| Pranab Mukherjee at the UN. Picture by Jay Mandal
New York, Sept. 28: Subtly, but politely, India has called General Pervez Musharraf a liar for the claims he has made in his book about the Kargil war.
Wrapping up his stay in New York as the head of the Indian delegation to the 61st UN General Assembly, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee yesterday pointed out at a news conference that when intrusions into Kargil were first detected, Pakistan had claimed that those who had occupied Indian territory were the mujahideen.
Pakistan maintained that fiction even after its army’s identity papers were found on the bodies of those killed in clashes with Indian soldiers.
“Now President Musharraf is admitting that it was the Pakistani army which was in Kargil,” Mukherjee pointed out. “Both these versions cannot be correct at the same time, they are contradictory.”
Mukherjee’s comments represent the first official reaction to Musharraf’s book, In The Line of Fire: A Memoir, which is a runaway bestseller here. Bookstores in New York ran out of copies on the very first day and have been struggling to get fresh stocks.
Musharraf claimed in the memoir that the Americans had paid Pakistan bounty for handing over al Qaida operatives to the US. On talk shows here this week, the General contradicted his own claims.
“To what extent should we take seriously such a book'” Mukherjee asked.
Sources in South Block said Mukherjee’s comments on Musharraf were not off-the-cuff remarks in response to questions from reporters, but were cleared at the highest level in anticipation that there would be queries.
Pressure has been building on the government to comprehensively refute Musharraf’s assertions. General V.P. Malik, who was army chief during the Kargil war, and several others in key positions at that time have been exercised about New Delhi’s lack of official reaction and have been pressuring the government to act.
Eventually, it was decided that the defence minister was the appropriate person to put out an official response.
Mukherjee challenged Musharraf’s claim that “the initial signs of sincerity and flexibility that I sensed in Manmohan Singh seem to be withering away”.
The defence minister responded: “India is a mature democracy and the Prime Minister negotiates on behalf of the government. There is no question of withering away of the authority. The Prime Minister is fully authorised to carry on the negotiations.”