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US showed lack of interest in Dawood's deportation: Advani

Source: PTI
March 20, 2008 13:25 IST
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The United States showed "lack of enthusiasm" in getting underworld don Dawood Ibrahim deported to India from Pakistan despite making some initial efforts, says senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Kishenchand Advani.

Advani, in his memoir My Country My Life, notes with deep disappointment America's reticence in pressing Pakistan to hand over Dawood, wanted in connection with 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, to India.

The former deputy prime minister writes in detail his efforts to get Dawood and his meetings with the then US secretary of state Colin Powell and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice in this regard.

He notes that Indian officials handed over a copy of the list of top 20 most-wanted terrorists taken refuge in Pakistan to their US counterparts during his visit to that country in January 2002, a month after the Parliament attack.

Advani recollects that within 10 days of his meeting with Powell, he came on a whirlwind tour of India and Pakistan in a bid to lower tension and gave "clearer indication" that the Bush administration had decided to ask then president Pervez Musharraf to combat terrorism.

"He (Powell) told his Indian interlocutors that Pakistan would hand over Dawood Ibrahim to India 'with some strings attached' and also that Musharraf needed 15 to 20 days more for doing so," he writes.

However, Advani says he "started facing hurdles" soon and recollecting it now "is not a very happy experience."

"When Powell came to India, I was unpleasantly surprised to know that I was not among the Indian officials meeting him. The PMO's explanation, from what I gathered, was that since I had met the US secretary of state only 10 days earlier in Washington, there was no need for me to meet him again," he says.

"It bewildered me. My interest in meeting Powell was, specifically, to find out about the Bush administration's follow-up on the Indian demand for the extradition of Ibrahim and others in the list submitted to Pakistan," Advani says.

In the months that followed, he notes, there was no Pakistani action on the Indian demand on Ibrahim and "there was only fibbing and foot-dragging. In my interactions with visiting Americans, I began to see, strangely, a certain lack of enthusiasm. 'We do not have the clout to compel Pakistan to act on this issue,' they started saying," he writes.

"I suspected, not without basis, that somebody in the bureaucratic system was trying, in Indian's dialogue with Americans, to de-emphasise or derail the issue of getting Ibrahim and other Indian terrorists back from Pakistan," Advani notes.

He says his "deep disappointments" as home minister was that India was "denied a major success in its war against Pakistan-supported terrorism by way of bureaucratic non- cooperation "that I have not been able to fully fathom."

Another disappointment, Advani says, came when America did not help to block the hijacked Indian Airlines flight at the Dubai airport en-route to Kandahar despite him seeking assistance from then US ambassador to India Robert Blackwill.

"I felt that the Americans, with their considerable military presence and diplomatic influence in the Gulf region, could have taken some effective proactive steps to put the hijacked plane out of action, so that Indian commandos could be sent there to rescue the hostages. I was deeply disappointed that they did not even try," the leader of the opposition recollects.

A few days after the crisis had ended, Advani says he made his displeasure known to Blackwill during a meeting.

"This is not what we understand by Indo-US cooperation in fighting terrorism," I told him. "That experience reinforced my belief that India has to fight its war on terror essentially on its own," he notes.

On the National Democratic Alliance government's decision to free three terrorists to end the hijacking crisis, he says, "I was initially not in favour of exchanging the terrorists with hostages. However, the situation that our government was faced with was truly extraordinary."

"The fact that the hijackers had taken the plane to Kandahar had rendered the situation much more complex and difficult," he says.

The "most unfortunate" part of the entire episode, he said was that pressure was being mounted on the government to "somehow" save the lives of the hostages in the form of hysterical demonstrations by relatives of the hostages outside prime minister's residence.

"I regret to say that these were at least partly instigated by the BJP's political adversaries," he said and blamed some television channels for hyping up these protests with round-the-clock publicity.

"With mounting pressure from relatives on one hand, and the possibility of hijackers taking recourse to some desperate action on the other, the government most reluctantly took the option of minimising the losses," he says.

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