Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani distanced himself from a biographical profile of Benazir Bhutto he released a couple of weeks ago without full knowledge of its contents. But his Rajya Sabha counterpart and senior BJP colleague Jaswant Singh has a different take on the book that he has since read.
In a letter to the book’s author, the London-based Shyam Bhatia, Singh said he “very much enjoyed reading” Goodbye Shahzadi: “A riveting narrative so moving in its content and written with such lucid, arresting flow that I read it almost in one sitting.”
The email Bhatia received from Singh before the letter, also praised the book, alluding to the controversy it has triggered over the author’s claim that Benazir bartered nuclear secrets for North Korean data on missile technology. “I have neither seen nor read the PPP’s reaction to your eminently fair and in fact movingly affectionate reminiscences of Benazir,” he said.
Advani wasn’t available for his comments. But BJP sources said his response to the book was guided by his equation with Benazir who, he felt, should have been spared posthumously such charges to which she had the right to reply.
Himself a prolific writer, Singh is currently working on a book on Jinnah. His autobiographical venture, A Call To Honour: In Service of Emergent India, made headlines in 2006 with the claim of a CIA mole in P.V. Narasimha Rao’s secretariat. The resultant public uproar made him backtrack in the absence of conclusive proof.
Bhatia’s account of the uranium enrichment-missile technology swap between Pakistan and North Korea reconfirms the view held for long by experts in India and abroad. What the PPP is unable to stomach is the charge that Benazir confessedly played the courier while she was Prime Minister.
In a signed article in 2003, a top Indian expert on strategic affairs, B .Raman had linked her 1993 journey to Pyongyang with the visits of several North Korean nuclear and missile experts to Pakistan in 1994-95. The purpose: to discuss bilateral cooperation in these fields.