IF PERVEZ Musharraf is to be believed, Kargil was not a debacle or setback for Pakistan. And if it seemed so to the world, he says, it was all because of the then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's political mishandling of a "favourable" military situation.
He says that Sharif should not have accepted the cease-fire and the unconditional withdrawal at the bidding of the then US President, Bill Clinton.
In his book, In the Line of Fire, launched in New York on Monday, the Pakistani president gives his side of the story on Kargil and several other issues like the Kashmir problem and the failed Agra summit of 2001.
In the chapter devoted to Kargil, Musharraf says, "Considered purely in military terms, the Kargil operations were a landmark in the history of the Pakistani army." He dismisses the Indian successes in the Kargil operation as "media hype", saying: "India raised the level of some of its achievements to mythical proportions."
In the first official acknowledgement of the involvement of Pakistan's regular troops in the Kargil conflict, Musharraf writes that only five battalions of the Pakistani army -- about 5,000 troops -- joined the combat "in support of the freedom-fighter groups". The battalions "were able to compel the Indians to employ more than four divisions, with the bulk of the Indian artillery coming from strike formations meant for operations in the southern plains".
This claim, however, was shot down immediately by the Indian Army. PTI news agency quoted top army officers in Delhi -- without naming them -- as saying that documents like identity cards and other papers revealed that at least seven Pakistani battalions were involved in the Kargil operations.
He also lists a series of "myths" connected with Kargil. He says the Pakistani army had taken into confidence the political leadership before the offensive. Musharraf disputes the view that Pakistan suffered a large number of casualties, but does not hand out figures. Instead, he speaks of the Indian casualties.
"The Indians, by their own admission, suffered over 600 killed and over 1,500 wounded. Our information suggests that the real numbers are at least twice what India has publicly admitted."
He regards Kargil as a tactical victory for Pakistan. "I would like to state emphatically that whatever movement has taken place so far in the direction of finding a solution to Kashmir is due considerably to the Kargil conflict," he writes.
On Kashmir, Musharraf says he was still waiting for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's 'outside the box' solution. He says his first impression of Singh when they met in New York two years ago was that he was "a very positive and genuine person" with a desire to resolve disputes with Pakistan.
But "the initial signs of sincerity and flexibility that I sensed in Manmohan Singh seem to be withering away". His own 'outside the box' solution, he says, involves a "partial stepping back by all".
On the failure of the Agra summit of 2001, Musharraf says both he and the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had been "humiliated" by "someone above" the two of them. And that he had told so "bluntly" to Vajpayee.