- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2000

You cannot possibly blame the 155 hostages of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane and their families for being wildly elated at their release on New Year's Eve. They had all been through a terrible ordeal in the preceding week since the plane was captured in Katmandu by five terrorists. Trapped in the plane, the helpless passengers had been blindfolded much of the time and told to keep their heads down; those who dared raise their heads to look at their tormentors did so on pain of death. This appears to be what happened to the one passenger who was stabbed to death early in the hijacking sequence. The terrorists also claimed to have wired the plane with explosives. Afterwards the passengers told news media they believed every day they would die.

Much as one must rejoice at lives saved, however, the eventual outcome is one that can be predicted to produce more problems for India. Which is to say, this round went to the hijackers. The five men who have Taleban and Pakistani connections achieved what they wanted, the release of three jailed Islamic insurgents from Indian jails. Admittedly they had asked for 36, but the fact that they bought freedom for their comrades with this violent act has to be seen as a victory. The five were also allowed to give themselves up to Taleban officials and had 10 hours to flee Afghanistan. They got off scot free.

India is now blaming Pakistan for harboring the terrorists, and Pakistan is responding with accusations of its own. One thing is absolutely clear, though. With this part of the world a seething hot spot of trouble involving Kashmir, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, the Indian government just bought itself a heap of trouble when it not only turned out to be incompetent at quick crisis response, but also willing to give into terrorist demands. It could make airline travel in this part of the world seem much like Russian roulette.

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