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December 31, 1999
'We were able to substantially scale down their demand'
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Friday said the safety of the passengers and the crew and the long term overall interest of the nation guided his government to hand over the three militants to the hijackers of Indian Airlines Flight IC-814.
In his New Year's address broadcast to the nation, the prime minister said the government was able to substantially scale down the demands of the hijackers to end the eight-day old ordeal of the hostages.
He said, ''the hijacking, diabolic and evil as it is, is but the latest manifestation'' of terrorism. ''India shall not spare any effort to thwart the phenomenon of terrorism itself.''
The time has come for the world to confront the evil, to act in concert and crush it, the prime minister asserted.
''For the past two decades now, this menace has exacted a cruel price from us in India. Thousands of innocent, defenceless men, women and children have been done to death, tens of thousands of families have lost their home and hearth.''
Vajpayee called upon his countrymen to make the new century an Indian century by joining hands across nations to rid the world of terrorism and work to make India a developed country.
He said the battle against terrorism could be won if all nations acted together by ''outdoing the terrorist in patience, in technology, in strength and in intelligence.''
He said that along with terrorism, the twin curse of poverty and illiteracy had to be wiped out and the nation had to ensure that every Indian had a shelter and the poorest of the poor had access to a life of dignity.
In his brief address, Vajpayee cited four resolutions that the people of India should take to make the country head the comity of nations: join hands to fight terrorism, make India a developed country that reached out and cared for the weakest, make excellence a watchword, and restore the institutions in the country to health.
Vajpayee said at the outset that the world was entering a new century and a new age from tomorrow, and this was a new chapter in the history of mankind. This was an occasion for cheer and joy, more so because the ordeal of the hostages in the Indian Airlines IC 814 had come to an end and they would soon be back with their families to usher in the New Year.
Emphasising the need to ensure growth with equity so that every Indian benefits from India's prosperity, Vajpayee said that it was necessary to break down the barriers of caste, language and religion. ''We have to erase artificial boundaries that separate Indians from Indians. We have to remove all forms of discrimination, especially discrimination against women.''
Vajpayee said the key to the new society was fast economic development and rapid social change. The nation had to excel -- as individuals and as a nation -- as it had the talent and the resources.
He said India had the best talent in science and technology, and ''our sportsmen are rated among the best in the world. Our teachers are in demand in the best universities abroad. Our farmers defy great odds to produce record harvests. Our industry has the potential to stand up to all competition.''
The prime minister said the closing decades of the twentieth century had fetched a bounty of opportunities, with new vistas opened by discoveries. The nation had to seize the opportunities of the coming era to emerge as a mighty nation whose strength will lie in its achievements.
Noting that the nation will mark the golden jubilee of its republic on January 26, he said the Constitution had served as the beacon for democracy, establishing the rule of law and the supremacy of the people. In fifty years, India had grown to become a vibrant democracy and also the world's largest.
Vajpayee, however, said while the spirit of democracy and the faith of the people in a democratic system had survived the test of time, ''our institutions have begun to show signs of corrosion. That needs to be checked and rectified immediately. To ensure the health of our democracy, our institutions need to be strengthened, with your help, to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.''
He said the nation was entering the 21st century with a civilisational history that stretched back to more than 5000 years. From times immemorial, ''we have nourished traditions and values. They are our real strength. They are the gift India has preserved for the world through the ages. They are the truths to which the world has now begun to turn -- for direction, for solace, for wisdom.''
The prime minister asked the people to turn the vision of Sri Aurobindo that ''the sun of India's destiny would rise and fill all India with the light and overflow India and overflow Asia and overflow the world'' into a reality.
He concluded by wishing that, "2000 and the decades beyond be truly a new age, a new era of security and brotherhood among all peoples and prosperity of all nations."
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