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December 29, 1999
Delhi coughed up $ 25,000 for landing rights
Josy Joseph in Delhi
Everything comes for a price in Kandahar -- even SOS missions.
Thus, New Delhi has had to pay the Taleban government $ 25,000 for permitting the Indian Airlines plane carrying negotiators and medics to land in Kandahar.
External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh has been in touch with his Taleban counterpart Mullah Wakil Ahmad Muttwakil. Sources told rediff.com that Kabul made it clear that India would have to pay for landing rights.
"(It was) an exorbitant demand, but there was no other way," Indian officials said.
The payment, they added, was made through "diplomatic channels."
The landing fees have disturbed some in the government. They feel the negotiators are walking the sword's edge in Afghanistan. However, the government has maintained complete silence on the topic and praised the Taleban administration for co-operating with New Delhi.
The Indian team landed at Kandahar on December 27 after the Centre agreed to make the payment, sources said.
The delegation, comprising bureaucrats, engineers and doctors, started negotiating with the hijackers late on Monday night. Two rounds of direct talks were held the first day.
Now, nearly 48 hours later, four rounds are over -- but without much success.
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