After Indian Airlines flight IC 814 was hijacked in 1999, media pressure forced the Indian government to strike a deal with the hijackers, resulting in the release of some of the most wanted global terrorists, former Intelligence Bureau chief Ajit Kumar Doval has said.
“We could’ve struck a better deal during negotiations with the hijackers during the Kandahar crisis, and minimised our losses, if the media had not created such hype and panic,” Doval said at a seminar on terrorism at University of Mumbai’s Kalina campus on Monday.
It was organised by the American Centre in collaboration with the Indian Council for Social Sciences Research and SIES College during the gloden jubilee celebrations of the university.
Doval, who was chief negotiator during the crisis – which began on December 24, 1999, after five Pakistani terrorists hijacked the plane from Kathmandu — said the media played a very “negative” role, mounting tremendous pressure on the government to arrive at a solution.
“The electronic media hyped the hijack by continuously showing the suffering of the hostages. With the world watching, pressure to end the crisis at the earliest mounted from every quarter,” Doval said.
“The terrorists were in no hurry since they had enough rations to survive for another 15 days. But the government wanted to end the crisis urgently. Normally, it is the terrorist who is under pressure to strike a deal,” Doval said.
The hijacking lasted seven days and ended after India released three militants – Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (later arrested for the murder of Daniel Pearl) and Maulana Masood Azhar (who later founded the Jaish-e-Mohammed) – in exchange for the release of 177 passengers. The terrorists killed one passenger.