Why Ajit Doval is PM Modi's true Man Friday

What the NSA has done by meeting his Pakistani counterpart in a neutral third country is no mean feat.

 |  3-minute read |   07-12-2015
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Like Narendra Modi, he too has no pretensions of being conversant in diplomacy, leave alone being adept at it.

But like Modi, he has proven to be a master diplomat. Like Modi, he too is an unconventional and untrained diplomat who has the knack for thinking out of the box and pulling off major diplomatic feats in areas where the predecessors did not dare to tread.

Folks, this is Ajit Doval, the national security advisor for you, hitherto known primarily as the quintessential intelligence man, but now poised to emerge as an astute diplomat as well. What Doval has done on Sunday by meeting his Pakistani counterpart General Nasir Janjua in a neutral third country like Thailand is no mean feat. Of course, it was a delicate mission assigned to him by none other than the prime minister himself.

But the obvious question is that there are not very many in his government that PM Modi can turn to for such fragile-as-glass delicate missions. In fact, there is none other than Doval who can be entrusted with such missions which are a complicated mix of diplomatese and cloak-and-dagger intelligence-related issues.

After all, Doval was on his first such major mission way back in 1999 when he was the government's main point person and negotiator with hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane as head of Intelligence Bureau's operations when nobody knew Narendra Modi.

Also read - India-Pakistan NSA meet: All's well again?

If the hijackers managed to fly away the hijacked plane from Amritsar to Kandahar it wasn't because Doval's negotiations had failed but it was because the then Vajpayee government failed to take a decision in storming the plane while it was being refuelled at the Amritsar airport.

Few would be knowing that the intrepid Doval had discussed his plan to conduct an Entebbe-type commando operation and lead the operation personally even in Kandahar. His argument was when Israel could do it in far-away Uganda why couldn't India do it in nearby Afghanistan. However, the Vajpayee government chickened out and sent its senior minister Jaswant Singh to Kandahar along with released terrorists on the hijackers' demand.

The Kandahar episode eventually ended and led to several Bollywood films, including the blockbuster Ajay Devgn-starrer Zameen, but Doval's role was noticed by many in New Delhi's corridors of power.

Doval's first major diplomatic engagement with Pakistan as the Indian NSA arrived in July 2014 when the infamous alleged Indian spy drone controversy had threatened to crash the India-Pakistan diplomacy. Then Doval had himself steered the Modi government's engagement with the Pakistani envoy in New Delhi and Indian envoy in Pakistan while foreign minister Sushma Swaraj was in New Delhi and very much available. Foreign secretary S Jaishankar had played second fiddle to Doval and, had in fact briefed the media about the events surrounding the downing of an alleged Indian spy drone by Pakistan in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

Also read - Why Sushma Swaraj's visit to Pakistan is bad for Modi

Obviously, Doval is the preferred go-to man for PM Modi. It is not for nothing that he has been formally appointed as the PM's point person for holding talks with his Pakistani counterpart.

And one shouldn't forget that Doval is also the point person for negotiating boundary issues with China in his capacity as India's special representative for the purpose.

Clearly, Doval is PM Modi's Man Friday for all major things having strategic connotations. Move over, IFS guys. Doval the diplomat is here.

Writer

Rajeev Sharma Rajeev Sharma @kishkindha

The writer is an independent journalist and a strategic analyst.

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