He is an 'ambitious and scheming individual.' A hardliner on India, his elevation as Chief of the Army Staff does not bode well for Indo-Pak relations. And he will not toe (Nawaz) Sharif's line over a longer period.'
That was the prophetic gist of a secret telegram sent to Delhi by then Indian high commissioner to Pakistan Satish Chandra when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed General Pervez Musharraf as Pakistan's army chief in October 1998.
Chandra, now 63, was high commissioner to Islamabad from 1995 to 1998.
Appointed Deputy National Security Advisor from January 1999 to February 2005, he participated in the Indo-US Security and Non-Proliferation Dialogue. An expert on disarmament, he was also permanent representative to the UN in Geneva from 1992 to 1995.
In an exclusive interview with Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt, Chandra discusses the pros and cons of the nuclear deal agreed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to United States, and strikes a note of caution.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the US has been hailed as a great success. Do you agree with that view?
There are several facets to it. In some areas the visit has been good. With the United States being a hyperpower and only superpower, it is in India's interest to try and find the areas of commonality and work with them in those areas. I think the PM got an excellent welcome. Though this is entirely not an unusual thing.
In a number of areas like democracy, terrorism, agriculture, energy cooperation we will work together. There are very, very wide areas. This is the continuation of policies which India has been pursuing for the last six or seven years.
However, I would like to inject a note of caution even in those areas where commonalities of interests have been found.
For example, we have said that both countries will work together in areas of democracy and terrorism. We have to ask ourselves how much the US has actually done in these areas. In our neighbourhood, we have undemocratic regimes like Pakistan. What has the US done about it?
Or on the issue of terrorism, what have they done? Quite honestly, the US is selective in its application and in handling of these areas of cooperation.
I think we need to be very cautious. And even in positive areas there is a lot of rhetoric. We will have to wait and watch to see what will actually happen.
How do you see the latest nuclear pact?
In these some points are good. Like the cooperation in ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactors). But here again, there are caveats as to whether India will be included in the group of countries which are participating in it.
Talking about the controversy regarding nuclear energy I think so much controversy has been generated about nuclear energy that the importance of the main issue has been lost.
The main issue of the PM's US visit should have been getting US support for the United Nations Security Council seat. That issue was completely lost. I would have considered the visit a major success if the US had at least said that we support India as much as we support Japan. The issue has been glossed over and everyone is involved in other games.
I don't share the optimism and euphoria that has engulfed our media that the visit has been a great success just because there is apparently clear recognition on the US side to have full cooperation on the nuclear issue. I don't think the US has recognised India as a Nuclear Weapons State. Nowhere in the joint statement is it mentioned that India is a Nuclear Weapons State.
But they have almost said it. It is 'de facto' recognised.
It is not even de facto. Actually, what is said here is that the 'country will acquire the same benefits and advantages as other leading countries with advanced nuclear technology' such as the United States.
But many countries have advanced nuclear technology. Japan can become a nuclear weapons state with more advanced capabilities probably than India. It is believed that in three weeks time they can put their technology in place. Brazil and Germany are not Nuclear Weapons States, but they too have know-how.
What we wanted was recognition as a Nuclear Weapons State. That has not been given to us, it is merely mentioned that we are having 'advanced nuclear technology.'
Now, let us debate the core point of separating Indian civilian and military nuclear facilities. This is the commitment we have made. There is no similar commitment, even on the issue of fuel supply, from the US.
The Joint Statement says 'the United States will work with friends and allies to adjust international regimes to' enable India get energy cooperation. But it is not a commitment.
The US side is conditional but India has made A commitment. We don't know how long (the US) Congress will take to change the laws. How long can India afford to wait?
On the US side there is a conditional assurance. On the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership we have delivered but the US has not fully delivered.(Interviewer's note: The NSSP is now declared concluded.)
Presuming that the US will change its law in due course I would still say no. Because separating our civilian and military nuclear facilities is a near impossibility and will cause enormous problems.