- Sutik Biswas
- BBC correspondent in India
Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in his new memoirs that India and Pakistan came close to breaking out a “nuclear fire” between them in February 2019.
This happened after Delhi launched strikes on militants on Pakistani soil following an attack on Indian forces in Kashmir.
Pakistan then said it had shot down two Indian military planes and captured a fighter pilot.
India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir, but only control parts of it.
India has long accused Pakistan of supporting separatist militants in the Kashmir Valley, an accusation Islamabad denies. The two nuclear-armed neighbors have fought three wars since independence from Britain and partition in 1947. All but one of those wars were over Kashmir.
Pompeo says in his book, Not To Go One Inch: Fighting for the America I Love, that he did not “believe the world properly knew how rivalry between India and Pakistan brought them so close to nuclear conflagration in February.” 2019″.
He added, “The truth is that I don’t know the exact answer either. I know that war was very close.”
Pompeo says he will “never forget the night” he was in Hanoi at the “Negotiating with the North Koreans on Nuclear Weapons” summit, when “India and Pakistan began threatening each other over the decades-old dispute over the northern border region of Kashmir.”
After the attack on Indian forces killed more than 40 soldiers – an “Islamic terrorist attack … perhaps aided in part by Pakistan’s lax counter-terrorism policies”, according to Pompeo – India responded with air strikes inside Pakistan. And “the Pakistanis shot down an aircraft in a subsequent dogfight and kept the Indian pilot captive.”
Pompeo said he woke up in Hanoi to speak with an unnamed Indian “peer”.
He added: “It is believed that the Pakistanis have begun to prepare their nuclear weapons to strike.”
“He (the Indian official) told me that India is considering escalation in its own way,” he said.
Pompeo added, “I asked him to do nothing and give us a minute to discuss things.”
Pompeo wrote that he began working with then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, with whom he was in “the safe little communications spot in our hotel.”
He says that he contacted the then Pakistani army commander, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, “with whom I dealt many times,” and told him what the Indian official told him.
“He said it wasn’t true. As one might expect, he thought, the Indians were preparing their nuclear weapons for deployment. It took us a few hours – and our teams on the ground in New Delhi and Islamabad made a clear effort to convince each side that the other was not preparing for a nuclear war.” .
“No other country would have done what we did that night to avoid a terrible outcome,” Pompeo wrote.
Neither India nor Pakistan has yet commented on what Pompeo said.
The Jaish-e-Mohammed group in Pakistan claimed responsibility for the 2019 attack on Indian soldiers, and India pledged to respond.
The Indian air strikes across the Line of Control that divides Indian and Pakistani territory were the first since the war between them in 1971. India said it had killed a large number of militants, but Pakistan called the claim “reckless”.