11. Foreign Policy
Benazir Bhutto’s foreign policy was controversial. In her second term, Bhutto expanded Pakistan’s relations with the rest of the world. Like her father, Benazir Bhutto sought to strengthen relations with socialist states, and her visit to Libya strengthened the relations between the two countries. Benazir also thanked Muammar al-Gaddafi for his tremendous efforts and support for her father before and during Zulfikar’s trial in 1977. Ties continued with Libya but deteriorated after Nawaz Sharif became prime minister in 1990 and again in 1997. Gaddafi was said to be very fond of Bhutto and was a family friend of Bhutto family, but disliked Nawaz Sharif due to his ties with General Zia in the 1980s.
Benazir Bhutto is said to have paid a state visit to North Korea in early 1990 and again in 1996. According to journalist Shyam Bhatia, Bhutto smuggled CDs containing uranium enrichment data to North Korea on a state visit that same year in return for data on missile technology. According to the expert, Benazir Bhutto acted as a female “James Bond”, and left with a bag of computer disks to pass on to her military from North Korea.
Major-General Pervez Musharraf worked closely with Bhutto and her government in formulating an Israel strategy. In 1993 Bhutto ordered Musharraf, then Director-General of the Pakistani Army’s Directorate-General for the Military Operation (DGMO), to join her state visit to the United States, an unusual and unconventional participation. Bhutto and Musharraf chaired a secret meeting with Israeli officials who travelled to the US especially for the meeting. Under Bhutto’s guidance Musharraf intensified the ISI’s liaison with Israel’s Mossad. A final meeting took place in 1995, which Musharraf also joined. Bhutto also strengthened relations with communist Vietnam, and visited Vietnam to sign an agreement for mutual trade and international political cooperation the two countries. In 1995 Benazir Bhutto made another state visit to the United States and held talks with U.S. President Bill Clinton. Bhutto urged him to revise the Pressler Amendment and launch a campaign against extremism. She criticized US nonproliferation policy and demanded that the United States honour its contractual obligation.
During her second term, relations with Indian Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao further deteriorated. Like her father, Benazir Bhutto used rhetoric to oppose to India and campaign in the international community against the Indian nuclear programme. On 1 May 1995 she used harsh language in her public warning to India that “continuation of [Indian] nuclear programme would have terrible consequences”. India responded to this saying she was interfering in an “internal matter” of India, and the Indian Army fired a RPG at the Kahuta, which further escalated events, leading to full-fledged war. When this news reached Bhutto, she responded by high-alerting the Air Force Strategic Command. It ordered heavily armed Arrows, Griffins, Black Panthers and the Black Spiders to begin air sorties and to patrol the Indo-Pakistan border on day-and-night regular missions. All of these squadrons are part of the Strategic Command. On 30 May, India test-fired a Prithvi-1 missile near the Pakistan border, which Bhutto condemned. She responded by deploying Shaheen-I missiles; however, they were not armed. Benazir Bhutto permitted the PAF to deploy the Crotale missile defence and the Anza-Mk-III near the Indian border, which escalated the conflict, but effectively kept the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force from launching any surprise attack.
In 1995 the ISI reported to Bhutto that Narasimha Rao had authorised nuclear tests, and that they could be conducted at any minute. Benazir put the country’s nuclear arsenal programme on high-alert made emergency preparations, and ordered the Pakistani armed forces to remain on high-alert. However the United States intervened, Indian operations for conducting the nuclear tests were called off and the Japanese government attempted to mediate. In 1996, Benazir Bhutto met with Japanese officials and warned India about conducting nuclear tests. She revealed for the first time that Pakistan had achieved parity with India in its capacity to produce nuclear weapons and their delivery capability. She told the Indian press, that Pakistan “cannot afford to negate the parity we maintain with India”. These statements represented a departure from Pakistan’s previous policy of “nuclear ambivalence.” Bhutto issued a statement on the tests and told the international press that she condemned the Indian nuclear tests. “If (India) conducts a nuclear test, it would forced her (Pakistan) to.. “follow suit…” she said.
Bhutto also ratcheted up her policy on Indian Kashmir, rallying against India. At an Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting at the United Nations, Bhutto, who was accompanied by her then-Speaker and future prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani upset and angered the Indian delegation, headed by prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with a vehement criticism of India. Vajpayee responded, saying: “It is Pakistan which is flouting the United Nations resolution by not withdrawing its forces from Kashmir…You people create problems every time. You know the Kashmiri people themselves acceded to India. First, the Maharajah, then the Kashmiri parliament, both decided to go with India”.
Bhutto described Indian held-Kashmir as the worst example of “Indian intransigence” and dismissed Indian allegations of putative Pakistani nuclear tests as “baseless”. Bhutto criticised India’s bid to hide its plan to explode a nuclear device, and failure to cover up its domestic problems including its failure to suppress the freedom struggle in Kashmir.