Brendan Byrne

India’s former head of its chief intelligence agency made a strange revelation at an Indian Literature Festival recently stating that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, is the best in the world.

In a meeting room at the Maidens Hotel in New Dehli, AS Dulat sat taking questions as he promoted his book at the Times Lit Fest which concluded on Monday. While affection might be a strong word for his feelings for Pakistan’s ISI but admiration was certainly on display from the former spy master.

“The most powerful intelligence agency is either KGB which no more exists or ISI, because they are very anonymous.” “I believe we’re as good as anybody else. We don’t have technical abilities but are fast catching up,” he said backtracking a bit and praising India’s own intelligence agencies. Considering a world inhabited by MI6, the CIA, Mossad, and others, that’s pretty high praise.

Dulat versus ISI in Kashmir

Earlier this year, in July specifically, Dulat made it clear that intelligence agencies had, for year, paid politicians, militants and separatists in Indian Kashmir in order to keep up with ISI efforts to foment trouble in the region.

“So what’s wrong? What is there to be so shocked or scandalized by. It’s done the world over,” Dulat said when he was speaking to NDTV’s Barkha Dutt. In his book, Dulat further explained repeatedly, violating any Indian state secrets.

“If anybody has any doubts about the path I took - of talking, talking, talking and how unbeatable dialogue is as both a tactic and a strategy then I will tell them what Agha sahib said to me - you were sent to disrupt the Kashmir movement in the friendliest possible manner.” But as Dulat is quick to point out, his successes were, generally short lived as nearly all of the assets he developed were “bumped off” by ISI.


Both RAW and the ISI were formed based on the failures of intelligence agencies that preceded them. Each were formed with an agenda but, few would argue, the ISI’s reach and power far surpasses that of RAW.

The RAW came into being following the disgraceful performance of the leftover Intelligence Bureau during both the Sino-Indian War in 1962 and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. It was decided that RAW’s formation would supplant the Intelligence Bureau and become the primary agency responsible for foreign intelligence gathering in India. RAW has been rightfully credited in its work secreting the Indian nuclear weapon program from the world as well as its safeguarding today. While the agency has enjoyed numerous successes since its inception, the attacks on Mumbai in 2008 showed both India and the world that detection and prevention are two different animals.–Valuewalk