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Kargil: The aborted Pak nuke war

London, Oct. 28 (PTI): Pakistan was preparing to use nuclear missiles during the Kargil war, a new book has claimed, citing a conversation between President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif eight years back.

“When President Clinton met Sharif at Blair House (in July 1999), Clinton asked Sharif if he knew how advanced the threat of nuclear war really was' Did he know, for example, that his military was preparing to use nuclear missiles'” the book, Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy, says.

Sharif shook his head, implying he was unaware of his military’s moves, investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark have claimed in their 586-page book.

The President warned Sharif, saying he had a statement ready for release that would pin all the blame for Kargil on Pakistan if the Prime Minister refused to pull his forces back.

Sharif briefly left the room to seek advice. “When he returned, he denied that he had ordered the preparation of their missile force, said he was against war but was worried for his life in Pakistan,” the book said, quoting Bruce Riedel, who was then with the US national security council.

Later, according to the book, Clinton placed the prepared statement on the table. “Sharif left the room again to read it to his advisers and then returned finally ready to call his troops to withdraw to the Line of Control. The mood changed in a nanosecond,” Riedel was quoted as saying. The two posed for photos, with Sharif looking “glum”, before the Prime Minister left for the airport, said Riedel.

“The PM knew he had done the right thing for Pakistan and the world, but he wasn’t sure his army would see it that way.”

Two months later, Sharif’s brother Shahbaz met Karl Inderfurth, assistant secretary of state for South Asia, in Washington. “Shahbaz confided that his brother was under intense pressure,” Inderfurth said.

A few days earlier, attending the funeral of his father-in-law, Sharif had been warned by his attorney-general that he was about to be unseated in a military coup.

According to the book, while Musharraf did not come across as a fundamentalist to officials like Inderfurth, the Clinton administration was worried that a significant number of senior Pakistani army officers owed allegiance to men like Osama bin Laden.

The book quoted Robert Gallucci, of the state department and a member of the national security panel CIA director George Tenet set up in the spring of 2000, as saying: “I was the nuclear freak and got briefings on the nuclear terrorist thing. Every scenario was scary and believable. Put this way, the US’s number one enemy was looking more and more like Pakistan.”

Levy and Scott-Clark, who have also written The Stone of Heaven (2001) and The Amber Room (2004), were foreign correspondents for the Sunday Times before joining The Guardian and won the One World Media award in 2004.

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