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December 31, 1999
Hijackers gave in after talks broke down on Thursday
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The government's strategy to end the hijacking of the Indian Airlines aircraft is to keep the negotiations with the hijackers on without conceding anything till international pressure forces the terrorists to go in for an honourable settlement, top sources at the ministry of external affairs told rediff.com
This was why the talks between the Indian negotiators and the hijackers broke down briefly on Thursday after the terrorists were told that their demand for the release of various militants was out of the question.
"After initially asserting that the Indian stand on their comrades lodged in Indian jails would be destructive for the hostages, the hijackers themselves gave in and indicated that they were in favour of the resumption of the negotiations," the sources pointed out.
They contended this was why External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh told reporters that the hijackers had not fixed nor demanded any deadline for the negotiations and that "this eminently suits our government."
They said the government had taken a leaf out of then external affairs minister Swaran Singh's book "which was to continue tricky negotiations without conceding anything.Simultaneously, it had undertaken a diplomatic exercise on a war-footing to convince the international community that the hostages had suffered intense physical stress and mental torture for over a week now and that it should exert pressure on the Taleban in Afghanistan to help terminate the hijacking and ensure the safe return of the passengers and crew."
The sources underscored that even as the government had expressed its appreciation of the Taleban role in Kandahar to give humanitarian aid to the hostages including food, water and medical facilities, it felt the ruling Afghan regime could easily have arrested the hijackers. They pointed out that in Afghanistan under the Taleban, hijacking was a crime which attracted capital punishment, "but the authorities there have turned a blind eye to this." Instead, the Taleban militia was seen mingling around with one of the hijackers "which indicates its mindset and gives the game away."
In keeping with its objectives, the government has got in touch with countries all over the world to seek their co-operation in exerting international pressure for ending the hostage crisis. "We have reasons to believe that the Taleban is under intense international pressure to terminate the hijacking. Hence, accusing the government of callousness to the hostages's plight or alleging that it does not care is totally unjustified," they pointed out.
Meanwhile, it is understood that Moscow has asked New Delhi to brief the Russian government continually on developments in the hijacking crisis so that the Russians can utilise their clout to bring pressure on countries in the region.
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