Saturday, November 11, 2006

More On The Mysterious Mr. Gates: Nuke-War Averter?

Some say that the mysterious Mr. Gates averted nuclear war between India and Pakistan in 1990.

When Robert M. Gates came calling

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi : Robert M. Gates, the man named by President George W. Bush as his nominee for the next U.S. Secretary of Defence, is a consummate Beltway insider with an extensive record of service within the American intelligence establishment going back at least three decades. . . .

In South Asia, however, he is perhaps best remembered for the `mission' he undertook to Pakistan and India in May 1990 during a time of military tension between the two neighbours. In a subsequent retelling by Seymour Hersh in New Yorker magazine, the U.S. envoy is said to have helped avert a nuclear war between Pakistan and India . . .

In the spring of 1990, the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir was in full flow. Concerned by Pakistan's decision to maintain the forward deployment of troops deployed near the border for the Zarb-e-Momin military exercises conducted at the end of 1989, India decided to send two tank units to the Mahajan range in Rajasthan for "training" purposes.

Although none of these military deployments on either side were of any real offensive significance, the situation began to deteriorate after a series of fiery declarations by Benazir Bhutto, who was Prime Minister of Pakistan at the time, and V.P. Singh, who was Prime Minister of India. Ms. Bhutto spoke of a "thousand year war" to "liberate" Kashmir, while Mr. Singh told the country to be psychologically prepared for military conflict and warned Pakistan that it would not last "even thousand hours of war".

It was in this context that the Bush (Sr.) administration decided to despatch Mr. Gates on a peace mission. Travelling first to Islamabad on May 20, 1990, he met President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg and counselled restraint. In New Delhi, he met Mr. Singh, the External Affairs Minister, I.K. Gujral, as well as Raja Ramanna, who was Minister of State for Defence. Two week after his return to Washington, the crisis de-escalated.

According to Hersh, the U.S. had picked up evidence that Pakistan was on verge of deploying its nuclear weapons during the crisis and it was this fact which made the Gates mission all the more urgent.


Unsane said...

Interesting post -- but we do need a different word for the concept of de-escalate.

No Blood for Hubris said...

Your thoughts?

Unsane said...

instead of the word de-escalate, I suggest we use the more direct and comprehensive phrase: "Tell little elevator man go down now."