is well linked with sister Atlantic Council of Ottawa and host of former Pakistani military officers settled in Canada provide backup pool for morphing perceptions at the informal level; skills that Pakistan perhaps acquired from China.
Washington Times reports that the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) based in Beijing has a long history of supplying information to the CIA through agency-paid US consultants but some of CICR’s disinformation designed to influence US policies is said to have shown up in some CIA intelligence products, according to officials familiar with the reports. As per CIA, CICIR is so close to the ruling CCCP that it is reported to be the Eighth Bureau of the Ministry of State Security (MSS); Chinese equivalent of the KGB. Yet, 60 percent of CICIR work is actually collecting intelligence about the US. In 2009, a Xinhua journal actually described CICIR as subordinate to MSS. Cui, head of CICIR since 2005 and his colleague in CICR either taught or studied at the University of International Relations set up in 1964 to train intelligence personnel for CCP Investigation Department and undercover agents at Xinhua News Agency. The University of International Relations continues to be closely linked to CICIR. So, ISI agents-cum-scholars in think tanks in US are hardly surprising. In fact, while Beijing based CICIR plays the reverse intelligence game with US, ISI has penetrated think tanks in the US capital itself.
It may be recalled that the FBI caught on to Ghulam Mohammed Fai only in 2011 after he had already pumped in some $350 millions funded by the ISI into US over several years for moulding perceptions in Pakistan’s favour with regard to Kashmir. But what must be appreciated is Pakistan’s focused effort towards the US over and above the close relationship with the US since Pakistan joining CENTO, raising of US sponsored Taliban, partnership in GWOT and what have you. No wonder Pakistan has the US by the scruff and policy makers in the US convinced that there is no alternative than subcontracting Afghanistan to Pakistan even at the cost of India. For the same reason, the US administration ignored calls by US / NATO generals serving in Afghanistan to attack the heart of the terrorist mother bases within Pakistan rather than perfunctory predator strikes.
The fact that India has not made any similar cogent effort is no secret. Converse to taking initiatives, we seem to specialize in missing opportunities. When a Nepalese delegation visited India in recent months asking for assistance to construct and establish a think tank in Kathmandu, our lukewarm response was ironically limited to giving advice how to go about it, whereas, we should have done much more considering India-Nepal relations and the close camaraderie between the armies of the two countries. Our response was all the more surprising considering the all out efforts by China to woo Nepal.
But what should be of serious concern to us is that if the ISI has done this so successfully in Washington DC, what have they done in India and what needs to be done especially if we have moles within the establishment as well, of which possibility exists.
One example was the recent case concerning the India-Pakistan Track II agreement to demilitarize Siachen; acquiescence by the military heavy Indian members of the Track II (a former Service Chief and eight more military veterans) to withdraw from Siachen ignoring strategic significance of the area, Chinese presence in Shaksgam and Gilgit-Baltistan, plus Pakistan sponsored terrorism and infiltration over the years. In the aftermath of the furore that followed breaking of the news in India, the government remained silent but a former ambassador and Secretary MEA close to the political hierarcy (who had nothing to do with the Track II Team) tried to justify withdrawal from Siachen at India International Centre.
All that is past history but the most intriguing part was the question who was the Indian coordinator who gave the names of these nine military veterans chosen with great care as they had never served or visited Siachen in the past and made no efforts whatsoever, despite the Track II negotiations over several months, to visit Siachen or even get a briefing from Headquarters Northern Command, Corps Headquarters at Leh or from the Commander of the Brigade deployed on Saltoro Range defending Siachen area. The fact that the former Service Chief heading the Indian delegation did not feel the need to visit the area or get such briefings itself raises many question marks.
Interaction with the participants of the Track II had revealed that none of them were aware as to how they were selected, who sponsored them and who the Indian coordinator was. However, it now emerges that the names were indeed given by the former head of a Delhi based think tank who is closes friends with a Washington DC based think tank (ISI linked?), and the latter works closely with the Atlantic Council of Ottawa who sponsored the Track II. The roundabout route followed was akin to obscuring the scent of black money trail, motivation for which does not require much speculation.
The second important inroad that ISI has apparently made is into the Indian media. Even our political hierarchy acknowledges existence of “paid media” in India. So why would the ISI not buy these fellows and why not target the top? So when you see news items reporting conspiracy of an army coup, articles / editorials alleging Service Chiefs are ‘defying civil authority’ when they have merely met the Prime Minister to apprise him of bureaucratic machinations to deny Services their dues and such like stuff, you can bet these fellows have been bought by the ISI. In fact their assets and style of living much beyond their means is ample proof they sold their souls albeit earning mafia backup in the process.
India must recognize the strategic value of perception management. It is well known that when Jaswant Singh visited the US as Foreign Minister, he was asked who India’s friends were without quoting Bhutan. We don’t appear to have progressed much despite pretences and the hierarchy wanting us to believe China is the best. We need to do much more and that too with due focus.