Tuesday, April 14, 2009

THE KANDAHAR HIJACK: WHY IS THE BJP DEFENSIVE?

Jaswant Singh's "Mission Kandahar" has become the weakest point of the BJP's claim that the NDA government was tough on terror when it was in power earlier. It also makes hollow its promise of a similar toughness if it get back to power again. For the last few years, almost every single TV anchor, media star, analyst and politician has beaten the BJP with the Kandahar stick. And Advani has not helped his government's cause by claiming that he, as Home Minister, was not aware that the Foreign Minister was going to Kandahar with the terrorists. Vir Sanghvi has, in fact, gone to the extent of saying that it is "shameful that the BJP should use ‘tough on terror’ as a campaigning slogan".

Frankly, I find it surprising that this should have ever become an issue at all. Worse, I cannot believe that the strategists of the BJP have not been able to find the right answer to kill the issue, and keep appearing red-faced whenever it is raked up. And these days, with the election heat peaking, almost everyone is on the flight to Kandahar, and the BJP has been grounded. Rahul Gandhi has even gone to the extent of blaming LK Advani for buckling under pressure.

Why did Jaswant Singh go to Kandahar? Was it to escort terrorists, as is being dishonestly insinuated? Would he have gone there had Indian Airlines flight IC-814 with 154 hostages not been parked on the runway at Kandahar surrounded by heavily armed Taliban? India's Foreign Minister went there solely to ensure that the exchange deal was honoured by the Taliban. Considering the situation in Afghanistan then and the fact that the Taliban had no scruples whatsoever, it may well have happened that after the three terrorists were handed over to them, they might still not have released the passengers and made additional demands.

With 150 families and the now critical media and politicians then hounding the government to get the hostages back at any cost, would any government have been left with any choice but to trade terrorists? Particularly after a similar capitulation earlier to secure the release of Rubiya Sayed, daughter of India's then Home Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayed?

The only issue in the whole drama is whether Jaswant Singh should have gone to Kandahar or sent a bureaucrat instead. That can be debated till the cows come home.

But the simple answer to that question is that India's Foreign Minister did not show cowardice by "escorting" terrorists but displayed immense courage by flying down himself to that extremely hostile and dangerous place to ensure that the Taliban could not further delay the release of the hostages under some pretext or the other. There was a real possibility of that happening had an official gone to Kandahar to see the agreed deal finally through.

Major Jaswant Singh put himself in the firing line to take on-the-spot decisions, had the Taliban shown treachery. His presence probably stumped them and their Pakistani masters; they would never have expected that India's Foreign Minister himself would get to the spot to scuttle their plans. He could have been taken hostage too; the Taliban were capable of doing anything, as we all know. It is due to the exemplary courage shown by him that all hostages were released and brought safely back to India.

Is this incident something that the NDA should be ashamed of? Would any other government have done any better? Would any other Foreign Minister or SPG/NSG protected politician exposed himself to such personal risk for the sake of 154 Indians? Let us get real.

Must Read: Without Superior Values, India Will Not Become Great
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Readers may also read:
1. Sukhpreet, Scarlett. media and us
2. The truth behind Kandahar
3. Time to shun partisan politics