- The Washington Times - Friday, January 7, 2000

The United States reacted warily Thursday to demands by India that Pakistan be declared a "rogue state" for what New Delhi says is clear evidence that its neighbor masterminded the Dec. 24 hijacking of an Indian jetliner.
Indian officials said evidence provided by four recently arrested activists from a group seeking to end India's control of the Himalayan state of Kashmir established that the five hijackers were Pakistani citizens.
But State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said Thursday he would "not speculate on the future," when asked if the United States planned to heed India's call to place the new military government of Pakistan on the official list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Mr. Rubin Thursday warned Pakistan against any fallout from a fiery anti-American and anti-Indian speech delivered Wednesday in Karachi by Islamic militant Masood Azhar.
"We would hold the government of Pakistan responsible for Masood's actions, which threaten the lives of our citizens," Mr. Rubin said.
Azhar, a top leader in what U.S. officials consider a terrorist operation seeking Kashmir's independence, was one of three prisoners freed by the Indian government to end the eight-day hostage standoff Dec. 31.
While India presented new evidence of Pakistan's involvement and Pakistan continued to deny any role, analysts said Thursday the truth was likely somewhere in the middle.
"To say that Pakistan, in an official state action, actively planned and carried out a terrorist strike seems highly unlikely to me, if only because it is so clearly not in Pakistan's own interest now with its economy in crisis," said James Clad, a professor of Asian studies at Georgetown University.
"But it's also virtually a certainty that some people wearing Pakistan uniforms knew that elements they had at least some influence and control over were capable of pulling off the hijacking," he said.
"I haven't seen any convincing evidence directly linking the Pakistan government with the hijacking," added Stephen P. Cohen, a South Asian expert and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Whether there were some covert elements involved or some people just looked the other way, we just don't know yet."
Mr. Cohen also noted that India's government has an incentive to focus attention on Pakistan, facing sharp political attacks at home over its decision to free the three militants and for what critics say was lax security that allowed the hijackers to board and seize the plane.
"There's a lot of embarrassment on the Indian side to cover up here," he said.
In New Delhi Thursday, Indian Home Minister L.K. Advani revealed that four activists linked to the Kashmiri separatist movement had been detained Dec. 30 by Indian security forces, providing direct evidence that the five hijackers as Pakistani nationals.
Mr. Advani said that the four arrested men had given police photographs of the hijackers, whom they had helped spirit to Nepal's capital, Katmandu, where the plane was first seized. After the plane had been freed and the hijackers had fled, police said the plane's pilot and passengers confirmed the identities of the five men.
"Pakistan is neck-deep in this dirty game of hijacking," Mr. Advani said.
But Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Tariq Altaf Thursday again insisted Pakistan was not behind the hijacking, which resulted in the murder of one Indian passenger before the hostages were finally freed.
"Pakistan had nothing to do with it," Mr. Altaf said. "We have not been given any evidence. We have not been shown anything."
Pakistan has officially condemned the hijacking, but made no attempt to silence Azhar after his release. The hijackers, who told Azhar they were Indian nationals, were reportedly back in Kashmir, having apparently passed through Pakistani territory without hindrance.
While escalating its war of words with fellow nuclear power Pakistan, India has also been pressuring the United States to take its side in the dispute.
Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes Wednesday said the United States was employing a double standard in going after Afghanistan-based Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden while refusing to classify Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
"To aim [missiles] at bin Laden and overlook what is happening across the borders in India at the hands of Pakistan is not addressing the question," Mr. Fernandes said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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