Clinton promises to rekindle ties
Satellite scanners target weather-spared Indian mi
Chadha arrives to face trial
Madhyamik scripts near dustbin
Sushma leads Cabinet race

New Delhi, March 18 
On a day high on symbolism, Bill Clinton promised to “rekindle” relations with India even as Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said no commitment would be given on signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty during the presidential visit.

The statement comes a day after Washington listed the sign-up as a condition for lifting the sanctions and is being seen as an attempt to address domestic concerns, especially among the Sangh hardliners, that the government would buckle under US pressure.

Clinton struck a positive note after weeks of tough-posturing on Kashmir. “We have a lot of things we can do together. A lot of mutual interests. Obviously, what I hope to do first is to rekindle the relationship between the US and India,” he said in Washington.

If Clinton, who arrives here tomorrow on the eve of Holi, hoped to “rekindle” the ties, foreign minister Jaswant Singh added a dash of colour to the visit by inviting his talks partner Strobe Talbott to celebrate the festival at his ancestral home in Jodhpur on Monday.

Indications are that Talbott, the deputy secretary of state, will accept the invitation from Singh with whom he has held several rounds of talks across the globe. Chelsea Clinton and her grandmother Dorothy Rodham are likely to accompany him to Jodhpur.

Clinton will visit Bangladesh for a few hours on that day and return to Delhi in the evening. The tour begins officially on Tuesday with a meeting with Vajpayee.

The Prime Minister sought to drive a hard bargain on the eve of the visit. “We are not going to sign the CTBT during Clinton’s visit, but the issue will be discussed,” he said at a Holi milan party hosted by BJP MP V.K. Malhotra.

National security adviser Brajesh Mishra echoed Vajpayee, saying Delhi would not roll back nuclear or missile projects, but could consider more stringent export controls on fissile materials.

The statements followed RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan’s veiled warning to the government not to bend before Clinton. “They (the US) are not bothered about our well-being. Instead, they are keen on serving their own interest,” he said in Calcutta.

As a first step towards the new beginning in bilateral relations, Clinton will sign a “vision statement” with Vajpayee after official talks on Tuesday at Hyderabad House. This will be the most significant political document to be signed during Clinton’s visit.

An agreement will be signed for the establishment of an Indo-US science and technology forum that will cover among other things research and development and transfer of technology. A pact on energy and environment technology will also be signed.    

Washington, March 18 
India barely escaped its nuclear and missile sites being put under public glare this week when an organisation of US scientists released pictures of similar facilities in Pakistan.

Officials of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), who released pictures of the Pakistani sites, said they wanted to obtain photos of the Indian sites as well: But these were not available because clouds over Indian skies obscured the necessary satellite imagery.

But Indian officials and leaders need not breathe easy yet. FAS has promised to display these photos in a few weeks, as soon as satellites are able to obtain them under better weather.

The only way India can prevent images of its high security nuclear and missile sites from coming under public scrutiny is if Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee can persuade secretary of state Madeleine Albright in New Delhi next week to ban them.

At present, only pictures of security sites in Israel are banned from public scrutiny under the very special relations between the US and Israel. Under the US law, anyone can buy pictures of any other country.

The only exceptions are countries designated by the state department as sponsors of terrorism or terrorist outfits. Besides, the secretaries of state or defence can order a ban on sites or countries from being photographed from time to time under special circumstances, as in the case of Israel. It seems unlikely that the US would be willing to place India under such a ban, especially when the administration wants public focus on what it calls the nuclear dangers on the sub-continent.

The photos of Pakistani sites are now on the FAS website: They show graphic details of Pakistan’s plutonium production reactor at Khushab and the medium range missile base at Sargodha.

Instead of creating alarm, however, these photos actually brought some relief. Officials and Indian and Pakistani diplomats merely shrugged at the revelation: All of them obviously knew everything that was possible to know about Khushab and Sargodha, albeit unpublished.

The relief was because satellite photos showed large garages in Sargodha far removed from each other. Although these garages can hold mobile missile launchers mounted with medium range M-11 missiles, they are spread out in order to prevent their total destruction in the event of an Indian air attack. The explanation here was that this strategy on the part of Pakistan made any pre-emptive air strike by India on the facility unlikely.

No photos of missile launchers were available, but FAS concluded their presence from the heavy security around the complex and the curves with wide radius on roads leading to garages. Missile launchers are known to have a long wheelbase.

FAS officials said they bought the pictures for $2,000 per shot from Space Imagery Inc. Of Thornton, Colorado, one of the first commercial spy satellite businesses in the US.

The spy satellite business here is now going public and three more firms are preparing to peddle pictures similar to the ones FAS has put out.

The photos cost FAS $2000 per shot. FAS, an arms control organisation set up in 1945 by members of the Manhattan project which produced the first atom bomb, uses grants from Rockfeller and McArthur Foundations to buy satellite imagery as a way of alerting public to dangers from chemical, biological and nuclear facilities around the world.    

New Delhi, March 18 
After evading the courts for months, Dubai-based businessman Win Chadha finally arrived here today to face trial in the Bofors case.

Soon after landing at Indira Gandhi airport here, the 76-year-old ailing Chadha was whisked away to a south Delhi hospital. He will appear before the special court on Tuesday.

Last month, trial judge Ajit Bharihoke issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Chadha, considered one of the most crucial links in the payoff chain, for failing to abide by an undertaking given to the court. But he later withdrew the warrant and issued a fresh summons.

Chadha, who was the Indian agent for Bofors — now known as Celsius Corp. — when the gun deal was struck, has been accused of taking kickbacks and engaging in criminal conspiracy.

Chadha’s arrival has shifted the focus on Ottavio Quattrocchi, a friend of the Gandhi family and an accused in the case. Quattrocchi lives in Malaysia and has also evaded court summons.

The CBI stirred a hornet’s nest by including Rajiv Gandhi’s name in the non-trial section of the Bofors chargesheet filed in October 1999. But so far the investigating agency has not furnished any proof linking the assassinated former Prime Minister with the kickbacks. The move triggered howls of protest from the Congress which charged the government with carrying out a witch-hunt. But the Centre scoffed at the charges, saying it had nothing to do with the CBI action.

Legal sources in the Congress were confident that Chadha’s cross-examination would not reveal any evidence that could nail Rajiv. “Even a single miss in the long chain would be enough for us to safeguard the interests of our leaders, including our party chief,” the sources said.

Investigations are on to establish that a part of the Rs 64-crore kickback found its way to Chadha and Quattrocchi. But the prosecution is yet to table any additional chargesheet in the case.

The CBI says that Quattrocchi deposited money in Swiss banks “in a clandestine manner” as “illegal gratification” for the benefit of “certain public servants and their nominees”. At the time of the deal, Quattrocchi was posted in Delhi as an employee of the Italian firm Snam Progetti. The CBI says he furnished “non-existing address of Delhi in the relevant bank documents abroad”.

Besides Chadha and Quattrocchi, the CBI chargesheet names former defence secretary S.K. Bhatnagar and Martin Ardbo, the then chief of Bofors, as accused.

The special court had issued summons to all accused, directing them to appear before it on December 13.    

Calcutta, March 18 
Eighteen answerscripts of the Madhaymik examinations were found in a torn packet near a garbage vat at Howrah station this afternoon. All of them were answers to the Life Science exam held on March 9.

Eight answerscripts were missing from the packet as the marking on top indicated there should have been 26 answerscripts in it.

“The centre code written on them was 753. The roll numbers of the candidates started from 7534 — 0001 to 0026,’’ said Railway Protection Force inspector-in-charge of the parcel section M.K. Thakur.

He said a police patrol noticed the packet lying near a garbage vat between platforms 12 and 13 around 1.15 pm.

“It was filthy and stinking. The packet was covered with dirt. I became suspicious and asked one of my constables to pick it up,” sub-inspector K.K. Tewary said.

The packet was torn at several places. The “West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (Madhyamik)” and “Life science papers” were scribbled on it. “I opened it to find answerscripts written in Bengali. I took it to the chamber of the officer-in-charge,’’ Tewary said.

RPF officers counted the number of scripts and found eight missing. “We checked and rechecked but we could not find more than 18,” Thakur said.

RPF officers said the missing answerscripts were 0002, 0003, 0013, 0015, 0016, 0021, 0025 and 0026. “These could have easily fallen out of the packet,” Thakur pointed out.

A team was sent to the platforms to scan the area for the remaining answerscripts. The personnel also searched suburban trains which leave from platforms 12 and 13.

“It was a useless exercise but we had to try as it involved the future of students,’’ Thakur said.

The RPF inspector got in touch with Anupam Chakraborty, the board’s deputy secretary, academic, on the phone. The board sent two officials, Pradeep De and Shankar Saha, to collect the papers.

“The answerscripts were distributed at a meeting of the examiners on Saturday morning. Maybe one of them misplaced the packet while taking it home,” De told the police officers.

Chakraborty refused to elaborate when The Telegraph got in touch with him on the phone. “I can’t tell you anything. You know better what is going on,” he said.

The secretary to the West Bengal Board for Secondary Education, Pradyut Halder, said the matter was being investigated.    

New Delhi, March 18 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is likely to effect a small Cabinet expansion shortly after President Bill Clinton’s visit, according to BJP sources.

Prominent among those likely to be inducted is Sushma Swaraj, fielded to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh for the elections on March 29. Sushma has been in political hibernation ever since she was moved out of the Central Cabinet to head the Delhi government on the eve of the Nov- ember 1998 Assembly elections which the party lost to the Congress.

The sources added that Vajpayee may carry out a few portfolio changes in the infrastructure ministries. Speculation is rife that power minister P.R. Kumaramangalam may be replaced with Sushma after being shifted to the steel and mines ministry, which was vacated after Naveen Patnaik moved to Orissa.

Although Patnaik was keen on a member from his own party, Biju Janata Dal, filling up for him, the sources said he could not zero in on a person “senior” enough for the Cabinet post.

Besides the steel and mines ministry, the posts of the agriculture minister and the minister of state for tourism (with independent charge) have also been lying unoccupied after Nitish Kumar and Uma Bharti relinquished office.

The sources added that Nitish will not be brought back to the Centre but will continue as the NDA leader in Bihar because of the political fluidity caused by the CBI closing in on Laloo Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi again. Nitish was shifted to Bihar as the chief minister but he failed to muster a majority in the Legislature.

Sources said the agriculture minister’s post was unlikely to go to a Bihar member because of the “overwhelming” representation of the state in the Council of Ministers, although Devendra Prasad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United) was reportedly keen on it.

Another member of the Council of Ministers, who may be axed, is M.T. Shanmugam of the Pattali Makkal Katchi who is the minister of state for health and family welfare with independent charge. The sources pointed out that he had failed to answer most questions related to his ministry convincingly in the House and had been pulled up by the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Among the prospective new faces is the BJP’s Manmohan Samal, who heads its Orissa unit and has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha. His inclusion is meant to set right Orissa’s representation after Patnaik’s departure.

The Cabinet changes are expected to take place next week to enable the new entrants to familiarise themselves with their ministries and be equipped to answer the questions when Parliament resumes the budget session in mid-April.    


Maintained by Web Development Company