Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently blamed the country’s former president General Pervez Musharraf for the Kargil misadventure.
Addressing the Pakistan Peoples Party – Nawaz (PML-N) general council meeting at his residence in Lahore, Sharif again reiterated that Kargil was planned and executed by the Pakistani Army and its chief Pervez Musharraf without his knowledge. I don’t want to go into the merits of former Pakistani PM’s claims that he was kept in dark about the entire episode.
The interesting bits in his marathon speech were about the visit he undertook to the US to resolve the crisis. and save the region from a nuclear war. Sharif said that Musharraf pleaded with him to talk to then US President Bill Clinton to end the conflict.
Different versions of what happened, who planned it, who knew about it, have already been put out by Musharraf, Sharif and many others in Pakistan.
One of the most interesting episode in the entire drama was Sharif’s US visit. A policy paper published by the University of Pennsylvania in 2002 throws light on one of the most important day in the South Asian history. The paper was written by Bruce Riedel, who was President Clinton’s Special Assistant and Senior Director for Near East and South Asia Affairs in the National Security Council at the White House. Riedel was present with the US President during his meeting with Nawaz Sharif.
According to the document, “July 4th, 1999 was probably the most unusual July 4th in American diplomatic history, certainly among the most eventful. President Clinton engaged in one of the most sensitive diplomatic high wire acts of any administration, successfully persuading Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to pull back Pakistani backed fighters from a confrontation with India that could threaten to escalate into a nuclear war between the world’s two newest nuclear powers. “
Seeking US intervention
The Pakistani premier had requested American intervention to stop the Indian counterattack but the US had made it clear that unless Pakistan withdraws behind the Line of Control (LoC) the US would not help.
On July 2, 1999 Sharif called President Clinton and requested him to intervene. The President also consulted with then Indian Prime Minister A B Vajpayee who clearly stated that India will not negotiate “under the threat of aggression” and that withdrawal of Pakistani forces was essential.
Sharif again called President Clinton on July 3 and told him that he was ready to come to Washington. The President warned him that without agreeing to withdraw Pakistani forces behind the LoC, the visit will not yield any results. Sharif told him that he was coming to the US on July 4.
According to the policy paper, the White House and the State Department prepared two documents before Sharif’s visit. The first was a draft statement President Clinton would issue if Sharif agreed to withdraw Pakistani forces behind the LoC. The second draft was a statement the President would issue if Sharif refuse to withdraw the forces. The latter draft clearly stated that Pakistan was solely responsible for the crisis in South Asia.
The paper states that the US had evidence that “Pakistan was preparing their nuclear arsenals for possible deployment”. The US government also took help from Saudi Arabia, Britain, and China to pressurize Pakistan to back down from Kargil. Before the meeting, President Clinton’s advisers briefed him and suggested that the President should not be alone with Sharif at any time during the meeting. According to them a record of all the conversations was very critical.
Firm US response
During the meeting with President Clinton, Sharif kept on playing the old Kashmir tune. But the US President made it clear that the issue at hand was withdrawal of Pakistani forces behind the LoC and that there was no point in raking up old issues at this point.
The paper further states that Sharif then requested twice to be left alone with President Clinton. But the President insisted that he wanted a record of the event and asked Bruce Riedel to be present with him.
Sharif told President Clinton that he needed a face saving formula to withdraw the Pakistani forces otherwise the fundamentalists in his country would use the opportunity to topple him.
The Pakistani PM once again asked for a one-on-one discussion with President Clinton, which was dismissed. The paper states: “The President dismissed this with a wave of his hand and then told Sharif that he warned him on the second not to come to Washington unless he was ready to withdraw without any precondition or quid pro quo. Sharif had been warned by others as well. The President said he had a draft statement ready to issue that would pin all the blame for the Kargil crisis on Pakistan tonight.”
President Clinton reminded Sharif that despite making commitments about helping the US locate Osama bin Laden he has done nothing. Instead, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was conniving with bin Laden and the Taliban in spreading terror. The President also warned him that his draft statement would also mention Pakistan’s role in supporting terrorism in Afghanistan and India.
The two leaders took a break after the first round of talks and met again. President Clinton presented a draft statement for the press that the two leaders would jointly issue.
The key element in the draft read “the Prime Minister has agreed to take concrete and immediate steps for the restoration of the LoC.”
“The statement also called for a ceasefire once the withdrawal was completed and restoration of the Lahore process. Finally, the statement included a reaffirmation of the President’s long standing plans to visit South Asia,” the paper states.
Sharif read the statement and again took a break to discuss it with his team of advisers. Finally he accepted the draft statement with one addition of his own.
According to the paper, Sharif wanted a sentence which 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.”
Finally the announcement was made. Pakistan withdrew its forces behind the LoC.
Following is the full text of the joint statement issued by the US President Bill Clinton and the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after their talks:
President Clinton and Prime Minister Sharif share the view that the current fighting in the Kargil region of Kashmir is dangerous and contains the seeds of a wider conflict. They also agreed that it was vital for the peace of South Asia that the Line of Control in Kashmir be respected by both parties, in accordance with the 1972 Shimla accord.
It was agreed between the President and the Prime Minister that concrete steps will be taken for the restoration of the Line of Control in accordance with the Shimla Agreement. The President urged an immediate cessation of the hostilities once these steps are taken. The Prime Minister and President agreed that the bilateral dialogue begun in Lahore in February provides the best forum for resolving all issues dividing India and Pakistan, including Kashmir. The President said he would take a personal interest in encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification of those bilateral efforts, once the sanctity of the Line of Control has been fully restored.
The President reaffirmed his intent to pay an early visit to South Asia.