Pakistan was preparing to use nukes during Kargil war: Ex-White House Official

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New Delhi: Pakistan was preparing its nuclear weapons for deployment and possible use against India during the 1999 Kargil war when its army was suffering heavy casualties at the hands of the latter, the CIA had warned then President Bill Clinton, a former top White House official has said.

The CIA briefed Bill Clinton in this regard in July 4, 1999 when the president was scheduled to meet the visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Sharif had rushed to Washington and sought a meeting with Clinton in the wake of heavy losses suffered by Pakistani army by their Indian counterparts, looking for an honorable exit when a defeat seemed imminent.

“The morning of the Fourth (of July, 1999), the CIA wrote in its top-secret Daily Brief that Pakistan was preparing its nuclear weapons for deployment and possible use. The intelligence was very compelling. The mood in the Oval Office was grim,” Bruce Riedel, who worked at the time in the National Security Council of the White House and was among the few present at the Clinton-Sharif meeting said, NDTV reported.

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Riedel made the revelations in an obituary he wrote for Sandy Berger, former national security advisor to Clinton, who died of cancer on Wednesday.

“Berger urged Clinton to hear out Sharif, but to be firm… Pakistan started this crisis and it must end it without any compensation. The president needed to make clear to the prime minister that only a Pakistani withdrawal could avert further escalation,” he wrote.

“Sandy knew Clinton better than anyone, his natural inclination was to find a deal. This time, no deal was possible, it must be an unequivocal Pakistani climbdown,” Riedel said.

“It worked. Sharif agreed to pull back his troops. It later cost him his job: The army ousted him in a coup and he spent a decade in exile in Saudi Arabia. But the risk of a nuclear exchange in South Asia was averted,” Riedel wrote.

(With inputs from agencies)