Four years before her assassination in December 2007, Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto accused her country’s military leadership of nuclear brinksmanship, but ruled out a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan.
In an interview recovered from a lost archive — it was recorded in 2003 at her Dubai home when she was out of power and in exile — Benazir, commenting on the tactics deployed by the Pakistani security establishment, said: “They think that with nuclear brinkmanship, they can bring India to its knees because they feel no matter how intense the insurgency gets in Kashmir, what can India do?”
“If lndia tries to have a war, the world community will have to come in because they’re both nuclear. And if the world community doesn’t come in, India knows that if they cross towards Lahore, Pakistan will throw a bomb. India might retaliate, but it will still mean that so many people in India will die.”
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“Since 1977, our security establishment was hijacked by pro-Zia (ul-Haq) officers. They have a vision in direct contrast with the political leadership’s vision. They think that Pakistan should have a puppet government in Afghanistan, so that we can get strategic depth all the way to the river Amur.”
Asked if she had ever considered launching a nuclear attack on India when she was Prime Minister — she had two stints:1988-90 and 993-96 — Benazir said, “For God’s sake, never have l ever for a moment woken up with such a thought because l know that nuking any Indian, if l was even mad enough to think that, would end up nuking my own people.”
“This is what l don’t understand about the deterrence because neither India can use the nukes, nor can Pakistan. Because whichever country is throwing that nuke knows there is not enough time/space and is going to get it back.”
This interview forms part of a chapter on Benazir Bhutto in this correspondent’s book ‘Bullets and Bylines, Dispatches from Kabul, Delhi, Damascus and Beyond’, published by Speaking Tiger.
Asked if she could characterise the feelings that most ordinary Pakistanis have for India and Indians, she said, “It changes from times of tension to times of less tension. When there is tension and the troops are at the border, then people hate anybody who’s Indian, irrespective of whether they are Hindu or Muslim or whatever. They say they want to attack us, kill us and destroy our country.”
“But when there is no tension, people really welcome Indians. Indian films are very popular in Pakistan, Indian goods are smuggled across in Pakistan all the time, people are desperate to get Indian visas, travel to India, go visit their families, or go and see the Taj Mahal or the Mughal heritage.”
“Overseas in America… the Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis see themselves as South Asians, there is no hatred at all… they feel their interests are the same, they work together, they socialise together, there is no hatred at all.”
“I feel the only way forward… is to try and see what the European Union did and to have a kind of common market. What makes economies move? In my view, economies move through the service centre, through creativity. So if we open up, people will come to visit Pakistan, our hotels will be full, more hotels will be built, more labour will get jobs, same in your country…”
“All the visitors who come will want to have kebab and tikka and nihari… people will want to buy, they will want to spend… go to museums, to sight-see. It’s the flow of money that strengthens economies and that’s what we all need, whether it’s Nepal or Bangladesh or Sri Lanka or India or Pakistan, we all need that.”