US diggers find a Kargil resolution
– ‘HR 227’ and the Modi connectionK.P. NAYAR
New Delhi, Sept. 21: With exactly a week to go before Barack Obama and Narendra Modi meet for the first time, Americans are discovering that the new Prime Minister is no pushover.
As inter-agency meetings to give concrete shape to an imponderable Indo-US summit began within the Obama administration last fortnight, documents surfaced in Washington which pointed to a hitherto unknown role played by Modi in securing the withdrawal of Pakistani forces from Kargil at the heavy prodding of then US President Bill Clinton.
These documents, which were shared by well-connected sources in Washington and are now in the possession of The Telegraph, have convinced those working on the September 29-30 summit that Modi was not a stranger to foreign affairs even in 1999 when he visited the US as a pracharak of the RSS.
Modi’s visit took place five days before Nawaz Sharif flew into Washington and agreed after a day-long meeting with Clinton to pull out of Kargil, enabling a ceasefire in the conflict that worried the world because it began soon after India and Pakistan became declared nuclear powers.
Modi’s role in the turn of events, it is now revealed, was critical.
The discovery of these Kargil documents and revelations that are not on paper have alerted the Obama administration that they will have their hands full when the US President and other top American leaders meet the Prime Minister in a week.
The documents, which were recovered from the mists of time 15 years ago, are the result of painstaking research and a tribute to America’s institutionalised memory of dealings with events around the world as a superpower.
The story they have to tell is as follows and points to how history can look very different with the passage of time and how contemporary events are not what they are as they happen. They also offer a window into the BJP-RSS ways of doing things, often very different from other political organisations.
After the Pakistanis sought strategic advantage over India in the spring of 1999, a full military conflict erupted along approximately 150km around Kargil by June. As Indian casualties mounted, the Americans assessed that then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was considering opening another front “to force Pakistanis to fight on territory favourable to India”, according to Bruce Reidel, who was Clinton’s special assistant and senior director for near east and south Asia in the White House national security council from 1997 to 2001.
Vajpayee concluded that although India could fight a long war and win conventionally, international pressure on Islamabad, particularly from Washington, could force a Pakistani withdrawal from Kargil and end the loss of lives and other destruction.
But the Clinton administration, in particular the state department, was ambivalent: Foggy Bottom, the seat of the state department, like the Pentagon had a history of supporting Pakistan. So, all of India’s efforts were concentrated on getting the US Congress to mount pressure on the American executive on behalf of New Delhi.
On the other side, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif feared a coup and his overthrow if the conflict continued. He wanted to pursue the path of Lahore, where Vajpayee had gone and extended the hand of friendship. But Pervez Musharraf, his army chief, wanted to press for strategic advantage with India and he saw Kargil as the route to achieve that goal which had eluded Pakistan throughout its history.
By the last week of June, before the US House of Representatives was a two-and-a-half-page resolution, at the core of which was a declaration that “it should be the policy of the US to oppose the government of Pakistan’s support for armed incursion into Jammu and Kashmir, India.”
It will never be acknowledged, of course, but the text of that House resolution, “HR 227,” was virtually written by Indian lobbyists on Capitol Hill on behalf of the Indian embassy in Washington.
Going through transcripts of meetings of the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations for that week, it is clear the draft had the support of all members but one. The resolution was to leave the committee in that form and would have been passed by the House, but Narendra Modi arrived in Washington and with support from Overseas Friends of the BJP, launched into a whirlwind of meetings with key Congressmen.
Earlier, he had spent a few days in New Jersey brainstorming with Indian Americans, especially of BJP and RSS persuasion, and assessed the situation. At meetings on Capitol Hill, Modi asked for reopening of the text of HR 227 arguing that it was toothless and would not do anything to persuade Musharraf to call off his dangerous Kargil adventure.
Modi said the only thing that would hurt Islamabad was a financial crunch and he called on the US to work towards cutting off funds for Pakistan from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Shekhar Tiwari, who co-founded the Overseas Friends of the BJP along with the late Mukund Mody, told The Telegraph last week that Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the House committee, agreed with Modi.
But Gilman feared that there would not be enough support either within his panel or on the House floor to get such an amendment passed. Besides, Gilman and the committee’s most prominent friend of India, Gary Ackerman of New York, pointed out that the Indian embassy had not asked for any cut-off in funds. They only wanted condemnation of Pakistan.
It was then that Modi took matters into his hands. With support from Hindu Net and other American organisations linked to the RSS, Congressmen were bombarded with phone calls and fax messages demanding, as American citizens, that the US should call for cutting off international loans and aid to Pakistan.
“I am running out of fax paper,” Tiwari recalled Gilman as complaining to him about this campaign that Modi mobilised in two days. Having sowed this wind, Modi left for Europe because of prior commitments, leaving those on Capitol Hill to reap its whirlwind.
By July 1, two days after Modi had his meetings with Congressmen, at a “mark-up” session of the committee, Ackerman moved an amendment to HR 227 which substituted portions of the original resolution.
In part, Ackerman’s amendment read: the US “President should consider all alternatives, including instructing the US representatives to various international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to oppose any loan applications from Pakistan, except for food or humanitarian assistance, until it withdraws its forces from the Indian side of the Line of Control.”
The amendment passed with 22 votes. It was opposed by only four members, prominent among whom where well-known India-baiter Dan Burton of Indiana and a champion of the Afghan royal family, Dana Rohrabacher of California.
As the Modi-inspired amendment made its way through stages on Capitol Hill, the BJP and the RSS left nothing to chance. Sushma Swaraj arrived in Washington and was personally on the Hill as the Ackerman amendment passed.
From Washington, she reported regularly on the amendment’s progress both to L.K. Advani and to the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, sources in both organisations confirmed.
Once the Ackerman amendment passed overwhelmingly, the administration read it as a signal that America’s elected representatives had chosen to unambiguously back India in the conflict.
Reidel has put down on paper for the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Advanced Study of India what is the most authoritative account of the US role in ending the Kargil war, but solely from the administration’s view point.
According to him, “on the 3rd (of July, two days after the Ackerman amendment) Sharif was more desperate and told the president he was ready to come immediately to Washington to seek our help. The president repeated his caution — come only if you are ready to withdraw, I can’t help you if you are not ready to pull back…. Sharif said he was coming and would be there on the 4th”.
The Pakistani Prime Minister went to Washington and the rest is history. July 4 was America’s independence day, a national holiday, but Clinton spent the day ending the Kargil war.