The former National Security Advisor, Brajesh Mishra, said on Thursday said that the former Home Minister, L.K.Advani, was part of the National Democratic Alliance government’s decision to release three terrorists and send Jaswant Singh to Kandahar for securing hostages’ release in 1999.

“The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security which has, you know, five members — Prime Minister, Home Minister, Finance Minister, External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister.

“....Once those demands were whittled down to three terrorists and no money and no interred remains [of some terrorist], then there was a unanimous decision of the CCS that in order to save the lives of 160-plus hostages and the aircraft crew, it made sense to release these three terrorists and get the hostages back,” Mr. Mishra told Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN.

When asked if it was a unanimous decision, he replied, “Of course“.

Was Advani part and parcel of it? “Yes, of course.”

Mr. Mishra, who is considered close to the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said Mr. Advani was also aware of the decision to send External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh to Kandahar to secure the release of hostages.

“Again the CCS met and Mr. 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, RAW — had suggested that somebody should be there to take care of any last minute complications. This he informed the CCS and they agreed to send [him],” Mr. Mishra said.

When asked again if this was a unanimous decision, Mr. Mishra replied in the affirmative. On whether Mr. Advani was a party to the decision, he said yes.

“Three members of CCS, George Fernandes [the then Defence Minister], Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha [Finance Minister] have already said this,” Mr. Mishra said.

The former NSA clarified that initially no one was in favour of any concession while dealing with the hijackers. “To begin with, they wanted the release of 36 terrorists. They wanted $200 million. And they wanted the interred remains of some terrorist. Nobody was prepared to accept this. Each and every member [of the CCS] was opposed to agreeing to those demands.”

“Very democratic personality”

Mr. Mishra said Jaswant Singh would not have been summarily expelled from the BJP for his views on M.A. Jinnah had Atal Bihari Vajpayee been active in the party.

He said Mr. Vajpayee would not have criticised Jaswant Singh for his remarks on Jinnah because he did not criticise Mr. Advani when he called Jinnah secular in 2005 during his visit to Pakistan.

He said Mr. Vajpayee was a very democratic personality. Had he been active, he would have put an end to the present squabbles in the BJP. “A person who did not want Modi [Gujarat Chief Minister] to resign, but sought corrective measures... how can I say that he would have supported this kind of action in Rajasthan like seeking resignation of Vasundhara Raje?”

Mr. Vajpayee would have called Ms. Raje and asked her what was happening in the party and that would have been the message for the people to set the situation right.

The former NSA claimed that Mr. Vajpayee was “disgusted” by the events of March 1999, when AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa withdrew support and BSP leader Mayawati did not provide the promised support, because of which the government fell.

The former Prime Minister was upset with the then BJP president M.Venkaiah Naidu’s description of Mr. Advani as “Loh Purush” (Iron Man) and Vajpayee as “Vikas Purush” (Man of Development), Mr. Mishra said.

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