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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Indian Government Faces Criticism for Dealing with Terrorists

Aired January 1, 2000 - 9:16 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, on this first day of the 21st century, there's no doubt what was the headline in Indian newspapers, and that's the release of those passengers from the hijacked airliner. Let's get an update now on events there. They've been held, of course -- they were held for more than a week, eight days.

CNN's Satinder Bindra joins us on the phone from New Delhi.

Satinder, what's the latest?

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, it's been an incredibly happy New Year's Day for the 155 released hostages. They spent their day with the families. They also said their thanks. But these families are also telling us some incredible stories. They're saying that the hijackers threatened several times to blow the plane up. Today, India's external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, confirmed that, and he said there was enough explosives on board that plane to blow it up.

Fearing that, India said it had to do a deal with the hijackers, and ultimately exchanged the 155 passengers for three jailed militants. India says when the plane was in Kandahar, the hijackers suddenly had more guns, more ammunitions, more grenades. They would not specify if Afghan's Taleban militia, Muslim fundamentalists who control most of the country, supplied it to the hijackers.

Meanwhile, the Indian foreign minister, quoting Afghan sources, has said the hijackers are now head towards Kuwait or Pakistan. Pakistan has responded to this by saying it's put its border forces on alert.

The big news, the other news today is that India is clearly pointing the finger of blame at its traditional enemy, Pakistan. The foreign minister, in fact, quoted as having said India will seek justice and retribution -- Jim.

CLANCY: At the same time, looking at all that, how is the government of Prime Minister Vajpayee dealing with the political issue of having given in to the hostage takers' demands?

BINDRA: There's certainly been a lot of political fallout here, commentators and the opposition describing it as a, quote, "victory for terrorism." They're saying India will now be perceived as a soft state, and it will be open season for hijacking. Many people are also saying that India goofed up because the plane was allowed to leave its territory.

But the foreign minister, Mr. Jaswant Singh, defended India's decision. He said India was faced with just two options, either allowing the plane to leave Kandahar -- because the Taleban forces had said if no deal was achieved then the plane would be forced to leave -- and the foreign minister said if the plane were to leave then they weren't sure about its airworthiness.

And on the other hand, they faced this threat, there were a lot of explosives, the foreign minister said, on board the plane, and they had to choose this option of releasing three militants in exchange for the 155 hostages. So the foreign minister said India really had no choice -- Jim.

CLANCY: CNN's Satinder Bindra there with the latest on that aftermath of the hostage crisis.

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