The UK feared an India-Pakistan nuclear war in the wake of the terror attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 and tried to “persuade and cajole” the two countries to pull back from a military confrontation, according to evidence presented to an inquiry into the 2003 Iraq war made public today.
The then UK foreign secretary Jack Straw made the revelations during his depositions before the Chilcot Inquiry, which declared today that the Iraq invasion in 2003 had been based on “flawed intelligence”.
In an attempt to highlight other pressing matters at the time, Straw said he had been preoccupied with the India-Pakistan issue on an “hour by hour” basis which formed the grounds for his close relationship with his US counterpart at the time Colin Powell.
In a memo to the inquiry committee dating back to January 2010 Straw said, “Immediately after 9/11 the foreign policy priority for the UK was Afghanistan. Towards the close of the year, following the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, the possibility – verging it appeared at times on the probability – of a military engagement between India and Pakistan became an added preoccupation for the UK government and the US.
The attack on Parliament in New Delhi by LeT and JeM militants killed 9 people.
“The joint US-UK endeavour to avoid such a serious regional conflict was the foundation of the very close working relationship which I developed with the US Secretary of State General Colin Powell,” he said.
His testimony is backed up by his Foreign Office spokesperson and media advisor at the time, John Williams, who
told the inquiry “The Foreign Secretary was chiefly preoccupied with trying to persuade India and Pakistan back from the edge of a war that might easily have gone nuclear”.
In a later statement Straw made to the Chilcot Inquiry committee in person in February 2011, he again sought to prove that Iraq had not been a serious consideration on his foreign policy agenda before 2002 by stressing the bubbling tensions between two nuclear powers like India and Pakistan.