Clinton sets pitch for mediation
Kargil report to be tabled
Pre-budget secretarial reshuffle
CPM rebel on rehabilitation road
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Feb. 4 
Indicating that he would like to play peacemaker between India and Pakistan, President Bill Clinton has said he would ‘‘most probably’’ visit Islamabad as part of his attempts to resolve the dispute over Kashmir which had made the subcontinent the ‘‘most dangerous place in the world’’.

As Clinton expressed his desire to act as mediator, India stepped up its attack on Pakistan with Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee accusing it of destabilising the economy by pumping in fake currency notes. ‘‘We will smash such conspiracies,’’ he said.

At the national prayer breakfast in Washington yesterday, the US President said he was anguished by the simmering tension in the subcontinent which had become ‘‘the most dangerous place in the world because of the confrontation between two nuclear-armed neighbours over Kashmir’’.

Though India is lobbying with US officials to persuade the President not to visit Pakistan, Clinton indicated he would. ‘‘Most probably I will,’’ he told former Pakistan Premier Benazir Bhutto at the prayer breakfast meet. The President is scheduled to visit India and Bangladesh next month.

As part of his efforts to convince Clinton to put Islamabad on his itinerary, Pakistan’s army ruler Pervez Musharraf said he believed in democracy. ‘‘Basically I believe in democracy. A democratic vision. The final decision is made by the leader, but this should come through a democratic process,’’ he said. The statement follows the decision to put the head of government, not the army, in overall charge of Pakistan’s nuclear command.

Clinton offered to help revive the stalled dialogue between the nuclear twins during a meeting with Pakistan ambassador Maleeha Lodhi yesterday. ‘‘The US is prepared to work extensively to see dialogue between India and Pakistan on all issues resume and intensify,’’ Clinton said.

‘‘However, to make progress in this area, the cycle of mistrust and violence must be broken. I am personally committed to do what I can towards this objective,’’ he added.

India, in the past, has turned down offers made by different countries to mediate in its disputes with Pakistan. Delhi maintains that while it is ready for a dialogue with Islamabad, the administration there has to create the ‘‘right atmosphere’’ by ending terror export to Kashmir. To that extent, India will see Clinton’s statement as a fillip to its stand.

In an attempt to send out the signal that Delhi is not dependent on Washington to fight cross-border terror, the Vajpayee government has lined up a joint working group meeting with Russia later this month to discuss the rise in insurgency in central and east Asia. Sources indicated that the talks would focus on combating terrorist outfits raised and trained in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Russia is waging a protracted war with Islamic terrorists in Chechnya and Dagestan.

The Prime Minister made it clear that the country was capable of striking out at its foes on its own. ‘‘There are conspiracies going on because enemies don’t want to see us prosper. Fake currency notes are being pumped into our country to disrupt our economy,’’ he said at the inauguration of the Bhagwan Shranbhdev International Mahotsav here. India, he asserted, had ‘‘braved’’ similar situations in the past and would do so in the future.

Vajpayee justified the Kandahar militant-for-hostage swap which had triggered howls of protest from the Opposition as well as from hardliners in the BJP. The Prime Minister described the hijack crisis as a ‘‘dharam sankat’’ (horns of a dilemma) as the government was forced to take the hard decision to save the lives of 160 people.

He argued that the situation was such that even bloodshed could not have saved the lives of the hostages. ‘‘We had to take a decision despite knowing that it would evoke criticism,’’ Vajpayee said. ‘‘Had the hostages been my family members, I would not have thought for a moment to sacrifice them.’’

Vajpayee’s remarks seemed part of the government’s defence to charges likely to be levelled against it by the Opposition during the Assembly elections.    

New Delhi, Feb. 4 
In a political move that will not go down well with the army and bureaucracy, the BJP-led government has decided to place the Subrahmanyam Committee report on the Kargil incursions before Parliament.

The decision to table the report in both Houses comes despite strong objections raised by the three service chiefs in yesterday’s Cabinet Committee on Security meeting. The session, chaired by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, was attended by home minister L.K. Advani and defence minister George Fernandes, and was reported to be inconclusive.

But highly-placed government sources today told The Telegraph that Vajpayee and Advani, in consultation with Fernandes, had decided to table the 2,000-page report — which also made several recommendations on how to strengthen security along the LoC — after the general budget is presented on February 29.

The sources said the full report, along with annexures relating to “sensitive” and “top secret” documents from the army, ministries of defence and home, intelligence establishments and other organisations, including the paramilitary forces, will be tabled. The government is still working on the exact day the report can be placed in both Houses.

The Subrahmanyam Committee had initially recommended that the report be kept secret on grounds of “national security”. But panel chairman K. Subrahmanyam later said it was up to the government to make the report public fully or partially.

“The government has taken a principled stand and though the committee has made some candid revelations, it has been decided at the highest levels that the findings and the recommendations of the review panel will not be made public in the general sense but placed in Parliament so that a healthy debate takes place. After all, the Congress had also raised a hue and cry on the so-called intelligence lapses,” the sources said, adding the matter will be placed before the Cabinet.

The BJP and NDA leaderships have reconciled to the view that the government will “not hide” any aspect of the Kargil episode from the people. The government, according to sources, will be better placed to table the report in Parliament at month-end because Assembly elections in Bihar, Orissa, Haryana and Manipur will be over by then.

Conceding that the army had objected to making the report public, a government source said: “By nature, the armed forces, which are institutionalised and therefore part of the establishment, are temperamentally conservative.”

Another reason for the Centre’s “positive” decision is that apart from Brig. Surinder Singh, the then commander of the Kargil-based 121 Infantry Brigade, and his immediate superior, general-officer-commanding, 3rd Division Maj. Gen. V.S. Budhwar, the four-member panel has not fixed individual responsibility on senior officers for failing to detect the intrusions.

The army, particularly, had strong reservations about the government making the report public as sensitive documents on troop deployment and intelligence-gathering will be brought into public domain. The report, however, has delved into “systemic” failures that led to the slackening of guard along the LoC.

Since the committee was not given statutory powers — it was not a panel of inquiry — no action taken report will be placed.    

New Delhi, Feb. 4 
The government today shuffled secretary-level bureaucrats in some ministries in the run-up to the budget.

It also decided to appoint former Lok Sabha secretary-general Subhas Kashyap member secretary to the National Commission that will review the Constitution. Former chief justice M.N. Venkatachalaiah has already been appointed chairman.

In the bureaucratic reshuffle, the textiles secretary has swapped places with telecom secretary Anil Kumar. Coming a few weeks before the budget, these changes in key financial ministries are considered significant. Government sources said the changes would not really affect the budget-making exercise because all inputs had been passed on to the finance ministry and no alterations have been allowed.

P.L. Sanjiva Reddy, secretary of the rural development ministry, has got company affairs. He will be succeeded by Arun Bhatnagar, secretary of youth affairs and sports. N.N. Khanna, who was special secretary, commerce, and looked after World Trade Organisation issues, has been made the new youth affairs and sports secretary. Most changes were described as “routine”.

Mumbai-based constitutional expert Rafiq Zakaria is expected to join the constitution review panel. The BJP wants minority representation in the commission to shut out unnecessary criticism. The 11-member commission will have a chairman, a member-secretary and nine members.    

Calcutta, Feb. 4 
The Bengal CPM today began to pave the way for rebel Saifuddin Choudhury’s programmed rehabilitation after announcing he has regretted his public criticism of the party.

CPM officials associated with the rehabilitation exercise said Choudhury will be involved increasingly in the party’s activities in the state.

As a first step towards this, Choudhury will be deployed as one of the frontline campaigners in the ensuing Calcutta Municipal Corporation polls.

The rehabilitation process can be said to have begun if his scheduled participation in the Student Federation of India’s study camp on Sunday comes off.

According to officials, Choudhury, in course of a meeting with the leadership, explained that the issues he had raised in the past two months were “nothing new”.

Choudhury also explained that he went public to force the leadership to address the issues, the officials said.

“The issues are nothing new because many in the party had earlier emphasised them,” Choudhury was quoted to have said. The former MP could not be contacted as he was aboard a train bound for Calcutta from Delhi.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu, an arbiter between the pro-changers and the no-changers, said: “It is good” Choudhury has realised his mistake of going public.

“Organisational issues have to be discussed within the party. But Saifuddin went against party rules by taking the issues to the media. This is not desirable from a responsible party functionary,” Basu said.

State CPM secretary Anil Biswas said the party had asked Choudhury not to “repeat” the criticisms in the future.

A measure of the CPM’s soft line was evident in the six-line note which was careful to not use harsh words like “warning” or “caution”.

Choudhury, according to the note, expressed regret for the pronouncements he made to the media. “He expressed regret after realising that his comments had created confusion in the public mind,” Biswas said.

Choudhury, along with transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and South 24 Parganas district secretary, Samir Putatunda, had triggered a controversy, publicly criticising the leadership for its failure to modernise the party programmes.

The leadership had slapped a showcause notice on Chaudhury and publicly reprimanded Chakraborty. Putatunda was hauled up within the party.

It appears that both sides, the state party leadership and the rebels, realise their limitations.

The ruling clique, or hardliners, believes the rebels have effectively raised certain issues to use these to pursue their personal growth objectives. But, in the process, they have given voice to the feelings of a substantial section in the party.

The rebels, for their part, may have come round to the view that support for them will wither if their continuing efforts to force the leadership into a compromise snowballs into an unmanageable crisis before the coming municipal elections.

Choudhury held a meeting with fellow rebel Chakraborty in New Delhi yesterday.

Sources close to Putatunda said on Friday night that they would continue to raise organisational issues. Putatunda was not availabe for comment.    

Today’s forecast: Mainly cloudy sky. Possibility of light rain. Not much change in night temperature. Max. temperature: 28.5°C (1° above normal) Min. temperature: 20.5°C (6° above normal) Maximum humidity: 86% Minimum humidity: 58% Rainfall: Trace Sunset: 5.11 pm Sunrise: 6.25 am    

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