LONDON, June 19: President Gen Pervez Musharraf has warned the West not to allow India to develop a military superiority that would leave Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal as its “only real deterrent.”

In an interview at his hotel in London with The Times newspaper, published on Thursday, the president said “a sharp rise” in India’s defence spending, coupled with restrictions on Pakistan buying military equipment abroad, threatened to create a “dangerous” imbalance in force levels between the two rivals.

In such circumstances, he observed, Pakistan would have no choice but to rely on its nuclear weapons. “The other element of deterrence is your capability of striking and causing such damage to an enemy that is unbearable to him, and that can be done with a smaller force,” he said.

“Every country has to survive. Any country which wants to live in honour and dignity wants to preserve sovereign equality and its sovereignty. Nobody will compromise with that.”

Gen Musharraf, who had talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on Tuesday, will have “important” talks with the United States President George W. Bush at Camp David on June 24. He intends to tell Mr Bush: “There’s an imbalance which is being created. Do not let it be created.” If restrictions on Pakistan buying military equipment could not be lifted, a similar “embargo” should be placed on India.

The president admitted that Pakistan and India came “very close” to war over the Kashmir dispute last summer.

He, however, denied that there had been any chance of the confrontation “going nuclear”, despite fears expressed in the West.

But added: “When a war starts (you do not know) what direction it will take because there are a lot of intangibles which then come in the way. No sane person in normal conditions can ever even contemplate going into a non-conventional war, but basically the best guarantee is to avoid conflict.”

WAR ON TERROR: Gen Musharraf criticised various aspects of the US-led war on terror. He suggested that the US had done too little to rebuild Afghanistan after its war to end the grip of Taliban in that country.

“Things are not going as well as one would expect in Afghanistan. There is a vacuum in the countryside of Afghanistan (and) it must be filled (by international troops) or it will be filled by those hostile to peace.”

President Musharraf also criticised Washington for waging its battle against international terrorism on too many different “fronts.”

It “bothered” him when he heard about countries such as Iran being targeted. It was important, he said, to finish the job in Afghanistan and Iraq before committing resources elsewhere, and he intended to say that to Mr Bush next week.

Asked whether America had done enough to address the grievances that terrorists exploited, he used the analogy of a tree and its roots.

“If you eliminate a number of terrorists you are just plucking leaves from a tree. If you eliminate an organisation like Al Qaeda you have chopped off a branch from the tree, but the tree still exists. You have to uproot the whole of the tree,” he said. That meant dealing with the issue which was at the heart of terrorism disease — the confrontation between Palestine and Israel, Gen Musharraf said. “What is happening around the world is the fallout from Israel-Palestine issue.”—PPI



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