Musharraf brought region to
                               brink of nuclear war

                               CHIDANAND RAJGHATTA

                               TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 2002  1:26:29 PM ]

                               WASHINGTON: Amid renewed tension in the subcontinent,
                               aggravated by yet another terrorist massacre in Jammu and
                               Kashmir, a gripping account of the 1999 Kargil episode by a key
                               Clinton aide shows the Pakistan military to be a trigger-happy
                               rogue outfit that deployed nuclear weapons for possible use
                               against India.

                               A reckless Pervez Musharraf, a feckless Nawaz Sharif, a
                               resolute Vajpayee and a principled Bill Clinton are central
                               characters in an unusual policy paper titled "American Diplomacy
                               and the 1999 Kargil Summit at Blair House," by former White
                               House official Bruce Riedel. The paper, presented at the
                               University of Pennsylvania's Center for Advanced Studies of India,
                               reads more like a fast paced film script than a foreign policy
                               critique.

                               Riedel's account of the Kargil episode portrays Pakistan as an
                               extremely unstable country where the military was at odds with
                               the political and civilian leadership and it was not clear who was
                               calling the shots. But the narrative suggests that the architect of
                               Pakistan's reckless adventurism at that time was none other than
                               its current ruler Pervez Musharraf, who comes across as a
                               war-mongering general who brought the region to the brink of a
                               nuclear catastrophe.

                               "Prime Minister Sharif had seemed genuinely interested in
                               pursuing the Lahore process when he met with Vajpayee and he
                               had argued eloquently with a series of American guests... that he
                               wanted an end to the fifty year old quarrel with India. His military
                               chief, General Pervez Musharraf, seemed to be in a different
                               mold. He was said to be a hardliner on Kashmir, a man some
                               feared was determined to humble India once and for all," writes
                               Riedel.

                               According to Riedel, US intelligence had information that the
                               Pakistani military, then led by Musharraf, was preparing its
                               nuclear arsenal for possible use in a wider war arising from the
                               Kargil clash, most likely without the knowledge of Sharif.

                               When Sharif pleaded with Washington to save Pakistan from rout
                               following a determined Indian response to the Kargil incursion,
                               Riedel says he recommended to President Clinton that he use
                               the information about Pakistani nuclear readiness only when
                               Sharif was without his aides, especially Foreign Secretary
                               Shamshad Ahmad, who was known to be very close to the ISI.

                               When Clinton later reveals the extent of Islamabad's nuclear
                               preparedness, Sharif "seemed taken aback and said only that
                               India was probably doing the same," says Riedel, who was
                               asked to stay behind as a notes-taker by the US President
                               despite Sharif's plea that they have a one-on one. Clinton then
                               berates Sharif, asking "did he know how crazy that (getting
                               nuclear missiles ready) was?"

                               An angry Clinton goes on to hector Sharif, reminding him that
                               Pakistan is playing fast and loose with terrorism. He (Clinton)
                               had asked repeatedly for Pakistani help to bring Osama Bin
                               Laden to justice from Afghanistan. Sharif had promised often to
                               do so but had done nothing. Instead the ISI worked with Bin
                               Laden and the Taliban to foment terrorism, Riedel discloses
                               Clinton as telling Sharif. (More recent reports say Musharraf
                               sabotaged a CIA project to train Pakistanis commandos to catch
                               Bin Laden).

                               Clinton finally gets Sharif to sign the Kargil withdrawal agreement
                               by threatening to release a draft statement that would pin all the
                               blame for the Kargil crisis on Pakistan the same night if he did
                               not back down. The US would also release statement that would
                               mention Pakistan's role in supporting terrorists in Afghanistan
                               and India.

                               Reidel reveals that a statement to that effect had been readied by
                               the administration, confirming the widespread belief that the US
                               is fully cognisant of Pakistan's role in sponsoring terrorism but for
                               a variety of reasons keeps protecting its client state.

                               In relating the build-up that led to the Kargil war, Riedel also
                               exposes the lies that Musharraf has consistently peddled that
                               no Pakistani troops were involved in the incursions and it was the
                               mujaheedin who infiltrated Kargil.

                               In fact, Riedel writes, Pakistan's regular army and the Kashmir
                               militants it backs were involved in "cheating" on a tradition under
                               which the two countries -- India and Pakistan -- left forward posts
                               unmanned in winter.

                               "Pakistan denied its troops were involved, claiming that only
                               Kashmiri militants were doing the fighting -- a claim not taken
                               seriously anywhere," says Riedel. Musharraf has also been
                               accused of compulsively lying about other issues such as the
                               presence of Pakistani troops and advisors in Taliban-time
                               Afghanistan and the activities of US forces in Pakistan.

                               In fact, Riedel suggests that Sharif was so scared of the
                               Musharraf that he came to Washington with his wife and children
                               fearing that he may not be able to go back. The Pakistani prime
                               minister tells Clinton that unless the US gives him some
                               face-saving formula for withdrawing from Kargil, the
                               fundamentalists back home will gun for him and this might be his
                               last meeting with the US President.

                               "It was a possible indication that he was afraid he might not be
                               able to go home if the summit failed or that the military was
                               telling him to leave. At a minimum, Sharif seemed to be hedging
                               his bet on whether this would be a round trip," writes Riedel.

                               Riedel's narrative reveals such a chilling picture of Pakistani
                               power dynamic and rampant militarism that Indian officials who
                               are familiar with the situation rued the Bush administration's
                               current wisdom in enlisting the military regime as an ally in the
                               war against terrorism.

                               "They (the Bush administration) have created this grand fiction of
                               the Pakistani military being an ally when it has been the source
                               of so much trouble and terrorism in the region," one official said.
                               "This will come back to haunt them."

                               Riedel himself was uniquely placed to record what he describes
                               as "one of the most sensitive diplomatic high wire acts of any
                               administration" that averted a possible nuclear war. A career
                               intelligence analyst with the CIA, he was at that time a Senior
                               Director at the National Security Council and Special Assistant
                               to Clinton on South Asia.

                               Although the CIA is said to be institutionally inimical to India
                               because of its Cold War-era socialistic orientation, Riedel
                               consistently pushed for better US ties with New Delhi throughout
                               the 1990s and was a key player in changing the dynamics
                               between the two countries during that time.

                               Riedel's paper also suggests that Washington increasingly
                               respected India's restraint and consulted New Delhi in real-time
                               as it turned the screws on Pakistan, a system that the current
                               administration also appears to follow. Although, US officials
                               unfailingly speak of phone calls and talks with Indian and
                               Pakistani leaders in the same breath, the nature and tone of the
                               exchanges are entirely different as is revealed during the Kargil
                               crisis.

                               Riedel says shortly after Sharif called Clinton pleading for
                               American intervention, the US President phoned Vajpayee to
                               apprise him of the developments. The President sought to
                               reassure Vajpayee that he would not countenance Pakistani
                               aggression, not reward them for violating the LoC and that he
                               stood by the US commitment that direct talks between India and
                               Pakistan were the only solution to Kashmir, not third party
                               intervention.

                               Later, during a break in the talks on July 4, Clinton again puts
                               through a short call to New Delhi just to tell Vajpayee that he
                               was holding firm on demanding the withdrawal to the LoC.

                               "Vajpayee had little to say, even asking the President 'what do
                               you want me to say?'" recalls Riedel. "There was no give in New
                               Delhi and none was asked for."

                               When the talks resume, Clinton presents Sharif with a statement
                               in which the key sentence reads Pakistan "has agreed to take
                               concrete and immediate steps for the restoration of the LoC." The
                               statement also calls for a ceasefire once the withdrawal is
                               completed and restoration of the Lahore process.

                               "The President was clear and firm. Sharif had a choice, withdraw
                               behind the LoC and the moral compass would tilt back toward
                               Pakistan or stay and fight a wider and dangerous war with India
                               without American sympathy," writes Riedel.

                               Sharif reads the statement several times quietly and asks to talk
                               with his team. After a few minutes, he returns with the good
                               news. The statement was acceptable with one addition. He
                               wants a sentence added that would say "the President would
                               take personal interest to encourage an expeditious resumption
                               and intensification of the bilateral efforts (i.e. Lahore) once the
                               sanctity of the LoC had been fully restored."

                               Clinton has no problem with that as long as it is understood that
                               the overall language meant a Pakistani withdrawal first and did
                               not imply a quid pro quo. Attempts by Foreign Secretary
                               Shamshad Ahmed, the ISI frontman, to reopen the language is
                               curtly brushed aside by National Security Adviser Sandy Berger
                               who tells him that Sharif has okayed it. The President then calls
                               Vajpayee a third time to preview the statement.

                               When Sharif goes to the White House early the next morning for
                               a photo op with his family and the President, Riedel says his
                               mood was glum and he was not looking forward to the trip home.

                               "The Prime Minister knew he had done the right thing for
                               Pakistan and the world, but he was not sure his army would see
                               it that way," he writes.

                               But he lives up to his word and withdraws Pakistani forces from
                               Kargil. Clinton too lives up to his word, says Riedel. As soon as
                               the Pakistani forces were back across the LoC he pressed India
                               for a cease-fire in the Kargil sector.

                               After this occurred Clinton privately invites Sharif to send a senior
                               trusted official to Washington to begin discreet discussions on
                               how to follow up on his "personal commitment" to the Lahore
                               process. But Sharif does not get back on that, indicating that all
                               was not well with the political-military equation in Islamabad.

                               Finally in September 1999, Sharif sends his brother Shahbaz.
                               But all that Shahbaz wants to discuss is what the US could do to
                               help his brother stay in power.

                               "He all but said that they knew a military coup was coming,"
                               recalls Riedel. It did, a few weeks later, when Musharraf toppled
                               Sharif.

                               According to Riedel, the most important strategic result of Kargil
                               and the July 4 summit was its impact on Indo-US relations. The
                               clarity of the American position on Kargil and its refusal to give
                               Pakistan any reward for its aggression had an immediate and
                               dynamic impact on the relationship.

                               "Doors opened in New Delhi to Americans that had been shut for
                               years. The Indian elite -- including the military -- and the Indian
                               public began to shed long held negative perceptions of the US,"
                               writes Riedel, saying the Bush administration has accelerated
                               and intensified the process of US-India rapprochement