Post-26/11, Mukherjee`s words rattled Pak: Rice

Last Updated: Friday, October 28, 2011 - 13:43

Washington: Tough talking by the then
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, following the
26/11 attacks, rattled Pakistan so much that it pressed the
panic button and called everyone from Chinese to the Americans
saying that India has decided to go to war.

At one point, the then Secretary of State, Condoleezza
Rice also panicked temporarily after she could not get
Mukherjee on line even after repeated attempts.

"The Pakistanis say the Indians have warned them that
they`ve decided to go to war," a White House aide anxiously
called Rice.

As a result of the wrong rumour coming out of Pakistan,
the then US President George Bush asked her to travel to
Islamabad and New Delhi to defuse the situation, Rice says in
her latest book `No High Honors` that is scheduled to hit the
book stores next week.

"What?" Rice uttered after the White House aide told her
about the message from Pakistan.

"That isn`t what they`re (India) telling me. In my many
conversations with the Indians over the two days, they`d
emphasised their desire to defuse the situation and their need
for the Pakistanis to do something to show that they accepted
responsibility for tracking down the terrorists," Rice wrote
in her 766-page book.

Rice asked the operations centre to get Mukherjee on the
phone, but they couldn`t reach him.

Consequently she started getting nervous and she thought
that Mukherjee was trying to avoid her as New Delhi was
preparing for war.

"I called back again. No response. By now the
international phone lines were buzzing with the news. The
Pakistanis were calling everyone the Saudis, the Emiratis, the
Chinese. Finally Mukherjee called back. I told him what I`d
heard," Rice wrote.

"`What` he said `I`m in my constituency. (The Indians
were preparing for elections, and Mukherjee, who was a member
of Parliament, was at home campaigning.) Would I be outside
New Delhi if we were about to launch a war?`" Mukherjee asked.

Rice said Mukherjee explained that the Pakistani foreign
minister (Shah Mehmood Qureshi) had taken his stern words in
their recent phone call the wrong way.

"`I said they were leaving us no choice but to go to
war`, he said," Rice recalled adding "This is getting
dangerous, I thought."

On her emergency visit to New Delhi after the Mumbai
attacks, Rice said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the
Foreign Minister both categorically told her that they were
against war, despite increasing public pressure, but wanted
Pakistan to do something.

And when she arrived in Islamabad, the Pakistani
leadership were still denying what the world knew by then that
the attackers were from Pakistan.

"The Pakistanis were at once terrified and in the same
breath dismissive of the Indian claims. President Zardari
emphasised his desire to avoid war but couldn`t bring himself
to acknowledge Pakistan`s likely role in the attacks," Rice
writes.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani, in a long
speech told her that terrorists who had launched the attack
had nothing to do with Pakistan.

"Mr Prime Minister, I said, either you`re lying to me or
your people are lying to you. I then went on to tell him what
we the United States knew about the origins of the attack,"
she wrote.

"I didn`t accuse Pakistan`s government of involvement;
that wasn`t the point. But rogues within the security services
might have aided the terrorists. It was time to admit that and
to investigate more seriously," she said.

"Finally, I went to meet the chief of staff, General
Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Our military liked him and considered
him honest and effective. He was the one person who, even if
he couldn`t admit responsibility, understood that Pakistan
would have to give an accounting of what had happened. That
was a start," she wrote.

In this separate chapter on Mumbai, Rice recollects
receiving frantic calls from the American Ambassadors in New
Delhi and Islamabad.

"Ambassador (David) Mulford`s message was stark. `There is
war fever here. I don`t know if the Prime Minister can hold
out. Everyone knows that the terrorists came from Pakistan`.

"I then talked to Anne (Patterson). Her message was just
as clear. `They have their heads in the sand,` she said," Rice
wrote in her book.

PTI



First Published: Friday, October 28, 2011 - 13:12

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