Monitor: The Indian press comments on their government's response to the hijacking of an Indian airliner last Friday
Tuesday 28 December 1999
It is evident that the hijackers are connected to Harkat-ul-Ansar, the same extremist group that kidnapped and murdered four foreign tourists in Kashmir in 1994. Even though the US government eventually agreed to classify the Pakistan-based outfit as a terrorist organisation, neither Washington nor any of its allies chose to take the Pakistani government to task for sheltering such a dangerous group on its soil. The present hijacking, in that sense, is a direct outcome of this international permissiveness. After the hostages have been brought home safe and sound, there will be plenty of opportunity to do a post-mortem on each of the stages of the hijacking drama. It is futile to speculate at this time about the wider linkages the hijackers might have to foreign governments and intelligence agencies. The fact that they wanted to fly to Afghanistan does not necessarily mean the Taliban were in on the plan or indeed that they support the hijacking, any more than the spate of hijackings to Cuba in the 1970s proved that Havana was sponsoring terrorism. However, it is more than evident that the hijackers would be amenable to persuasion by the Taliban, and India and the world have every right to expect that the authorities in Kabul will exert all the pressure they can to force the hijackers to abandon their criminal and foolhardy mission without any further loss of life.
The Hindustan Times
A country's alertness and integrated-response capability are truly tested only in an emergency. Twice this year, first in Kargil and now on the hijacking, India has faltered in responding quickly and methodically to a crisis, allowing the emergency to become more critical. In place of a deterrent message against further acts of clandestine or terrorist warfare, a self-injurious message has been conveyed: that a laid-back, reactive India is content to take on invaders and hijackers on their terms. India's ignominy over the hijacking is largely self-inflicted: a grave, indefensible blunder occurred when the commandeered Indian jetliner was permitted to take off from Amritsar. A godsend opportunity for India that the hijackers had not bargained for - the aircraft being forced to land on Indian territory because of low fuel - was allowed to slip by.
While there are legitimate questions that the government will have to answer at a later date, the immediate task is to focus on the rescue of the hostages, and all the emphasis in New Delhi's efforts must be on ending the human tragedy that is unravelling in the skies. The government should not be tempted by the opportunity to point an accusing finger at Pakistan as a result of the fresh evidence that has surfaced of its sponsorship of terrorism in the Kashmir valley. Right now, the government must accept whatever constructive assistance is available from other countries, including Pakistan, in rescuing the terrified Indian and foreign passengers of flight IC814 from their terrifying odyssey in the skies.
It will continue to worry people even if the country were to emerge from the present imbroglio relatively unscathed. Quick, incisive action is what national security is about. Hand-eye co-ordination is what national security is all about. Decision-makers and the men in fatigues acting together with single-minded purpose is what national security is all about. Alas, the hijacking of flight IC184 revealed how badly prepared India was to face up to the challenge of international terrorism. And it is the innocent passenger who has to pay the price.
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