NEW DELHI: Indian movie idol and recipient of Pakistan’s highest civilian award Dilip Kumar had intervened with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to help defuse the 1999 Kargil crisis, former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said on Tuesday.
Kasuri quoted an aide of Sharif as confiding with him that in the middle of a conversation in July 1999 between the Pakistan prime minister and India’s Atal Behari Vajpayee, the latter handed the phone to Kumar who was listening in.
“The prime minister did not believe it was his hero on the phone,” Mr Kasuri told NDTV. Dilip Kumar assured him it was indeed he speaking, and he was concerned about the flare-up on the Kargil heights. He urged Sharif to help defuse the crisis quickly as that would be the right thing to do in the interests of the people on both sides.
In a separate interview with the Headlines Today channel, Kasuri spoke of a high ranking American team probing him about the possible Pakistani reaction if India were to launch an aerial strike on suspected terrorist camps responsible for the Mumbai carnage.
Ex-minister says a US team asked him about army’s reaction if India carried out air strike on Muridke
Kasuri said he was certain that the US delegation had spoken to “someone very high in India” before asking him the question. Before a lunch in Lahore shortly after the 26/11 Mumbai attack, US Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham had asked Mr Kasuri how Pakistan would react if India carried out an aerial strike on Jamaatud Dawaa’s Muridke headquarters.
Besides McCain and Graham, then a Member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke was also present there. Holbrooke did not speak on the matter, possibly to maintain “plausible deniability”, Kasuri said.
“It was bipartisan, Richard Holbrooke was representing the Obama administration… I was no longer the foreign minister. I received a call from an American diplomat that so-and-so is coming, we’d like you to talk to him first… we sat in a corner and Holbrooke was mum,” Kasuri said in the interview.
“Senator McCain… says to me ‘We’re asking you something in view of your experience as former foreign minister because you know the army, and also since you’re a civilian you know the public reaction. Supposing… there’s a limited strike on Muridke’,” recalled Kasuri, who was foreign minister between 2002 and 2007.
When Kasuri asked what McCain meant, he replied, “Supposing there’s an aerial strike.”
To this Kasuri replied: “Are you trying to prevent a war?” McCain then said: “We think that may well prevent a war.”
Kasuri said he told the Senators that the Pakistan Army would give a measured response within five minutes. “…it would be measured and comensurate to the severity of the attack… You give me an assurance that the Indian Army will not react.”
The Senators asked, “If they did, what will be Pakistan’s reaction?” “Everything could spiral out of control,” Kasuri recalled as saying.
“The public response will be so great that the Pakistan Army would be de-legitimised in the eyes of its own people if it does not respond,” he told them.
Kasuri has written about the conversation in his book Neither A Hawk Nor A Dove, which would be released in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Published in Dawn, October 7th , 2015