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Hostage specialist Ajit Kumar Doval, 66, prides himself on being a tough negotiator. Just like covert operators in Hollywood thrillers, the Intelligence Bureau's former director, who also served as chief of operations for a decade, believed tough action yielded better results than long hours of negotiations. Be it in dealing with members of the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) from whom he managed to rescue a Romanian diplomat or in mediating with an Islamic group for release of passengers from a hijacked plane, Doval always believed he should never yield to terrorists or extremists.
The 1989 abduction of Romanian diplomat Liviu Radu is a case in point. Doval and his team pursued the 15-member gang of the KLF right from Lodhi Colony in New Delhi where the residential blocks for diplomats are located, travelled through Haryana and Ludhiana for a month before rescuing the diplomat. "The KLF had their demands for release of their members from prisons. But we did not give in, " said Doval. The gang shifted base every 10 hours, camouflaging their get-away vehicles. In a remarkable hostage rescue operation, Doval and his team managed to draw out every member of the gang, one after another, before finally successfully accomplishing their rescue mission.
Referring to the Maoist abductions, Doval said, "The country appears to be a sitting duck. The Maoists are getting away with their demands. We seem to be running out of ideas both at the strategic and tactical level. " Considered one of the brilliant intelligence officers, Doval was the first police officer in the country to receive the Kirti Chakra, a military decoration for courage and valour.
A 1968 batch IPS officer, it is said that Doval was right where the action was during Operation Black Thunder. When security forces charged into the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar to flush out terrorists, Doval was right inside the shrine. "I spent nearly a month inside, " said Doval, recalling what could have been one of his most dangerous assignments. The terrorists mistook him to be an operative of the Pakistan's ISI. He also spent nearly seven years in Pakistan. "We managed to rescue hostages in some aircraft hijacks without conceding to any of the demands of the hijackers, " said Doval.
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