Thursday, August 12, 2004

MEA culpa: Dealing with hostage crisis is no silly matter

In an exclusive interview ('A hostage crisis is not a silly matter')
to Rediff Deputy Managing Editor George Iype, India's Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahmed, who heads the Crisis Management Group, explains how the government is handling the Iraq hostage crisis. In the not-so-exclusive red ink, I am butting in.

It is more than three weeks since the hostage crisis began. Where is it going?

I have been spending all my days handling the hostage crisis. We have been meeting every day for more than 15 hours, trying to deal with the situation and to ensure the release of the hostages. But frankly speaking, we do not know now when they will be released.

You are so cool Mr Ahmed. Frankly speaking, what do you do in those 15 hours every day.

Why? What has gone wrong in handling the situation?

Nothing has gone wrong from our part. We are always in touch with the Kuwait Gulf Link transport company, which is negotiating for the release of the hostages. We are still hopeful of positive developments. A hostage crisis is never a silly matter. We have to remain patient. It may take days for negotiations to succeed.

Exactly. What do you do in those 15 hours besides being hopeful and patient?

Last week you said the negotiations had reached a sensitive stage and the hostages would be released.

Yes, we have been always hopeful of their release. Last week the tribal leader, Hishan Al-Dulaimi, whom the Kuwaiti company had engaged to negotiate with the abductors, nearly clinched a deal. But the deal broke down soon.

Sir, how in the name of Saddam Hussein, will Al-Dulaimi negotiate with al-terrorists. What do you know about al-Dulaimi, al minister?

Why is the Indian government not directly negotiating with the abductors?

Why should the Indian government talk directly to the abductors? We feel it will create a bad trend. If the Indian government talks directly to the abductors and releases the hostages, it could lead to similar abductions there.

There is nothing like an indirect negotiation, Mr Ahmed. Most negotiations are indirect. You have already created a bad trend by meeting for 15 hours a day and turning it into a national crisis by involving the Crisis Management Group. Terrorists may kidnap more Indians for this is where they will get world's attention when India's crisis management group meets for 15 hours a day.

You said India has limitations or constraints in dealing with the situation. What are the limitations?

What I said was that India cannot directly negotiate with the abductors. It is not an easy task for us. It is a strategic decision. I have been personally spending close to 15 hours every day only on the hostage crisis these days. We are not sitting idle.

Oh no, not again. What do you do in those 15 hours every day? And being the one of the two external affairs ministers that we have, you seem to be doing pretty much nothing else.

The abductors have also demanded ransom money. Will India pay ransom?

We have very clearly said that India will not pay any ransom for the release of the hostages.

Thank you so much. Why would India pay a ransom when some thugs in Baghdad can hold the country to ransom.

Some reports say some of the hostages may have been killed.

Our information says that no one has been killed.

You must be knowing better. You spend 15 hours a day every day trying to know. But what do you do in those 15 hours apart from trying to know things?

Who do think are the abductors?

Our information is that the Holders of the Black Banners are sympathisers of the resistance movement in Iraq.

Thank you for disclosing such confidential things.

Do you think they have any links with Al Qaeda?

They may have. We are not sure.

You sure seem to be spending 15 hours a day every day.

Have you sought the help of the Iraqi government, particularly Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, to resolve the crisis?

Yes, we are in touch with the new Iraqi government. We are using all our diplomatic channels for an immediate end to this crisis.

Don't forget 15 hours, Mr Ahmed. Every Day.

Have you sought American help?

No, we have not. Why should we? The hostage crisis is something we are handling effectively, and diplomatically. We are sure we will succeed in our efforts.

America is a dirty word. Come what may Mr Ahmed would not be in touch with America for even a minute, forget 15 hours a day every day. This is a Left-supported government. When you are with the Left, touching America even with a bargepole isn't right.

When do you expect that the hostage crisis would blow over?

We expect some positive developments soon.

Dear India, be patient. He is working on it 15 hours a day, every day.

1 comment:

Zuki said...

Found a lot of useful info on your site about Crisis Management - thank you. Haven't finished reading it yet but have bookmarked it so I don't lose it. I've just started a Crisis Management blog myself if you'd like to stop by