Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has claimed that Washington’s timely intervention was instrumental in preventing a nuclear war between archrivals Pakistan and India in 2019.
In his recently published memoir “Never Give an Inch,” Washington’s former top diplomat revealed that the two neighbors were on the verge of a nuclear clash after an Indian airstrike inside Pakistan’s territory, following the killing of 41 soldiers in an attack by militants in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir in Feb. 2019.
In response to the airstrike, Pakistan shot down an Indian fighter plane and captured its pilot.
“I do not think the world properly knows just how close the India-Pakistan rivalry came to spilling over into a nuclear conflagration in February 2019,” Pompeo pegged in the memoir about his time as secretary of state and CIA director under former President Donald Trump.
Pompeo stated that he was in Hanoi, Vietnam, for the US-North Korea Summit on Feb. 27-28, 2019, when he was awakened to speak with his then-Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj, who informed him that Islamabad was preparing for a nuclear attack in response to the air strike and that New Delhi was preparing a counter-attack.
“My team worked overnight with both New Delhi and Islamabad to avert this crisis,” he asserted.
“I will never forget the night I was in Hanoi when – as if negotiating with the North Koreans on nuclear weapons wasn’t enough – India and Pakistan started threatening each other in connection with a decades-long dispute over the northern border region of Kashmir,” he added.
Pompeo stated that he immediately began working with then-national security adviser John Bolton, who was also in Hanoi with him and spoke to “the actual leader of Pakistan,” then-army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
“As one might expect, he believed the Indians were preparing their nuclear weapons for deployment. It took us a few hours – and remarkably good work by our teams on the ground in New Delhi and Islamabad – to convince each side that the other was not preparing for nuclear war,” he added.
“No other nation could have done what we did that night to avoid a horrible outcome. As with all diplomacy, the people working the problem set matter a great deal, at least in the short run,” he said.
Pakistan and India are two of only a few countries with nuclear weapons.
In 1974, India became the first country in the region to acquire nuclear weapons, encouraging Islamabad to follow suit. In the 1980s, when it was an ally of the US in the first Afghan war against the collapsing Soviet Union, Pakistan quietly developed its own nuclear capacity.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India currently possesses between 80 and 100 nuclear warheads, while Pakistan holds between 90 and 110.
Meanwhile, a number of international think tanks anticipate Islamabad’s nuclear stockpile would surpass 200 nuclear weapons within the next five years.