General Zinni’s nuclear wolf

Watch the good word

General Zinni, a former American military commander and a good friend of General Pervez Musharraf has written a book, in which we learn -for the first time – that it was actually Musharraf who advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to pull the Pakistani troops back across the line of control in Kargil, in 1999. Even if that is true, who sent them there in the first place?

Zinni recalls what happened when he was sent to Islamabad to convince the Pakistanis to pull back from Kargil

“I was therefore directed by the (Clinton) administration to head a presidential mission to Pakistan to convince Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Gen Musharraf to withdraw their forces from Kargil.”

“I met with the Pakistani leaders in Islamabad on June 24 and 25 and put forth a simple rationale for withdrawing; ‘If you don’t pullback, you’re going to bring war and nuclear annihilation down on your country. That’s going to be very bad news for everybody.’ Nobody actually quarrelled with this rationale.” [HT]

Zinni’s words raise a very important concern. Had Zinni actually evidence that India was planning to use nuclear weapons in the war, or was Zinni just crying wolf? Indeed, crying wolf could have been counterproductive as there is evidence that Pakistan had started the nuclear escalation process during the Kargil war [Strobe Talbott’s remarks]. Zinni’s words could have been misinterpretated by Pakistan that India was planning a nuclear attack, and invited retaliatory plans.

Things did’nt go that horribly wrong. But there is a lesson for well-intentioned American envoys to be more circumspect before using the N-word.