US vets Delhi hijack proof against Pak
Sikkim plays safe on Rumtek heir
Dalai kin for India hand in Tibet tangle
Bengal boss for SPG
Allies drive support-for-seat bargain
Cong sniffs culture coup sequel
Foreign entry splits lawyers

New Delhi, Jan. 9 
The Clinton administration and US intelligence agencies are looking into evidence provided by India to establish Pakistan’s complicity in the hijack of the Indian Airlines airbus, visiting US Congressman Sam Gejdenson said.

He said Pakistan’s “time-line” has been shortened by the hijack, and international focus is back on Islamabad, with world leaders expecting its military rulers to take urgent steps to fight terrorism and restore democracy.

“Certainly we are going to look at the evidence provided by India and so will the intelligence agencies,” Gejdenson said, replying to a question on American reaction to India’s charges that Pakistan was behind the hijacking.

Saying that Washington was keenly watching what steps Islamabad took in the aftermath of the hijack to combat terrorists groups operating from its territory, Gejdenson said President Bill Clinton would not visit Pakistan when he comes to India in March.

Gejdenson, who belongs to the ruling Democrat party, is also the “ranking-member” of the House International Relations Committee, which makes him second after the chairman of this body whose inputs play a major role in formulating US foreign policy.

Over the past two days, he has met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and senior leaders, including foreign minister Jaswant Singh and defence minister George Fernandes. The hijack was one of the main issues discussed at these meetings.

The Indian leadership is taking Gejdenson’s views seriously as he may be elected chairman of the House International Relations Committee later this year.

According to Gejdenson, there is a convergence of views between India and the US on a number of issues like combating terrorism, human rights and civil liberties.

The nuclear issue, particularly India’s signature on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, was important for Washington, but he said it would not stand in the way if Delhi did not sign it before Clinton’s visit.

“I don’t think it’s a wall. Though I think a signature on the treaty will help,” he said, adding “the difference, perhaps, will be in a good visit and a great visit”.

While making it clear that most world leaders were against expanding the nuclear club — now restricted to only five countries —Gejdenson hoped that a way out would be found to accommodate the new nuclear powers.

Referring to the forthcoming meeting between Jaswant and US deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott in London this month, he said: “Diplomats are very creative people and I am sure they will find a way out.” He added that there was a difference between “structural reality and ground reality”.

Travel agent held

A travel agent and his two employees, who supplied fake passports to four ISI agents linked to the hijackers of the Indian Airlines aircraft, were arrested in Mumbai by the crime branch yesterday. Suresh Bhatt Nathe, the owner of the agency, Prakash Jadhav and Vishnu Yeram were held after crime branch sleuths swooped down on their agency.    

New Delhi, Jan. 9 
The Sikkim government today said it was happy that the 17th Karmapa was in India but would abide by the “collective wisdom of the Indian government” to accept him as the head of the Rumtek monastery. As head of Rumtek, he becomes the spiritual leader of one-fifth of the Tibetan Lama population and followers of the Kagyu sect in the world.

Speaking to The Telegraph, chief secretary Sonam Wangdi said Sikkim locals were “rejoicing” and were hopeful that the historic Rumtek Monastery, which had not had a head for almost 17 years, would finally have one.

He agreed that “once the Dalai Lama accepted Urgyen Thinley Dorje as the Kagyu leader, the people of Sikkim had come to repose their faith in the 14-year-old.” He hinted that the earlier controversy, being rekindled by a faction within the Kagyu clergy, would die once the Indian government accepted the Karmapa. Chief minister Pawan Chamling is generally agreeable to Dorje becoming the head monk.

State government sources said the controversy over Dorje’s appointment was dying down as the main opposition under Shamar Rinpoche was losing clout. Rinpoche was not able to persist with his fight against the choice which had been made by two senior monks of the sect, including the 12th Tai Situpa almost seven years ago, they added.

Rinpoche, nephew of the 16th Karmapa, had been insisting that the Tai Situpa had wrongly interpreted the “signs” left by the earlier head monk on what his successor would be like and had deliberately chosen a Tibetan Buddhist to gratify his Chinese government patrons in Beijing.

For the past seven years, Rinpoche, with a small band of followers, has been waging a battle that he had made the right choice as divined by the earlier Karmapa and that the mantle should be passed to Tenzin Chentse, an Indian boy.

Officially, Dorje cannot be appointed before he turns 21. But the question of heir-apparent has to be settled.

The sources said a definite choice by the Indian government would help streamline the Rumtek administration. The present monks, though disciplined, have not been able to give a proper direction to the Kagyu sect for almost two decades now.

It is likely that Union law minister Ram Jethmalani will play a major role in the Indian government’s final decision. He has been a friend of the 12th Tai Situpa. It was Jethmalani who prevailed upon the Union government to allow the Tai Situpa entry into the country.

Jethmalani will probably back the Tai Situpa’s choice and support Dorje.    

Calcutta, Jan. 9 
“China only understands the language of violence. I definitely think that it’s time that the Tibetan movement took a military approach, and that India took an active interest in it,” Tenzin Choegyal told The Telegraph recently.

Fighting words from a former paratrooper with the Indian army, who also happens to be the youngest brother of the Dalai Lama.

Till 1995, Choegyal was a vital member of the Tibetan government-in-exile at Dharamshala. Disillusioned with the way things were going, he opted out of “public life”, but remained faithful to his brother, and stayed in touch with his friends in the Indian army (which he had served from 1975 to 1977), as well those in the political establishment.

Elaborating on the “role of India” in the Tibet tangle, Choegyal said: “The polarisation of power in the years to come will be USA vs China. And India will have to play an important role in it. There is a growing perception within the Indian military establishment, led by George Fernandes, that China is a far greater threat in the long run than Pakistan. So, it is in India’s interest to solve the border problem with China, once and for all, with Tibet acting as a buffer zone.”

If Tibet is “buffer” for one brother, it is “bridge” for another.

“Tibet can act as a good bridge between the two Asian giants (India and China),” the Dalai Lama told The Telegraph during a recent chat at his official residence in Dharamshala.

As talk turned to “old friend Vajpayee“ seeking his blessings before the elections, His Holiness let out a hearty laugh before mulling over the question of the BJP-led government playing “a more open role on the Tibet issue”.

“I know many of the leaders in the present government are very sympathetic. George Fernandes, the defence minister, has been fully committed to the Tibetan issue from the beginning. But then, it’s a government and how much they can do is very difficult to say. It depends on many circumstances,” he said.

While warning that “China has moved nuclear weapons into Tibet”, the Dalai Lama reiterated his commitment to the “middle path”, — demanding autonomy for Tibet through peaceful means.

Dismissing his younger brother’s demands for an “armed struggle”, the Dalai Lama said it was neither “practical” nor “morally correct” to turn to arms.

“I believe that in the short run, the power of the gun is effective, but in the long run, only the power of truth endures.”    

New Delhi, Jan. 9 
A West Bengal cadre Indian Police Service (IPS) officer has been appointed director of the elite Special Protection Group (SPG), which provides security to the Prime Minister and other VIPs, including former Prime Ministers and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The Centre appointed Intelligence Bureau (IB) additional director Tushar Mitra, a 1968 batch officer, a few days ago. He will replace M.K. Reddy, who has been “rewarded” with a foreign posting by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The Prime Minister is believed to have expressed “satisfaction” over Reddy’s work. The outgoing SPG chief will head for a three-year assignment in a European country.

Mitra is the second West Bengal cadre officer to be appointed SPG chief. IB director Shyamal Dutta, who belongs to the 1965 batch, had served as head of the elite force before he took over his present job. Government sources, however, said that “nothing should be read into this” because the appointment was made after the due process of empanelment of additional director-level officials.    

New Delhi, Jan. 9 
With just a month left for the Assembly elections in Bihar, Orissa, Haryana and Manipur, the allies are driving a hard bargain to extract maximum number of seats from the BJP.

The saffron allies, the Janata Dal (United) and the Samata Party in Bihar, the Biju Janata Dal in Orissa and the Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana are demanding their pound of flesh to keep the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre going smoothly. The BJP does not have much stake in Manipur.

The failure of the Janata Dal (United) and the Samata Party to merge has eased BJP’s problem in dealing with a more cohesive party. But it is also wary of the Rashtriya Janata Dal taking advantage of the split in the NDA.

In Orissa, the central leadership is keen on cobbling together a compromise formula with the BJD, as state leaders are vehemently opposed to any climbdown from their demand for a 50:50 seat split.

Sources close to Union minister Naveen Patnaik said a “reasonable formula” was suggested but the state leaders were mounting pressure on their bosses in Delhi not to accept the proposal.

Under the formula both parties straightaway get their existing strength in the House of 147, comprising 37 BJD and 10 BJP members. The remaining 100 seats are shared equally. This means the BJD gets 87 and the BJP 60 seats.

State BJP president Manmohan Samal insists on a 50:50 seat share or at the most 70 per cent of seats for the party.

State leaders are also opposed to Naveen Patnaik being projected as the chief minister but the BJP central leadership is in favour of it. The BJP wants Union minister for tribal affairs Juel Oram to step in after Patnaik is allowed to “mess around for some time”.

The Samata Party, which was apprehensive of Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav cornering a major share of Assembly tickets, yesterday said it would demand 130 out of the 324 seats in Bihar.

Party leaders said if the BJP contested between 160 to 180 seats, the Janata Dal (United), according to their 1995 Assembly election performance, should get at least 17 seats. The remaining seats could be given to the Bihar People’s Party led by Anand Mohan.

The split has compounded the BJP’s problem as it now has to satisfy both the Janata Dal (United) and the Samata Party. Party bosses feel that both Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are vital for long-term gains.

But no concrete formula has emerged between the BJP and the Samata Party despite two rounds of talks. Janata Dal (United) sources said they were waiting for the outcome of BJP-Samata talks, and would negotiate with the BJP directly if they failed to forge an electoral understanding with the Samata Party.

In Haryana, the BJP was literally taken for a ride by chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, who had earlier agreed to part with 35 out of the 90 Assembly seats. But last week, he changed tack and agreed to concede only 20 seats.

Moreover he even wants to scrutinise our list “to see if ours are winning candidates,” said an embittered BJP leader who had taken part in discussions with the INLD chief.    

New Delhi, Jan. 9 
The Congress sees a pattern in the BJP-led government’s move to purge autonomous institutions of pro-Congress and liberal intellectuals. The Congress feels that after axing Sonia Gandhi as life president of Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, the BJP has set its eyes on some other trusts.

Though officially the Congress has not reacted to the dethroning of Sonia, loyalists challenging the government order in court is not ruled out. “As a policy, we have decided not to comment,” said a source. He said the party had nothing to do with the government’s decision. “It is a trust and we, as a party, are not involved,” he said.

Some Congressmen said the BJP is emulating the communists, which had a knack for surreptitiously infiltrating institutions before World War II. The saffron party is adopting the “strategies and techniques” of the Leftand the “politics” of the third front, said party leader V.N. Gadgil today.

The government has, in one sweep, purged the IGNCA of all Gandhi family loyalists. Of the new trustees, some are BJP sympathisers.

The Congress fears that by co-opting them, the BJP is trying to gradually saffronise those who are not rightwing intellectuals.

Gadgil alleged that the next targets will be the Nehru Museum and Library, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and Jallianwala Bagh Trust.

Accusing the BJP of using state power to appoint its own “die-hard, committed” people to posts and positions in autonomous institutions, he said the Indian Council of Historic Research, Indian Council of Social Sciences Research and Prasar Bharati were “now the objects of infiltration by the Sangh parivar”.

Exhorting Congressmen to educate people about the dangers inherent in such an approach, he said: “If the trend is allowed to continue, there will be fresh assaults, attacks and assassination of autonomy of institutions leading to intolerance and elimination of dissent.”

Gadgil said the “right” represented by the Sangh parivar was the “real threat” to all democratic values and institutions.

Criticising the BJP’s decision in Gujarat to remove the ban on government employees from participating in activities of the RSS, he said this was the “latest evidence of politics of infiltration” practised by the Sangh parivar and the BJP. He also alleged that the vice-chancellors of all universities in Gujarat were persons with RSS background.    

New Delhi, Jan. 9 
Lawyers are sharply divided over the entry of foreign legal firms in India. While many bar associations oppose the permission given to the firms to open shop in India, another group is lobbying vociferously for it.

The country’s largest lawyers’ association, the Delhi Bar Association, which is leading the protest, took to the streets in Delhi recently to protest the move.

“Allowing foreign firms to function in India would be like setting up ill-equipped nursing homes. Even non-lawyers would be allowed to open their shops. Ironically, no Indian lawyer would be allowed to practise anywhere abroad. Even England, model of the Indian legal system, prevents Indian lawyers to practise there. We Indians have to undergo a bridge course to practise there. It is peculiar,” says association secretary Rajiv Khosla.

The association fears that the entry of foreign firms would defeat the purpose of the Indian Advocates Act, 1961. Under section 24 of the Act, a practitioner should be a citizen of India. “How come foreigners can do business here then?” Khosla asks.

However, the government is contemplating amending the Advocates Act, which would ease the entry of foreign firms.

The Law Commission says under the General Agreement on Trade and Services, to which India is a party, it is mandatory to allow foreign firms in India. Calling upon the “legal community to prepare itself for future challenges”, a commission communiqué states that “within a period of five years from January 1, 1995”, India “would be under an obligation to” allow the entry of foreign law firms.

Beginning January 2,000, the obligation has become a “mandate” according to the commission, which has also prepared a working paper suggesting “safeguards”.

The panel has called for opinions from various quarters. After “receiving inputs from all concerned, the report on the subject would be sent to the law ministry”, a commission communiqué says.

“It will then be for the government to take a view on the commission’s representations,” the communiqué says.

The commission had already called for amending the Advocates Act “which would arm the Bar Council of India with necessary power to meet the challenges ahead”.

“The Bar Council of India has to choose appropriate model suiting conditions of our country so that appropriate amendments could be made in the Advocates Act.”

Attorney general Soli J. Sorabjee leads the lobby favouring the entry of foreign firms. “I, as a member of the international bar association, welcome the step, but cannot comment as attorney general of the country,” he said.

Sorabjee feels the entry of foreign firms would “help increase the standard of the Indian legal system”.

The Law Commission says law firms in India are “family controlled” and only a few offer “single window services”. Single window services render not only legal assistance but also accountancy, financial and other advice to the clients.    


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