Kargil biggest blunder in Pak history: Benazir
The News 22-7-1999
LONDON: Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has termed the Kargil conflict between Pakistan and India the biggest blunder in Pakistan’s history as “it very nearly led” both the countries to first potential nuclear conflict since the 2nd World War.
Addressing a reception hosted by Lord Nazir Ahmed for her in the House of Lords that was attended by present and former government ministers and prominent members of the Houses of common and Lords including former foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, Bhutto termed the volatility of India-Pakistan relations as “extremely dangerous” for regional and international peace and stability. “There are some people (in Pakistan) who say it was right for Pakistan to have gone in and it was wrong for Pakistan to have withdrawn. But we in the opposition believe that Kargil was the biggest blunder committed in the history of Pakistan”.
Without pinpointing who was to blame for the “Kargil blunder”, Bhutto said the whole operation had cost Pakistan heavily “It has given the people of Pakistan a sense of humiliation and disgrace because they were forced to withdraw in the face of international isolation and it has led to a deep sense of betrayal on the part of the Indians who believe that the Pakistani regime was duplicitous when undertaking peace efforts in the region”.
Repeating the idea proposed by the opposition parties at the Indo-Pak parliamentarians’ conference in Islamabad in February, Bhutto said that Pakistan and India, encouraged by the world community, should open up its borders in Kashmir “without prejudice to the Security Council resolutions.
She said the fight in Kargil took world attention away from a very important party to the conflict – Kashmiri people. “Their sufferings and alienation remain and no amount of humiliation in ‘Pakistan and no amount of euphoria in India can cover the fact that it is the suffering of the Kashmiri people that has led to a horrendous arms race in the region in which both countries have assiduously sought to acquire weapons of mass destruction including nuclear devices and missiles capable of delivering those nuclear devices.
“It (Kashmir conflict) has led to three wars and it. very nearly led both countries to the first potential nuclear conflict since the 2nd World War ended”. She said that at a time when the West is no longer willing to subsidise Pakistan’s style of living which included parity with India, its people should take stock of the situation whether “our economy can bear the cost of a policy that is no longer being subsidised”.
Emphasizing that in the over five-decade old Kashmir imbroglio, “it is the Kashmiri people who have been dying, their women becoming widows and their children becoming orphans, the former premier presented what. She called a new approach for solving the Kashmir dispute. Instead of being land-obsessed where India says Muzaffarabad is mine arid Pakistan saying Srinagar is mine and we all forget the Kashmiri people, it is time to say we will build confidence and then come to the land issue”.
In her opinion, both India and Pakistan should take an inspiration from the Middle East peace process and open borders in Kashmir. “In this process Pakistan will undertake to patrol the Line of Control and ensure freedom fighters cannot cross the LoC and Indians will agree to withdraw the 600,000 troops they have put there and release the political prisoners”. She said with APHC and the governments in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad involved, we should allow the people (Kashmiris) to cross the border, to trade, to talk, to open up their hearts and minds and let the opening of border in Kashmir be but a prelude to the opening of trade borders, cultural exchanges, and to greater opening in all of South Asia.
Benazir said Pakistanis will have to decide now if they want to be insulated, introverted and feel threatened by the larger world like Afghanistan’s Taliban or they want to be part of the international community Warning them against choosing for the first option, she said: “Prosperity and progress can only come through international finance and trade and policies of free market. Investment does not go where there is no stability because money is frightened. And as long as the Kashmir dispute continuos to linger, it threatens not only the world peace and stability, but the well-being of our own people.
Admitting that she made mistakes during her tenures in government and had “learnt a lesson”, Bhutto asked: “Why should the world go on bailing out Pakistan when it defaults? Why should the world go on giving aid if a country is not prepared to pull itself up?” She said Pakistan needs decentralization, devolution and construction of political society along with regional peace and stability.
Earlier in the day, Bhutto met British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and discussed the recent crisis in Kashmir and British-Pakistan relations.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said the meeting was held at Bhutto’s request but gave no further details. Bhutto, however, mentioned the meeting at the reception, saying she asked the foreign minister to convey her thanks on behalf of the Pakistani opposition to Prime Minister Blair “for his telephonic calls to the prime ministers of Pakistan and India urging them to reduce tension during the conflict and for the interest Britain was displaying to encourage both parties to resume talks and resolve the outstanding issues between them through dialogue”.