Delhi dodges Beijing trap
Crime serial maker’s wife dead
Deal done on unverified message

 
 
DELHI DODGES BEIJING TRAP 
 
 
FROM SUJAY GUPTA IN MCLEODGUNJ AND PRANAY SHARMA IN NEW DELHI
 
Jan. 11 
India is weighing the option of granting refugee status to the teenage Buddhist leader who escaped from a Tibet monastery as China flashed a warning against giving him political asylum.

In Dharamshala, an official in the Dalai Lama’s administration said the process of registering Urgyen Trinley Dorje — the spiritual head, or Karmapa, of the Kagyu sect — under the foreigner’s Act ‘‘will begin shortly’’. The Indian government issues certificates to all Tibetan refugees. Even the Dalai Lama has one.

Officially, Delhi is treading cautiously as the Karmapa’s flight and its fallout could have a bearing on the fragile relations with Beijing. In private, however, senior officials said the Karmapa would be treated as another ‘‘Tibetan refugee’’. Though this will tantamount to granting him political asylum, Delhi is not willing to describe it as such.

Officials said that ‘‘the Karmapa will have to make an application for seeking refugee status in India’’. However, the application is just part of the formality and a decision is already believed to have been taken to treat him like other Tibetans refugees, who number around 1.3 lakh.

Breaking its silence, China today issued a veiled threat that if India grants asylum to the Karmapa, it would amount to a violation of the ‘‘five principles of peaceful co-existence’’ to which both countries are signatories.

“China and India have stated in explicit terms that they will develop and improve bilateral relations and on relevant issues, the Indian side has made commitments. We hope India will strictly observe its commitments so as to further improve and develop relations,’’ agency reports quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhu Bangzao as saying.

The official argued that ‘‘India has said in explicit terms that it recognises Tibet as an inalienable part of Chinese territory and that the Dalai Lama cannot engage in political activities in India. I think it is well aware of this’’.

India is tiptoeing on the tricky diplomatic terrain as any wrong step could upset the delicate balance with China. Though the Karmapa is likely to be accorded refugee status, officials here are trying to treat the issue as a religious rather than a political one.

‘‘He is a revered figure among Tibetan Buddhists and it’s a religious matter on which we have nothing to say,’’ an official said. But, he added, ‘‘his status as refugee almost comes automatically’’.

India is trying to balance itself on the tightrope by arguing that refugees from all countries, and not just Tibet, have sought shelter here. At the same time, by terming the issue ‘‘religious’’, Delhi wants to assure Beijing that the Karmapa would not be allowed political rights.

The Dalai Lama’s administration, while refusing to ask for asylum ‘‘at this juncture’’, has left the final decision to the Indian government.

Speaking after a meeting of the Kashag (Cabinet), religious affairs minister Tashi Wangdi said: ‘‘The government of India is well aware of the situation as it exists now and it is up to it to take a decision.”

Stating that the government-in-exile will not seek political asylum for the Buddhist leader, Wangdi said: ‘‘The actual request has to be made by the Karmapa himself. We can’t do it until we know the details of the circumstances that made him leave Tibet.’’.

The Karmapa, who is recuperating from his eight-day Himalayan trek, is yet to disclose his plans but the Tibetan top brass attending to him feels that he intends staying back in India. Though the Dalai Lama’s officials are tightlipped on his whereabouts, the teenager is believed to be staying at the Gyoto Ranpoche temple, 15 km from Dharamshala.

That the Karmapa — recognised by both China and the Dalai Lama — fled on his own accord has made India’s task easier. By recognising his status as the heir to Rumtek monastery — the Kagyu’s headquarters-in-exile — Delhi can tell Beijing that it is toeing its line on who should get the Black Crown. Amid the controversy, a third contender surfaced today and staked his claim on the Rumtek throne.

As the Tibetan administration pondered over what forced the Karmapa to escape, officials insisted that despite the allegations of persecution by Chinese authorities, the Dalai Lama’s ‘‘middle path’’ — of working out a solution within the framework of Tibet as a part of China — should not be renounced.

‘‘Though the situation (in Tibet) is getting worse in terms of human rights violations,’’ Wangdi said, ‘‘these are symptoms of a larger problem. The problem has to be tackled, not the symptoms. From the Chinese point of view, His Holiness is the best person they can have at the helm of affairs for any negotiated settlement.’’    


 
 
CRIME SERIAL MAKER’S WIFE DEAD 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 11 
The wife of Shoaib Illyasi, producer of the popular TV serial India’s Most Wanted, died from stab injuries inflicted in her east Delhi apartment around midnight yesterday.

Police are approaching the case carefully as the victim was the wife of a man whose serial has led to the arrest of several wanted criminals. But Illyasi has said Anju stabbed herself after a row.

Revenge does not appear to be the motive, though Illyasi had received death threats after criminals were caught on the basis of clues provided in Most Wanted. He had been given police cover.

In his statement to the police this morning, Illyasi said Anju stabbed herself after an altercation. The quarrel is believed to have taken place between 11 pm and 11.30 pm last night.

Soon after, she plunged a large kitchen knife into her abdomen. Illyasi is learnt to have taken her to a nursing home in Mayur Vihar — the couple had moved into the IFS housing society a few months ago. But the clinic refused to treat the victim as it was a police case.

A profusely bleeding Anju was apparently rushed to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences where she was declared “brought dead”. Officially, her death was recorded as having taken place at 12.36 am.

What is baffling the police is why Illyasi, well-versed in criminal laws, did not call up the local Trilokpuri police station immediately after his wife stabbed herself. The first call to the police station was made well after 1 am. The only witnesses to the death are Illyasi himself and his two-year-old child.

The police refuse to say if the case is one of homicide. They have maintained so far that it is a suicide, though there are enough indications to suggest otherwise.

Though forensic experts did examine the flat and lifted fingerprints, police sources do not rule out the wiping away of some fingerprints from the knife handle and impressing the victim’s on the blade.

A panel of three senior doctors has been set up to conduct the post-mortem, an indication that the police are not prepared to declare outright that it was a suicide.

The instrument used to inflict the stab wounds is the largest kitchen knife from a set of six. “Normally, a person temporarily possessed with insanity can commit suicide. But what is baffling is why should a person use the largest knife,” a police officer said.

He said there were two stab wounds in the abdomen. “Again, for a woman to knife herself twice is rare,” the officer said, adding cautiously that only the post-mortem and forensic reports could establish a suicide or a homicide.

Illyasi and his child are being examined by the police. Illyasi has refused to speak to reporters and till evening was believed to have shifted to his in-laws’ residence in Patparganj. The child has been moved to a Kasturba Gandhi Marg mosque where Illyasi used to stay with his father, a maulana, until a few months ago.

Anju’s death follows two other cases of journalists being killed in the capital over the past one year.

Illyasi shot into prominence with his serial which was first aired a few years ago on Zee TV. But a strain in the relationship between him and Zee caused the serial to be discontinued.

He then began producing another serial for Doordarshan called Fugitive, whose content and objective was essentially the same as Most Wanted. However, last month he patched up with Zee which gave him the contract to produce Most Wanted again.    


 
 
DEAL DONE ON UNVERIFIED MESSAGE 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
New Delhi, Jan. 11 
The critical decision to swap three militants for the passengers of IC 814 was taken after the crisis management group (CMG) received a message that the hijackers would blow up the Airbus 300 along with the hostages unless Delhi gave in to terrorist demands.

The crucial message, it turns out, was received not through any foreign government, the UN or any intermediaries who had a role in the Kandahar negotiations.

A Jet Airways plane received the message which was being relayed by the hijackers to their contacts in Mumbai. The CMG was told that the message was being sent on the same frequency as the one which the Mumbai-bound aircraft was operating.

The CMG unquestioningly accepted the Jet Airways pilot’s version of the “final” threat. The government made no effort to verify if the terrorists had, indeed, threatened to blow up IC 814 before delivering Masood Azhar and two other militants into the arms of the hijackers.

On the face of it, there is no reason to doubt the Mumbai-bound pilot’s version of events. But sections of the government are aghast at the implications of the way a decision was taken to strike a deal with the hijackers.

They point out that this way any pilot — from a Saudi, Kuwaiti or Qatari airliner — could have conveyed a similar message.

The Saudis, for example, have close links with the Taliban: they have jettisoned the Burhanuddin Rabbani government and established diplomatic relations with Mullah Omar’s militia.

Those in the government who are angry with the Kandahar deal point out that Jet Airways was nurtured in its nascent years by Gulf Air and Kuwait Airways. Gulf Air is owned by four Gulf states, including Abu Dhabi, which, like Saudi Arabia has recognised the Taliban regime.

Gulf Air and Kuwait Airways even owned 40 per cent of Jet Airways until the United Front government insisted that they should divest this equity.

Sources in the government say they do not suspect any conspiracy by the airline. At the same time they point out that when an Egypt Air plane crashed recently after taking off from New York, it was said that the pilot, allegedly a religious fundamentalist, had said Islamic prayers before plunging the plane into the sea.

There is consternation in the government that the turning point in the negotiations was an unverified message. Only hours before this message, the Indian negotiators had refused to accede to terrorist demands. The hijackers had told their hostages so.

At several stages during the negotiations, tension ran high between the CMG and Indian Airlines. But the worst moment was when an official of the National Security Guards (NSG) asked Indian Airlines if he and his colleagues would be paid dearness allowance at government rates or airline rates if the NSG was asked to mount a commando operation.

At one point, the communication equipment used by the negotiators to talk to Delhi broke down. Indian Airlines desperately sought Iridium phones, which are difficult to get at short notice.

But Iridium not only procured the phones but also gave these free of cost to Indian Airlines, which in turn, rushed them to the negotiators. But on the day the hijack ended, IA wanted to talk to one of its officials at Kandahar airport.

But a government official who answered the call from Delhi said he could not connect the airline staffer. The reason: he was in the Kandahar bazaar shopping for dry fruits.    

 

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