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Advani knew Kandahar plan: George

Advani’s memoirs My Country, My Life has run into fresh controversy with George Fernandes claiming that Jaswant Singh was accompanying terrorists to Kandahar to free Indian hostages in 1999, reports S Patranobis.

delhi Updated: Mar 29, 2008 03:23 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Leader of the Opposition LK Advani’s memoirs My Country, My Life has run into fresh controversy with George Fernandes claiming that all ministers were aware that the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh was accompanying terrorists to Kandahar to free Indian hostages in 1999.

Senior BJP leader Advani had denied any knowledge of the exchange operation in his memoirs.

“All ministers were present”, senior NDA leader George Fernandes told Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate programme when asked about the then Home Minister Advani’s role in the decision to exchange terrorists for hostages after the Indian Airlines IC/814 flight was hijacked. The flight, with 189 passengers and crew members onboard, was hijacked on December 24, 1999. The hostages were released after the terrorists were freed.

Fernandes said senior ministers jointly took the decision to send Singh to Kandahar. Asked whether senior ministers decided that Singh should accompany the terrorists, Fernandes said: “Yes, I am sure, I am certain that was (the case).”

When asked about Advani’s claim that he was not consulted, he said, “Perhaps it means that at that point of time he might not have been there.”

Blackwill’s bouncer

Advani seems to have got it wrong again when he contends in his book that he spoke to former US Ambassador Robert Blackwill seeking Washington’s help to end the 1999 Kandahar crisis.

Refuting Advani’s claim, Blackwill has said he was in the US during the Kandahar crisis and had come to India as Ambassador two years after the hijack crisis. He was quoted telling the media that Advani might have spoken to his predecessor Richard Celeste during the Kandahar crisis.

“But, of course, it was 1999 and it was the Clinton administration. I was at the Harvard during that time,” Blackwill told Karan Thapar on India Tonight programme on CNBC. Asked if he thought Advani got the name wrong in his memoirs, Blackwill said “I take it that is the case. But not in the essence of what he did and his frustration.”