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Were the 1995 abducted Foreign tourists victims of a ruthless Indian intel operation?

Discussion in 'International Relations' started by ColdPlay, May 13, 2012.

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  1. ColdPlay

    ColdPlay Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

    Jan 31, 2011
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    Aditya Sinha: Casualties of a cruel cold war
    Aditya Sinha | Sunday, May 13, 2012

    In July 1995, a previously unknown terrorist group in J&K calling itself al Faran kidnapped four foreign trekkers in the South Kashmir mountains (one escaped three days into the ordeal, so two other foreigners were kidnapped). Although I had already spent several years covering the movement in Kashmir, my focus wasn’t fully on this kidnapping for several reasons: a month earlier, I had made an exhausting trip through Doda, a remote hilly district lodged between the Jammu region and the Valley, little-explored by other Delhi-based correspondents; I was nearly finished writing a biography of Dr Farooq Abdullah, who was thinking of returning for the assembly elections which the government was thinking about holding next year; and my wife was in her ninth month of expecting our second child.

    You may recall the kidnappings caused a sensation when one hostage, a Norwegian named Hans Christian Ostro, was found beheaded. Security specialists from the USA and UK made their way to Srinagar for the first publicised time. But eventually, for Indian readers outside J&K, the episode petered out: much of al Faran was gunned down but the hostages were never found. The kidnapping disappeared from memory, reappearing in mine only last week when I read the racy and absorbing book by British journalists Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, The Meadow, about that very kidnapping. What comes out clearly in this well-researched book (that quotes two former chiefs of Research and Analysis Wing) is that our intelligence community made use of this kidnapping, stringing it out and maximising the damnation it caused Pakistan in the world’s eyes. The book leaves no doubt that the foreigners could have been rescued; indeed, RAW was tracking them for long, continually photographing them and their captors throughout the ordeal. The book makes no equivocations and the evidence is categorical: India allowed those four foreigners to die — yes, it’s now unofficially confirmed what was only suspected the past 16-odd years — so that it could win a major battle in the Cold War against Pakistan.

    In light of the news that Saudi intelligence penetrated a Yemeni cell of al Qaeda (a double agent delivered to the CIA an underwear bomb under development as well as a treasure trove of details about the al Qaeda franchise that has emerged the most dangerous following the demise of Osama bin Laden a year ago), you could look at the al Faran kidnapping story (and all its sordid details as given in The Meadow) in either of two ways: as another episode of the grinding down that Kashmiris were subjected to, caught in a cruel intelligence game between India and Pakistan; or as a ruthless intelligence operation that was one of the keys in (as described by Delhi officials subsequently) India getting “over the hump†in 1995-96 in its Kashmir problem.
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    The period that began with the al Faran kidnapping and ended with the 1996 J&K polls was markedly different from what transpired in 1989-1993. At this time, if you were a young reporter, you were convinced that Kashmir was lost. Who knows what would have happened had the rest of the world not been occupied with the fall of the Iron Curtain, the invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf War? There was complete disenchantment in Kashmir with India; and then there was the violence, which invited a terrible retribution from the Centre.

    For most of independent India’s history, the Intelligence Bureau has run Kashmir, and during the 1990s things were no different; on behalf of the Government of India (and an utterly Machiavellian prime minister like PV Narasimha Rao) the IB was tasked with tackling the insurgency and bringing a semblance of political structure back to Kashmir. I had friends at the IB’s Kashmir group, and while I read The Meadow I felt deep shame at not having come close to the real story. Not that any of them would have disclosed it — such operations never get talked about. And in retrospect, it is no wonder none ever encouraged me to go to Kashmir and follow the story (in those days, I would hop onto a Delhi-Srinagar flight at the drop of a hat). The funny thing is that I often asked my IB friends for the story of one secret operation or another that I would try and turn into a John Le Carré type novel. This kidnapping would have been perfect, but they never did. India has still not mastered the art of revealing its intelligence secrets as heroic tales of propaganda in the stunning way that the Americans do.

    It makes you wonder: do journalists, who are considered among the more informed members of our society, really know what is going on? (At least we’re better than academicians.) Some journalists may seem to thrive on conspiracy paranoia, but then why are there so many unexplained events in our public life? What happened, for instance, to those of Robert Vadra’s family members who died early deaths? Perhaps the old saying is true: paranoia is just a state of heightened consciousness. Maybe journalists don’t get the whole picture, but we get enough of a glimpse to know that something is rotten at the core of reality.

    That rot is just this: power is ruthless, and the government of India is no less ruthless than other governments, be they Chinese, Israeli, Russian or American. And perhaps all we journalists do is serve as a distraction so that citizens, oblivious to the darkness that is perpetrated in their name, go about their happy little lives.

    The writer is the Editor-in-Chief, DNA, based in Mumbai

    Aditya Sinha: Casualties of a cruel cold war - Analysis - DNA
  2. Matt


    Feb 4, 2011
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    Re: Were the 1995 abducted Foreign tourists victims of a ruthless Indian intel operat

    Ruthless ? Absolutely. Its borne out of necessity. However, we are not much at fault here, in this particular case. All we are guilty of, is inaction. And inaction and inefficiency is an epidemic in Indian administration , institutions and armed forces.
  3. Osiris

    Osiris Major SENIOR MEMBER

    Apr 15, 2010
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    Re: Were the 1995 abducted Foreign tourists victims of a ruthless Indian intel operat

    Hans Christian Ostro was a Kathakali student in kerala ....

    Hans Christian Ostro's Journey

    Hans Christian Ostro's Journey on Vimeo
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2014
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