Recently watched Argo. Loved it. Especially bit about the secret agent, infiltrating into enemy territory and getting the good guys out. There was much appreciation of the methods of the CIA(Even though, in this case, most of the work was apparently done by the Canadians), especially after the Osama episode. Scarcely does anyone come to know what our own premier Intelligence Agency – RAW – has been upto.
I first found out about this couple of years ago. Lets get into details.
What happened on January 30, 1971?
1) What we know is there were two Kashmiris, Hashim Quereshi and his cousin Ashraf Butt, who went on to highjack an Indian Airlines plane named ‘Ganga’ using a Toy Pistol.
2) They take the craft to Lahore, burn it down, Pakistan was happy, they were treated as heroes, Pakistan created a mini-media spectacle thinking it would promote the Kashmiri cause. Passengers were safe, as the intention was to, apparently, promote the “cause” and advertise it to the world.
A picture of the type of aircraft in question. Ganga was an old Fokker F27 Friendship Indian Airlines aircraft.
3) On January 31, Z.A. Bhutto, Pakistani PM to be and the most prominent Politician of the then West Pakistan, visited the airport and embraced the two hijackers as true champions of the Pakistani cause. After five days, he issued a statement to the effect that the hijackers were “two brave men” and their deed demonstrated that “no power on earth can stifle the Kashmiris’ struggle for liberation.” The Pakistani authorities justified the hijacking which they described as the direct result of repressive measures taken by the Government of India in Kashmir.
4) Indian Government seethes with anger and bans overflight from West Pakistan to East Pakistan. A major blow, considering soldiers were being transported in civilian disguise in civilian planes, for the impending bloody massacre of fellow Pakistanis by Pakistani soldiers; and the war that is to follow. The crucial air link is cut off.
5) India liberates “Bangladesh” from Pakistan.
Till now facts speak for themselves. But, strange things begin to happen.
1) Pakistan jails one of the high-jackers for 19 years! Labelling them agents of India and calling one of them BSF. They realised that this Highjacking was used by Indira Gandhi to ban overhead flights between the 2 wings of Pakistan.
2) It comes to be known that the aircraft in question was the oldest of its type in the fleet of the Indian Airlines, was in a poor state of maintenance and lacked certain items of equipment usually carried on such aircraft. Basically the loss of the craft was no-big-deal. It was old and dusty.
3) Now, G.M. Sadiq, the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, calls this an Indian plan. Basically, a false flag operation by India.
Who benefits, who loses?
To put things simply. Pakistan loses, India gains tremendously.
Pakistani losses: Pakistan wanted to highlight India’s actions in Kashmir. But, ended up getting cut off from its own Eastern wing. By helping the Terrorists, Pakistan forces India’s hand to ban the overhead flights between the 2 wings.
Considering most of the troop movement used to happen using these overhead flights, under civilian disguise, this was a major blow to Pakistani war efforts and a disruption of troop movement.
Indian gains: Needless to say, India had nothing but to gain from these two idiotic youths taking their plane to Lahore. Even the Aircraft, as it turned out, was old and had no real value. No passengers were hurt(even though their lives were at risk). India gets a solid reason to ban the overhead flight privileges, stops the Pakistani troop movement, escalates the cost and time to transport the troops from West wing to the East for Pakistan.
When Pakistan jails the Terrorist accusing them of acting on behalf of India, India manages to ignite few protests against Pakistan by Kashmiris in Pakistan and outside of the Sub-Continent(Owning to pressure of overseas Kashmiris and the disquiet of Kashmiris in PoK, Pakistan had to release the Terrorist, who later gives up arms to pursue a peaceful resolution of Kashmir. I wonder why!).
Into the realm of speculation and conjecture
Now, with our bases covered, lets look at the interview of the high jacker, who now lives in India.
The interview can be found here:
“In a haircutting salon in Lal Chowk, I met a Kashmiri Border Security Force (BSF) officer. I told him I wanted to go to Pakistan. He agreed to help me cross the border provided I brought some information the BSF needed. I agreed and the BSF managed my clandestine entry into Pakistan through the Sialkot border.”
He was actually double-crossing the BSF. In Pakistan, Hashim was trained for the hijack.
“Maqbool Bhat said to highlight the Kashmir problem we must hijack an Indian plane. Javaid Mantoo, a retired pilot, helped familiarise me with a Fokker Friendship plane. He took me to Chaklala airport where I was allowed to see the plane from inside.”
After hijack training, Hashim crossed back into Kashmir from the Sialkot border.
“I boarded a bus, but the bus was stopped by police and I was caught with a pistol and a hand grenade. I was taken to a BSF interrogation centre. I told them how I had been trained along with three others for the hijack in Pakistan.
“I was asked by the BSF to keep a watch at the Srinagar airport. An advertisement appeared in a newspaper about the sale of a look-real pistol which could be used to scare away thieves. I ordered one by post. I fabricated a wooden hand grenade and painted it with metallic colour.”
After the episode, Pakistan alleges that Indian agencies conducted this false flag operation, by R&AW, tags one of the Terrorist as an Indian agent and tortures him and puts in jail.
Now, tell me if this isn’t better than Argo!
Indira Gandhi, whom the liberated, free citizens of Bangladesh begin to call “Maa Durga”, deserves a lot of credit, for quickly using this as a justification for banning the flights, imposing a major tactical disadvantage on the Pakistanis. Apart from the CM of J&K saying this was an Indian operation, no accounts of this have been released by India and R&AW.
You can guess why – People in the aircraft(Indian citizens) were put at risk, intentionally, by the planners. Admitting this would create a controversy within India, as to why Indian civilians were put in harm’s way. India loses face at the international level, as India had long maintained that it did nothing to precipitate the war and war was forced upon it.
R&AW might not be as glamorous, or might have the technology of a CIA, but if this indeed, seems very likely it was, a R&AW operation, full marks to it. It achieved the desired result, with zero lives lost, no damage to the infrastructure and sowing the seeds of confusion in the opposing ranks. India gets what it wants – Stop movement of troops from West Pakistan to the East, thereby escalating the cost and the time required to transport the troops.
All of this using a Toy Pistol and a wooden “grenade”. And, we think CIA’s hunt of Osama was awesome!