Washington: India had deployed nuclear-
capable missiles on its western border and refused to budge
under US pressure to hold any talks with Pakistan after the
2001 attack on its Parliament by terrorists from across the
border, says former top American diplomat Condoleezza Rice.
And what added to the tension in the White House`s
Situation Room in December 2001 was the sharp differences
between the Pentagon and CIA about the ground realities in
South Asia, she writes in her memoir `No Higher Honor` that is
set to hit the stands next week.
While CIA was informing the White House that India was on
its way to war, the Pentagon was concluding that it was not
the case, Rice, who then was National Security Adviser to
President George W Bush, said.
In fact, Rice writes that CIA was speaking the language
of Pakistan, which wanted the entire world to believe, in
particular the US, that India was ready to attack them.
"The CIA believed that armed conflict was unavoidable
because India had already decided to `punish` Pakistan. That
is likely the view that Islamabad held and wanted us to hold
"The fact is that after years of isolation from India, a
country that had viewed the United States with suspicion for
decades, the CIA was heavily reliant on Pakistani sources in
2001," Rice says in her book.
During the eight years of the Bush administration, Rice
served as both the National Security Adviser and Secretary of
State. "Looking at the same events unfolding on the ground,
the Pentagon and the CIA gave very different assessments of
the likelihood of war," she said.
"The Defence Department, relying largely on reporting and
analysis from the Defence Intelligence Agency, viewed
preparations as steps similar to those that any military
(including our own) would take given the circumstances. In the
Pentagon`s view, a build-up was not necessarily evidence of a
formal decision to launch an attack," Rice writes.
Rice said the President and the National Security Council
(NSC) Principals were frustrated with the ups and downs of the
assessment over the next three days. "The Defence Department
and the CIA remained very far apart," she said.
As there was no let-up in the tension between the two
neighbours, Rice said the US and Britain joined hands and
organised a series of high-profile visits to the two countries
with the view that there would be no war as long as some
important dignitary was in the region.
"Colin (Powell, the then Secretary of State) and Jack
Straw, the British Foreign Minister, organised a brilliant
diplomatic campaign that could be summed up as dispatching as
many foreign visitors to Pakistan and India as possible.
"We reasoned that the two wouldn`t go to war with
high-ranking foreigners in the region. Every time they
accepted a visit, we breathed a sigh of relief. We needed to
buy time," Rice writes, recollecting the events of those days.
But the situation continued to deteriorate, she said,
adding that by December 23 there were reports of troop
movements as well as a disturbing one that India was preparing
to move short-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying
nuclear warheads to the Indian-Pakistani border.
"We reviewed the list of dignitaries who had been
deployed to the region, searching for possible intermediaries
through whom we could send messages to the adversaries, and
agreed to reconvene the next day," Rice said.
Given the volatility of the situation in South Asia, Rice
said she cancelled her Christmas vacation at her aunt`s house
in Norfolk Virginia and rushed to Washington the next day.
"By December 27 the reports were confirmed: India had,
indeed moved nuclear-capable missiles to the border. Colin
called Jaswant Singh, the Indian Minister of External Affairs,
and asked that the two countries sit down and talk. The
suggestion was flatly rejected," Rice writes.
With Powell not able to make any headway, Rice writes,
she called her Indian counterpart Brajesh Mishra, the National
Security Adviser to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Mishra, who is normally "unfailingly calm and
reasonable", Rice said, this time was on edge and agitated.
"(The then Pakistan President) `Musharraf and the
Pakistanis have done nothing`, he said. War fever was rising
in India," Rice wrote.
Rice, however, skipped the kind of conversations she had
with Mishra and what transpired between the two top officials,
but said that tense situation defused soon.
On December 31, Pakistan arrested the founder and leader
"A little over a week later on January 12, Musharraf
delivered a televised address condemning terrorism in all
forms, rejecting terrorist activity in the name of Kashmir and
pledging to ban all terror groups," Rice said.