US fires Masood missile at Pak
Security gag on Kargil report
Great escape puts Delhi on Tibetan tightrope
Gamang dusts Hidden Talent
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Jan. 7 
As Harkat-ul Ansar chief Masood Azhar reached his hometown amid echoes of jihad cries, the United States cracked the terror whip and warned Pakistan it would be held responsible for the activities of the militant freed by India to buy the lives of 160 hijacked passengers.

‘‘Pakistan must assure the safety of Americans, Indians and all foreigners there. We will hold the government of Pakistan responsible for Masood’s activities which threaten the lives of our citizens,’’ state department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington today.

In his first public speech after the Kandahar trade-off, Masood said he would not ‘‘rest in peace until Kashmir is liberated’’.

‘‘I have come here because this is my duty to tell you that Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed America and India,’’ the Harkat leader was quoted as saying in Karachi on Wednesday.

Masood used Friday prayers in his hometown of Bawahalpur to reiterate his call for jihad against India. ‘‘There is no other way other than to wage jihad against India for Kashmir’s liberation,” Masood told the tens of thousands of people who had gathered outside a mosque to hear his sermon.

Rubin, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the peace talks between Israel and Syria in Shepherdstown, said: ‘‘We find the reported remarks deplorable and unacceptable. Such language feeds a climate of hostility against both countries and incites violence.’’

He urged Islamabad to investigate whether Masood’s activities have violated any Pakistani law. If so, Rubin said, Masood should be prosecuted accordingly.

India, which has urged the US to brand Pakistan a rogue state, said Rubin’s remarks are ‘‘an understandable reaction from what has been emanating from the terrorist groups that are allowed to thrive in Pakistan’’.

Foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said Masood’s statements are not the first time that threats have been issued by terrorist outfits based in Pakistan. Last November, the Lashkar-e-Toiba had made a similar statement, asking its followers to launch a jihad against India. ‘‘When we took the issue up with the Pakistan government, we were told that it was part of the freedom of speech policy practised by authorities in Islamabad,’’ Jassal said.

Rubin’s warning to Pakistan coincided with President Bill Clinton’s tough-talk on terrorism.

In his latest National Security Strategy report to the Congress, Clinton has asserted that the US ‘‘makes no concessions to terrorists’’ and reserves the right to strike terrorist bases, as it did unilaterally in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for hosting Osama bin Laden.

‘‘As long as terrorists continue to target American citizens, we reserve the right to act in self-defence by striking at their bases and those who sponsor, assist or actively support them,’’ the President warned.

He also sought to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries overseas, counter state support for terrorism and help other governments improve their capabilities to combat terror.

A day after home minister L.K. Advani produced ‘‘evidence’’ of Pakistan’s hand in the hijack, Delhi today said the onus was on Islamabad to either prosecute or extradite the five sky pirates, who, India says, are in Pakistan. ‘‘The onus has always been on Pakistan from the moment the hijackers landed in their territory,’’ Jassal said.

He pointed out that Pakistan was a signatory to several international conventions on hostage-taking.

Asked about the reaction to the ‘‘proof’’ furnished by Advani to establish that the hijackers are Pakistani nationals, Jassal said the evidence could prove what India has been saying.    

New Delhi, Jan. 7 
The Subrahmanyam committee probing events leading up to the Kargil incursions today handed its report to the Prime Minister, but recommended that its findings be kept secret in the interests of “national security”.

The suggestion has raised eyebrows in political circles, and is being seen as a smokescreen behind which the government is taking refuge in the face of potentially embarrassing disclosures. It had resorted to the same tactic last year after the controversial ouster of navy chief Vishnu Bhagwat.

A press release issued by the National Security Council Secretariat said: “Conscious of the fact that the disclosure of some of this information would not be in public interest for reasons of national security, the committee has itself excised the same from its report. In so doing, it has followed a well- established procedure prevalent in many democracies.”

The Opposition had raised a storm soon after the panel was set up last July, alleging that it was an “eyewash” to cover up lapses by the army and intelligence agencies.

They had attacked the government for setting up a team of retired officials and “outsiders” who had no statutory authority to access files or interrogate government officers, including armymen. The panel is headed by defence analyst K. Subrahmanyam, and has as members journalist B.G. Verghese, Lt. Gen. (retd) K.K. Hazari and Joint Intelligence Committee chairman Satish Chandra.

The panel, however, claimed to have accessed top secret Central and state government documents. It held over 100 meetings with political leaders, civilian and military officers, serving and former diplomats, journalists and members of the public.

To establish that it had done a foolproof job, the panel claimed it had met Vajpayee, former President R. Venkataraman, former Prime Ministers V.P. Singh and P.V. Narasimha Rao, home minister L.K. Advani, defence minister George Fernandes, national security adviser Brajesh Mishra, Cabinet secretary Prabhat Kumar, the three services chiefs, secretaries of ministries concerned, heads of intelligence agencies and armymen involved in Operation Vijay.

The panel was initially asked to submit its report by October 31, 1999. But it said today it was not able to meet the deadline “on account of Lok Sabha elections and government formation”. As it was “unable to interact with a number of key actors in time”, it requested the Centre for an extension till December 15.

Another reason given for overshooting the deadline was that the report ran into over 2,000 pages in 17 volumes. Hence the committee secretariat needed more time for its compilation, printing and binding.    

New Delhi, Jan. 7 
The Tibetan issue has pushed India back on the tightrope, with the 17th Karmapa — third in importance in the Buddhist hierarchy — escaping from a monastery and trekking across to Dharamshala.

Fourteen-year-old Urgyen Trinley Dorje is the most important Tibetan figure to ‘‘defect’’ since his predecessor, the 16th Karmapa, and other Buddhist clerics, including the current Dalai Lama, fled after an abortive anti-Chinese uprising in 1959. The young Karmapa, head of the rich and powerful Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, ranks third in the spiritual hierarchy behind the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama.

Realising that the issue could create a fresh strain in relations with China, foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said he would not comment ‘‘either directly or indirectly’’ until he had the facts. Some Indian officials are reported to have been sent to Dharamshala to talk to Dorje, who is also the heir apparent to the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, headquarters-in-exile of the Kagyu sect.

The Tibetans’ role in India is not well-defined. Though Delhi has allowed them to set up their government-in-exile, it has refused them political rights. But this has not stopped Tibetan protest marches aimed at highlighting the ‘‘brutalities’’ being committed by Beijing in Tibet.

Senior lamas have confirmed that the 17th Karmapa, accompanied by a small group of monks, slipped past his guards at Tsurphu monastery on December 28. They walked across rugged mountain terrain to reach Dharamshala yesterday. ‘‘He has come,’’ said Desang, cabinet secretary in the exile administration of the Dalai Lama.

If the Karmapa has indeed fled, it will be deep embarrassment for the Chinese and a major setback to Beijing’s campaign to divide Tibetan allegiances. In 1992, Chinese leaders installed Dorje as the head of the Kagyu order and used him as a symbol of their rule over Tibet. He was enthroned at Tsurphu, traditional seat of the Karmapas, in an elaborate ceremony sanctioned by the Chinese authorities.

China’s State Council Information Office acknowledged that the Karmapa had left his monastery in central Tibet with a ‘‘small number of followers’’, the Xinhua agency said.

The Xinhua report said the Karmapa had gone abroad to get musical instruments and the black hats used by his predecessors for the Buddhist mass and cited a letter saying he did not mean to ‘‘betray the state, the nation, the monastery or the leadership’’.

India cannot gloat over the ‘‘defection’’ until it can ascertain whether the Karmapa has taken exile here or has come to visit the Dalai Lama for a short period. If Delhi welcomes him, it will be a shift in its stand as in the past India had contested his claim as the heir to Rumtek.

In private, however, officials here said Dorje’s presence could help India as the Dalai Lama will get enough time to ‘‘de-indoctrinate’’ him from the Chinese influence. He can take over as the head of Rumtek only after he is 21.

The Kagyu sect, known as the Black Hats, was once Tibet’s most politically powerful. It has built a global organisation and is said to be worth millions of dollars.

The 16th Karmapa, Gyalwang, died in 1982 without announcing his heir, triggering a bitter race for succession between two groups, one led by his disciple Tai Saitupa and the other by his nephew Shamar Rinpoche.

Saitupa, with the backing of some other monks, found Dorje in 1992 — then nine years old — in Tibet and claimed he was the heir. But Rinpoche tried to prop Tenzin Chenstse, an 11-year-old Indian boy, as the real heir.

Saitupa then worked with the Chinese to see the boy installed at Tsurphu. He has been living there since, under surveillance.

India, which had opposed the Chinese move, was cut up with Saitupa for his links with Beijing. Previous governments had barred him from entering the country. But he was allowed entry in 1998 after the BJP government came to power.    

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 7 
After his abortive stint as Orissa chief minister, Giridhar Gamang is yearning to return to his first love: music. He is now reviving his troupe, Hidden Talent.

“I have had enough of power. I want to go back to where my heart is,” said the 58-year-old nimble-footed politician. “Music is what turns me on, not power.”

Gamang said he was not going to contest the coming Assembly elections. “Why should I?” he asked. “I had quit as an MP to be chief minister, not an MLA.”

He said it was up to the Congress high command to find a candidate for Lakshmipur, the seat he won in a byelection after becoming chief minister. Gamang also does not want to contest the Lok Sabha polls any longer from Koraput, the seat he gave to his wife, Hema, after holding it for nearly three decades.

“I want my wife to continue as an MP from Koraput. At best, I may work for her in future,” he said.

The Congress leader, who lost his chair over his handling of cyclone relief, said he was busy gathering back his troupe, Hidden Talent, which was disbanded after he became chief minister.

He said he was longing to perform to packed houses, swaying his audience once again to the taps of his feet and the beats of his dham, a drum-like instrument he claims to have invented.

“I want to perform with my troupe all over the country, especially in Calcutta and Chennai, where people appreciate good music,” Gamang said. “I still remember how people responded to my music at the Dover Lane Music Conference in Calcutta a few years ago.”

He said he had no regrets as a politician because he had already achieved what he wanted.

“From a poor tribal family in a remote village, I worked my way up to the top, becoming Union minister and finally chief minister. How many people can claim this?” he asked.

But the manner in which he was asked to resign as chief minister still rankles. Gamang said Madhavrao Scindia, who was in charge of Orissa affairs, had stabbed him in the back. He denied he had “misbehaved” with the leader.

“Scindia should have had the decency to call me to where he was staying and discuss my resignation. Instead, he came to my house uninvited and insisted that I resign. When I refused to meet him, he went back and said I had humiliated him.”

Gamang would not say how long his political sanyas would last. “I am now a free man guided by myself. All that I want now is to return to my music.”    

Today’s forecast: Mainly clear sky. Slight fall in night temperature. Max. temperature: 22.9°C (4° below normal) Min. temperature: 10.4°C (3° below normal) Maximum humidity: 90% Minimum humidity: 36% Rainfall: Nil Sunset: 5.02 pm Sunrise: 6.24 am    

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