PM's efforts saved economy by averting possible threat of war with India

From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi, Islamabad
July 19 - 25, 1999

Strong indications are noticed that, apart from other diplomatic pressures, economic compulsions were the major cause of sudden about-turn in our policy on the Kargil issue. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in his televised address to the nation, reviewed the circumstances, which led him to meet President Clinton and sign the Washington Declaration which called for immediate vacation of Kargil heights by Mujahideen. He said that he did so in the larger national interest and to avoid a possible war in the sub continent which none of the two countries could afford.

Prime Minister's speech was heard with great interest both at home and abroad as it was the first official explanation—and from the highest political level—of the events in the past two months that drove Pakistan and India to their worst military stand-off during the last 30 years. It was also Mr. Sharif's first explanation of the widely criticized manner in which the crisis was first allowed to be developed in a thoughtless manner and then defused in a most clumsy way causing a feeling of let down and humiliation to the nation.

There must be very compulsive reasons forcing Nawaz Sharif to adopt this course of action. He has not explained those reasons in his speech. Apart from a desire to avoid a full scale war between two nuclear powers, the Prime Minister referred in passing to "complications on the diplomatic front which were not easy to tackle". While nobody would disagree with the Prime Minister's assertion that in a nuclearized Asia, war was unaffordable. Prime Minister's emphasis in his speech for the need to re-focus attention on economic development and describing economic strength as the basis of country's security, confirms the perception in the financial and economic circles that it was because of threats of economic sanctions and stoppage of all kinds of foreign assistance from IMF, World Bank and other donor agencies, which led Nawaz Sharif, to agree to toe the American line. The Prime Minister, in his speech, has admitted that an economically weak country cannot take independent political decisions.

Commenting on the situation, a highly placed source said: "Given the tough international circumstances, Pakistan has clinched the best deal by earning Clinton's personal commitment to help resolve the Kashmir issue." While in Islamabad the Centcom Chief, General Zinni and the State Department officials had clearly told the authorities that if Pakistan did not arrange vacation of Kargil heights from the armed intruders at the earliest, economic sanctions can be reimposed and all payments from international donor agencies to Pakistan would be stopped. As per US perception Pakistan was helping armed intruders in Kargil, a case may also be built up to declare Pakistan a terrorist state.

While the not-so-delighted Nawaz Sharif was on his way back from Beijing to Islamabad, he was told that the influential House Foreign Relations Committee of the US Congress had approved an amendment, by a margin of 22 to 5, that encouraged the US Administration to consider opposing loans from international financial institutions to Pakistan unless it withdrew its forces from the Indian side of the Line of Control.

Within the next 24 hours, Pakistan received another piece of "bad news", when its embassy in Paris was told that because of the perception in the French government that Pakistan was responsible for backing intruders in Kargil, France may not be able to fulfill its commitment for the delivery of Mirge III jets that were scheduled to be delivered to Pakistan in the next few days. Pakistan had a contract with France for the supply of 40 upgraded Mirage III jets.

While the world's most industrialized nations, grouped under the G-8, in a statement stopped holding Pakistan directly responsible for the Kargil crisis, powerful nations such as Britain, France and Japan separately urged Islamabad to use its influence for an immediate withdrawal of Mujahideen from Kargil.

In this context there was no option but to retreat and save the country from the imminent economic collapse. It has been rightly realized that an economically weak Pakistan, despite being a nuclear power, is not strong enough to achieve its political objective by using force. Economic independence and its basic strength is a must for any military adventure. Prime Minister's speech is fully indicative of this belated realization. If all the pros and cons of Kargil operation had been considered and discussed at an institutionalized level, this realization would have come much earlier and the country and nation could be saved from the current humiliation. The nation expects answers to the questions which are agitating its mind as to "Who is responsible for the present fiasco and why the authorities could not forces the possible outcome of such a venture?" The people of Pakistan are not asking why Kashmir has not been liberated. All they are asking is that if this had to be the consequence of this adventure what was the need to start it in the first place and secondly why people's expectations were raised so high through government controlled electronic media. There is no answer to these questions in PM's address to the nation. The over-riding impression left by the speech is that the threat of war was being imposed from somewhere else and it was only bold diplomacy on the part of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif which has averted this threat. This is, however, contrary to the fact.