India institutes an anti-hijack policy

Finally, a step in the right direction

India has announced a no-nonsense policy that addresses terror in the skies: no negotiations with terrorists, directives to ground hijacked aircraft and should the need arise, authorisation for the air force to shoot down hijacked aircraft. Hijacking has also been made a capital crime.

Up to the time when Pakistani terrorists (under orders from Gen Musharraf) hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC-814 and landed it in Taleban-controlled Kandahar, Indian authorities handled each hijacking on an ad hoc basis — usually with disastrous results. Jaswant Singh’s flight into Kandahar to hand over Masood Azhar and other jihadi notables in exchange for the safe release IC-814’s passengers was the lowest point in India’s handling of terrorist and hijack incidents. India took a surprisingly long six years to evolve a coherent policy on this issue.

So it is heartening to note that the Indian government has finally articulated a clear policy on how it will react to future incidents of hijacking. Since the policy requires close co-operation between local and central civil authorities as well as military commanders, the Indian government would do well to run plenty of drills to ensure that when the time comes, every individual — from the air traffic controller to the prime minister himself — know exactly what to do. No matter how good a policy appears to be, it is no substitute for resolve and cojones. Yet establishing simple ground rules, regular practice and institutionalised decision-making can help prevent a situation from spiralling out of control. Besides, articulating options ex ante will help decision-makers make tough decisions without fear of ex post vilification.

For a government that has been trying to manage national security by subterfuge, an anti-hijack policy this robust is extraordinary. Announcing that it will authorise the air force to shoot down commercial aircraft is not easy for any democratic government — that the Congress party-led coalition government has done so is to its credit. As it has in the case of aerial terrorism, it would do well to adopt a no-nonsense policy towards terrestrial terrorism too. For there is a lot of that going on.

10 thoughts on “India institutes an anti-hijack policy”

  1. I still remember the pictures of the relatives of the Kandahar hostages carrying placards – ‘Free Masood Azhar’ …

  2. What a shame!
    What about hijackers’ rights??!!
    What are poor hijackers now supposed to do? That New Delhi would be so ruthless and heartless is plain toanyoneobserving the excesses in the kashmir valley….
    /Sarcasm off

    PS:
    Even if I dont attribute theabove loonymoonbatism to ‘Arundhati Roy’ or ‘Praful Bidwai’, how many would be surprised had I done so?

  3. Also, “hijackers” should not be called by that name instead the terminology, “people who have temporariliy taken control over the plane” should be used. In a day or two Teesta and gang will come up a statement of this sort.

  4. Wait till one of our planes get hijacked and one of these “leaders” or their kin are on it.Then we will see how sincere our govt will be.
    And dont forget there will be news channels like NDTV which will build pressure on the govt to give into the demands of the hijackers as they did during the Kandahar hijacking.

  5. nope, the policy is just another piece of crap among the millions of such pieces our govt turns out.
    One of the biggest things about that “will shoot planes down” thingy -it requires by default Approval of the CCS – and this is a committee known for its sloth.
    “If, there is an urgency(like hijackers will wait for eons, until the CCS thinks of meeting) then PM or Home Minister should approve”.

    We recall how fast these guys reacted in 2000, dont we? We let the aircraft fly from Amritsar!!

    Nothing will come off this. God forbid, but, If a hijack happens, then the media will, instead of supporting a tough stance, want the govt. to bow before them, and rescue the hostages without sending troops.

    And of course, the media will never take the blame for the thousands the LeT and JeM have killed ever since.

  6. Six years is lighting speed in Indian government decision making process terms. While all care should be taking to rescue hostages – I am surprise at the cavalier attitude towards hostages life in postings – before blowing up a plane, I guess it is good to have a policy. I don’t think there were too many options during Kandahar hijacking. I doubt CCS would authorize shooting down a plane unless the hijacked plane will be used as weapon as it was during 9/11 which will most likely not be known until it is too late.

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