Pakistan could launch a nuclear strike on India within eight seconds, claimed an army general in Islamabad whose warning is described in the latest volume of the diaries of Alastair Campbell.
The general asked former British PM Tony Blair's former communications director to remind India of Pakistan's nuclear capability amid fears in Islamabad that Delhi was "determined to take them out".
The warnings are relayed by Campbell in a section in his latest diaries, The Burden of Power. The diaries start on the day of the 9/11 attacks and end with Campbell's decision to stand down in August 2003 after the Iraq war.
The nuclear warnings came during a visit by Blair to the Indian subcontinent after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Campbell was told about the eight-second threat over a dinner in Islamabad on October 5, 2001, hosted by Pervez Musharraf, then Pakistan's president.
Campbell writes: "At dinner, I was between two five-star generals who spent most of the time listing atrocities for which they held the Indians responsible, killing their own people and trying to blame 'freedom fighters'. They were pretty convinced that one day there would be a nuclear war because India, despite its vast population and despite being seven times bigger, was unstable and determined to take them out."
"When the time came to leave, the livelier of the two generals asked me to remind the Indians: 'It takes us eight seconds to get the missiles over,' then flashed a huge toothy grin."
Blair visited Pakistan less than a month after the 9/11 attacks as Britain and the US attempted to shore up support in Islamabad before the bombing of Afghanistan, which started on October 7, 2001. Campbell writes that the Pakistani leadership seemed to be keen for Britain and the US to capture Osama bin Laden, though he added it was difficult to be sure.
Relations between Islamabad and Delhi plummeted after the Blair visit when terrorists attacked the Indian parliament on December 13, 2001, killing seven people.
India blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attack by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed terror groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir. The tensions became so great that Richard Armitage, the US deputy secretary of state, was sent to the region in May 2002.
Blair returned to the Indian subcontinent in January 2002, shortly after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, amid one of the tensest nuclear standoffs between Indian and Pakistan since independence in 1947.