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A man of few words, he meant business

chandigarh Updated: Nov 06, 2012 11:06 IST
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The national security adviser asked me for an organisation chart of the Army Headquarters. I sent it with a personal note. The note was returned with the remark "Thanks". The name "Brijesh", as written by me, was corrected to "Brajesh". A month later, he rang up and said, "Boss (PM) wants you to meet him at 10 am on May 9, 1998 at his residence." I asked him if the other service chiefs had been called. "Yes." And then we were disconnected.

It took a little while to figure out what could be the reason. When we reached the PM's residence, Dr Abdul Kalam was already there. Brajesh Mishra shared information about the impending nuclear test. He noticed my one-page note. As we were leaving, he asked me if I knew what was to be discussed. "I have a hunch," I said. "When the army is utilised on an important mission, the chief has to know."

That was the beginning of a relationship which will always be cherished. It was mostly formal, always friendly. A hint of slight familiarity came across only when we shared a drink.
Mishra ensured that the service chiefs were in the loop whenever any security-related strategic policies were considered.

When the Lahore Declaration was to be signed, I told him that the service chiefs did not know what exactly was being agreed to. He sent me the draft promptly. After consulting my Chief of Staffs Committee (COSC) colleagues, I conveyed some observations. He sent two joint secretaries in the external affairs ministry involved in the negotiations to my office to discuss the observations in detail.

Mishra never gave direct orders. He conveyed them and then facilitated their implementation. During the Kargil war, he organised Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meetings in a manner that we were able to adopt an integrated approach to "war management" with political, economic, diplomatic, media and military aspects meshed together cogently. He facilitated this process creditably and became an effective troubleshooter.

During the war, he met the US national security adviser in Europe and delivered a letter from Vajpayee for President Clinton. He let it be known that India may not be able to continue with its policy of "restraint" as its military forces could not be kept on a leash any longer. The US took this message seriously.

After the war, at my request, Vajpayee began seeing the service chiefs once a month. I asked Mishra to join us. He declined, saying we would have more informal discussions without him. I would send brief notes of the meetings to him and the defence minister. A few months later, he asked me not to send these notes. When I enquired about the reason, he said, "It's in your interest. Some people don't like your meetings."

After my retirement, he got me nominated to the National Security Advisory Board for two terms and also asked me to attend the International Security Conference in Munich twice, once with him. As always, he was most relaxed. One day, Pakistan's foreign minister requested him for a late-evening meeting. I asked Mishra what he would do in the evening before that. "Pub crawling," he suggested. We enjoyed that evening thoroughly.

Brajesh Mishra brought service chiefs in the loop whenever security-related policies were considered. He facilitated Cabinet Committee on Security meetings creditably during Kargil war.