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May 27, 1999


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The Rediff Interview/ Mushahid Hussain

'Infiltration is a figment of the Indian army's imagination'

I hope the Indian government has not gone so mad as to go in for a nuclear war. They have carried out a dangerous escalation in Kashmir and I hope they start de-escalating now," Mushahid Hussain, Pakistan's information minister and close Nawaz Sharief aide, told Syed Firdaus Ashraf in a telephone interview from Islamabad.

Were the Indian planes flying inside Pakistani territory?

Yes, the two planes were flying well inside Pakistani territory and they were shot by our ground-based air defence system. One pilot has been captured and the wreckage is also lying within Pakistani territory. This is a violation of Pakistani airspace, a violation of Pakistan's territorial integrity. And it was an act of pure self-defence on our part.

Did the Indian aircraft fire on Pakistani targets?

The Indian planes have been firing and bombing in the last 48 hours.

Don't you think your act will lead to an escalation of tension in the region and, possibly, to war?

I think there is a dangerous escalation from the Indian side. There is a political vacuum in New Delhi because of the internal squabbles. And the hawks of the Indian military establishment seem to have taken advantage of this political vacuum.

Don't you think India's need to reclaim territory taken over by the infiltrators is sufficient reason for its air attacks in Kargil, which is within its territory?

There are no infiltrators or intruders from the Pakistani side. The LoC is well manned by over 600,000 Indian troops and the UN military observers are also there. And, we have already said Pakistan is ready to invite all kind of international observers.

Who then are these people who are attacking the Indian army?

There are no intruders and infiltrators from the Pakistani side. It seems to be an act of desperation from the military establishment for their own military and political reasons.

But who are these people who are entrenched in Kargil?

They are a figment of the Indian army's imagination.

Are you then suggesting that the Indian army is firing on itself?

They are a figment of the Indian army's imagination. There are no intruders, no infiltrators.

There is a fear that this situation could lead to nuclear war.

I hope the Indian officials have not gone so mad as to launch an adventure of that kind. But, they have done a dangerous escalation and I hope they start de-escalating now.

International convention has it that no country can fire at another country's aircraft if it ventures into its airspace without prior warning. Did you warn the Indian pilots before opening fire?

I don't know the technical details but I can tell you that the MOs of both the countries talked on Tuesday and the Indian side did not tell the Pakistani side that they were planning to send their planes across the Line of Control or that they were going to bomb positions on the Line of Control. They are supposed to that, according to the understanding of the two MOs. So, India violated that and the Lahore Declaration.

What happens to the Lahore Declaration now, is it dead?

We hope not. We hope the Indian leadership will see reason and see that all agreements are intact. And that the Indian side will revert and review its position so that the escalation point does not reach a point of no return.

What about the future of Indo-Pak relations?

Well, we feel it is very important to start focussing on the core question of Kashmir which has now become a major flashpoint. And that's what we have been telling the whole world. And we feel the Pakistani stance has been vindicated. Without a resolution of the Kashmir dispute, there can be no peace, security and stability in South Asia.

But don't you think India is well within its right to take action against the infiltrators in Kargil? Further, Defence Minister George Fernandes has said Indian planes are flying in our own airspace and not over Pakistani territory.

No country has a right to violate another country's airspace or territorial integrity. This violation was done with an aggressive intent. This followed what the Indian Air Force did yesterday. And, it is the first time since 1971, that the Indians have injected combat planes across the LoC. We feel this is a serious, grave violation.

The Indian government claims that the Pakistanis fired across the LoC, at the aircraft?

Nonsense. Not at all, the wreckage is on the Pakistani side. We have the dead body of the Indian pilot and the other squadron leader has been captured. One was a MiG 21 and the other was MiG 27. They came into Pakistani territory and fell into Pakistani territory. That is what they have been doing since yesterday and we had warned them not to do so.

Is the Pakistan government trying to deviate the attention of its people away from its failing economy, by resorting to such desperate measures?

(Laughs) That's the biggest joke I have heard in the last one year. We have no reason to do that. Our economy, mashaallah, is quite stable. It's India which wants to divert attention away from its very serious, continuing domestic political crisis. There is a vacuum in India, we don't know who is in charge, that's why the hawks in the Indian establishment are trying to take advantage of this vacuum.

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