Heat on Atal to prove Pak hand
Sangh spares Vajpayee in hijack hit-back
India loses, Jaywant Lele wins

New Delhi, Jan. 4 
Global powers, particularly the US, are staying away from India’s campaign to isolate Islamabad internationally, saying the government should first share evidence to establish Pakistan’s role in the hijack.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who has urged the West to declare Pakistan a terrorist state, today claimed that Delhi has sufficient proof to establish Islamabad’s complicity in the Indian Airlines crisis. ‘‘We have enough evidence of Pakistan’s involvement in the hijacking and we will disclose it at the appropriate time,’’ he said.

National security adviser Brajesh Mishra, too, has claimed that India will make public some of the messages intercepted during conversations between Pakistani officials and the air pirates. But Delhi has so far not furnished any proof of Pakistan’s role.

Refusing to join Vajpayee’s campaign, the US today made it clear it would like to treat Islamabad as innocent till proved guilty. ‘‘The Pakistanis have told us they condemn these acts of terrorism and they will meet their obligation to apprehend the hijackers and bring them to justice,’’ agencies quoted state department spokesman James Rubin as saying in Washington.

He said the US had asked all nations to ensure that hijackers are captured and prosecuted. ‘‘Otherwise, they should extradite hijackers to a place where they can be apprehended and prosecuted,’’ the official added.

Rubin’s statement indicates that though the US has not yet declared Pakistan a rogue state, it would like to see what role Islamabad plays in bringing the hijackers to book. ‘‘We continue to work with the countries in the region,’’ he said. ‘‘We think they must be brought to justice to remind all nations of their international obligations associated with the convention on hijacking.’’

Though India says the hijackers are now in Pakistan, Rubin said Washington was not aware of their whereabouts.

India claims that ‘‘evidence and the circumstantial evidence’’ point to Pakistan’s hand in the hijack. Delhi has also argued that Islamabad’s role in terror export is well-established. But senior officials of the European Union, which met here this afternoon to discuss the incident, felt that India has not been able to table enough evidence to prove Pakistan’s complicity.

By asking the US to tag Pakistan a terror state, Vajpayee had thrown the gauntlet at Washington to practice what it had been preaching on terrorism. But Washington sidestepped the trap and said that while it is monitoring developments in South Asia, it is not prepared to oblige India just yet.

To declare a country a rogue nation, the US secretary of state has to establish that its government has repeatedly provided support to terrorists and terrorism. Once it declares a nation a rogue state, the US snaps travel and business links with the country.

Delhi, however, shrugged away the US stand. ‘‘That doesn’t deter one from the fact that Pakistan is supporting and abetting cross-border terrorism,’’ foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal. He pointed out that Pakistani leaders regularly visit terrorist camps and have also publicly acknowledged the role they are playing in Kashmir.

‘‘Recognition of Pakistan as a state which is sponsoring cross-border terrorism doesn’t need much convincing,’’ Jassal added.    

New Delhi, Jan. 4 
The RSS has broken its studied silence on the hijack and ticked off the government for surrendering to the air pirates and releasing three hardcore Kashmir militants.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has not been criticised by name possibly because he consulted the Sangh parivar on the standoff. But the public statement does reflect the hawks’ disappointment over the release of the terrorists.

The statement, made by RSS chief Rajju Bhaiya in the mouthpiece Panchajanya, has reinforced the view that home minister L.K. Advani, considered a hardliner in the BJP, had serious differences with the crisis management team on how the standoff should be broken.

In a signed article, Rajju Bhaiya argues that the three terrorists were arrested after a Herculean effort by security personnel and their release would undoubtedly ‘‘demoralise forces combating Islamic fundamentalists’’. The remark echoes the stand taken by Advani at the Cabinet meetings during the eight-day impasse.

‘‘The RSS never supported the policy of freeing terrorists in exchange for hostages,’’ said Rajju Bhaiya, adding that the organisation had opposed then Prime Minister V.P. Singh’s decision to free terrorists to secure the release of Rubaiyya Sayeed, daughter of his home minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.

Though the RSS boss has not directly targete

d the administration or the Prime Minister’s Office, sources said that he kept quiet during the crisis as it was felt that the Sangh leadership should stay away from the government’s functioning and not meddle in such a delicate matter.

Vajpayee had spoken to Rajju Bhaiya and explained to him the compulsions which forced the government to agree to the hijackers’ demand. But the article indicates that the RSS chief was not convinced by the Prime Minister’s argument.

Hardliners in the Sangh parivar are miffed that the crisis management was hijacked by a ‘‘gang of four’’ — national security adviser Brajesh Mishra, Cabinet secretary Prabhat Kumar, parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan and foreign minister Jaswant Singh — without involving Advani in the initial days.

Though both Advani and Vajpayee have dismissed reports of dissent, BJP insiders insist that the home minister was unhappy with the decision to free the terrorists and had offered to resign.

But observers said that despite the criticism, the tone of Rajju Bhaiya’s attack suggests that the situation has not gone out of Vajpayee’s hand. They pointed to Advani’s presence at the Prime Minister’s iftar party tonight, saying it indicates that the home minister has accepted the government’s decision.

The observers added that Vajpayee has been given a rap on the knuckles not because the hawks consider him insufferable, but because they feel he should be warned against deciding on such ‘‘softer options’’ in the future.    

Calcutta, Jan. 4 
At the end of the test series in Australia there’s only one Indian hero. Not V.V.S. Laxman, the boy — all of 30 years — who stood on the bouncy deck at Sydney. Nor Sachin Tendulkar, who ended up man of the series in spite of lower runs and average than Ricky Ponting.

Jaywant Lele was not around to accept the honours, but, in retrospect, he had become player of the series before it had begun. The Telegraph went looking for him at his Baroda residence,but the secretary to the cricket control board had taken off for Pune, possibly having a quiet “I-told-you-so” laugh.

If you ask him if he really was enjoying a private chuckle ortwo, he’s certain to deny it, as he did after an internet site quoted him in an interview as saying the Indians would go down 3-0 Down Under even before Captain Tendulkar and his warriors had got down to the business of going under. He might even demand a hefty compensation, as he did from Rediff.com, and/or send a legal notice.

Kapil paaji — on his first overseas tour as coach — was most unhappy that cricket mandarins had so little confidence in the players. After the greenwash — colour of the Australian cap — the pre-series 3-0 controversy can be cited as one of the excuses. Team members with backs to protect might well say the no-confidence blow broke the back of Indian batting before Glenn McGrath did with 18 wickets at 13.72 runs apiece.

Kapil Dev, who had a stronger back than the current lot when he bowled India to a stunning victory at Melbourne to square the 1980-81 series, wasn’t blaming anyone today. Not even the duo of Darryls, one, of course, is without the ‘y’.

If the first test at Adelaide was Darryl Harper’s (dubious decisions in each innings against Tendulkar), the third was Darrel Hair’s (Justin Langer became the luckiest man to score 223).

The only talk of injustice was, however, coming from the sledging-hammer Australian side. Steve the Tough Waugh doesn’t believe in being generous in victory. He spotted the only real injustice in Tendulkar being crowned man of the series, though two of his mates had done better.

But it was really Tendulkar who said after the series all the things that Lele might have said before. “It’s been a tough tour for the bowlers and the batsmen,” the Indian captain said.

The Lele-ish answer to that would be: “Don’t speak too soon, young man. It’s not over yet. There’s still the one-day tri-series with Pakistan thrown in and a whole lot of more matches to lose.”

“It’s an altogether different ballgame when you play in Australia,” Tendulkar said after today’s humiliation.

Jai hind! Or should it be Jaywant?    


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