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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 August 2005, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
India adopts tough hijack policy
Indian airliner taking off
The issue of plane hijackings is sensitive in India
India has adopted a policy allowing it to shoot down hijacked commercial planes deemed to have become "missiles" heading for strategic targets.

It also rules out giving in to any demands by hijackers, said India's Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee. A law would be introduced soon, he said.

The policy, approved this week by the security cabinet, deems hijacking an act of aggression against the country.

Convicted hijackers will be sentenced to death.


Mr Mukherjee says negotiations will only be held with the aim of ending the hijacking without loss of life and for comforting the passengers and the crew of the aircraft.

According to the new policy, fighter jets will take off immediately to escort any plane that is hijacked and is airborne.

Indian airliner hijacked to Kandahar and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh
The Indian jet hijacked to Kandahar and freed militant Omar Sheikh

The aim would be to try to get the plane to land and not let it take off again.

It also sets out the procedure for "threat" aircraft thought to have been turned into missiles.

A plane will be declared "rogue" if it deviates from flight plans, refuses to heed warnings and is headed for a strategic target.

The decision to shoot down the aircraft will lie with the security cabinet. But if there is no time for it to convene, the prime minister, defence minister or home minister- or failing that a senior air force official - can make the call.

Six years ago India freed three jailed Islamic militants in exchange for 150 passengers on an Indian jet hijacked to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

One of the freed men, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, was later implicated in the kidnapping and killing of US journalist Daniel Pearl and another was believed to have formed the militant Jaish-e-Mohammad group.

In January this year Germany and Poland both introduced laws allowing them to shoot down hijacked aircraft as a last resort.

They were following a number of other countries that had adopted such laws following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

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