They [Americans] said, 'There is genuine anger [in India post 26/11]. We would want to know how the public would react?’. I asked, 'To what?' They said supposing there is a limited air strike.
Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri is no stranger to India. The former foreign minister of Pakistan was in the capital to talk to officialdom. His Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Relations Including Details of the Kashmir Framework— an epic-scale book in size, cut down heavily by his editors—offers the view that both the countries were close to peace with a compromise formula. This story, he claims, could have been told by only three people—Manmohan Singh, Pervez Musharraf and him. This is his version. Among his revelations, the one on the possibility of an aerial attack by India post 26/11 has made the most headlines. Excerpts from an interview:
India keeps bringing up non-state actors. You say there is no place for them.
In the 21st century, there is no place for non-state actors because we will face massive problems. In fact, the military operation in North Waziristan is the first step. And, it is not stopping there; it is going after sectarian killers as well.
But will it be easy for Pakistan to completely cut out non-state actors?
Indians often ask me what about those who are focused on Kashmir? My answer is… when the talks [with India] were doing well, we tried to wean them away. We can’t use the same tactics we use for those attacking the state of Pakistan because we know that there is a lot of sympathy for the Kashmir cause. We used other measures…. We tried to rehabilitate them in civilian life. We can’t kill them.... We have to tell them that day and age is over, and that we are looking after the cause of Kashmir, which is what we were doing....
Pakistan army has employed psychiatrists and psychologists, who are getting hold of these boys who are programmed to become suicide bombers at the age of 16 or 14.... People ask me in India, 'what about those who are attacking us?' You don’t kill them because the Kashmir cause has a great resonance among the people…. It is not easy for any Pakistani government….
You have suggested that India was planning to carry out a surgical strike after the Mumbai attacks and that Americans came to test the waters?
I don’t know what the Indians were planning. I have reported faithfully as it has happened over this lunch, which was at the highest partisan level—[US President Barack] Obama’s point man [Richard] Holbrooke, who was at one time considered to be a potential secretary of state, and then the two Republicans. One of them was the presidential candidate—[John] McCain—and the other member was a ranking member of the senate intelligence, Lindsey Graham…. I knew this was as high powered as it could be. Now were they on a fishing expedition of their own? [Laughs]. I don’t know. All I know is that they were coming from Delhi as they told me.
They said there is a lot of anger after Mumbai [attacks].… I knew this was one of those attempts that happened in my tenure. When I was visiting India, there was the Samjhauta Express [blasts].... I was asked to cancel my visit.... My successor came, and there was Mumbai.... Anybody comes anytime, some bomb explodes in Pakistan or India. So there are very powerful elements who don’t want the two countries to normalise….
In pictures: Kasuri uninterrupted, an afterthought
I have never made a suggestion that they [Americans] were reflecting the views of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.... But they must have met some important people. They never said who it was. They simply said, 'There is genuine anger and there is a threat of war. You have worked hard for peace. We would want to know how the public would react.' I asked, 'To what?' They said supposing there is a limited air strike.
But isn’t that a slightly silly question? Why would any public of any country react in a measured way to a surgical attack on their soil?
Nobody would like it. I don’t know. This is the amazing bit. You can speculate; I can speculate. They said [that] to me and they said we are coming from India.... I said to them you should understand you have had a long relationship with Pakistan....
This is an example when the Americans have been a buffer.
Yes, they have been. Even when the hand of friendship was extended by [prime minister A.B.] Vajpayee. Please don’t misunderstand me. India and Pakistan are big countries; they can’t be coerced.... They [Americans] play a role that they probably know what these countries want to do.... When Colin Powell informed me… I was happy. I didn’t feel angry.... He said, 'Mr Vajpayee will say something positive, be prepared to respond with something positive.' Well, I was ready to respond…. So maybe they understood this is what Mr V wanted and they encouraged him. So I don’t like to give the impression that it was under American pressure. But they were lurking around and playing a useful role in my opinion, and they continue to do that....
Peace was only a whisker away?
Why have I written the book?.... This is relevant today. There is no other option. Indians say there will be no change in borders. The Pakistanis say that we will not accept status quo. The Kashmiris of all varieties, when I started speaking to them privately, [said] 'Please don’t divide our territory.' You have to think creatively... [more so] if you haven’t been able to resolve through war in the past. All disputes are settled across the table. But with nuclear powers, there is no question of winning or losing.
You have mentioned two incidents when peace was stopped. You said Brijesh Mishra told you....
... he told me in Lahore we can resolve Kashmir in six months. He knew the Pakistani position and he knew the Indian position. It is a separate issue that in Mr Vajpayee’s time, we didn’t go so far. We wanted him to actually win the next elections. We were quite unhappy because we didn’t know how the Congress would react. They could have disowned the whole process. But Mr Natwar Singh said that Dr Singh was committed to the peace process. If the BJP says that we can resolve Kashmir in six months, it means that this is bipartisan thinking. They were not admitting to others. In fact, he [Mishra] was saying, 'We will make compromises. Can you prepare your public opinion for it?'
What about the Hurriyat?
I met them in Pakistan, in India and even privately in third countries. Why?.... My fear was that if India and Pakistan thought it was in the best interest to work on this formula that we had agreed on… [and] if the Hurriyat was not in the loop, they would reject it…. Once they reject it, the people of Pakistan will reject it. And it would be curtains for us. So I explained to Natwar Singh that it was better to be transparent.... It sends a signal to the Kashmiris that their future, while it is being discussed, they are being consulted.... And, he understood. But he said no… public opinion in India and our government will not allow.... I said okay, maybe the time will come when public opinion will change…. But until that happens, let them travel and meet our people, and our Kashmiris can meet the Indian government….