Former US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, stated in his new book that India and Pakistan were on the brink of a nuclear war in the aftermath of the Balakot strikes in 2019, but American intervention stopped the situation from escalating. The book released on Tuesday (24 January).
The former Central Investigation Agency (CIA) chief stated in his book Never Give An Inch: Fighting For The America I Love, that he was awakened by a call from his counterpart, about Pakistan preparing for a nuclear attack in the wake of the Balakot airstrikes, carried out in February 2019.
Pompeo said he was in Hanoi at the time, attending the US-North Korea Summit on 27-28 February. He, along with US National Security Advisor John Bolton and then US Ambassador to India Kenneth Justner worked overnight with both parties to avert any escalation.
“I do not think the world properly knows how close the India-Pakistan rivalry came to spilling into a nuclear conflagration in February 2019. The truth is, I don’t know precisely the answer either; I just know it was too close,” he writes.
Pompeo further says “After an Islamist terrorist attack in Kashmir – probably enabled by Pakistan’s lax counter-terror policies – killed forty Indians, India responded with an airstrike against terrorists inside Pakistan.”
He adds, “I reached the actual leader of Pakistan, General Bajwa. I told him what the Indians told me. He said it wasn’t true … It took us a few hours – and remarkably good work by our teams in New Delhi and Islamabad – to convince each side that the other was not preparing for nuclear war.”
Pompeo had publicly defended India’s ‘right to act’ at the time of the strike, and pushed for an alliance with India to “counter Chinese aggression”.
However, the comment in his book on former Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, claiming she was never an important player and was a ‘goofball’ and ‘heartland political hack’ is under criticism. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has slammed the comments, and replied saying “I deplore the disrespectful colloquialism used for her.”
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