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CNN Insight

The Heavy Baggage Aboard Flight 814

Aired January 5, 2000 - 0:00 a.m. ET


JONATHAN MANN, INSIGHT (voice-over): Turbulence long after landing. The hostages are free. The hijackers are gone. The eight-day ordeal is over. But Indian and Pakistani leaders are still angry at each other.

(on camera): Hello, and welcome. It seemed to many people like a New Year's Eve gift to India -- the news that the hijackers of an Indian Airlines airbus, who had killed one hostage and seemed ready to kill more of them, had decided to let all of the hostages go free.

The story faded from the front pages in most of the world, but it was not quickly forgotten on the subcontinent. Even now, Pakistanis and Indians are arguing over where the hijackers came from, where they went and what they got away with.

In the minutes to come, we'll hear from people in both capitals and the man who piloted the plane. On our program today -- the heavy baggage aboard Flight 814.


(voice-over): The accusations began almost at the same time as the hijacking, flying across the border growing only more rancorous. The ordeal itself ended peacefully in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on New Year's Eve with the armed hijackers releasing more than 150 passengers in exchange for three pro-Kashmir militants held in Indian jails.

Even as the freedom of the hostages was greeted with jubilation in India, officials in New Delhi were saying the hijackers escaped across the lightly guarded border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee says some of the hijackers were Pakistanis, a claim that set off an angry exchange between the two sides.

ABDUL SATTAR, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER: The Indian government has not produced a shred of evidence in favor of their accusation that the hijackers were Pakistanis. On the contrary, Indian Airlines itself said that no Pakistan national was aboard Flight IC-814. India has not given us -- or to the world anything more than the names. Now how does a name identify a nationality?

ATAL BEHARI VAJPAYEE, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER: That denial doesn't carry any weight.

REPORTER: What evidence do you have, sir?

VAJPAYEE: We have evidence to show the hijackers were encouraged by Pakistan.

REPORTER: What evidence, sir?


REPORTER: What is the evidence you have?

VAJPAYEE: We will publish it when time comes.

SATTAR: The statement that has been made by the prime minister of India exposes the Indian desire, the Indian desire to isolate Pakistan in the world community. Pakistan will never scum (ph) to these designs of India. Pakistan (INAUDIBLE) will remain a part of the mainstream of international opinion.

MANN: Whatever the international fallout, the hijacking is also having an impact within India. Many opposition parties and analysts are criticizing the decision to free the jailed militants, saying it shows of India's vulnerability as a soft target.

And amid the questions about the hijacking, a larger concern -- relations between India and Pakistan. Can New Delhi overcome its mistrust of the new leadership in Pakistan? And what needs to be done to reduce tensions between two nations that have shown off their nuclear capabilities, yet appear unable or unwilling to restart their dialogue?


(on camera): Pakistan's military ruler spoke a short time ago about the possibility of resuming talks with India. "We will enter dialogue with equality," he said, "and never will we compromise our honor and our dignity." He also responded to the charges made by Indian leaders.


GENERAL PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: It's sad that Mr. Vajpayee has made the statement because we have always, right through this incident, we've played a very positive role. We have tried to assist on humanitarian grounds to resolve the issue as amicably as possible. And I personally thought that India should have thanked us for our role in this whole incident. But unfortunately, this happened.

But as I said, I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised because whenever there is internal pressure in India, India has very conveniently put the release-- tries to release the pressure by blaming Pakistan and getting Pakistan involved in adversity or negativity. In this case also, now they have tried to -- now they are trying to concentrate their effort on the international community to declare us a terrorist state.

But this is farthest from the truth, and I would like to add that initially I had a suspicion that maybe there is a bigger game to this hijack incident. And now that this statement has come in, this game -- the bigger game gets a little conformed that they probably had an intention of maligning Pakistan right from the beginning, and that is what they are trying to do.

I would request Mr. Vajpayee to exercise restraint.


MANN: Earlier in the day, India's national security adviser spoke with my colleagues Juanita Phillips and Brian Nelson about the hijacking and about his country's stormy relations with Pakistan.


BRAJESH MISHRA, INDIAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We listen to their words, but we watch their actions. Their actions, which promote, instigate, abet terrorism in India, speak louder than their words.

JUANITA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you're talking about terrorism. I presume you're talking about the recent hijacking crisis. India has accused Pakistan of being behind that crisis but has not come with any firm evidence. What proof do you have?

MISHRA: Oh, I'm not talking merely of the hijacking which took place recently. I'm talking of the terrorism which has been promoted and instigated by them, indeed invented by them, since 15 years and more first in Punjab, then in Jammu and Kashmir. This hijacking is just related to that aspect of the terrorist activities of Pakistan.

PHILLIPS: How has the hijacking crisis changed relations between India and Pakistan, which were bad enough before the crisis happened?

MISHRA: Well, I would say it has worsened relations between our two countries. I was listening to General Musharraf's interview with you. Let me put it to you this way. Since General Zia was in charge of the martial rule in Pakistan, terrorism has been instigated in India, in Punjab, in Jammu and Kashmir. There are hundreds of camps of terrorists in Pakistan, and they could not exist there without the permission of the government of Pakistan.

We know of the links between the Pakistan armed forces and the terrorist camps. And these terrorist outfits, they don't talk only about Kashmir being the core (ph) problem. They are saying that, first, we will liberate the Muslims of Kashmir, then we will liberate the Muslims of India as a whole.

So this talk about Kashmir being the core problem is just not right. The core problem is the undeniable hostility of Pakistani establishment towards India.

BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: Mr. Mishra, this leaves your two countries and the whole region in a state of a stalemate. So the question I want to ask you now is what is your government prepared to do to try to break that stalemate? Is there any gesture that India can make, and is it willing to perhaps initiate a plebiscite in Kashmir, as the Pakistanis are demanding?

MISHRA: Well, we are not going to hand over the value of Kashmir or the state of Jammu or Kashmir to anybody on a silver platter. But of course, we are always prepared to sit down and discuss. Proper conditions must be created for that discussion. As long as this cross- border terrorism goes on and is going on intensively at the moment, there is no possibility of a dialogue.

For a dialogue to be meaningful, Pakistan has to create conditions for it.

NELSON: You're not going to get the Pakistanis to admit that they're behind any terrorism, though.

MISHRA: Well, I mean, the whole world knows that Pakistan is responsible for this terrorism.

NELSON: Well, I think...

MISHRA: And not merely in India.

NELSON: Well, just from...

MISHRA: In Europe, in Russia.

NELSON: Just on that point, the United States State Department has just, a few hours ago, said that it was not in a position to declare Pakistan a terrorist state, as India has been demanding. Therefore, you've still got some people in Washington unconvinced.

MISHRA: Well, I mean, it is quite clear to us that Washington has yet to be convinced on this score. But I would like to ask Washington what evidence have they got in regard to Libya, Iran and various other states whom they have declared the terrorist states and that they have not gotten about Pakistan? They have all the evidence. We have given it to them for years now.

PHILLIPS: But you're talking about evidence, Mr. Mishra, and India's continually claiming that Pakistan was behind this hijacking. OK, I'm going to take you back to that. You have said that you do have evidence. What is that evidence?

MISHRA: This evidence will come out very soon, and we will put it out. But we have enough evidence to prove that Pakistan was part of this hijacking.

PHILLIPS: Will you tell us then what is the nature of this evidence? Give us some clue. When will you put it forward, and what is the nature of it?

MISHRA: We hope to put it forward, put it out very soon. And I would like to reserve my comments on that until we have done that.

NELSON: Mr. Mishra, last year, the prime minister took a dramatic step by initiating this direct bus link to Pakistan. It seemed that the ice between the two countries was starting to melt. Things are far different today than they were then.

Do you foresee -- or is there anything you can envision in the way of a dramatic gesture that India can make now on its own to break the logjam between your two countries?

MISHRA: Well, we made that dramatic gesture, as you call it, with great sincerity and with our desire to have peace with Pakistan. But that bus link went to Lahore, got stuck in Tarhil (ph), and the response of Pakistan to the bus in Lahore was the misadventure in Tarhil. I don't think we're going to go in for any dramatic gesture like that again.

NELSON: So what are the conditions that you foresee India will lay down in order to have this Kashmiri crisis resolved and relations with Pakistan achieve a much higher level than where they are now?

MISHRA: Well, as soon as this cross-border terrorism is stopped, and we will know immediately that that happens, we are prepared to sit down and discuss Kashmir and other issues with Pakistan.


MANN: We have to take a break. But just ahead -- a conversation with India's newest hero. He's careful about what he says. But he, too, has serious accusations about Pakistan and Nepal. The pilot speaks, when we come back.


MANN (voice-over): A hero's welcome. An Indian Airlines pilot is suddenly transformed from the commander of an airbus to the man who famously kept his cool and brought his passengers home safely. Captain Devi Sharan emerges from a hijacking ordeal with his wits in tact and says, despite the pressures, he is not a changed man.

(on camera): Welcome back. The saga of the Indian Airlines jet has turned some ordinary people into heroes in India. Captain Sharan is one of them. He spoke to us earlier about why the hijacking drama ended.


CAPTAIN DEVI SHARAN, INDIAN AIRLINES PILOT: This was the best end, actually. I was not thinking on any other lines because the arms and the ammunition they were having, this could have been the best end.

MANN: Did all of the government that were working on this seem equally helpful to you? The plane was in several countries in all of those eight days. Did some of them seem more successful and more helpful than others?

SHARAN: Yes, the way (ph) government was really helpful to me. Like they really helped me a lot. They took my passengers. They took my patient passengers. At Lahore, people would have taken the patient passengers. One could have died, you know?

MANN: Let me ask you more about that. Are you saying that in Lahore, they refused medical treatment to some of the passengers?

SHARAN: Yes, I wanted to drop two patients and a few ladies and children. They never listened my request, which was very terrible part of this.

MANN: Let me ask you about another government. To your mind, do you think that the Indian government did the right thing in giving in to some of the hijackers demands?

SHARAN: That was Indian government's decision, and I cannot say anything about it. But the kind of arms and the type of arms they had - otherwise, the casualties would have been very high if they stormed the commandos. So that was the government decision. I cannot comment on that.

MANN: Let me ask you to comment, if you would, as a pilot, though, you fly for Indian Airlines. Is a decision like this, and it's not the first one that the government of India has taken, is a decision like this going to make Indian Airlines and its passengers and its crews more likely targets for hijackers in the future?

SHARAN: No, Indian Airlines should learn lesson. Our government should learn lesson about this -- from this hijack, and they have to learn lesson and they should be more careful about this. Actually, this was not -- this was not due to Indian Airlines, I would say. Indian Airlines have done best whatever they could do.

This was due to Katmandu Airport security, this whole thing, you know, drama was due to Katmandu Airport authority.

MANN: Did authorities in Katmandu allow a security lapse that contributed to this? Do you think they're part of the reason that this hijacking happened?

SHARAN: Yes, this is the only reason. This is the only reason.

MANN: Just one last question. What do you bring from this experience? Have you changed? Is it going to be a different thing for you to fly planes to earn your living?

SHARAN: No, I am totally same. Tomorrow, I am doing my first flight again, and I am not -- I am the same.

MANN: You're a brave man. Are you willing to fly back to Katmandu?

SHARAN: Yes, I will tomorrow. Unfortunately, I'm not doing that flight. But if Indian Airlines starts a plane to Katmandu, I don't mind flying the first flight.

MANN: Captain Devi Sharan, thank you so much for talking with us.


We have to take a break. But when we come back -- two enemies move even further apart. Stay with us.


MANN: Welcome back. India and Pakistan were born together in a chaos called partition that cost millions of people their lives. They have fought three wars since and smaller flare-ups like the one last year in the mountains of Kashmir. So relations between them are rarely good. How much worse have they gotten?

Joining us now to talk about that is Teresita Schaffer, a former U.S. ambassador who is now director of the South Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Ambassador, thanks so much for being with us. They never liked each other. Does the hijacking change anything? Does it really make anything worse?

TERESITA SCHAFFER, FORMER U.S. DIPLOMAT IN SOUT ASIA: Well, I think it makes the tone of the relationship worse. I don't think it changes anything fundamental. Fundamentally, you still have two countries with a major unresolved problem between them and without a clear path, at this point, towards resolving this problem.

MANN: How much more complex, even before the hijacking, did the coup in Pakistan make their relations and the emergence of General Musharraf as the head of state?

SCHAFFER: Well, let me kind of give you two answers to that. The fundamental problem really wasn't affected by the coup in Pakistan. The fundamental problem is that Pakistan has, ever since its birth as an independent country, been looking for sort of full recognition and fulfillment and equality from India. India, on the other hand, has been looking for a similar recognition from the world that it really is in the big leagues in the same manner as, say, China.

Kashmir has become the most important symbol of this identity battle. But it's by no means the only problem between the two. What happened with the coup in Pakistan is that the Indian government, for a variety of reasons, was kind of viscerally opposed to the idea of dealing with a military government in Pakistan and consequently took steps to reduce any opportunities to deal specifically with the military government in Pakistan.

My own view is that that was a short-sighted action. But they will tell you that two of India-Pakistan's three wars started when there was a military government in Pakistan, which is true. I would also tell you that probably the most solid bilateral accomplishment those two countries have -- namely, the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 -- was also signed by a military government in Pakistan.

MANN: They are uncomfortable with each other. But they're more than that now. They're accusing each other. Is there any evidence -- the Indian government speaks of the evidence that it has, holding it secret. Is there any evidence that's accessible to your eyes or to the rest of us to support either India's contentions that Pakistan was involved or supportive of the hijacking or Pakistan's contentions that India is trying to use this episode and its own difficult decisions during it against Pakistan and for political points?

SCHAFFER: Well, I'll tell you, Jonathan, it is clear -- it is, indeed, clear by Pakistan's own admission that Pakistan has given moral and diplomatic support to the freedom fighter groups in Kashmir, one of which carried out this action. The particular group that is associated with the hijacking is one which has kidnapped people in the past and which, indeed, has killed some of those it kidnapped.

There was a rather famous case involving four Westerners, and there was a Norwegian who was killed and one American and one other who still haven't been found. So Pakistan has some association with various freedom fighter groups and hasn't altogether disavowed its full association with this group.

On the other hand, the Pakistanis have stoutly denied any association with the hijacking. I haven't seen any specific evidence that links the Pakistan government with the hijacking. So I assume that when the Indian government explains the basis for their accusations, it's going to be somewhat ambiguous evidence.

MANN: How much of it is a smokescreen, though, that the Indian government wants to use to blame Pakistan for what happened rather than having to explain the way India chose to negotiate its way out of the episode?

SCHAFFER: I think the Indians want to blame Pakistan for what happened, but I don't think that's going to save them from having to explain their own policies. While the hijacking was going on, the principal opposition party, the congress, quite properly said this is an area where we have to respect the government's freedom to make decisions.

What's now happening is that everybody is second-guessing the way the Indian government handled the crisis. And one can expect this process to go on, and I think there are some aspects of India's handling of it which are legitimate subjects for criticism. Having said that, making decisions under those circumstances is a very tough job.

MANN: But people do those kinds of jobs every day when they're asked to govern powerful countries in times of crisis. Do you think it was a mistake for the Indians to agree the way they did?

SCHAFFER: The Indians in a way had set themselves up for this situation 10 years ago, when their home minister's daughter was kidnapped also in Kashmir, and they wound up releasing a number of militants at that time. That made it very difficult for them to really hang tough when there were not one, but 160 people being held hostage.

Other governments have made such decisions and have, you know, gone on to live another day.

MANN: Let me jump in and ask you one last question. Is that decision going to embolden the worst elements in the Kashmiri independence movement to carry out similar crimes?

SCHAFFER: I hope not. In my view, if you add up the winners and losers from this episode, the biggest winners are the Taleban in Afghanistan. I think the world had relatively low expectations for how they would behave, and they behaved far better than those expectations. So they came out looking better than they had going in.

Both India and Pakistan came out looking not terribly well and in particular looking as if they had been mesmerized by the chance to accuse the other of wrongdoing. But the ones who came out looking worst were the Hurriyat (ph), the group that did the hijacking, and I'm afraid there will be a certain amount of guilt by association from the other Kashmiri militant groups, who will look as if they're associating with people who have murdered and hijacked. And that doesn't do your international image any good.

And frankly, if those guys are going to get anywhere - never mind independence for Kashmir, which I think is quite unrealistic, but even to what I think should happen, which is a much broader autonomy and self-rule in Kashmir - this isn't a good way to go about it.

MANN: Teresita Schaffer, thanks so much for being with us.

That's INSIGHT for this day. I'm Jonathan Mann. The news continues in a moment.



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