We have to make costs of covert warfare unbearably expensive for Pakistan: Prabhu Dayal

No other diplomat in recent times has seen the amount and extent of action that former Foreign Service officer Prabhu Dayal has. Dayal has been the Ambassador for India in Kuwait and Morocco and has held positions in Indian missions in the USA, Geneva, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Dubai, lived through the Camp David Accords and President Anwar el Sadat’s assassination. His book Karachi Halwa is a picturesque representation of the times when President Zia-ul Haq turned Pakistan into a dangerous theocracy.

Do all Diplomats end up writing books?

Many serving and retired diplomats have written books. The range of such books is vast and covers foreign policy issues, personal memoirs, fiction and philosophy among others. I wanted to share with others what had been my experiences in Pakistan when I served there as a Consul in Karachi in the 1980’s, and that is why I wrote Karachi Halwa.

I feel that my book is relevant as what I witnessed in Pakistan during that period casts its long shadow over events today and will continue to do so in the future.

What is the one defining thing that a reader will/has found unusual/unsaid before in your book?

Many readers have conveyed to me that they have found the anecdotes which I have recounted in my book to be quite interesting. The book is not a treatise on Indo-Pakistan relations; rather, it is a narration of my experiences in Pakistan and the conclusions which I drew from them, and this is what gives to the book a unique character. Naturally, since Zia-ul-Haq was ruling Pakistan at that time, the book narrates many aspects of his personality and his style of governance.

Many readers have conveyed to me that they have found the anecdotes which I have recounted in my book to be quite interesting. The book is not a treatise on Indo-Pakistan relations; rather, it is a narration of my experiences in Pakistan and the conclusions which I drew from them, and this is what gives to the book a unique character.

Naturally, since Zia-ul-Haq was ruling Pakistan at that time, the book narrates many aspects of his personality and his style of governance.


In your book you have accused General Zia-Ul Haq for the Islamisation of Pakistan whereas General Parvez Musharraf was perceived as a man who dealt with the Islamic radicals with an iron hand. How would you compare both the regimes?

My book recounts and analyses many aspects of General Zia’s policies aimed at the Islamisation of the country. Let me categorically state that he was a wily political usurper who used Islamisation as a ploy to gain legitimacy. The policies of Islamisation also helped in creating cadres of Jehadis who could be utilised in the covert warfare against India.

Like many others in Pakistan, Zia, too, wanted to avenge the humiliation of the 1971 war. However, he saw India as being much more powerful- -both militarily as well as economically-- and did not want to engage in open warfare with us. Consequently, he concluded that covert warfare or proxy warfare was the best alternative available to Pakistan.

In due course, however, the Frankenstein monster that he created became too big for the Pakistan government to handle. As you have rightly pointed out, Musharraf faced serious internal problems on this account, though he and his successors have not hesitated in aligning with radicalised Islam in pursuit of their hostile policies towards India. Till today, Pakistani society is paying the costs of policies which have made the country a nursery of Islamic terrorism. Sectarian strife has turned Karachi into another Beirut.

You have been a strong supporter of dialogues with Pakistan minus separatists. First and foremost, Pakistan has always tried to involve the seperatists in any dialogues. It is always difficult to determine if the current government in India is connected with the right establishment in Islamabad--- Nawaz Sharif’s relations with the incumbent army chief is at a low point after the army rubbished Sharif Government’s stand over the Panama Paper leaks. (for eg: Narendra Modi will never want a Vajpayee like fiasco to be replicated, which resulted in Kargil war after the Lahore Summit in 1999 and eventually Sharif government was deposed by the then Army Chief). So don’t you think there is a hierarchy vacuum in Pakistan?

As regards my being a supporter of dialogue, I would like to recall John F Kennedy’s words: ‘Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate’.

Let me also state that we have to distinguish between a strategy for the near future and a vision for the longer term. In the foreseeable future, Pakistan will continue to be extremely hostile towards us. It will pursue covert warfare by infiltrating terrorists across the Line of Control, and we have to be extremely vigilant and do whatever is required to thwart its designs. Our political leadership, armed forces and intelligence agencies know fully well what needs to be done, and there is no need for me to go into details here. Let me say, however, that we have to make the costs of covert warfare unbearably expensive for Pakistan.

However, in the longer term, I hope that we can make the people in Pakistan realise that it is they themselves who have to bear a huge burden on account of their government’s unending hostility towards India, and that this is not in their real interest. We have to make them understand that contrary to their government’s propaganda, we would like to peacefully co-exist with them and have cordial and cooperative relations. As mentioned in my book, there are already murmurs of discontent within Pakistan, and these are bound to grow as the financial costs of its policy towards India keep mounting. Having a normal relationship with Pakistan is not going to be an easy objective to achieve, and there will be countless ups and downs. However, in the longer term there is no alternative to peaceful co-existence, as the costs of unending hostility will be detrimental for the coming generations in both countries.

I may add that Egypt and Israel, too had fought deadly wars in 1948, 1967 and 1973, but there is peace between them now, though some people refer to it as a ‘cold peace’. Again, France and Germany live today as good neighbours after having endured centuries of conflict, and after fighting the two World Wars as adversaries.

"Hostile relations with India suit the Pakistan army which wants to stifle the democratic institutions in that country and thus maintain its paramountcy . Sadly, the Americans have found it convenient to deal with the army at the expense of civilian leaders, and a challenge for us is to make them realise that the unholy alliance between the army and the Islamic radicals hurts them too, and not just India. Unless the stranglehold of the army in Pakistan is broken, it cannot gain recognition as a civilised member of the comity of nations."

It is an axiomatic truth that our region needs not conflict but development, and for India and Pakistan to continue on the present collision course would be catastrophic.

You have been lauded for your writing style---Are you planning another book?
especially in view of your vast experience regarding Camp David etc...

I am flattered about what you have to say about my writing style. I tried to keep the account swift and racy, as most readers don’t have much patience with long-winded narratives.

As regards any books that I am planning to write, let me say that each country where I have served has offered many unique and interesting experiences and lessons, and I would like to share them with others. Your suggestion about Egypt is well taken. However, the Arab Spring is a 21st Century phenomenon, and in the 1980’s when I served in Egypt,there were not many signs that it was on its way.

Although my experiences in Egypt were fascinating, I want my next book to be about my experiences in another country which is located geographically nearer to us. When I finish writing it, I will keep you duly informed. Perhaps you will help me to generate interest in my new venture!

The Title is very catchy---how did you zero in on it?

The reason why I chose the title is explained in the prologue itself. In a nutshell, let me say that I find Karachi Halwa very sweet but often difficult to digest. Likewise, my posting in Pakistan left me with some very sweet memories, but at the same time I found many of the activities of the Pakistan Government very hard to digest. If you read my book, you will agree that the title is indeed very suitable.