Jun 16, 2008 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Fly on the wall

Saw this excerpt at Ali Jafri’s blog about how former President Clinton literally blew his top at Nawaz Sharif during a meeting 1999 after the Kargil fiasco. This is from the book, Engaging India – Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb, published in 2006, written by Strobe Talbot, the former senior U.S. Department of State official, who was in the room with Bill Clinton when the U.S. president received Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the then Pakistani prime minister, who came to see Clinton regarding the war in Kargil:

“Kargil War between India and Pakistan took place between May and July 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir. According to India the cause of the war was the infiltration of Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants into positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control, which serves as the de facto border between the two states. During and directly after the war, Pakistan blamed the fighting entirely on independent Kashmiri insurgents, but documents left behind by casualties and later statements by Pakistan’s Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff showed involvement of Pakistani paramilitary forces. The Indian Army, supported by the Indian Air Force, attacked the Pakistani positions and, with international diplomatic support, eventually forced a Pakistani withdrawal across the Line of Control (LoC).

At the height of the Kargil conflict, former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is said to have told then US President Bill Clinton that he was prepared to help resolve the crisis if India committed to settle the ‘larger issue’ of Kashmir in a specific time-frame, but the American leader snubbed him saying it would amount to a ‘nuclear blackmail.’ When Sharif visited Washington in 1999 to discuss Kargil with Clinton, he insisted, ‘I am prepared to help resolve the current crisis in Kargil but India must commit to resolve the larger issue in a specific time-frame,’ former US deputy secretary of State Strobe Talbot writes in his new book Engaging India – Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb.

Clinton came as close as I had ever seen to blowing up in a meeting with a foreign leader,’ and told Sharif, ‘If I were the Indian Prime Minister, I would never do that. I would be crazy to do it. It would be nuclear blackmail. If you proceed with this line, I will have no leverage with them. If I tell you what you think you want me to say, I will be stripped of all influence with the Indians.’ ‘I am not – and the Indians are not – going to let you get away with blackmail, and I will not permit any characterization of this meeting that suggests I am giving in to blackmail,’ Talbot writes, adding, Clinton also refuted Sharif’s accusation that the Indians were the instigators of the crisis and intransigents in the ongoing standoff. When Sharif insisted he had to have something to show for his trip to the US beyond unconditional surrender over Kargil, Clinton pointed to the dangers of nuclear war if Pakistan did not return to its previous positions. Seeing they were getting nowhere, Clinton told Sharif he had a statement ready to release to press that would lay all the blame for the crisis on Pakistan. ‘Sharif was ashen.’

‘Clinton had worked himself back into real anger – his face flushed, eyes narrowed, lips pursed, cheek muscles pulsing, fists clenched. He said it was crazy enough for Sharif to have let his military violate the Line of Control, start a border war with India, and now prepare nuclear forces (U.S. had received intelligence Pakistan was preparing nuclear forces for attack against India) for action,’ Talbot says in his book. ‘Sharif seemed beaten, physically and emotionally’ and denied he had given any order with regard to nuclear weaponry. Taking a break, Clinton spoke to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee over phone and told him what had happened until then. ‘What do you want me to say?’ Vajpayee asked. ‘Nothing,’ Clinton replied, he just wanted to show he was holding.”

Mr. Sharif may cry to death saying that he had nothing to do with Kargil and if we believe that he had nothing to do with Kargil despite his “heavy mandate,” then he should retire as a failed politician and head of government and do not seek a place in the parliament. What kind of PM would let his army chief run amok like this? As Ali Jafri has rightly pointed out: If Nawaz Sharif didn’t know about Kargil, why was he negotiating on Kashmir in such a confident way with Clinton?

Honestly I can soooo picture this meeting. Clinton red with rage, Mian Sahab red with shame and people like Talbot red with worry(Or is it the wrong color for worry), thinking about ways of ending the meeting before something really ghastly happened. I would have given anything to be a fly on the wall that day, really.

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