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Rantings of frustrated general: Delhi

New Delhi, Dec. 30: General Pervez Musharraf’s statement that Pakistan was prepared to use nuclear weapons against India early this year is a clear indication of his frustration at being ignored by Delhi and highlights his fear that the world is losing interest in Kashmir.

In the past, the Pakistan President has flip-flopped on the nuclear issue when, after threatening to use nuclear weapons against India, he quickly wriggled out on being confronted by key world leaders.

In an interview with Der Spiegel on April 6, Musharraf said only when the whole of his country “faces the threat of being erased from the map, will the pressure from the Pakistani people will be so great to exercise the nuclear option”. In another interview with BBC in June, he had argued that the danger of an India-Pakistan war was averted not due to Pakistan’s nuclear capability, but because of its “conventional deterrence”.

The remarks made by the Pakistan President now contradict his stand on the issue. But India has decided to use his remarks to highlight that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue states is much more in Pakistan than anywhere else.

“We have seen these reports and are not surprised. Pakistan has also earlier threatened use of nuclear weapons against India,” a senior Indian official said. “The international community should take note of these highly dangerous, irresponsible and provocative statements.”

The official pointed out that such remarks made the prospects of a meaningful forward movement in Delhi’s relations with Islamabad “unrealistic”. Since the Agra Summit between Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee turned into a fiasco, Delhi has stuck to its position of not returning to the talks table with Islamabad.

Many in Delhi feel that much of what Musharraf said was also aimed at justifying the role of the Pakistani army in the country’s affairs while trying to hide his growing frustration at being ignored by Delhi.

The military leader’s claim to turn around the Pakistani economy has not been fulfilled. However, the ostentatious lifestyle that the top army brass is used to has not gone down well with Pakistanis. By insinuating that the threat of using nuclear weapons forced India to withdraw its troops, Musharraf is justifying the huge budget of the Pakistani defence establishment.

“I personally conveyed messages to Prime Minister Vajpayee through every international leader who came across to Pakistan, that if Indian troops moved a single step across the International Border or the Line of Control, they should not expect a conventional war from Pakistan,” Musharraf was quoted as having told air force veterans in Karachi.

Pakistan’s defence spokesman, Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, however, said Musharraf did not mean nuclear and biological strikes but only spoke about an unconventional war.

But India argued that Pakistan combined all the three elements of grave concern to the world — religious fundamentalism, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

“Pakistan’s dangerous activities in transferring technology to North Korea in exchange for missiles is surfacing more and more. The question is what else has Pakistan done in transferring nuclear technology to others on the network of Islamic fundamentalism,” the official said.

“Such statements from President Musharraf, coupled with the rise of Islamic fundamentalist parties in Pakistan, the release of known fundamentalist leaders of banned terrorist organisations and continued Pakistani involvement in terrorism against India along with Pakistan’s obduracy in blocking economic co-operation with India makes the prospects of any meaningful forward movement in our relationship with Pakistan unrealistic,” the spokesman said.

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