Clinton snubbed Sharif for linking Kargil war with Kashmir issue
11 July 2004
The Hindustan Times
Press Trust of India
Washington: At the height of the Kargil conflict, former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told then US President Bill Clinton that he was prepared to help resolve the crisis if India committed to settle the 'larger issue' of Kashmir in a specific time-frame, but the American leader snubbed him saying it would amount to a 'nuclear blackmail.' When Sharif visited Washington in 1999 to discuss Kargil with Clinton, he insisted, 'I am prepared to help resolve the current crisis in Kargil but India must commit to resolve the larger issue in a specific time-frame,' former US deputy secretary of State Strobe Talbott writes in his new book Engaging India - Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb. 'Clinton came as close as I had ever seen to blowing up in a meeting with a foreign leader,' and told Sharif, 'If I were the Indian Prime Minister, I would never do that. I would be crazy to do it. It would be nuclear blackmail. If you proceed with this line, I will have no leverage with them. If I tell you what you think you want me to say, I will be stripped of all influence with the Indians.' 'I am not - and the Indians are not - going to let you get away with blackmail, and I will not permit any characterisation of this meeting that suggests I am giving in to blackmail,' Talbott writes, adding, Clinton also refuted Sharif's accusation that the Indians were the instigators of the crisis and intransigents in the ongoing standoff. When Sharif insisted he had to have something to show for his trip to the US beyond unconditional surrender over Kargil, Clinton pointed to the dangers of nuclear war if Pakistan did not return to its previous positions. Seeing they were getting nowhere, Clinton told Sharif he had a statement ready to release to press that would lay all the blame for the crisis on Pakistan. 'Sharif was ashen.' 'Clinton had worked himself back into real anger - his face flushed, eyes narrowed, lips pursed, cheek muscles pulsing, fists clenched. He said it was crazy enough for Sharif to have let his military violate the Line of Control, start a border war with India, and now prepare nuclear forces (US had received intelligence Pakistan was preparing nuclear forces for attack against India) for action,' Talbott says in his book. 'Sharif seemed beaten, physically and emotionally' and denied he had given any order with regard to nuclear weaponry. Taking a break, Clinton spoke to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee over phone and told him what had happened till then. 'What do you want me to say?' Vajpayee asked. 'Nothing,' Clinton replied, he just wanted to show he was holding firm.