Pakistan and India relations hit rock bottom when diplomacy between the two countries became a tirade of childish insults being exchanged, with “terroristan” and “rape capital” being thrown around between diplomats. With such aggression, most of it being from India with its ceasefire violations on the LoC and non-cooperation on the Indus Water Treaty issue, one could be forgiven to think that compromise with anyone from the rival side was far-fetched. The London School of Economics debate between former Intelligence Chiefs of both countries however show that a window of cooperation might still be open.

Amarjit Singh Dulat, former chief of Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has admitted that India has created a “mess” in Kashmir in the past 15 months and the government’s policy of ruthless “heavy handedness” is a huge mistake. Here, Singh is addressing the singular ruthlessness that Indian forces have adopted in the issue of Kashmir, with their indiscriminate use of pellet guns and flagrant violations of fundamental rights.

Singh also does leaps better than the current Indian foreign policy by admitting that the constant harsh rhetoric against Pakistan employed by Modi and his extremist followers is only to exploit electoral and political advantage, and that this will only bring ruin. Perhaps the most crucial concession Singh makes is that violence will never amount to anything in Kashmir or with Pakistan and there are no problems between the two countries that can’t be resolved through dialogue. If left unresolved, the Kashmir dispute will keep returning as a crisis with increased intensity, as it has for the last sixty years. Such concessions by a the former Head of RAW itself indicate that tensions have escalated beyond any sensible point in the Indian administration.

The former director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Ehsan Ul Haq riterated much of what Singh had said. The agreement between the two men – former heads of organisations that are traditionally painted as arch enemies locked in a constant covert battle – on so many issues is surprising to say the least. The cheerful embrace at the end of the talk and the joint line that “only dialogue can resolve the Kashmir issue”, should give us some hope of surmounting the bitterness that stands between the two nations

We can only hope that the message of cooperation endorsed by Singh is also understood by the current Indian establishment. Hostile relations between the two countries will spell damage for both. Perhaps Prime Minister Modi should reflect on history’s lesson that demagogues who incite violence for electoral popularity never fare well in the long run.