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Vajpayee cabinet members deny Yashwant claim that Mamata offered to go to Kandahar during hijack

Yashwant Sinha claimed while joining Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress that she had offered to go and secure the release of IC-814 hostages.

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New Delhi: Countering former Union finance and external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha’s claim that Mamata Banerjee had offered to go to Kandahar, Afghanistan, to secure the release of hostages on the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in 1999, his cabinet colleagues at the time have said Banerjee had made no such offer in ministerial meetings.

Former BJP leader Sinha had made this claim while joining Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress Sunday, ahead of the West Bengal assembly elections, and hailed her “fighting spirit”.

However, senior BJP leader Shanta Kumar, food and consumer affairs minister at the time, insisted no such discussions took place in the cabinet meeting, since it was a matter for the Cabinet Committee on Security to decide, and then-external affairs minister Jaswant Singh was handling the entire operation.

“No such offer was made in the cabinet meeting, to the best of my best knowledge. No such conversation happened in the cabinet meeting when the plane was hijacked. Even after the crisis ended, no such thing came to my attention,” Kumar, also the former CM of Himachal Pradesh, said.

Also read: Why Vajpayee govt chose to swap 3 terrorists with 160 passengers of IC 814 two decades ago

Other ministers also contradict Sinha

Other members of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet in 1999 ThePrint spoke to also said no such conversation took place among ministers, or that Mamata Banerjee, the railways minister at the time, made an offer to go to Kandahar to secure the release of hostages. Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress was an alliance partner of the BJP at the time.

Then-petroleum minister Ram Naik, environment minister Suresh Prabhu, labour minister Satyanarayan Jatiya, and even tribal affairs minister Jual Oram all said the deliberations took place in the CCS — consisting of PM Vajpayee, home minister L.K. Advani, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and defence minister George Fernandes — and not in the cabinet, and if Mamata Banerjee made the offer in a meeting with Vajpayee, they had no knowledge of it.

“The CCS was discussing the matter once the incident took place, not the cabinet,” Prabhu told ThePrint.

Jatiya added: “Maybe Mamata ji expressed her emotions before Yashwant Sinha privately, but no such offer was made in cabinet. Since the matter was being handled by Jaswant Singh, George Fernandes and principal secretary/national security advisor Brajesh Mishra, there was no need to deliberate in the cabinet.”

However, Arun Shourie, who became a minister in the Vajpayee government in 2003, defended Sinha, who, like him, has been estranged from the BJP. Shourie said if Sinha is saying Banerjee made the offer, the matter must be treated with gravity as his memory of minutes and details was sound.

Also read: Where are the 3 terrorists who were swapped for 170 passengers of hijacked IC-814?

The 1999 hijack

On 24 December 1999, six men hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814 en route from Kathmandu to New Delhi. There were 178 passengers and 11 crew members on board, and the hijackers demanded the release of 36 terror-linked prisoners in exchange for the release of the hostages.

The aircraft made halts at Amritsar, Lahore and Dubai, where the hijackers released 27 passengers, plus an injured passenger and the body of one man who had been stabbed to death. The aircraft, an Airbus A300, then landed at Kandahar in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The entire hijack incident lasted eight days.

Jaswant Singh detailed the events of the hijack in his book A Call to Honour, mentioning how he heard the news after reaching home from office, and when he was about to leave to see his granddaughter who was born that day.

An urgent CCS meeting was called at the PM’s residence, and he spent two days calling up Pakistan’s foreign minister Abdul Sattar, trying to prevent the flight from leaving Dubai, and contacting US secretary of state Strobe Talbott to use his influence in the Arab world and with the powerful Saudis to stop the plane from taking off again.

He said two days were wasted because the entire Western world was on holiday for Christmas, and because the Kandahar air traffic control was communicating in Persian, for which the Ministry of External Affairs did not have language resources.

Jaswant Singh’s ministry then sent one official from Islamabad to Kandahar to establish a link with the hijackers, following which negotiations started. Eventually, the hijackers agreed to the release of just three terrorists, including Masood Azhar, and three officials — Vivek Katju, the joint secretary of the MEA’s Pakistan-Afghanistan desk; Ajit Doval, the intelligence officer who was one of the main negotiators and rose to be National Security Advisor; and RAW officer and later chief C.D. Sahay — unanimously requested that someone should be on the spot to take a decision if the situation changes.

Jaswant Singh wrote: “I was naturally inclined to go as it was MEA’s responsibility.”

In the 31 December CCS meeting, it was decided to release the three terrorists and that Jaswant Singh would go to Kandahar to take on-the-spot decisions. He travelled with the terrorists and officials and the hostages were released.

But in Singh’s book, the entire chapter on the hijack doesn’t mention any other politician offering to go to Kandahar, though on a lighter note, he mentioned when he called up his son, he offered to go and negotiate with the hijackers.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: ‘Hijack baby’: How IC 814 Kandahar tragedy shaped Jaswant Singh grand-daughter’s life


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  1. Poor soul, what a load of crap. May his political soul rest in peace. Guys don’t forget the joker on the tractor. Got a bouquet for his flight ticket. Hope he preserved the flowers. Most expensive bouquet in his life.

  2. I hereby confer the Shri Yashwant Sinha, the Yogrendra Yadev Award for Irrelevancy and Buffoonry

  3. His position as the next finance or defense or home minister of the union of India is cemented…….if Mamatha Bannerjee were to win the next general elections with an absolute majority and become the PM of India…….

    If Yashwant Sinha is saying as he has all the minutes at the back of his head and if Arun Shourie is also saying so, Mamatha infact must have gone to Kandhahar and got back those hostages…..we didn’t observe the TV screens properly probably..

  4. Bull shit people don’t see Modi pushed GDP back cant revive very soon and given land to china without fight jawahar Lal fought and lost media corrupted beyond limit of prostitution even they have some ethics Nation assests going in hands of two people why this time in convessing BJP not uttering a word about Pakistan china CAA article 370 because they they know this part is finishing them Mamta may be bad but alone lady filled the assholes of BIGGEST BJP leaders with burning coal they are roaming with lost mind

  5. What the hell this man was doing,why he did not company her to Kandhar.This man is mad and crazy to remain in media by hook and crooks

  6. No problem Mr. Yeswant Ji, after 2nd May 2021 we have recommending Ms Banerjee to send Khandhar parmenetly…..
    If you want accompanying, as you wish…

  7. This man has gone sanile like Rebeiro. Sinha desperately wants RS seat vacated by D Dwivedi. For that he will bend any which way.
    He has no ideology, a nut case and an opportunist. Will TMC oblige him or kick him out after elections.

  8. in Indian tradation, there is a last stage called Sanyas and it exists for a valid reason. the statement by Mr. Sinha explains why it exists.

  9. Mr Sinha is a respectful person. He can not be faulted for sharing the information that Mamta Didi offered herself ready to to be HOSTAGE to Islamic Terrorists. Actually she must belonging to meet her ideology -brothers. She must have And told about her offer to this to youngest son of Sinha ji and Sinhaji over-heard those words.

  10. I told you so! This old man has cooked up a story to curry favour with his new party boss. What a disgrace at his age!

  11. One feels for Mr. Yashwant Sinha.
    The old man so desperately wished to be the Finance Minister when Modi assumed office in 2014. Mr. Jaitley pipped him to the office and ever since he has been at the throats of the current dispensation. All of them were once colleagues and Mr. Sinha himself mentored many of them in navigating the world of politics.
    Seems like he joined the TMC out of exasperation. However, one doubts whether Ms. Banerjee would treat him any better. For sure, Mr. Amit Mitra would hold on to the FM’s chair with all his might.

    • Shri Yashwant Sinha is not vying for the chair of West Pakistan Finance Minister. He would have been promised a Rajya Sabha seat.

  12. We need to understand psychology of Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie. Both are ignored and completely sidelined by Modi but unlike others like MM Joshi or Advani, they have turned hostile to Modi and have been going to any extent to hit Modi. By itself, anyone making such offer as Mamata is supposed to have made is childish, if not downright stupid. But as a politician, one can perhaps make a virtue out of this! It is however, better we leave this issue without any further discussion. Sinha said it and we heard it. Period. In fact, there was no need for The Print to go about truth finding mission!

    • Would the terrorists have accepted Mamata in an exchange for the hijacked passengers.
      Just a hypothetical worth considering in this useless debate.

    • The example of Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie etc. make it clear that BJP should be doing better screening before taking in any secularist leaning politicians.

  13. So desparate is he to get into Rajya Sabha, that Shri Yashwant Sinha is willing to do anything. Shame on him

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