Why is India's politics Pakistan centered

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Dr. Hein G. Kiessling (born 1937, doctorate in 1983 on the socialist party in Indonesia) lived in Pakistan from 1989 to 2002 as a representative of the Hanns Seidel Foundation. During his work for the CSU-affiliated foundation, the author had ample opportunity to evaluate English-language newspaper reports on the major secret services in the region and to hold insider talks. In 2002 he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit for his work in Pakistan.

Kiessling's main text consists of two unrelated parts standing next to each other: One much longer and better researched on Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) (pp. 8-288) and a much shorter one to the much larger one Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) India (pp. 290-383). Both services are roughly described in terms of structure, organization, historical development, breakdowns and geopolitical interests and are portrayed as centers of domestic political power that are independent of parliament. The author has presented a work on two of the most active secret services in Asia, which is worthy of discussion in many respects.

Book cover by Hein G. Kiessling: ISI and R&AW - The secret services of Pakistan and India: Competing nuclear powers, their politics and international terrorism. (Series: Secret Intelligence Services, Vol. 6). Berlin: Verlag Dr. Köster, 414 S. Photo: Thomas K. Gugler

In the first section, Kiessling systematically looks at the upgraded Pakistani secret service ISI. He has followed a historical sequence since the company was founded in 1948 and discussed transformation dynamics as well as central areas of activity. The processes of change are in the direction, among other things, of i) securing the rule of the ruler, especially in the case of military dictators, that is, in addition to domestic service, increasing surveillance of political opponents; ii) as the rule of law grows, ensuring that judges can be blackmailed; iii) disinformation campaigns parallel to the introduction of the beginnings of freedom of the press; iv) bribery / blackmail of politicians associated with "democratization" (as revealed in the 1990 elections by the Mehrangate affair).

Areas of action include aid for militant groups in northeast India in the 1960s and support for the rebellious Sikhs in Punjab, India from the 1970s, as well as the organization of the massacres in Mumbai in March 1993 and November 2008. The main major projects have been the Talibanization of Afghanistan since 1990s and the jihadization and internationalization of the Kashmir conflict as well as the sale of modern nuclear technology to Iran, Saudi Arabia and North Korea (transport by machines of the Pakistan Air Force or, in the case of Saudi Arabia, from 2003 as pilgrimage during the hajj camouflaged). Particularly relevant at the present time are the arms deliveries and salaries of the rebels in Assam, attacks on Indian facilities in Afghanistan such as the embassy in Kabul in July 2008 and the mobilization of heroin money through the world market supply via Pakistan (protective tariffs for securing transport routes from Afghanistan to the West to finance ISI missions). This also includes the operation of Pakistani counterfeit money presses for Indian rupees, so that acts of sabotage in India can also be financed at the expense of the Indian economy. But numerous corruption phenomena are also spreading, including diversions from those for the Afghan ones mujahideen intended American arms deliveries for Pakistani groups in India and the fire at the Ojhri arms store in 1988 - with well over 100 fatalities - immediately before the extraordinary visit by American inspectors to cover up secret stinger rocket sales to Iran. Cooperation between the ISI and the CIA and MI6 in the case of common interests against China and the Soviet Union will also be discussed. Kiessling's remarks on Omar Said are exciting, who was able to meet Osama bin Laden through his very close ISI contacts and then transferred 100,000 US dollars in August 2001 to the Hamburg-based terror pilot Muhammad Atta (this transfer and the involvement of the ISI with the The American kept silent about attacks on September 11, 2001 9/11 Commission Report curiously).

In the section on R&AW, fields of activity are described as i) training of Bengali and Tibetan (sic !, p. 310) freedom fighters, ii) wiretapping systems against China in the 1960s, iii) cooperation with the French in observing American and Soviet naval movements in India Ocean in the 1970s, iv) Support for the Tamils ​​in Sri Lanka in the 1980s, etc. In this second section one reads about love traps, i.e. how Indian diplomats succumbed to Russian and Chinese agents (or a diplomat to a Pakistani Romeo).

Kiessling deals with the history of the secret service in a very person-centered way, which is why he repeatedly attests to important actors cursory traits (p. 50) or they as best crawlers and droolers (P. 32) portrayed. Given the brutality with which such services deal with free spirits, this judgment may not be unreservedly fair (perhaps one could in the sense of Coser 1974 of greedy institutions speak).

Dr. Hein G. Kiessling Photo: Thomas K. Gugler

It is pleasant to note that the author often presents several versions of possible background interests side by side and then explains which arguments speak for or against one or the other reading of the events. The shadow character of the topic, however, means that the author's analyzes are difficult to verify and only sometimes falsifiable. The question of truth cannot therefore be the goal of a review when discussing the author's assessments. In some places, however, his analyzes are clearly too radical or simply wrong, such as the statement: "A large part of these madrasahs [in Bangladesh] today represents the non-typical Wahabi Islam, has been infiltrated by the HUJI-B and maintains contacts with militant jihadis in Pakistan." (P. 355). Most of the madaris in Bangladesh are Deobandi-related, just as the HUJI is a Deobandi-related movement. Deobandis are now very typical of the country and by no means see themselves as Wahhabis (for the madrasas see for example Malik 2008). Another example of a false analysis: Although the author reports extensively in the afterword about the American military action to kill Osama bin Laden, he failed to correct the text. On pp. 240-241 one reads of the ISI lie that Osama bin Laden is in the Pakistani-Afghan border area. It seems too risky for Osama bin Laden to go into hiding in a major Pakistani city, so he assumes that i) Osama bin Laden has either already died and the ISI is keeping the location of his grave a secret, or ii) the ISI is for Osama bin Laden helped to flee to another Islamic country. Both variants are - as we now know - wrong. But they were already extremely unlikely: Osama bin Laden reported several times via video or audio messages, so that he could not have died; and if you consider how the ISI turned Osama bin Laden into a cash cow to clean up its own budget thanks to external financing from international donor countries in the war on terror (for example, Kiessling explains that the ISI for the Mumbai massacre he planned on November 28, 2008 planned to suspect al-Qa'ida [p. 279]), it is also clear why the ISI had to keep him in their own country: You don't give away a donkey.

In such a broad-based project, deficiencies in content are unavoidable for structural reasons. It would have been desirable, for example, to mention Mearsheimer's theses (2011: Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics) on lies in domestic politics or a reference to Dietl (2010: Shadow Armies: The Secret Services of the Islamic World), which presents a comparative study of several secret services in the Islamic world. The comparatively short essay by Riedel (2011: Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad) concentrates briefly important background information on the cooperation between ISI and CIA. Also standard works like Ayesha Siddiqas (2007) Military Inc .: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy or the study by Menezes (1999: Fidelity and Honor: The Indian Army from the Seventeenth to the Twenty-first Century) are not mentioned. Finally, one should also refer to the considerations of Lieven (2011: Pakistan: A Hard Country), who correctly notes that the dramatic increase in natural disasters in the recent past will pose much more central challenges to future processes of change in South Asia than political intrigue and the intelligence service skirmishes that jihadist or separationist missions generate (on the qualitative For differences in the various forms of "Islamic" violence, see for example Lohlker 2009: Jihadism: Materials).

Formally, there are incorrect technical terms, for example in the English-language chapter Abbreviations: Lashkar-e Toiba (P. Vii) instead of Lashkar-e Taiba, Jish-e Mohammad instead of Jaish-e Muhammad, Tableeghi Jammat (P. Viii) instead Tablighi Jama'at. The explanation of the Iranian language is also wrong SAVAK with the Afghan Khadamat-e Etela'at-e Dawlati - although the English translation is correct again (the correct information in the original language would be: Sazeman-e Ettela'at va Amniyat-e Keshvar). You can also switch from al and ul (even in a term, for example the repeated explanation of HUJI as Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (for example p. vi) respectively Jihad and Jehad (for example p. vi) is unnecessarily unattractive. The confusion of Tablighi Jama'at and Jama'at-e Islami to Tablighi Islami (P. 237). But there are also numerous careless mistakes in German-language technical terms and place names, for example Natalixes (P. 244) instead of Naxalites, Dakha (P. 296) instead of Dhaka, Kathmandu (P. 360) instead of Kathmandu, Paktunkhwa (P. 367) instead of Pakhtunkhwa, Lashkargah (P. 368) instead of Lashkar Gah, Madresses (P. 354 and 355) instead of madrasahs, Wahabi (P. 355) instead of Wahhabi and so on.

Small flaws add up: If the family photos of the author's wife and daughters in Pakistan (p. 408) are a matter of taste, the continuation of the footnotes from 1 to 771 is a formal weakness (it would be customary to start counting again at the beginning of the chapter) . Jumping back and forth between German and English (without specifying sources!) Apparently copied into the appendix, list of abbreviations, cover text and bibliography does not make it easier for the reader. That in the thin bibliography under Suggested Reading (sic!) that only English-language literature is cited is, without a doubt, unfriendly to the reader, as several of the titles mentioned have also appeared in German translations. South Asia experts will be amazed to find that not a single source is given in an Indian or Pakistani language, although all English-language newspapers in Pakistan are listed in the appendix (for whatever reason). However, every newspaper reader in Pakistan knows that the more interesting analyzes and comments appear in the national language Urdu or a regional language. Hiding all publications in South Asian languages ​​is a crucial weakness and also raises questions about the author's interview skills.

In summary: The book cannot be recommended to the layman unreservedly - on the one hand its content is sometimes lost in detail, in the narrative anecdotal and in the analysis sometimes unclear to arbitrary, on the other hand it is often formally unfriendly to the reader, since profound knowledge of history and the political landscape and Pakistan is required .

However, all these shortcomings cannot hide the fact that this work, as the first German-language study of two of the most professional secret services in Asia, is a publication that is worth reading in many respects and that is also pioneering in German-speaking countries. Because of the abundance of information and the fascinating analytical suggestions, the work will find enthusiasts. The publication is courageous in several ways and it is to be hoped that further publications will follow. The subject is indeed of paramount importance.


Coser, Lewis, 1974: Greedy Institutions: Patterns of Undivided Commitment. New York: Free Press.

Dietl, Wilhelm, 2010: Shadow Armies: The Secret Services of the Islamic World. St. Pölten: residence.

Lohlker, Rüdiger, 2009: Jihadism: Materials. Vienna: Facultas.

Madsen, Stig Toft, Kenneth Bo Nielsen & Uwe Skoda (eds.), 2011: Trysts with Democracy: Political Practice in South Asia. London: Anthem.

Malik, Jamal (ed.), 2008: Madrasas in South Asia: Teaching Terror? London: Routledge.

Mearsheimer, John J., 2011: Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Menezes, Lt. General S. L., 1999: Fidelity and Honor: The Indian Army from the Seventeenth to the Twenty-first Century. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Nawaz, Shuja, 2008: Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within. Karachi: Oxford University Press.

Riedel, Bruce, 2011: Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.


Hein G. Kiessling: ISI and R&AW - The Secret Services of Pakistan and India: Competing Nuclear Powers, Their Politics and International Terrorism. (Series: Secret Intelligence Services, Vol. 6). Berlin: Verlag Dr. Köster, 414 pp.

ISBN-13: 978-3-89574-770-0
29.80 euros