The Hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814
It was ill-fated Kathmandu Delhi Flight Air India.
Date of Hijack: December 27 evening at Kandhar
The Indian government dispatched a seven-member team of senior officials on December 27 evening at Kandhar. They desired to engage the hijackers and the Taliban regime directly. Their primary assignment was the assessment of the crisis and the demands of the hijackers.
The Prime Minister gave hopeful assurances to the delegates of the families of the crew members of the hijacked aircraft. He also apprised them of the Taliban officials' threat that they would storm the plane in case the hijackers caused any harm to the passengers. He appreciated their decisive role.
The plight of the helpless passengers was horrible. They had to undergo a traumatic period for a week, extending from the Christmas eve to the millennium eve. Their family members, relatives, and well-wishers met the airport authorities every day to gather first-hand information about the progress made by the government for the fate of the innocent passengers. Some of them furiously threatened them to beware of dire consequences if the passengers failed to return safely.
The week-old hijack crisis ended dramatically. The Indian government struck a deal with the hijackers and agreed to free the three jailed militants in exchange for the release of 155 hostages on board the aircraft. The P.M. told the nation that the safety of the passengers and crew and the overall long-term interest of the country guided his government not to open many fronts and create a warlike situation.
Therefore, his government has handed over the three militants to the hijackers. It should not be considered their weakness or defeat. It is rather their boldness and victory. It was evidence of India's resolution to join hands across nations in the new century to rid the world of terrorism. The timely decision of the release of the hijacked passengers spread a wave of cheer all over the country, and the new-year day turned into celebration with exuberant jubilance.
The P.M. assured the nation that his government would not bow before militants but would settle the score with their backers and abettors. The government has also justified the release of the three terrorists to end the hijack crisis and saving the lives of 160 hostages. It has cited the example of the release of four militants in an exchange of the daughter of then Home Minister in December 1989. History repeats itself, and there is time enough to buckle down the terrorists at the opportune time.
The critics are like crows and cows do not die from crows' cursing. The principal objective of the critics is to tear their opponents to pieces by condemning their policies and principles open-throated and curtly, overtly and covertly. There is no denying the fact that there was a wide-spread relief when the hostages returned safe and sound on December 31, 1999.
The defense analysts and diplomats are of the view that the handling of the hijack episode got jeopardized. The Kathmandu route used by terrorists to enter India is still open. Passports are yet not issued for air travelers between India and Nepal. The sky-marshals are unavailable in all the hijack prone sectors through 13 such episodes that have taken place during the last three decades.
Home Minister L. K. Advani told newspapers at an Iftar party that he knew it well that “Nobody would relish the idea of freeing three hardcore militants, a trade-off but the trying circumstances left the government with no other option.” He had received a secret message that the IA plane would blow up in case the demands of the hijackers is not fulfilled.
It has also come to the limelight that the staff members of the Pakistan embassy in Kathmandu helped hijackers carry arms on board the airbus. It is equally strange that five armed hijackers managed to sneak into the Indian Airline flight without anybody's knowledge.
It shows the height of negligence on the part of checking staff. India has now established the identity of the Pakistani hijackers and the neck-deep involvement of Islamabad in the whole episode. It has also become clear that the Rawalpindi based terrorist gang planned the diabolic mission. We have girded up our loins to teach the miscreants a bitter lesson soon.