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'Musharraf wanted to grab Srinagar'
Shyam Bhatia in London |
August 21, 2003 13:10 IST
Last Updated: August 21, 2003 14:05 IST
General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's current military ruler, hatched plans to cross the Line of Control and conquer Srinagar long before the Kargil conflict.
In an exclusive interview published in this week's issue of India Abroad, the newspaper owned by rediff.com, former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto has described how during her last term in office (1993-1996) Musharraf startled her with plans for a new war against India.
Bhutto's revelation comes days after Musharraf urged visiting Indian MPs to forget the Kargil war and help start a fresh page in India-Pakistan relations.
Bhutto, who casts doubt on Musharraf's sincerity, recalls in her interview, "He was my Director General Military Operations and he presented me with his plan in front of 50 officers about how the mujahiddin would infiltrate an area similar to Kargil, how they would bring about a war and how the Indians wouldn't be able to dislocate us and they would be forced to start a second front at which point the international community would intervene and we would take Srinagar."
"I said to him, 'General what would happen on the day after you took Srinagar.' He replied, 'I don't know what you mean, I don't understand your question.'
"I think he personally doesn't like me because of that confrontation we had on the Kargil issue. But believe me I had to have that confrontation because if I did not have that confrontation, the blood of 3,000 soldiers would be on my hands. I did not allow it, but after I was overthrown they went ahead with their folly and 3,000 of our young boys, the best in our army, died, so many on the Indian side died, there was so much bitterness. The whole world had to intervene to stop it escalating into nuclear war."
Bhutto believes her continuing differences with Musharraf, whom she describes as "very sharp" and "very smart," are the result of the clash over Kashmir.
"We had this fracas on the Kargil war games proposal and I don't know if he has ever got over it. But we politicians learn is that there are no such things as personal feelings in politics. It's the interests of the country, of the party, of the people."
Bhutto also reveals in the interview to this correspondent that she and her long time political rival, Nawaz Sharif, also a former prime minister, have mended fences.
"Mr Nawaz Sharif and I were at daggers drawn," she explains. "Believe me what we suffered at his hands I will always remember, but I have put it behind me. He suffered too and now he is a changed man. We have spoken from time to time. I believe he has changed and he very much opposes the military exploitation of our country."
Asked if she could now work with Nawaz Sharif, Bhutto replied, "I hope so. I like to work with all the political groups. We should have a policy of respect for each other. I feel bad that he is in exile, his brother is in New York, it must be lonely. His father is old too."
"My mother is old. How long can they treat them in this shabby manner when we have been the elected representatives of our country? I have buried the past from my side and we need civility in politics. I don't see much civility around with Musharraf there, specially the way he has treated people."