Every hostage crisis tests India, which always fails | india | Hindustan Times
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Every hostage crisis tests India, which always fails

THE GOVERNMENT finds itself caught in a bind whenever a hostage crisis erupts -- particularly in a country like Afghanistan, where India's strategic stakes are high. So what does Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran mean when he says "every effort" will be made "to apprehend the perpetrators of this criminal act and bring them to justice swiftly"? What can the government do?

india Updated: May 01, 2006 00:45 IST

THE GOVERNMENT finds itself caught in a bind whenever a hostage crisis erupts -- particularly in a country like Afghanistan, where India's strategic stakes are high.

So what does Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran mean when he says "every effort" will be made "to apprehend the perpetrators of this criminal act and bring them to justice swiftly"? What can the government do?

It can neither opt out of Afghanistan nor ensure complete security of its personnel even if it sends its troops there (as has been frequently "suggested" by the US), given the terrain and nature of Afghanistan's traditional tribal polity.
And unlike the post-9/11 US, it cannot send fighter jets to bomb the Afghan provinces where the Taliban's writ runs. At best it can "strengthen the hands" of the Hamid Karzai government in Kabul and hope his government's writ gradually covers most of the war-ravaged country.

The government does have a hostage policy in place for situations like the abduction of Indian nationals in foreign countries, like in the case of K. Suryanarayana.

A crisis management group (CMG), headed by the cabinet secretary, immediately swings into motion, monitoring events and giving directions to the concerned government authority (like the embassy in Kabul). While the micro-management is left to the people on the spot, the CMG is mandated to take whatever action is required, like despatching teams of officials to assist the local authority and liaising with the foreign government concerned.

The bottom line is that there will be "no barter with terrorists". But there are enough exceptions to this rule, Kandahar and Iraq.