Was Pakistan Under the Threat of a “Limited Air-Raid” After the Terrorist Attack in Mumbai?

16 October 2015

Khurshid Mahmud Kasuriwas the minister of foreign affairs of Pakistan from 2002 until 2007 under President Pervez Musharraf. His book Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider's Account of Pakistan's Foreign Relations, aims toprovide insights on Pakistan's foreign policy and its relationship with India amidst the backdrop of Jammu and Kashmir. On 11 October 2015, Shiv Sena activists intercepted the car of Sudheendra Kulkarni, head of the Observer Research Foundation and speechwriter for the former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was going to attend the launch of Kasuri’s book later that day. The activists smeared Kulkarni’s face with black paint to protest the launch of the book in Mumbai. Soon after, senior party officials stated that they would not compromise on the issue of Pakistanis conducting events in India.

While calling the book a “memoir” in his introduction, and not a political biography, Kasuri attempts to examine Pakistan’s evolving foreign policy during his tenure and beyond. He stresses people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan and is convinced that “Pakistan’s existing policy could not advance or safeguard the interests of Kashmiris and Pakistan in the foreseeable future. In this section, from the chapter “The Pakistan Army and India," Kasuri recounts a meeting with US senator John McCain—and at the time, Republican presidential candidate—in which the senator asked Kasuri how Pakistan would react if there were to be a “limited air-raid” on Murdike, the Lashkar-e-Taiba headquarters built just outside Lahore.

The McCain Episode: This section is about near-war situations. The Mumbai attacks in November 2008, though truly tragic and gruesome, could not really be called a near-war situation, since neither country moved its armed forces in any menacing or hostile manner. The reason why I am including the Mumbai attacks in this section is the massive scale of the attacks, the huge number of casualties, the international dimension due to casualties belonging to different countries, and last but not the least, due to what I call, the McCain Episode, on which I shall elaborate upon. All this could have gone horribly wrong with horrendous consequences.

Fortunately, it did not, largely due to the fact that the peace process started in 2004 had advanced a great deal and helped normalize the situation between the two countries. The magnitude of the Mumbai attacks almost put paid to such efforts. There was, however, also a feeling that the new PPP government led by President Asif Ali Zardari, did in fact wish to strengthen relations with India. Additionally, of course, there were nuclear weapons on both sides.

It was a sad day indeed when the tragic attack on Mumbai took place on 26 November 2008, delivering a heavy blow to the peace process between Pakistan and India, which we had so diligently pursued. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister in the new PPP government, who succeeded me, was present in India in connection with the Composite Dialogue when the attacks took place, in what seemed like a calculated attempt to sabotage the visit and the process itself.

Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan from 2002 until 2007.