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January 3, 1999


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Washington Urged To Help Nab Hijackers

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A P Kamath

Congressman Gary L Ackerman has made an impassioned plea to the Clinton administration to work closely with New Delhi to ensure the hijackers of the Indian Airlines plane "were brought to justice swiftly"

Washington should give India "relevant, time-sensitive intelligence data" to nab the terrorists, he said, and added that "democracy-loving" countries must "find effective ways to inflict severe retribution on nations or societies that encourage and nurture terrorists in their midst."

Calling the hijacking part of a continuing effort to dismember India, Ackerman renewed his demand that Pakistan should be blacklisted and penalized for its complicity in the hijacking drama.

"International banditry" should not be allowed to go unpunished," he added.

"They must caught," Ackerman, co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, said, "And they must be punished for their crimes. The civilized world should settle for nothing less."

Ackerman (Democrat, NY), said India needed "all support" in "holding them (the hijackers) accountable to international law." He said he was sure the Indian American community would join him and other congressional members in supporting strong measures against terrorism.

Hailing the productive role played by Indian Americans, Ackerman, who visited New Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta in November, said:

"India is a thriving sister democracy, which will celebrate its the golden jubilee as a republic on January 26. There's much in common that we share with the world's most populous democracy. We need to be fully supportive of India, especially in its fight against state-sponsored terrorism because it serves our national interests and promotes our policy goals."

He urged the state department to conduct a speedy, time-bound review of the various violent Kashmiri outfits operating out of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"I also urge that the role of Pakistan's military junta and the illegal Taliban regime in supporting these outfits be simultaneously be reviewed."

(Ackerman's reference to Afghanistan and Taliban came as the three French hostages said the hijackers appeared to have received new weapons when the plane landed in Afghanistan. "On the second day, they received new weapons, modern revolvers, because at the beginning they had old guns and a few grenades," Daniele Goepfert, 54, said at a press conference after arriving at Nice airport.

Goepfert, who was traveling with her 71-year-old husband Gaston, said the weapons appeared the day the aircraft landed in Kandahar which is under the control of the militant Islamic Taliban regime.

Francoise Jougla, a doctor from southwest France, also said she saw evidence that new weapons had been brought in in Kandahar.

"I saw that crates had been brought up and I saw them reloading their revolvers, and then I was very scared. I thought I was living my last few hours," she said on French television.)

"I call upon the administration to designate these outfits and states as supporters of terrorism and be blacklisted. It's time the US sent a clear message that this administration will not tolerate terrorism of any variety or hue in any part of the world."

The hijacking of the plane was part of a proxy war between Pakistan and India for Jammu and Kashmir, he said.

Ackerman, a leading member of the House International Affairs Committee, offered his "deepest sympathies to the family of Rupin Katyal, the innocent passenger who was brutally murdered by the terrorists."

"This murder, and the whole act hijacking, is unacceptable to the civilized world and the perpetrators of this double infamy must not be allowed to escape the clutches of law," he said.

He hailed India "for its patient, prudent and pragmatic handling of the incident in which the lives of 155 innocent civilians from different nations were at stake."

"I am gratified that the hijacking was resolved with no additional loss of life."

Ackerman urged the US to work closely "with sister democracies such as India and Israel among others to stamp out this inhuman crime against humanity." Ackerman, a US Congressional delegate to the UN General Assembly, said: "I welcome the idea of a joint working group by the US and India to counter terrorism.

"I commend Ambassador [Michael A] Sheehan, Co-ordinator for Counterterrorism, for pursuing this matter. I urge officials of both sides to speed up the establishment of this group and not get bogged down in bureaucratic red tape and formalities. This is an urgent imperative and my colleagues and I in the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans will support this endeavor whole-heartedly."

Ackerman asserted, "Policy-makers thought out the world must realize that the hijacking of Flight IC 814 is very much part of a proxy war that India has been confronting in the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab for over a decade.

News accounts authoritatively state that many of the hijackers have been identified as Pakistanis and that they were engaged in air piracy to force the release of Maulana Azhar Masood, who is a Pakistani citizen and a leading official of Harkat-ul Ansar, an international terrorist organization operating freely from Pakistan. This yet again clearly points the finger to certain elements in Islamabad that continue to play a critical role in sponsoring and sustaining terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir."

The 'core' issue was not Kashmir, he said.

"Instead, the core issue is the hegemonistic hopes of certain sections of the Pakistani national security apparatus that by either covert or overt actions, or a combination thereof, India can be successfully dismembered. It is this central aspiration that fuels all violence in Jammu and Kashmir. The latest incident of hijacking is nothing but yet another manifestation of this miscalculation."

Recalling the intrusion into Kargil last year, Ackerman said the "the terror of Flight 814 is yet another reminder to the world about who the perpetrators of international banditry are and who the innocent victims.

"Yet again, it has unambiguously demonstrated to both Congress and the administration who the aggressor was and who the victim.

"Acts of terror, including plane hijacking, and cross-border intrusions are not going to resolve the Kashmir issue," he warned. "Neither is it going to weaken the resolve of the democratically-elected government in New Delhi.

"Such acts, instead, will not only strengthen India's resolve, but also the international community's resolve, that acts of terrorism, especially those sponsored by government, must never be allowed to succeed," he said.

"The Kashmir issue can never be resolved by military means. It can only be resolved by mutual dialogue between India and Pakistan within the framework of the Shimla Accord of 1972," Ackerman asserted. "The issue has to be resolved bilaterally, by the parties themselves."

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