Mike Pompeo on Balakot strike: Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has claimed that his then-Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj had apprised him that Pakistan was gearing up for a nuclear attack in the wake of the Balakot surgical strike in February 2019, and that India is preparing its own escalatory response. Pompeo made these remarks in his latest book ‘Never Give an Inch: Fighting for America I Love’ which hit the stores on Tuesday, January 24.
According to Pompeo, the incident occurred on February 27–28, 2019, while he was in Hanoi for the US–North Korea Summit, and his staff spent the night working with both New Delhi and Islamabad to defuse this crisis.
“I do not think the world properly knows just how close the India-Pakistan rivalry came to spilling over 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,” Pompeo wrote in his book.
In February 2019, Indian warplanes had destroyed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training centre in Balakot, Pakistan, in retaliation to the Pulwama terror attack that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF soldiers.
What Pompeo claimed in his book?
“I will never forget the night I was in Hanoi, Vietnam when – as if negotiating with the North Koreans on nuclear weapons wasn’t enough – India and Pakistan started threatening each other in connection with a decades-long dispute over the northern border region of Kashmir,” Pompeo stated.
“In Hanoi, I was awakened to speak with my Indian counterpart. She (Sushma Swaraj) believed the Pakistanis had begun to prepare their nuclear weapons for a strike. India, she informed me, was contemplating its own escalation. I asked her to do nothing and give us a minute to sort things out,” Pompeo claimed in his book.
Former US Secretary further stated that he began working with Ambassador, then National Security Advisor John Bolton, who was with him in the tiny secure communications facility in their hotel.
“I reached the actual leader of Pakistan, (Army chief) General (Qamar Javed) Bajwa, with whom I had engaged many times. I told him what the Indians had told me. He said it wasn’t true. As one might expect, he believed the Indians were preparing their nuclear weapons for deployment. It took us a few hours – and remarkably good work by our teams on the ground in New Delhi and Islamabad – to convince each side that the other was not preparing for nuclear war,” Pompeo added.
India’s External Affairs ministry yet to respond to Pompeo’s claims
However, there was no immediate response from the Ministry of External Affairs to Pompeo’s claims.
“No other nation could have done what we did that night to avoid a horrible outcome. As with all diplomacy, the people working on the problem set matter a great deal, at least in the short run. I was fortunate to have great team members in place in India, none more so than Ken Juster, an incredibly capable ambassador. Ken loves India and its people,” Pompeo said.
“And, most of all, he loves the American people and worked his tail off for us every day. My most senior diplomat, David Hale, had also been the US ambassador to Pakistan and knew that our relationship with India was a priority,” he added.
“General McMaster and Admiral Philip Davidson, the head of what came to be renamed the US Indo-Pacific Command, understood India’s importance, too,” Pompeo wrote in his latest book.
(With PTI inputs)