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December 26, 1999
India points an accusing finger at Pakistan
India for the first time today, almost three days after an Indian Airlines flight was hijacked over Lucknow and taken to Afghanistan, raised an accusing finger at Pakistan, saying Islamabad had made repeated attempts at securing the release of Maulana Masood Azhar.
Hijackers of Indian Airlines Flight 814 have demanded Azhar's release as a precondition for releasing over 156 passengers being held captive for last over 50 hours now.
Speaking at a press conference, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said Nepal was verifying reports that the hijackers had boarded the plane after arriving at Kathmandu on a Pakistan International Airlines flight.
Jaswant Singh said his views on Pakistan's role in the hijacking were based on the past where both terrorist and criminal acts were used to secure the release of jailed militants.
He said the government's primary concern was to secure the safe release of all passengers, the crew and the aircraft. Towards this end, he said, the government would exercise all options in its control.
He said he was in touch with his counterparts in over ten countries for formulating a concerted action to resolve the crisis.
He said though India does not have diplomatic relations with the Taleban regime in Afghanistan, the government had initiated a direct dialogue with the authorities in Islamabad and Kandahar. "We will not allow the absence of diplomatic ties to come in the way of securing the release of passengers," he said.
Jaswant Singh said he was also in touch with the United Nations representative in Afghanistan, Erik de Mul, who is currently stationed at Islamabad. He, however, clarified that the UN would not be playing a mediatory role in the crisis.
Late on Sunday, Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar joined the war of words, by alleging that the hijacking could be an Indian plot. Sattar based his charge on the assumption that Captain D Saran's actions were suspicious.
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