Army readied nukes in Kargil behind Sharif’s back: Book

Himalayan News Service

Islamabad, June 20:

The Pakistani government was unaware that its army had readied nuclear missiles during the 1999 Kargil conflict with India and backed down only under pressure from the US, a new book says. In “Pakistan Between Mosque And Military,” author Husain Haqqani deals extensively with the July 4, 1999 meeting between then US president Bill Clinton and then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Washington to find a face-saver to end the Kargil conflict, Dawn reported today. Bruce Riedel, a special assistant to the US president and a senior director of Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council who was present at the meeting, is quoted as saying that Sharif “wanted desperately” to find a solution that would let Pakistan withdraw from Kargil “with some cover”. “Without something to point to, Sharif warned ominously (that) the fundamentalists in Pakistan would move against him and this meeting would be his last with Clinton,” Riedel says.

“Clinton asked Sharif if he knew how advanced the threat of nuclear war really was? Did Sharif know his military was preparing their nuclear-tipped missiles? Sharif seemed taken aback and said only that India was probably doing the same. “The president reminded Sharif how close the US and Soviet Union had come to a nuclear conflict in 1962 over Cuba. Did Sharif realise that if even one bomb was dropped ... Sharif finished his sentence (saying) ‘it would be a catastrophe’,” Riedel is quoted as saying. “Was that what Sharif wanted? Did Sharif order the Pakistani nuclear missile force to prepare for action? Did he realise how crazy that was? You have put me in the middle today, set the US to fail and I won’t let it happen. Pakistan is messing with nuclear war,” Clinton reportedly said. At the end of that meeting, Sharif agreed to announce a Pakistani withdrawal from Kargil and restoration of the sanctity of the Line of Control (between India and Pakistan) in Jammu and Kashmir in return for Clinton taking a personal interest in resumption of the India-Pakistan dialogue, the book says. During the meeting, Clinton also raised the issue of Pakistan’s reluctance to help the US catch Osama.