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October 11, 2001
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US partnership with Pakistan baffling: Advani

Terming as "somewhat baffling" US taking the help of Pakistan in the war against terrorism, Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani on Thursday night hoped that Secretary of State Colin Powell, scheduled to visit India shortly, would be able to "take positions" to allay the misgivings of the people of India.

"It is somewhat baffling that the country which we identify as the principal source of terrorism in our part of the world is the biggest friend in this battle against international terrorism," Advani told CNN's 'Q&A' programme.

India, he said, was not complaining because "if on this account, because of this battle, there is a basic change of attitude of the Pakistan regime towards using terrorism as an instrument of state policy," it would be good for India, Pakistan and the world, he said.

"I understand their compulsions. But at the same time, I would like them to understand that this (India) is a true, vigorous democracy where it is not merely the opinion of the government that matters, that it is the opinion of the people that matters even more."

Asked about questions being raised about India's decision to release three hardcore militants in return for the release of the passengers of the Indian Airlines plane hijacked to Kandahar in December, 1999, he said "people who are upset over this are justified."

He said: "At that point of time we had to weigh the pros and cons. About 160 innocent passengers on the plane would have been butchered in cold blood if the government had not done that (release the militants)."

The minister said what was really needed was a "clear cut policy" in this regard that in case of hijacking and people being taken for ransom, the government "will not succumb, whatever may happen."

He said "when this decision was taken, those who took the decision felt uneasy and unhappy about it. In hindsight, it certainly seems the cost the world has had to bear has been much bigger."

PTI

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