Many hostages, no negotiators

Unfortunately, dealing with a hostage situation is the weakest link in our system. Union home ministry’s guidelines of 2006 bar negotiations in a hostage situation. But any hostage crisis needs two complementary responses: security operations to rescue hostages, and negotiations. Negotiations are not only about conceding demands but also about playing for time while gathering intelligence for a security operation or for wearing the terrorists out. While we have the security forces for rescue operations, we have no trained negotiators. Although political leadership would decide on the demands, professional negotiators are required to undertake negotiations.

In the US, the FBI has a hostage rescue team for the security operations, along with a crisis negotiation unit (CNU) which manages negotiations. Israel has separate hostage handling teams for criminal and terrorist hostage events, each with a commando unit and a negotiating unit.