Clinton Refused To Mediate On Kashmir During Kargil War
23 June 2004
New York: Former US President Bill Clinton had firmly rejected Pakistan's pleas to mediate on the Kashmir issue at the height of the Kargil crisis because India objected to third party intervention and it would appear to reward Islamabad's 'wrongful incursion'. The then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Mr Clinton recalled, called him and asked if he could come to Washington on July 4, the American independence day, to discuss the 'dangerous standoff' with India that had begun several weeks earlier, when 'Pakistani forces under the command of General Pervez Musharraf crossed the Line of Control'. 'I told Sharif that he was always welcome to Washington but if he wanted me to spend the American Independence Day with him, he had to come to the United States knowing two things: first, he had to agree to withdraw his troops back across the Line of Control and, second, I would not agree to intervene in the Kashmir dispute, especially under circumstances that appeared to reward Pakistan's wrongful incursion,' Mr Clinton wrote in his just released memoirs My Life. Clinton says Sharif's moves were perplexing because earlier in February that year, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had travelled to Lahore to promote bilateral talks, aimed at resolving the Kashmir issue and other differences. 'By crossing the Line of Control, Pakistan had wrecked the talks. I didn't know whether Mr Sharif had authorised the invasion to create a crisis he hoped would get America involved or had simply allowed it in order to avoid a confrontation with Pakistan's powerful military,' Mr Clinton wrote. 'Regardless, he had gotten himself into a bind with no easy way out,' he adds. Mr Sharif, Mr Clinton wrote, was concerned that the situation Pakistan had created was getting out of control and he hoped to use 'my good offices' not only to resolve the crisis but also to help mediate with the Indians on the question of Kashmir itself. 'Even before the crisis, Sharif had asked me to help in Kashmir, saying it was as worthy of my attention as the Middle East and Northern Ireland. I had explained to him then that the United States was involved in those peace processes because both sides wanted us. In this case, India had strongly refused the involvement of any outside party,' Mr Clinton says. The former US President wrote that during the talks on July 4 in Washington, Sharif once again urged him to intervene in Kashmir and once again Mr Clinton explained to Mr Sharif that without India's consent, it would be 'counter-productive'. But Mr Clinton says he told the Pakistani Prime Minister that he would urge Mr Vajpayee to resume the bilateral dialogue if the Pakistani troops withdrew. 'He (Mr Sharif) agreed and we released a joint statement, saying that steps would be taken to restore the Line of Control and that I would support and encourage the resumption and intensification of bilateral talks once the violence had stopped,' he writes. After the meeting, Mr Clinton says, he thought perhaps Mr Sharif had come in order to use pressure from the United States to provide himself cover for ordering the military to defuse the conflict. 'I knew he was on shaky ground at home and i hoped that he would survive because I needed his cooperation in the fight against terrorism,' the former US President wrote.