Four years before her assassination (on December 27, 2007), former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto predicted that India and Pakistan could never use nuclear weapons against each other.
The concerned authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently recovered recordings of an interview, given by Benazir at her Dubai residence in 2003, from a lost archive. The first female PM of Pakistan, who was out of power and in exile at that time, made the prediction while commenting on the tactics adopted by the Pakistani security establishment to counter India. Benazir strongly criticised her country’s military leadership for nuclear brinksmanship, saying then Pakistani military officers thought that they could easily bring the neighbouring country to their knees with nuclear brinkmanship.
Benazir had a different view. She ruled out any possibility of nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, saying that even if one of the two South Asian countries had any such plan, they would not have succeeded due to intense international pressure. Benazir stressed that although the top political leadership in Islamabad realised the fact, the security establishment failed to understand the ground reality. According to Benazir, the security establishment wanted a puppet government to rule Pakistan (just like Afghanistan), so that the Army could strategically corner India.
Benazir also rejected the media speculation that she had planned to launch a nuclear attack on India during her two terms as prime minister (in 1988-90 and in 1993-96), saying: “For God’s sake, never have I ever for a moment woken up with such a thought because I know that nuking any Indian, if I was even mad enough to think that, would end up nuking my own people.” She further said: “This is what I don’t understand about the deterrence because neither India can use the nukes, nor can Pakistan. Because whichever country is throwing that nuke knows there is not enough time/space and is going to get it back.”
It is evident in Shyam Bhatia’s book on Benazir, titled “Bullets and Bylines, Dispatches from Kabul, Delhi, Damascus and Beyond”, that the former Pakistani leader wanted India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries to live peacefully. Bhatia quoted Benazir as saying: “Overseas in America… the Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis see themselves as South Asians, there is no hatred at all… they feel their interests are the same, they work together, they socialise together, there is no hatred at all.”
The 11th prime minister of Pakistan and former president of the centre-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) also had a special plan for the development of the region, as she told the interviewer: “I feel the only way forward… is to try and see what the European Union (EU) did and to have a kind of common market. What makes economies move? In my view, economies move through the service centre, through creativity. So if we open up, people will come to visit Pakistan, our hotels will be full, more hotels will be built, more labour will get jobs, same in your country.”
Benazir believed that the free flow of money could strengthen South Asian economies. “That’s what we all need, whether it’s Nepal or Bangladesh or Sri Lanka or India or Pakistan, we all need that,” added Benazir, the first woman to become head of government of any Muslim nation.