NEW DELHI: Former Prime Minister and Chairperson Pakistan Peoples Party Benazir Bhutto has refuted Indian National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan’s recent comments questioning her track record as Pakistan PM, saying it was Rajiv Gandhi who could not kept his promise to withdraw from Siachen and pledged do it only after his re-election.
“If anyone kept their word, it was me. Not Rajiv. He went back to India and then called me on his way to the Commonwealth to say that he could not keep his promise to withdraw from Siachen and that he would do it only after the elections. Now, if I haven’t raised the subject or complained all these many years, why is it being raised now?”, she said in an interview with Outlook India.
“Does anyone remember those times or is public memory so short that no one recalls the extremely difficult conditions India faced during the Sikh insurgency 20 years ago? India was in a complete mess, she observed.
Does anyone remember that it was I who kept my promise to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi when we met and he appealed to me for help in tackling the Sikhs? Has India forgotten December 1988? Have they forgotten the results of that meeting and how I helped curb the Sikh militancy?” Benazir reportedly handed over a dossier of names containing the covert identities of Pakistan’s agents who were masterminding the insurgency, which helped Delhi track down the terrorists and completely destroy the Pakistan army sponsored militant infrastructure.
Continuing her harangue, she said, “Nobody else knew what Rajiv and I discussed. There was no fly on the wall. How can anyone say I have not kept my promises to him when the single biggest result of that meeting was the end of the Sikh insurgency? It was Rajiv who committed to me that he would withdraw from Siachen. I made no promises that could have been broken.” She said after the former prime minister was assassinated she tried but could never establish the same kind of rapport with the government that followed. But despite the slight chill, there was no war with India when she was prime minister, she added. “Not only was there no war, in fact there was peace because I nixed the idea of Kargil. Has India forgotten all of this? When I was prime minister you did not have the Mumbai bomb blasts, you did not have the attack on Parliament. There was no Kargil.”
Regarding Kashmir, she said, “I made no promises on Kashmir because there were no discussions on Kashmir. There were no promises made, none made that I could have broken.” She went on to ask, “Why does India believe I will break my word, imply I cannot be trusted?” Benazir then added, “I believe we share so much—a belief in democratic values, in democracy and human rights. I am very disappointed to hear that Delhi does not think so.”
Clearly, what unnerved her most was the mention of her one-on-one talks with then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and the suggestion she did not keep up her side of the bargain.
Narayanan, a former head of Intelligence Bureau who was Joint Intelligence Chief at the time, said, “I know that in 1988 when she met Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi she made a number of promises. We know almost certainly that she was sort of curbed by the military at that point but whether she will have success now is difficult to believe and it would be very optimistic to expect that she can fulfill whatever she says but we hope that she will do her best.”
What made Narayanan speak out against Benazir? Sources in Delhi feel Narayanan may have been sending a warning that India will not countenance a resurrection of the Kashmiri jehad once power in Pakistan passes from military to a weak civilian ruler susceptible to pressure from the army. By all accounts that message has been heard loud and clear. Whether it will be heeded is another matter.-SANA