India Pakistan were on the brinks of war on Kashmir in 1990?

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SRINAGAR: In order to defuse the crisis between India and Pakistan, Munir Akram, one of Pakistan’s former top diplomats has suggested: “alternative diplomatic mechanism” involving Security Council and various veto-power countries. This, he has said, is vital to prevent “a spiral into a nuclear war”.

Pakistani diplomat Munir Akram who was in UN and even headed the Security Council. A UN photo

“One such mechanism could be a China, EU, US and Russia ‘quad’ that engages with Pakistan and India in joint or parallel talks to defuse the current crisis, prevent the outbreak of a war and promote a just and peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute,” Akram, a former Pakistan ambassador to UN, wrote in his column for Dawn newspaper. “Such talks could be made mandatory through a resolution of the Security Council (which the US will find difficult to veto).”

Upholding the analysis of Dr Kissinger that “nuclear weapons are most likely to be used in a Pakistan-India war”, the former diplomat has insisted that “preventing a South Asian nuclear war should be the primary focus of any security strategy” for the region.

The diplomat has offered various instance in the recent past when effective interventions prevented serious crises between the two countries.

“In the 1971 war, Chinese intervention in support of Pakistan was forestalled by a Soviet nuclear threat to Beijing,” Akram has written. “In 1987, India’s Brasstacks military exercise blatantly threatened Pakistan until President Ziaul Haq whispered to Indian premier Rajiv Gandhi at a cricket match in New Delhi that Pakistan’s newly acquired F-16s could reach India’s nuclear facilities in Trombay.”

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi with the President of Pakistan, General Zia-Ul-Haq prior to Indo-Pak official talks in New Delhi on December 17, 1985. Picture courtesy: Photo Division

Akram has revealed that India and Pakistan were on the brinks of war when militancy broke out in Kashmir in 1990. “India threatened war until US satellites detected Pakistan loading suspected nuclear warheads onto its F-16s, bringing then CIA director Gates to South Asia to defuse the crisis,” the diplomat has written.

Interestingly, he talked about a hoax that could have triggered a crisis in the summer of 1998 when India, and later, Pakistan declared their nuclear power status by resorting to blasts in Pokhran and Chagai, respectively. “A conflict was narrowly avoided on the night before Pakistan’s reciprocal nuclear tests,” his column reads. “Pakistani radar detected aircraft moving up India’s western coast whose profile was that of US F-15s, creating suspicion of Indo-Israeli collusion to prevent Pakistan from conducting its tests. Urgent warnings were conveyed to New Delhi, Tel Aviv and Washington. Fortunately, the radar readings proved to be a false alarm.”

Munir Akram does not stop at that. He said there were at least two more occasions later when the nuclear confrontations were feared. “During the prolonged India-Pakistan stand-off in 2002, there were at least two occasions when Pakistan detected Indian aircraft being readied for a strike,” the diplomat has written. “…India apparently concluded that a war would entail an unacceptable cost. This led to the revival of the peace process.”

Basing his arguments in the baggage of recent history, the diplomat has said that the two countries, right now, are “engaged in a complex confrontation which could erupt in a war that quickly escalates to the nuclear level”. He said that Narendra Modi led regime’s ‘Pakistan-bashing’ will escalate as the 2019 elections will approach.

In this backdrop, the diplomat said that while the US has played an active role in defusing previous crises in South Asia, its current status as India’s strategic partner does not make it an impartial mediator. That is why he is suggesting Islamabad seek the “alternate diplomatic mechanisms”. Ignoring the winds of war in South Asia, he has concluded, could lead to a nuclear catastrophe without precedent in human history.

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