People's Review, January
New clues on IA airbus hijacking emerge
BY OUR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
Interesting new light is now being shed on the eight-day Indian Airline Airbus hijack drama following the return of the Nepalese hostages on board the ill-fated IC 814 flight.
Among them is that connected with the defamatory charge by ZEE News that Nepali national Gajendra Man Tamrakar, a passenger and later hostage on flight IC 814 that took off from Kathmandu on December 24 for Delhi, is a terrorist and smuggler.
Although it has now conclusively proven that Tamrakar was himself merely a hostage in the Christmas Eve-New Year's Eve hijacking episode -- and ZEE News has since shown clips indicating that Tamrakar is innocent -- what is significant is that ZEE News has attributed the source of its "news" to the government of India.
That, according to news/political analysts, clearly suggests that the whole nasty smear campaign against Nepal and her portrayal as a haven for terrorists, particularly of the ISI brand, was the handmaiden of Indian officials, presumably those connected with its super-intelligence outfit, RAW!
What that means in practical terms is that rather than focusing on the supposed inaccuracies or bias of the Indian media in the hijack incident, one must rather zero in on Indian officialdom which, as is well known, has been trying assiduously over the years to position Nepal squarely under India's security umbrella, a la Bhutan.
It is in that connection that the screaming silence of the Indian media in reporting that SBS Tomar, first secretary (political) at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, was a passenger assumes great and obvious significance.
As much is made plain as Tomar's name has been indicated as a passenger on flight 814 on December 24 by none other than Indian Airlines and in view of the serious charge by an official Pakistani spokesman in Islamabad (vide last week's issue) that Tomar, allegedly a RAW agent, was masterminding the hijack operation.
Also revealing is the disclosure of Nepalese passengers/hostages that at a relatively relaxed point in the hijack drama they were permitted to indulge in "antakchhari" popularized by an Indian TV musical game show and which is avidly watched by many in Nepal.
Given that disclosure, astute observers in Kathmandu presume that the hijackers were none other than Indians although they are fully aware that the government of India has alleged that they are Pakistani/Afghan nationals.
What lends further credence to such speculation is that, according to the disclosure of Roshan Bikram Dahal, published in The Kathmandu Post in a front page news item on January 3, "the hijackers used to address each other by nicknames like Doctor, Burger, Shankar, Bhola and Chief." Attention may in particular be drawn to the names Shankar and Bhola which are patently Hindu names (both are used to signify Lord Shiva).
That apart it is also meaningful, say analysts, that according to disclosures of the Nepalese passengers/hostages who have returned home, the hijackers spoke mainly in Hindi and sometimes in English, again suggesting that they were Indians, not Pakistanis or Afghans.
Excerpts from "India increases pressure for PM's visit", People's Review,
January 13-19, 2000:
BY OUR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT
While the full, authenticated facts of the Christmas Eve hijacking of an Indian Airline airbus remain as murky as ever -- despite the propaganda barrage unleashed by India -- one thing appears incontrovertible: that New Delhi is putting pressure on Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai to pack his bags and make an official trip to India soon.
Indeed, it is meaningful, India-watchers here say, that Indian Ambassador K.V. Rajan attempted at an abruptly called interaction programme with the media the other day, courtesy the Reporters' Club, to cool down frayed Nepalese tempers by regretting Indian media reports on the hijacking -- reports that were tantamount to a smear campaign against this country.
The interest of the government of India in having Bhattarai over to, among other things, get him to agree to a host of security-related understandings and agreements -- written and unwritten -- is crystal clear. Despite or perhaps because of that there is a groundswell of enlightened opinion here that is against an official visit by the prime minister to India at a time when Indian officialdom has repeatedly and publicly voiced claims that India's security is being threatened from Nepalese soil, particularly and allegedly from Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI.
It is also being pointed out that while India has been crying herself hoarse over Pakistan's alleged involvement in the hijack incident, no other government on earth has -- thus far, at least -- backed the Indian claim.
Indeed, if one were to go by claims alone, one should then accept Islamabad's charge that the hijacking was a "stage-managed" affair designed to "prove" that Pakistan is a terrorist state.
The bottom line thus is that an official visit by the prime minister to India at such a time is not only inappropriate but could be suicidal as far as preserving this country's independence and sovereignty is concerned.
People's Review, January 6-12, 2000
Pakistan denies allegations
BY OUR REPORTER
Pakistan has denied Indian allegations of her involvement in recent Indian Airlines aircraft hijack. In a statement of the Foreign Office Spokesman of Pakistan, it is stated that without a shred of evidence, the Indian External Affairs Minister has made a new allegation against Pakistan.
"Earlier the Indian Airlines published the list of passengers aboard the hijacked plane. It did not include any Pakistan nationals. The baseless allegation now can only expose India's prejudice and malevolence not to mention ingratitude for the cooperation of authorities extended throughout the hijacking crisis," it is stated in the statement.
"We did everything possible to ensure the safety of the hostages aboard the hijacked plane during its unwelcome stay at Lahore airport. Mr. Jaswant Singh expressed gratitude to our Foreign Minister," it is said.
The Indian officials reportedly conducted the negotiations through specialized communication equipment, which they had flown to Kandahar. If the officials obtained some particulars about the hijackers, these have not been disclosed to facilitate identification, the statement reads. "No one else listened to dialogue between the Indians and the hijackers".
"The Indian Minister did not desist even from attributing a false statement to the Information Minister of Afghanistan. The latter has clarified that he did not say that the hijackers had left Afghanistan for Quetta in Pakistan".
Pakistan Government issued immediate instruction of all immigration checkpoints in the provinces of Balohistan and NWFP on December 31 when the hijacking ended, to arrest persons bearing the names of hijackers announced by the Indian Government if they sought entry into Pakistan, it is said.
So far no such person has presented himself at any of the checkpoints in Pakistan, it is claimed. "Those who suggest Pakistan should arrest hijackers make the naive assumption that the hijackers have entered Pakistan. To the best of our information, such an assumption is unwarranted," it is stated.
"The Indian Government has so far given no details as to the profile of the hijackers. In the absence of such details, it would be unauthorized route. Nevertheless, our authorities will maintain strict vigilance and make utmost efforts to arrest and investigate persons who look suspicious," the statement reveals. The Government is cognizant of its obligations under the ICAO conventions. Due action will be taken in case the hijackers come into its custody, it is said.
People's Review, Feb 3-9,
RAW official on hijacked flight IC 814: Asiaweek
BY OUR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
A stunning new bit of information on the Indian Airlines airbus hijacking on December 24 has surfaced in the Intelligence column of Asiaweek in its January 21, 2000 issue.
In an item entitled "Another Reason Not to Attack", the Hong-Kong based news weekly says that, according to an unidentified source in New Delhi, an "undisclosed reason" why no attack was ordered on the hijacked aircraft in Amritsar was because the brother-in-law of N.K. Singh, "the senior-most bureaucrat in India's Prime Minister's Office" was on the plane. (See also editorial).
Interestingly, the brother-in-law has been identified in the said Asiaweek item as "Shashi Bhushan Singh" who it then goes on to disclose is "a senior police officer assigned to India's premier counterintelligence organization, the Research and Analysis Wing." (RAW). Even more revealingly, Asiaweek adds that Shashi Bhushan Singh "was working -- apparently under cover -- in the Indian embassy in Kathmandu, where the hijackers initially boarded the plane on December 24."
The Asiaweek revelation recalls the charge made by the spokesman of Pakistan's foreign ministry in the early days of the hijack drama (vide People's Review, December 30-January 5 issue) that a RAW agent, identified as "SBS Tomar", first secretary in the Indian embassy in Kathmandu, was masterminding the hijack operation.
As indicated in our earlier report on the subject, SBS Tomar was also shown on the passenger manifest of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in the immediate aftermath of the hijacking.
Against the backdrop of the Asiaweek revelation, what is striking is that there has, thus far, not only been no official contradiction that a Kathmandu-based Indian diplomat was on board flight IC-814 on December 24 but that no mention at all has been made of the Pakistani allegation in the saturation coverage of the hijacking in the Indian media.
What lends another intriguing dimension to the whole nasty business of the hijacking is that Tomar's initials "SBS" coincides with the name "Shashi Bhushan Singh"!
Follows below the full text of said Asiaweek item:
"Another Reason Not to Attack"
"A source close to the family of N.K. Singh, the senior-most bureaucrat in India's Prime Minister's Office, says an undisclosed reason that PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee's advisers did not order an attack on the hijacked Indian Airlines Airbus in Amritsar was because Singh's brother-in-law, Shashi Bhushan Singh, was on the plane. The Singh family isn't talking publicly, but Shashi Singh is a senior police officer assigned to India's premier counterintelligence organization, the Research and Analysis Wing. He was working -- apparently under cover -- in the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, where the hijackers initially boarded the plane on December 24."