Hijacking sends Indo-Pakistan relations into a tailspin

Vol 3, PW 25 (19 Jan 00) People & Policy

Any hope that Indo-Pakistan relations would see a fresh start with the new millennium has all but disappeared with the hijacking of an Indian aircraft in Afghanistan.

Even Pakistans leader General Pervez Musharraf concedes in an exclusive interview with The Hindu that relations with India are at their lowest. For this Musharraf has only himself to blame.

He denies that the hijackers who killed one passenger on board flight IC-814 - are in Pakistan, but everyone knows they headed for Quetta in north-west Pakistan when the hostage saga ended on the morning of 31st December. India has since published evidence that the five hijackers were all Pakistani nationals and were travelling on forged Indian passports when they boarded the flight on 24th December in Kathmandu.

Evidence is also mounting that Pakistani embassy officials in Kathmandu assisted the hijackers. One Pakistani diplomat, Asam Sabood, has since been expelled by Nepal for his involvement in a plan to flood India with counterfeit Rs500 notes.

On the international stage, India is pushing hard for Pakistan to be declared an international pariah. Britain, the United States and others have stopped short of this, but have sent high-level delegations to meet Musharraf for what they describe as some straight talking.

Musharraf meanwhile, is asking Delhi to trust him and to accept me at face value. The Pakistani leader is clearly living in a dream world.

To say that the Indians are angry at the humiliation they suffered at Kandahar must count as the understatement of the year. Until now they blamed him only for starting the war in Kargil; now they accuse him of direct complicity in the hijacking.

Until Musharraf goes, relations will not improve.