Thursday, August 27, 2009

'Kandahar deal was a unanimous NDA decision'

Former national security advisor Brajesh Mishra, who was a close aide of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, spoke for the first time in public about certain critical, events and decisions taken during the six years of the NDA rule. These are events and decisions which attracted considerable attention, if not considerable controversy.

In an exclusive interview with Karan Thapar, Mishra speaks about the Kandahar terrorists-for-hostages swap, Vajpayee’s relationship with BJP leader LK Advani and the RSS, his days of “disgust” in the first year of his prime ministership, among many other issues.

Karan Thapar: I want to start with the Kandahar episode and let me begin by asking you – how was the decision to exchange three terrorists for the hostages taken and who all took that decision?

Brajesh Mishra:
The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) which has five members – the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Finance Minister, External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister – and some other supporting staff. As it is known they initially wanted the release of 36 terrorists, $200 million and the remains of some terrorists who were buried in Kashmir. Nobody was prepared to accept these demands but once these demands were brought down to three with no money and remains of terrorists, then a unanimous decision was taken by the committee that in order to save the lives of the hostages the three terrorists will be released.

Karan Thapar: This was a unanimous decision?

Brajesh Mishra: Of course.

Karan Thapar: So the home minister of the day LK Advani was a part and parcel of the decision?

Brajesh Mishra: Yes, of course.

Karan Thapar: He (Advani) didn't in any way differ or disagree?

Brajesh Mishra: Let me again say that to begin with no one was in favour of any concessions.

Karan Thapar: But at the end?

Brajesh Mishra: In the end all had to do it.

Karan Thapar: And Advani was part of that consensus?

Brajesh Mishra: Of course, he was part of the Cabinet Committee meeting.

Karan Thapar: The second critical decision connected with the Kandahar episode was that the then external affairs minister Jaswant Singh should accompany the terrorists to Kandahar to ensure that nothing went wrong. How was that decision taken and who all were party to that decision?

Brajesh Mishra: The CCS use to meet everyday during that week – December 24 to December 31. So, they met on morning of December 30 or 31 and Jaswant Singh proposed that he would go to Kandahar to bring back the hostages and he explained that the Indian representatives who were negotiating in Kandahar – diplomats, IB people, RAW – they had suggested that somebody senior should be here in order to take care of any last minute complications etc. This he informed the CCS and they agreed that he should go.

Karan Thapar: Again, was it a unanimous decision by the Cabinet Committee?

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