Advani suffering from ‘faulty recollection’: Fernandes

March 28th, 2008 - 7:07 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) George Fernandes, defence minister in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, says that L.K. Advani, then home minister, was indeed present at a meeting that decided to send external affairs minister Jaswant Singh to Kandahar in the infamous 1999 terrorists-for-hostages swap. Fernandes has even suggested that Advani, bidding to be the prime minister if the NDA comes to power after the next election, could be suffering from memory lapses. This, he said, could be the result of “faulty recollection”.

The assertion by Fernandes in an interview to the CNN-IBN programme Devil’s Advocate flies in the face of Advani’s statement last week that he was not privy to the decision to send Singh to Kandahar, the then Taliban bastion.

Terrorists later linked with the Pakistani intelligence hijacked an Indian Airline plane from Kathmandu to Afghanistan and demanded the release of three jailed Pakistani militants in return for the hostages.

Advani has said that the decision to send Singh along with the three militants, including Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Masood Azhar, in a special Indian plane to Kandahar was not taken in the Cabinet Committee for Security (CSS) — implying it might have been taken at then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s level.

“I didn’t know about that. I came to know when he (Jaswant) was going,” Advani had said, responding to a question if he was consulted of Singh’s visit to Kandahar.

Fernandes’ comments are in stark contrast to Advani’s account of this episode in his just released autobiography, “My Country, My Life”, and later interviews.

Fernandes stated that the decision to send Singh was taken after a discussion between senior ministers. “All ministers were present.”

Fernandes said Advani, Singh and he himself were in attendance when the decision was taken. Asked if senior ministers were indeed present, he said: “Yes, I am sure. I am certain that was (the case).”

Asked whether Advani was present as well, Fernandes replied: “Yes, all of us were present.”

Then why did Advani deny any knowledge of the Kandahar trip? Fernandes replied: “I don’t think he was lying or anything.” He, however, agreed that it could be a case of “faulty recollection.”

Could Advani be “wrong in his memory”? Fernandes: “Yes, that can happen.”

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