Is one man's tourism another man's terrorism? Why is it that just when Nepal's tourism shows any sign of picking up, we hit the headlines again for all the wrong reasons. We were recovering from the hijacking last year when Hrithik Roshan riots rent the streets. The Indians had just started trickling back this summer when the royal massacre spooked them off again. And just when things were beginning to go right, came a flurry of news last week linking Nepal with the War on Terror. A Nepali nearly gets away trying to take his entire knife collection on board a flight leaving Chicago. Four Nepalis get arrested in Manila for taking pictures of the US Embassy in the Philippine capital. And then Madras airport outscoops everyone by uncovering a plot to hijack a Singaporean airliner from Kathmandu airport and crashing it into a Very Importance Place in Delhi.
And how does Madras pass on this information with potentially catastrophic implications to our civil aviation authorities? Does it use the SITA telex? Does the chief police honcho in Chennai pick up the phone? Nope. They send the information in a handwritten note on a piece of paper without a letterhead by snail mail to Kathmandu! It's a miracle that letter even got here.
Now, wire services are in the business of exporting news. So you can't really blame them for sending out immediate flashes when they heard of it. Dateline Kathmandu: al-Qaeda operatives in Nepal! Hijacked plane to be rammed into Delhi! Security alert in Kathmandu!
CNN, Star News, Zee News, Channel News Asia pick up the wires, and make frantic calls to their stringers in Kathmandu.
If there were a competition here to judge who should get the Grand Mediocrity Prize for this latest "security alert", the jury would have a difficult time choosing between the authorities at Madras airport, our civil aviation people, or AFP, which seems to think Singapore Airlines flies to Kathmandu via Madras.