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Kargil was planned years before 1999: book

world Updated: May 03, 2008 17:15 IST

IANS
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A new book reveals that Pakistan planned its costly Kargil military operation, which almost triggered a major war with India, years before it actually happened in the summer of 1999.

The book, Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within, comes up with admissions by the assassinated Benazir Bhutto and former army chief Jehangir Karamat that Kargil was discussed in the mid-90s, the Daily Times reported on Saturday.

Pakistan's former foreign minister Sartaj Aziz endorses this view.

President Pervez Musharraf is widely believed to be the man who planned and executed the Kargil operation in which hundreds of Islamist guerrillas seized the Kargil hill in Jammu and Kashmir, surprising India.

Bhutto told author Shuja Nawaz, a former journalist with The New York Times, that Musharraf had discussed Kargil with her when she was the prime minister and he headed the military operations at the army headquarters in Islamabad.

Bhutto said Musharraf, while presenting a war game, recommended a military incursion into Indian Kashmir and the seizure of its capital Srinagar.

Bhutto told him that Pakistan would not be able to sustain the gains and would be forced to withdraw its troops.

Karamat, who later served as the envoy to the US, said, "Kargil came up several times. The Drass-Kargil Road was an interdiction target for indirect artillery fire. During my tenure (as army chief from December 1996 to October 1998), India interdicted Neelam Valley road, cutting off Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Pakistan-administered Kashmir).

"We had a major planning conference to develop a response. We decided to construct a by-pass and continue interdiction on Drass-Kargil road. This did not work... In the next conference, we considered physical interdiction of the road but decided the consequences would create problems for locals and hamper covert operations in Indian Kashmir.

"We decided to move heavy weapons forward and carry out interdiction with direct fire. This was enormously effective. The Indians got the message and backed (off) on the Neelam Valley road."

Musharraf, who too spoke to the author, holds a different point of view.

He said, "I told her (Bhutto) the time window for the resolution of Kashmir dispute is short. Because, with (the) passage of time, the India-Pakistan equation, military equation and economic equation is going against us ... she minded that a lot.

"I told her that with time, the differential is increasing. Therefore, if at all, we have to do anything, we should be planning to do it in a short while. It was just that I had a more pro-active view on what we should be doing in Kashmir and she did not like that. There was no Kargil type of situation discussed."

Aziz told the author that the operation was planned well before 1999 and well before then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Lahore visit in February that year.

Aziz too linked the Kargil operation to the 1994-96 Neelam Valley artillery attack by India. "I don't think they realised the full implications of these plans."

Lt. Gen. Ziauddin, whom Nawaz Sharif tried to appoint in place of Musharraf as army chief before Sharif was ousted, told the author that Sharif was fully in the picture on Kargil from a certain time.

According to Ziauddin, Sharif had the authority to order a halt to the operation if he had serious doubts about its success. But he did not.