India and Pakistan came “close” to a “nuclear conflagration” in February 2019, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said in his new memoir.
This happened after Delhi launched strikes against militants in Pakistani territory following an attack on Indian troops in Kashmir.
Pakistan had then said it had shot down two Indian military jets and captured a fighter pilot.
India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir, but control only parts of it.
India has long accused Pakistan of backing separatist militants in the Kashmir valley – a charge Islamabad denies. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since independence from Britain and partition in 1947. All but one were over Kashmir.
In Never Give An Inch: Fighting for the America I Love, Mr Pompeo says he does “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,” he writes.
Mr Pompeo says he will “never forget the night” he was in Hanoi at a summit “negotiating with the North Koreans on nuclear weapons” when “India and Pakistan started threatening each other in connection with the decades-long dispute over the northern border region of Kashmir”.
After the attack on Indian troops that killed more than 40 soldiers – “an Islamist terrorist attack… probably enabled in part by Pakistan’s lax counter-terror policies”, according to Mr Pompeo – India had responded with air strikes inside Pakistan. “The Pakistanis shot down a plane in a subsequent dogfight and kept the Indian pilot prisoner.”