India-Pakistan tension
After the Kargil conflict came to an end, Nawaz Sharif was overthrown by the army in a coup and had to spend a decade in exile in Saudi Arabia Omar Sobhani/Reuters

A former CIA officer has revealed that Pakistan was planning to drop nuclear bombs on India during the 1999 Kargil war. Bruce Riedel, an expert on counter-terrorism, said the White House was warned about Pakistan's plan.

Pakistan's plan came to be known when the then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif went to the US seeking President Bill Clinton's help in ending the war. "The morning of the Fourth [4, July, 1999], the CIA wrote in its top-secret Daily Brief that Pakistan was preparing its nuclear weapons for deployment and possible use. The intelligence was very compelling. The mood in the Oval Office was grim," Riedel revealed when he wrote an obituary for Sandy Berger, who was national security advisor to Clinton. Berger died of cancer on Wednesday (2 December).

Berger "urged Clinton to hear out Sharif, but to be firm. Pakistan started this crisis and it must end it without any compensation. The president needed to make clear to the prime minister that only a Pakistani withdrawal could avert further escalation," Riedel wrote.

Sandy Berger's finest hour

"Sandy knew Clinton better than anyone, his natural inclination was to find a deal. This time, no deal was possible, it must be an unequivocal Pakistani climbdown," he wrote. "It worked. Sharif agreed to pull back his troops."

Riedel claimed: "it was Berger's finest hour", but after the conflict came to an end Nawaz Sharif was overthrown by the army in a coup and had to spend a decade in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Taylor Branch claims that India was ready to strike back if a nuclear war was to happen. In his book, The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President, he also claimed that Clinton had told him that Pakistan secretly sent its soldiers across the line of control in Kashmir as part of its strategy to escalate tension with India.

The Kargil war took place between May and July 1999 along the Pakistan line of control in Kargil district of Ladakh region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.