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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Looking back at history: Hijack of Fokker Aircraft in 1971

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The year 2009 is coming to an end, and touchwood, we haven't had any major terrorist strike.Indian Home Minister recently admitted that luck played an important part in this - the Indian intelligence agencies need to be lucky every time, the terrorists need to be lucky just once.

So are Indian intelligence agencies who are often criticized and termed ineffective, really that bad? In this article, I am going to discuss a very old incident, Hijack of Fokker Aircraft, which happened just before the 1971 India-Pakistan war. Most Indians would be unaware of this incident.

Let me add a caveat before I continue with my article. This article contains my understanding of the incident and is based on my various reading I have done on this topic. This may or may not be the actual description of the events. India has never officially acknowledged its involvement for obvious reasons. It is unlikely to do the same ever, in pretty much the same way as Pakistan is unlikely to accept its support for terrorism.

Creation of Bangladesh was perhaps biggest ever success of RAW. The Fokker incident occurred before the start of the war but it proved to be an important event.

Background
India and Pakistan had been quarreling over Kashmir ever since independence. They had fought two wars in 1948 and 1965. By 1970, cracks began to appear between the West and East Pakistan - its two wings.

East and West Pakistan were separated by more than 1000 miles. Soon after independence, Urdu was proclaimed to be the national language of the wings even though Bengali was spoken by a majority of the Pakistanis. The Bureaucracy and Army was dominated by Punjabi's. There was considerable resentment among the East Pakistanis over dominance of the West.

President Yahya Khan held fair and free elections in December, 1970 in which Awami League of Shaikh Mujibur Rahman won a majority largely due to his Six-Point manifesto. National Assembly was to hold its first session in Dacca on 2nd March, 1971. It was, however, sabotaged by vested interests of West Pakistani establishment and some leading politicians, who were not willing to accept a Bengali-led government. (Source)
By March, Pakistani army resorted to use of force and decided to crush the political movement. Mujibur Rahman was arrested and sent to prison in West Pakistan. The use of force was excessive and large number of Bengalis were killed. A huge number of Bengali women (mostly Hindu) were raped by the Pakistani army. Survivors have compared it to the Nazi extermination of Jews. This led to a large number of Bengalis seeking refuge in India. India decided to extend all help to the refugees.

Strategies
India and Pakistan had two different strategies. Pakistan was aware that India could come to help the East Pakistanis. Therefore its plan was to devote more men and material for West Pakistan.

The Pakistanis would concentrate their forces in the West and thereby aim at capturing as much as Indian territory as possible. The Indians, on the other hand, would be fighting a war on two fronts (while at the same time keeping a fearful eye on the Chinese borders). Given this scenario, the Pakistanis felt that India at best would be able to capture some territory in East Pakistan and lose quite a bit in the West. In the end, the Pakistanis knew that the Western powers would intervene to stop the war and what would matter is who had the most of the other's territory. (Source)

They were hoping for a stalemate just as had happened during the 1965 War. Indian plan was essentially to liberate East Pakistan as quickly as possible. On its Western sector, it had essentially planned to defend with much smaller units and had much fewer offensive plans.

The Fokker incident
On January 30,1971, brothers Hashim and Ashraf Quereshi of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, armed with a pistol and a hand grenade, hijacked Ganga, a Fokker Friendship aircraft of the Indian Airlines (IA), after it had taken off from Srinagar for Jammu and forced the pilot to take it to Lahore.

After the aircraft had landed, Zuklfiquar Ali Bhutto, then Foreign Minister under Yahya Khan, rushed to Lahore, fraternized with the hijackers and helped them get maximum international publicity for their cause. On February 1, he persuaded them to release the crew and passengers who were sent by road to Amritsar. (Source)

Was the hijack staged
Pakistan has consistently alleged that this hijack was staged by Indian intelligence agencies. Soon after the hijack, India banned all Pakistani flights over its airspace. This meant that the distance between West and East Pakistan became three times the orginal distance and thus made it more difficult for Pakistan to transfer resources from West to East. It may have played its part in the overall outcome of the war.

The aircraft was hijacked by two Kashmiris, Butt and Hashim Quereshi. One of them was a Border Security Force man. What made the affair curious was the fact that Ganga was one of the oldest aircraft in the Indian Airline fleet and was already withdrawn from service but was re-inducted days before the 'hijack'. Even more tellingly, a deputy inspector general of the BSF based in Jammu, bristling at the involvement of one of his men in hijack, had gone public to say that he had objected to the induction of Butt into the BSF but was overruled by a 'higher intelligence agency'. (Source)
Conclusion
From the prima facie , it does appears that the hijack was staged by Indian intelligence agencies. In hindsight it appears to be clever plan that worked perfectly. Though there are some unanswered questions. Like why was Quereshi arrested by Indians when he returned back to India.

This surely is gratifying for an ordinary Indian that its intelligence agencies are capable enough to do something like that. Indian agencies have consistently maintained a low profile as compared to other agencies like CIA or Mossad. There are rarely any publicity or movies made on RAW's operations.

The reasons are best known to the people in-charge. I only hope that they are still carrying on their good work.
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Telangana Conundrum

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Let me say from the outset, I am a North-Indian and I have no in-depth knowledge of the issue. I am just expressing my understanding of issue based on various readings I have done on the issue.

Why Telanana?

First of all, Telangana is not a new demand. Telangana basically comprises of the districts of the erstwhile Nizam's Hyderabad princely state. After the independence, Telangana was merged into the larger Andhra state.
The States Reorganization Commission (SRC) was not in favour of merging the Telangana region with the then Andhra state. The concerns of Telanganas were manifold[citation needed]. The region had a less developed economy than Andhra[citation needed], which Telanganas feared might be diverted for use in Andhra. They also feared that planned dam projects on the Krishna and Godavari rivers would not benefit Telangana proportionately even though Telanganas controlled the headwaters of the rivers. (Source)
Telanganas feared too that the people of Andhra would have the advantage in jobs, particularly in government and education. Telangana people under Nizam had no or little education till then. Those who had were educated in Urdu. Meanwhile the people of Andhra were educated under British – learning Telugu and English. So, when the new state of Andhra Pradesh was formed, the prerequisite languages were Telugu and English, and since people of Telangana lacked education in both these languages all the initial jobs were filled up by people of Andhra causing anticipated anguish to people of Telangana.(Source)
In 1969 there was a popular student movement in Telangana and many people were killed and jailed. Following that TPS (Telangana Praja Samiti) won 11 out of 12 Lok Sabha seats on a single plank – of creating new Telangana State. Indira Gandhi snubbed that movement while the leaders of Telangana betrayed their own people by joining the Congress and Chenna Reddy became Chief Minister of the entire state.  (Source)

This is quite similar to what in case of Jharkhand. A demand for Jharkhand (basically comprising of tribal districts) was also made to the SRC. However, a larger state of Bihar was created. The erstwhile state of Bihar had a total of 54 seats of which only 14 were in Jharkhand. Jharkhand is highly rich in minerals. Hence, the region which was already backward was exploited by the Biharis who were numerically superior.

BJP has always supported the Telangana movement. It was the BJP led NDA that created the states of Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and Chattisgarh in 1999. However, at that point of time they were in alliance with the TDP and hence didn't then.

Why no to Telangana?
One of the major reasons for an opposition to creation of Telangana is because the twin-cities of Hyderabad-Secunderabad lie in the Telangana region. The twin-cities have received a large investment into infrastructure particularly under Chandrababu Naidu making it preferred IT location. A large number of Telugu people are settled in the cities.

Gurgaon, another IT hub contributes about 40% of the GDP of Haryana. I do not have the similar figures for Hyderabad, but I am sure the figure would be immense, although Haryana is a much smaller state.

Another important issue is that of Naxalism which is active in the Telangana region. At a time when the Naxal movement is on the rise, it may not be the best idea to create a new state. I am not sure whether the new Govt. would be able to deal to effectively with the Naxals. Veerappan, the dreaded smuggler remained nuisance for around three decades. This is primarily because he operated in a region bordering three states Kerela, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Coordination among different states police was not effective.

Even in case of West Bengal, it is reported that the Maoist are much strong in the bordering districts of the state. After committing the crime they escape into the neighboring state where West Bengal police have no writ. Similar situation could now arise. The present crisis may have created some resented among the two sides and they may not co-operate with each other thus playing into the hands of the Maoists.

The present crisis
KCR formed the his new party TRS in 2001 and has been fighting for a new state. In 2004, he won fought the elections in alliance with the Congress and won. But the Congress did not keep its promise. Despite that, the party managed to win the 2009 elections. That could be attributed to the YSR magic who is no more.

Perhaps KCR feels that this is the right time to press for Telangana because the Chief Minister is still new in the job and YSR loyalists may not give him a free hand. Needless to say that the demand for Telangana runs deep and the present protests are a clear indication of that. Moreover, I don't think that it is correct for the numerically superior Telugus to decide whether Telangana stays in Andhra or not. A referendum in Telangana is perhaps the best option.
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