Pakistani diplomat ‘tried to strangle’ US official
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: A Pakistani diplomat got so angry in a meeting with senior American officials that he jumped out of his chair and would have strangled one or the other of them, had he not been “physically restrained.”
According to Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbot’s recently published book, some of Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed’s colleagues “tended to be querulous, surly and sometimes abusive.” He recalls, “On one occasion, early in our dealings, a member of the Pakistani delegation exploded at our observation that his country seemed always to react in knee-jerk fashion to Indian moves. He rose out of his chair and lunged across the table as though he were going to strangle either Bruce Riedel or me, depending on whose neck he could get his fingers around first. He had to be physically restrained.” He does not name the person.
In an interview published at the weekend in India Abroad, a New York-based news journal catering to the Indian community, Talbot agreed with the interviewer that he is an “Indophile”, while also asserting that Indian officials, such as George Fernandes and Foreign Secretary K. Raghunath consistently assured US officials that India would not take the route it did, namely explode a nuclear bomb in 1998 to the complete surprise of the United States and the world. He said he had a “lot of good feelings about Pakistan” where he had always been received, both as an official and earlier as a journalist, with “terrific hospitality”. He had also met “some extraordinary and admirable people” there.
Talbot said he was one of those people who had always “questioned whether partition was a good thing for the people of South Asia,” Asked how he found the Pakistanis with whom he dealt, he replied, “I found the Pakistani side – while consisting of a number of fine individuals, Shamshad Ahmed being one, who was my principal counterpart – the Pakistani government was constantly wrapped around its axle. It was wrapped around the axle of its insecurities about the United States – where it stood with the United States – and, most of all, wrapped around its axle about India.”
On Kargil, Talbot said, “We remember Kargil very well. It was an extraordinarily dangerous and important moment. Would it be prudent for Indians, Pakistanis, Americans or anybody else to dismiss the possibility of it happening again? No. It wouldn’t be in the least prudent.”