The Indian Air Force (IAF) narrowly missed bombing a Pakistani army forward base where then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and then Pakistan Army chief General Pervez Musharraf were present during the Kargil war in 1999, a media report claimed today. An IAF Jaguar attack aircraft had targeted a forward base of the Pakistani army at the precise moment that Sharif and Musharraf happened to be present at the site. However, a second Jaguar jet, which was supposed to execute the actual bombing, dropped its payload outside the targeted area and away from the base after being instructed to do so, according to a report in the Indian Express.
Sharif and Musharraf's presence at the base, at around 8.45 am on June 24, 1999, which the report claims coincided with the IAF bombing run, was confirmed through an official document accessed by the national daily.
Citing the official Government of India document, the report said that the first Jaguar, unaware at that time of Sharif or Musharaff's presence at the base, used its laser targeting system to take aim at the Gulteri base across the Line of Control (LoC). However, the report added, an IAF air commodore advised the Jaguar pilot to not hit the original target. Subsequently, the bomb was dropped on the Indian side of the LoC.
What could have been the possible impact if the strike had gone ahead and Sharif had been caught up in it? An article from Pakistani daily Dawn's archives explains how, at the time of the conflict, many Western diplomats and analysts saw Sharif as the key to pulling Pakistan out of the conflict and preventing a further escalation of hostilities between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Citing Bruce Riedel, who was then US President Bill Clinton’s special assistant for South Asian affairs and a key member of the US-Pakistan talks on the Kargil war, another article from the Dawn archives said that by the end of June 99, Sharif asked Clinton to plead his case as he got 'increasingly desperate' to end the crisis.
An agency report from 2009 revealed further details. According to Sharif's account presented in the report, Musharraf had pleaded with him to talk to Clinton to "somehow" ensure an end to the Kargil conflict.
As evidenced by this Dawn report from 2006, Sharif has long maintained that he was not aware of what was happening in Kargil when the conflict broke out. Instead, according to the report, the then Pakistani PM, according to his own statements, found out about the Kargil incursion over a phone call from then Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in May of 1999.
According to the same report, Sharif said he had sought Clinton's help in a meeting on July 4, 1999, to resolve the matter amicably.
(With PTI inputs)