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When India Assumed 300 Million of its Population Dead (The Event Which Sent Chills Down the Spine of US President).

The ongoing war between Ukraine & Russia has intrigued me as it has many parallels vis-a-vis India-Pakistan wars. To begin with, both Pakistan and Ukraine were previously the part of India and USSR respectively. Also, both the pair have territorial disputes between themselves. And since I am closely following the developments unfolding in Ukraine war, an incident which occurred during Indo-Pak kargil war flashed through my mind. And made me ponder, would Russia had still invaded Ukraine if the later had not given up its nuclear arms?

The Prelude

Late Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Late Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Indian soldiers of 18th Battalion before assault on point 4700.

Indian soldiers of 18th Battalion before assault on point 4700.

The year was 1999 and there was an new hope of peace in the almost always tense relations between India and Pakistan. Late Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then prime minister of India had initiated the peace process and visited Pakistan in February. The Lahore agreement of 1999 was signed with a vision of peace, stability and prosperity between the two nations. However, just 3 months after the visit, Pakistan returned the favor by capturing many strategically important posts inside the Indian territory. Pakistan took advantage of an unofficial agreement between both the armies, which stated that both sides would vacate their respective posts on the mountainous peaks owing to harsh winter conditions every year. However, Pakistan displayed complete disrespect to it, as well as the Lahore agreement it signed just a few months earlier.

Furious at this breach of trust, Indian army launched an vigorous attack on the posts captured by Pakistan. Pakistani army were at a huge advantage as they were fortified at higher altitudes. The advancing Indian forces were exposed to the downward firings of the intruders. Despite odds in their favor, Pakistan started losing the posts under sustained Indian army assaults. The situation started getting tense in Pakistan because it was already facing the world's ire for this treacherous act. And now, it was also looking at the prospect of being humiliated by its traditional foe. US, an ally of Pakistan back then, refused to help it out militarily or financially. However, by the medium of backchannel diplomacy, US was constantly pressurizing both the sides to end the war. India, like many a times earlier, displayed its fierce will to protect its territorial integrity. It asked US to guarantee the withdrawal of Pakistan to status quo ante, something that US failed to do. By the end of June, India snatched back a large portion of its lost territory.

The Doomsday Knocks on The Door

Indian army after capturing a hill point from Pakistan.

Indian army after capturing a hill point from Pakistan.

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With no way out of this humiliation, General Parvez Musharraf of Pakistan sent Nawaz Sharif (then prime minister of Pakistan) to US. Here, the pressure to end the war was clear on Sharif. According to Bruce Reidel, a special assistant to Bill Clinton, then president of US, Vajpayee refused an face-to-face meeting with Nawaj to be organised in US. Bruce was on the team which discussed parleys with Pakistan to withdraw unconditionally from LoC. Desperate, Nawaz Sharif informed Bill Clinton that Pakistan was readying its nuclear weapons. Stunned, US immediately dialled up Vajpayee, despite it being night in New Delhi, and once again asked to immediately withdraw the troops. Vajpayee asked if Pakistan would do the same? After a brief pause, Clinton broke the news of Pakistan threatening the use of its nuclear weapons. There was an real danger of nuclear weapon being used by both the warring nations.

After an uneasy few seconds which would have felt like an eternity to both the men, came an cold but iron-willed voice of Vajpayee. And the message it delivered sent the chills down the spine of even the most powerful man on this planet, a.k.a president of US, as well as the US officials and Pakistani establishments. Vajpayee said," From this point of time, I have already assumed 20-30% of our population dead. We will survive. But I want you to assure Nawaz Sharif that Pakistan will not be able to see tomorrow's sunrise ", and hung up the phone.

People who knew Vajpayee will attest that he was not bluffing. Vajpayee assumed that some 300 million of Indian population would lose their lives. It was all the more painful for him because he genuinely felt that Pakistan would reciprocate favourably to his peace initiatives. The Pakistani and US officials knew that if Pakistani army attacked India with nuclear weapon, Indian army would retaliate with tremendously powerful nuclear assault. With the fate of entire country on the line, Pakistan officially declared unconditional withdrawal from Kargil on 5th July 1999.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Yogesh Prasad

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