Between The Lines, Former ISI Chief Re-Calibrates Sharif’s Kargil Narrative
*** Musharraf had grounds to launch Kargil operation ‘preemptively’
*** Sharif gave the ‘go ahead’ but was not aware of the ‘extent’ of the operation
*** Sharif had better options than going to Washington
IRSHAD SALIM (May 23, 2018) — In the year 2000 — a year after the Kargil ‘mini war’ between Pakistan and India — one Indian general accepted that India had plans to make a further ingress into Siachin glacier like it did in 1984. Musharraf’s Kargil operation was nothing but a preemptive strike to prevent India from doing so, the former ISI chief Gen (r) Asad Durrani says in his book.
During PPP-led Benazir Bhutto’s second term in office as the prime minister of Pakistan, Gen. Musharraf, as director general of military operation (DGMO) then, told her “prime minister, we can do that”, Durrani states.
So, Kargil was on the burner well before Nawaz Sharif became the next PM, it appears.
According to the former spy chief, Musharraf had relied on the principle of “nuclear immunity” and presumed that India would not be able to do much in response to the Kargil operation as planned.
Even though then PM Nawaz Sharif was unaware of the “extent” of the operation but the former PM had to take political responsibility, because he gave the “go ahead”, says Durrani.
“95 percent of the times this theory could have worked if it came to nuclear escalation between Pakistan and India but it did not take into account the severity and magnitude of risk that the remaining 5pc would carry with itself”.
That five percent involved mitigating diplomatic and geopolitical fallout by deft handling of the matter — a civil domain — assuming the civilian leadership then had done their homework well.
For Musharraf it came as a surprise when the international media and the global community considered the move “unwise” and “reckless”.
It means, according to several observers, the weakness and failings rested on “communications and political will” gaps in Islamabad.
Musharraf was taken by surprise with the two concurring events: 1) the world media calling his move ‘irresponsible’, and the then PM Nawaz Sharif traveling to Washington on July 4 in 1999 for damage control.
What was the damage? It seems the issue of optics, diplomacy and turf war — all combined, delivering a feast of narratives to pick and choose from for the nation.
Pakistan was said to be in contact with China, Durrani says, and the neighbor had asked Pakistan to withdraw since it had “made its point”, the retired spy chief says.
Could the withdrawal have been orchestrated better with something to walk away with diplomatically or militarily or both, and how.
Durrani makes a suggestion.
The ex-spy chief turned author says Sharif could have taken advantage of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s call to withdraw the forces (US President Bill Clinton asked Sharif to do so) since the issue could be consequential for his party in the next elections, rather than Sharif asking for American aid as quid pro quo, the General claims.
Historians and analysts are still deciphering this point of inflection in the country’s civil-military paradigm as Sharif seeks to clarify his role in it amid myriad of narratives and counter-narratives by opinionmakers and spin doctors from both sides of the political divide.
Some of my understanding of the events, I’ve braved to pen them here– having waited for long in search of one single narrative the nation can move on with.
Another version of report on Durrani’s views in his book can be accessed here.
Durrani’s assessments, observations and inferences — having been head of the country’s premier spy agency, could help the non-partisans move forward.
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