Britain feared an India-Pakistan nuclear war in 2001 in the wake of the terror attack on Indian Parliament. Then British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw recently made the revelations during his depositions before the Chilcot Inquiry Committee, saying that London had tried to “persuade and cajole” the two South Asian neighbours to pull back from a military confrontation.

The Chilcot Inquiry Committee, which released its report on Britain’s role in the Iraq War on Wednesday, said that the report was prepared on the basis of evidences presented to the Committee by various British leaders. The Committee, which was formed by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown on June 15, 2009 to find the cause of the 2003 Iraq War, also declared that the Iraq invasion had been based on “flawed intelligence”.

Straw told the Committee that he had closely monitored the India-Pakistan issue and prepared grounds for his close relationship with his US counterpart (at that time) Colin Powell. He said: “Immediately after 9/11, the foreign policy priority for the UK was Afghanistan. Towards the close of the year, following the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, the possibility – verging it appeared at times on the probability – of a military engagement between India and Pakistan became an added preoccupation for the UK government and the US.”

Straw further informed the Committee that London and Washington had taken a number of steps to avoid such a serious conflict in South Asia. Then spokesperson and Media Adviser of the British Foreign Office John Williams backed Straw’s view, stressing: “The foreign secretary was chiefly preoccupied with trying to persuade India and Pakistan back from the edge of a war that might easily have gone nuclear”. According to Williams, it was India, and not Iraq, which was a serious consideration on his foreign policy agenda before 2002, as the December 13, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament was followed by a series of events, including mobilisation of conventional forces by both India and Pakistan. So far, New Delhi and Islamabad have issued no official statement on the revelation made by Chilcot War Report.

Meanwhile, the report has found that Britain’s planning and preparation for the Iraq war was “wholly inadequate”, as the West Asian nation had posed no imminent threat to the UK. It says: “The UK chose to engage in the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted.” Military action was not the last resort at that time, added the report. The Committee has come to the conclusion that judgements about the severity of threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were presented by the Blair administration with a certainty that was not justified. Even the legal basis for war with Iraq was far from satisfactory. During the six-year-long Iraq war, hundreds of thousands Iraqis and 179 British Army personnel were killed.

The Committee has clearly mentioned it the report that then Prime Minister Tony Blair overestimated his ability to influence the US decision-making process on Iraq. Although PM Blair was warned that any military action against Iraq would increase the threat from al-Qaeda and that Iraq’s weapons could be transferred into the hands of terrorists, he decided to send British forces to the West Asian nation. Claiming that these developments continue to have consequences today, the Chilcot Committee has stated that it is now clear that British policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessment. After the release of Chilcot War Report, the former British premier apologised for “some mistakes” made, but not for his decision to go to war. He also defended the killing of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Commenting on the report, Prime Minister David Cameron said that it was important to “really learn the lessons for the future”. He told the media: “Sending our brave troops on to the battlefield without the right equipment was unacceptable”. Former civil servant John Chilcot chaired the five-member inquiry committee that also included House of Lords’ Indian-origin member Baroness Usha Prashar, Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sir Roderic Lyne and Sir Martin Gilbert (died while inquiry was ongoing). To get a copy of 12-volume-long report that contains 2.6 million words, one will have to pay USD 993.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]