Clinton puts Musharraf on notice
Atal basks in Pak isolation
Loyal Basu holds silence
Journal scoops Oscar winners

 
 
CLINTON PUTS MUSHARRAF ON NOTICE 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR IN ISLAMABAD AND PRANAY SHARMA IN NEW DELHI
 
March 25 
After an ice-breaking visit to India, President Bill Clinton brought stern messages to military rulers of an old Cold War ally on a return to democracy and the need to blunt sharpening tensions with its neighbour over Kashmir.

“The answer to flawed democracy is not to end democracy but to improve it,” he said in an address to the Pakistani people.

Unless democracy is restored, and if the conflict over Kashmir continues, there is “a danger that Pakistan may grow even more isolated,” Clinton warned.

The President repeated that the confrontation over Kashmir was “a conflict no one can win” and could not be resolved militarily.

But he also made it clear the United States would not get involved. “We cannot force peace. We cannot impose it. We cannot resolve or mediate the dispute in Kashmir. Only you can do that,” Clinton said.

A pleased-as-punch India tried to hide its glee as Clinton read out the riot act to Pakistan.

“We welcome President Clinton’s call to the people of Pakistan to look to the future and not remain mired in the quarrels of the past,” foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said in Delhi. “That was the sentiment which was also conveyed by the Prime Minister during his journey to Lahore last year.”

The spokesman added: “We also note that President Clinton has called on the government of Pakistan to abjure violence and respect the sanctity of the Line of Control. We believe that the path to a common and bright future for all our peoples’ lives is through an end to hostile propaganda and cross-border terrorism which Pakistan has been resorting to.”

Clinton had assured the Indian leadership he would be “very firm and frank” in putting across his views during discussions with Pervez Musharraf. He kept his promise this evening, in his talks with the military ruler as also in his address to the people.

But apart from his four-point formula to scale down tension in the subcontinent — restraint, respect for the LoC, resumption of dialogue and an end to violence — Clinton also made pointed references to jehad not being acceptable as a foreign policy and to stop cross-border terrorism.

Clinton almost echoed Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in scoffing at Pakistan’s attempt to draw a distinction between “jehad” and “terrorism”.

Again expressing outrage at Monday’s massacre of 36 Sikhs in Kashmir, he said: “No system of belief can ever justify the deliberate killing of innocents.”

“They are not heroes, they are criminals,” he said, while urging Pakistan to “intensify efforts to defeat those who inflict terror”.

Though he did not use the term “cross-border terrorism”, Clinton indicated as much. He repeated that respect for the LoC and stopping violence were conditions which Pakistan must “create” for the stalled dialogue to make progress. Pakistan, he added, should not “try to redraw borders with blood”.

The President said he listened to what Musharraf had to say on Kashmir and understood Pakistan’s concerns. “I share your convictions that human rights of all its people must be respected.” However, he added, the harsh realities also have to be faced.

The President portrayed the US and Pakistan as friends over five decades, and said he believes Pakistan could still be “a force for tolerance and understanding throughout the world”. But, he said, the military coup that suspended democracy last October threatened to undermine that friendship.

“Clearly the absence of democracy makes it harder, not easier, for people to move ahead,” Clinton said. “We share your disappointment that previous democratic governments did not do better for its citizens. But democracy cannot develop if it is constantly uprooted.”

Clinton flew into Pakistan after an elaborate security ruse and spoke on television following a series of meetings with Musharraf.

Administration officials said the meetings produced no breakthroughs on the points the US find most troubling — a timetable for national elections, a scaling back of Pakistan’s nuclear programme and an easing of tensions in Kashmir.

Still, both sides ended up with a clearer view of each other’s positions, said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart.

Clinton said Musharraf’s announcement that he would hold local elections in 2001 was a “good step,” but not enough. “The return of civilian democratic rule requires a complete plan, a real road map,” he added. But the Pakistan ruler did not offer any promises.

The contrasting pictures that the President portrayed was evident in his body language. In India, be it during talks with the leadership, or with the rural women entrepreneurs in Naila, Clinton was at ease. In Pakistan, however, he appeared stiff and always on his guard. His expressions during the speech remained grim as he laid down the dos and dont’s for Pakistan’s military rulers.    


 
 
ATAL BASKS IN PAK ISOLATION 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, March 25 
At 7 Race Course Road, Atal Behari Vajpayee sat glued to his television set, watching President Bill Clinton deliver his sermon to the military regime in Islamabad.

The Prime Minister betrayed no emotion, though Clinton’s speech being telecast by PTV was historic for more than one reason.

There was a major foreign policy tilt in the making. Pakistan was being threatened with “isolation”, while India was now better understood by Washington. Vajpayee, his aides felt, could take some credit for adding a new dimension to Indo-US relations.

Not just the tilt — the last five days brought other gains for him.

Vajpayee had taken a body blow when Harkat-ul-Mujahideen hijackers captured the Indian Airlines plane. His tough economic measures had also not gone down well, not just with the Opposition, but also with his allies.

Gujarat’s controversial circular had also meant trouble. Newly-elected RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan had come down heavily on his economic policies.

Not that Vajpayee’s trouble on the economic front is over, but he seems to be on the comeback curve again. He has cleverly used the interest in the Clinton Yatra to announce the tough economic measure of hiking LPG and kerosene prices. This week, Sudarshan came over to Delhi to announce that he was not at loggerheads with the Prime Minister any more.

Washington’s policy shift came about largely because of Vajpayee’s clear laying down of the Indian perspective. He reminded Clinton of the innocence with which he had taken the Lahore trip to open a new chapter in Indo-Pakistan relations. He also pointed out how he was stabbed from behind during the Kargil conflict and how cross-border terrorism continues to be encouraged openly by Islamabad.

What also helped Vajpayee was Clinton’s first-hand experience of an India with its rich democratic roots, its immense cultural heritage and its burgeoning middle classes striving for excellence in areas like information technology. If Clinton had partially made up his mind on a policy shift since Kargil, the India trip opened his eyes to the immense possibilities of broadening Indo-US ties.

Vajpayee had to do some tightrope walking. He knew he must not appear subservient to US interests. He spoke with modesty and without arrogance — an attitude which went down well not just with the US President but his entire entourage.

Vajpayee’s body language was positive at the Hyderabad House deliberations — he was brimming with confidence. At the joint session, he slackened, but that could be more out of the awareness that it was Clinton’s day — it was the US President’s speech which was being lauded by the overwhelmed Parliamentarians.    


 
 
LOYAL BASU HOLDS SILENCE 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, March 25 
The CPM will squeeze Jyoti Basu’s popular appeal to the last, but will not let him reach out to the people.

Today’s rally at the Brigade Parade Grounds was one of the party’s biggest in recent memory. Many in the crowd said they had come in strength to hear Basu speak at the Brigade for the last time. Whether or not this is, indeed, the chief minister’s final speech there before stepdown, party leaders had sold it to CPM supporters as such.

Subodh Giri and his friends had come from Midnapore. “We have been told by our district leaders that Basu will not address public meetings after this rally. So, we have come to hear him today,” they said.

Expectations were high, after the recent confirmation of Basu not contesting the 2001 Assembly elections, that he would explain to the cadre the reasons for his decision to retire. Basu did not say a word, sticking instead, as he almost always has, to the straitjacket party agenda which had two items. One, to launch the party’s campaign for the coming civic and municipal elections and two, to highlight “the danger posed by the BJP-Trinamul combine”.

After Basu yesterday appeared to indicate to this paper that he intended to speak about his retirement at the rally, anxious queries began to be made by party leaders about whether he would really raise the issue at the Brigade.

He had said on Friday: “I intend to say a few things to the public...I don’t want to share those feelings with the media before attending the rally.”

The apparatchiki at party headquarters Alimuddin Street were worried that if Basu spoke about his retirement at the meeting, it might damage the CPM’s chances in the municipal polls.

Party sources said that after talks among the top brass, a senior leader spoke to Basu this morning. The point they tried to put across to the chief minister was that since the purpose of the rally was to kick off the party’s campaign, the focus should not be diffused.

Basu said after the meeting that he did not think it proper to speak about his bowing out at a public forum. “I have already made my stand clear in the party. It is now for the party to convey the matter to the people,” he added.

Another reason for party leaders not wishing Basu to go public — running the risk of him putting a date on his retirement — is their own indecision over the timing.

One section thinks that he could relinquish office in July-August, another that he should stay until launching the campaign for the Assembly elections.    


 
 
JOURNAL SCOOPS OSCAR WINNERS 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, March 25 
This was a hit Hollywood hadn’t bargained for and from so unexpected a quarter.

Had an award for party-pooper of the Oscar night existed, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would have given it to The Wall Street Journal.

Two days before the ceremony in Los Angeles, the staid and sober Journal has published a list of Oscar winners, picked from an exit poll of academy members’ choices.

The Journal poll gave away the best picture award to the Annette Bening-Kevin Spacey starrer American Beauty, the best actor award to Denzel Washington (The Hurricane) and best actress to Hilary Swank (Boy’s Don’t Cry). Sam Mendes was the choice for best director (American Beauty), Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules) best supporting actor and Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted) best supporting actress.

To angry academy officials, this was the same as releasing exit poll results before voting had closed. Once the academy came to know of the newspaper’s intentions, its president, Robert Rehme, wrote to 5,607 members whose votes award the Oscars, objecting to the Journal’s poll. He called it “a threat to the Academy Awards process.” But he also conceded: “If a few hundred of us were inveigled into participating, the Journal stands a good chance of scooping us.”

In Hollywood, the caper is being described as the third theft the Academy Awards have suffered — first 2,000 members’ ballots went missing, then 55 Oscars were stolen and now, in a manner of speaking, the results have been pinched.

The Journal spoke to 1,400 academy members, of whom 356 agreed to respond, which the paper thought to be a respectable 6 per cent sample of voting.

Polling academy members is not a pioneering attempt by the Journal. The Daily Variety used to conduct a poll for almost a decade, but stopped the practice in 1958. The Journal has justified its poll, citing the precedent. The Variety’s predictions were usually correct. This time, though, like the best of thrillers, there could be a surprise waiting at the end.

When some members asked the academy’s executive director Bruce Davis how they should tackle the Journal, he made it clear he “didn’t discourage them from lying.”

The paper printed the exit poll results in Friday’s edition, long after the actual Oscar voting had ended at 5 pm on the previous day. With its list of probable winners, the Journal also published the predictions of Ladbroke’s, the London betting firm which accepts wagers on the top three awards. Along with these, it had the forecasts of its own film critic.

Ladbroke’s differs from the Journal in that it thinks Aneete Bening and Kevin Spacey will win best actress and best actor for American Beauty and Tom Cruise best supporting actor for Magnolia. In the other three categories, the two agree.

Hollywood questioned the poll’s methodology and the newspaper’s objective. “Anything goes in journalism these days, even at The Wall Street Journal,” sighed Anita Busch, editor of The Hollywood Reporter, in an interview. Journalism, she added, “has gone into a yellow age,” the New York Times reported.

Vickee Adams, director of corporate communications for Dow Jones, the paper’s publisher, defended the poll. “It is not a scientific study. It’s at best an educated guess — a fun look at some of the top six awards,” the Times said.

But would the Journal turn the same level of scrutiny on the process by which journalists are awarded Pulitzer Prizes? “As with any story that may or may not appear in The Wall Street Journal, I cannot give you a response on that,” she said.    

 

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