July 10, 2006Security

Err..what happened to the no-nonsense hostage policy?

The cornerstone is missing

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

ULFA terrorists, ostensibly pursuing negotiations with the Indian government, have kidnapped and are holding for ransom a senior Reserve Bank of India official in Assam. And the officials from the home ministry and the Assam government are planning to meet to discuss the demands’. One should be excused for wondering what became of the tough no-nonsense’ policy that the UPA government was working on two years ago. The cornerstone of the new policy’ was supposed to be no negotiations’ with hostage-takers. Last year the government did announce an anti-hijack policy. But then as now, The Acorn wonders why the no negotiations’ policy should be restricted to aerial kidnappings, not least because the terrestrial cases are more commonplace.

Far from taking a no-nonsense’ approach, government officials are attempting to explain away the ULFAs culpability in the kidnapping by blaming it on low level operatives. What they should do is to put the ULFA leadership on notice that it is absurd to even contemplate negotiations while its thugs are going about terrorising the state. If the ULFA leadership cannot even control its own cadre then its credibility as a negotiating partner must be questioned. Either way, the ball should be in ULFAs court.

India has a disastrous record in hostage negotiations, prominently including the Rubaiya Saeed abduction and the IC 814 hijacking, for which the nation continues to pay an enormous price. If the country is to project strength and a deterrent capacity against the unrelenting assault of terrorism, this record will have to be drastically altered, sending out a clear message to terrorists and to their state sponsors, that such acts will not only have no possible impact on the nation’s policies, but more significantly, will attract drastic consequences.

Such consequences may include, but are not exhausted by aggressive military action, and must comprehend the entire range of instrumentalities —diplomatic, covert, economic and political—to inflict unbearable costs on such state and non-state entities. [Ajai Sahni/DNA]

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