Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote in a book published on Tuesday that India and Pakistan came close to nuclear war in 2019 and that US intervention prevented escalation.
“I don’t think the world knows correctly how close the rivalry between India and Pakistan came to nuclear conflagration in February 2019,” the potential future presidential candidate wrote in his diary. Donald Trump’s top diplomat and former head of the CIA.
India in February 2019 broke a precedent by launching airstrikes inside Pakistani territory after it blamed a suicide bombing on a militant group there that killed 41 Indian paramilitary soldiers in the restive region of Kashmir. Pakistan shot down an Indian warplane, and the pilot was captured.
Pompeo, who was in Hanoi for a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said he was awakened by an urgent call from a senior Indian official.
It was believed that the Pakistanis had begun to prepare their nuclear weapons for the strike. He told me that India is considering its own escalation,” Pompeo wrote.
“I asked him to do nothing and give us a minute to sort things out,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo said that US diplomats have convinced India and Pakistan that neither of them is preparing to acquire nuclear weapons.
“No other country could have done what we did that night to avoid a terrible outcome,” Pompeo wrote.
Pompeo, who wrote that Pakistan “may have enabled” the Kashmir attack, said he had spoken to the “de facto leader of Pakistan”, then army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, in reference to the weakness of civilian governments.
Pompeo at the time publicly defended India’s right to act. In his book, Pompeo praised India and, unlike officials in New Delhi, made no secret of his desire to ally with the South Asian democracy to “counter Chinese aggression.”
India, followed by Pakistan, tested nuclear bombs in 1998, a watershed moment. Later US President Bill Clinton famously said that Kashmir, which is divided between the two countries, is “the most dangerous place in the world”.
Pompeo writes at length in his diplomacy with Kim Jong Un book, which included preparing for three meetings between the young totalitarian leader and Trump.
He recalled a harrowing first conversation when he flew to Pyongyang in March 2018 on a secret trip as CIA director.
“I didn’t think you would come. I know you were trying to kill me,” Pompeo quotes Kim as he tells him.
I decided to lean in a bit with my own sense of humor: “Mr. Mr. President, I’m still trying to kill you. “
But Pompeo described an emerging understanding with Kim, in which the Trump administration offered incentives to reduce tensions.
Referring to Kim’s smoking habit, Pompeo wrote that he told Kim he would take him to “the most beautiful beach in Miami and smoke the best Cubans in the world. He told me, ‘I really have a great relationship with Al Castro. ‘ Of course, he did.”
As for their substantive conversation, Pompeo said Kim spoke candidly about concerns about China, which is usually seen as North Korea’s main ally.
He said that China believes North Korea wants US forces out of South Korea, “Kim laughed and banged on the table in sheer delight, exclaiming that the Chinese are liars.”
“Kim said he needs the Americans in South Korea to protect him from the CCP, and that the CCP needs the Americans out so they can deal with peninsulas like Tibet and Xinjiang,” Pompeo wrote, referring to the CCP.
Pompeo has become known for his tough stance on China, controversially accusing Beijing of spreading the “Wuhan virus,” a pejorative reference to Covid-19.
He said Trump told him with a nickname that Chinese President Xi Jinping “hates you” and told Pompeo to “shut up hell for a while” because the US needed sanitary supplies from China.
“I wasn’t happy that the president tweeted that the Chinese Communist Party is doing a good job on the virus and praised Xi,” Pompeo said.
But I understood the circumstances – we needed sanitary equipment and we were at the mercy of the CCP for that. I was working for the boss, and I was biding my time.”
Pompeo has not ruled out running against Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, though early polls show little support for Pompeo.