India increases air marshals on Kathmandu-bound flights; Nepali officials oblivious
-, NEW DELHI
Sep 9, 2018-
The Indian government has significantly increased the number of air marshals on Kathmandu-bound flights, particularly from Delhi, after security forces and aviation agencies received clue of a possible hijack attempt, Hindustan Times reported.
A senior officer associated with Indian aviation security told Hindustan Times that the number and frequency of air marshals in flights bound for Kabul in Afghanistan and Kathmandu in Nepal have been increased after intelligence agencies indicated about threats.
However, Nepali government officials based in Kathmandu seem oblivious about the increase in air marshals in flights from India. The concerned government bodies should be informed about the increasing
It requires prior approval from the Home Ministry to increase the number of sky marshals and the concerned government bodies should be informed about it. But joint secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Authority Suresh Acharya said he is unaware about the increase in the number of air marshals. “The concerned bodies should be informed after getting approval from Home Ministry. But we don’t have any information about it,” he said.
India started flying sky marshals, who are commandos from National Security Guard, on its flights after an Indian Airlines aircraft on way to Delhi from Kathmandu was hijacked by Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, a Pakistan-based terror group, on December 24, 1999. The issue has become controversy right after Nepal government allowed to have air marshals in Indian flights. Though the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) doesn’t have specific directives regarding air marshals, the concerned countries have been deploying such in-flight security officers through mutual consensus.
Indian government has been deploying two to six marshals per flight depending on the threat perception on a specific route.
“They are mostly deployed on high-risk international flights. Their identity and positions in a flight is strategic,” Hindustan Times, quoted the officer, “They are known to be armed with pistols and guns with rubber bullets to neutralise offenders without damaging the aircraft.”
A pilot from a budget domestic airlines told Hindustan Times that the identity of a sky marshal is kept secret. “It is at the last moment that the cockpit crew is informed about their presence. We know their seat numbers and how many of them are travelling. Nothing more is disclosed to us,” the pilot said.
Published: 09-09-2018 19:34