Turkey warms to Delhi, leaves Pak in cold
Sleuth swap scheme on FBI chief agenda
Naxalite talks plan
Pawar troika in secret conclave
Hardtalk on Haj baggage bill
Divorced mother to share child cost
Bihar crack force to combat mafia

New Delhi, April 1 
After its success with Bill Clinton, India today scored another diplomatic victory by making Turkey, Pakistan’s close ally of decades, come out strongly against the military rule in Islamabad.

Visiting Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit — an Indophile who has translated portions of the “crisis document” Gita — did not stop there. He further extolled India, contrasting it with Pakistan. “The deep secular and democratic traditions in India, along with its rich ethnic, religious and linguistic mix, are an example for other countries in Asia,” he told reporters in the morning. “Islam and democracy are compatible and Turkey is the biggest example of this,” he added.

Later, in a joint statement, Ecevit and Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee said secularism, democracy and rule of law were the essential pillars of the value system which would sustain their relations.

The two leaders felt “suppression of acts of international terrorism is an essential element for the maintenance of international peace and security”. They pledged support to fight terrorism together.

The two sides felt that adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, on which discussions will start in September this year, will be an important step in strengthening international law.

Turkey’s remarks and the joint statement are expected to hit Islamabad hard after General Pervez Musharraf’s failure to garner support in the Muslim world during his recent tour of Southeast Asia.

Pakistan is already in a sulk as Ecevit is not visiting the country. The Turkish Prime Minister spelt out his stance. “We don’t believe we have to undertake a journey to Pakistan every time we come to India. We needed to give our bilateral relations with India a new impetus and we did not want to confuse the issue,” he said.

Ankara appears keen on a partnership with Delhi both at the political and economic level. Ecevit’s remarks also indicate that Turkey expects India to play a far greater role in key areas like Central Asia and Afghanistan.

Ecevit felt it will be wrong to support an “anachronistic regime” like the one in Kabul. He felt India and Turkey can play a positive role in turning Afghanistan into a “modern state”.

Turkey was one of the first countries Musharraf visited after the October 12 coup which brought him to power. He had extended an invitation to Ecevit to visit the country. Ecevit said his country attaches great importance to its relations with Pakistan, but it cannot support the military rule.

He added that the Pakistani ambassador in Ankara had given him a document on Kashmir and wanted him to take up the dispute with the Indian leadership. But Ecevit refused to oblige. “One should not use force to achieve political objectives,” he said, in a clear reference to Kashmir.

Ecevit feels in the post-Cold War period an “Eurasian position” is emerging in international politics and both India and Turkey are key players in it. Ankara, a signatory of both the NPT and the CTBT, had been critical of the Indian nuclear tests. But today Ecevit made it clear that the nuclear issue will not come in the way.

of improving bilateral ties.

Khushwant fear

Author Khushwant Singh, on a peace mission in Islamabad, fears that the neighbours may use nuclear weapons against each other. The two countries were again teetering on the brink of war, he said in an interview. He also proposed autonomy for Kashmir.    

New Delhi, April 1 
CBI director R.K. Raghavan will meet FBI chief Louis Freeh to finalise an exchange programme: at least two senior CBI officers will be deputed to Washington while two US investigators will be posted here.

This will be one of the key matters discussed when Freeh comes to India on April 4 for a two-day trip. Confirming there was a proposal to depute two “declared” CBI officers to Washington, Raghavan told The Telegraph: “The details will be worked out during the FBI chief’s visit.”

But the meeting will go beyond exchanging officers as a token of the growing closeness between the US and India. Hinting Freeh’s visit will be to formalise the “opening” of an FBI office in the Indian capital, Raghavan said the FBI director will be closeted with him for the two days.

Other issues the two will take up are Islamic terrorism, a topic on which Washington and Delhi share similar views, mutual assistance on specific incidents of terrorism, the widening arena of cybercrime, sharing of information on criminals wanted by Interpol, cooperation in technology and training for personnel.

“Our focus would be on acquiring technological assistance from the FBI,” Raghavan said. He added that cooperation with the FBI on crimes committed in the past in both India and the US was not new. The FBI has reportedly provided leads to the CBI on the Purulia armsdrop case.

“Both the CBI and FBI have been cooperating informally on specific cases for quite some time now. There have been several occasions when the FBI provided us with vital inputs on some cases which were being investigated by us,” Raghavan said. “It will now be formalised,” he added.

The field where the two countries have cooperated most was training. Around four years ago, select CBI officers were sent on training assignments to the Edgar Hoover headquarters of the FBI. This year, the FBI sent one of its experts here to train CBI sleuths on cybercrimes like hacking.

Raghavan said a few weeks ago, two of his officers were sent to the US to train on techie crimes and hacking. “Technology is the buzzword and the CBI will not be found wanting in this field,” he said. The CBI chief, sources said, will also take tips from his counterpart on “federal crime”, an idea being developed as part of Union home secretary Kamal Pande’s proposal to establish a Federal Law Enforcement Agency. Ragahavan is preparing a paper on the proposed agency which wants creation of laws with which certain crimes, to be designated “federal”, can be taken directly to the CBI without government permission.    

New Delhi, April 1 
The Centre is considering asking Naxalite-infested states to begin negotiations with the ultra-Left outfits.

At a meeting on Monday, the government is expected to propose to the chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Bihar to open talks with Naxalite outfits such as the People’s War Group, CPI(M-L) and the Maoist Communist Centre.

Home minister L.K. Advani called the meet after the spurt in Naxalite attacks in Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh last month. However, the home ministry will continue with its policy of using security forces to tackle the Naxalites. “Fighting Left-wing extremism will continue,” a senior official said. “After all, security-related expenditure is being disbursed to the five states and more forces are being raised.”’

Last month, home secretary Kamal Pande had made it clear to the chief secretaries and police directors-general of the five states that authorities were not doing enough to counter the Naxalite groups.

Some police bosses had owned up to their “mistakes” and “failures” to prevent the attacks. Among other steps, Pande had suggested specialised anti-guerrilla warfare training, “snapping” of the “compact revolutionary zone” being enjoyed by the various outfits in the states as well as with their compatriots in Nepal, and aerial reconnaissance to track the Naxalites’ movement.

The government feels that given the political realities, the West Bengal “model” of ruthless suppression in the late sixties and early seventies, as laid down by then chief minister S.S. Ray, would be unwise. Even Advani, who otherwise favours pro-active measures, feels that a solution should be found within the constitutional framework.

He, therefore, plans to tell the chief ministers that each state has to adopt its own strategy to initiate dialogue with the Naxalite groups so as to “redress genuine grievances”, if any.

Home officials realise that if the states agree, they have to prepare themselves to resolve the problem with a “long-run” perspective.    

Mumbai April 1 
Sharad Pawar met the other two founder-members of the Nationalist Congress Party, Tariq Anwar and P.A. Sangma, at an undisclosed location in his home district of Baramati late on Friday to carry out a detailed introspection of the party’s future, including its uneasy relationship with the Congress and other allies in Maharashtra.

The sudden meeting assumes significance because it comes in the wake of the Congress’ poor showing in the Rajya Sabha elections and growing dissidence against party chief Sonia Gandhi.

None of the senior NCP ministers of the six-month-old Democratic Front government of Vilasrao Deshmukh were allowed to attend the meeting. Even Sharad Pawar’s nephew, irrigation minister Ajit Pawar who is known to be his chosen representative in the government, was kept out.

Pawar, however, denied that the meeting was called to discuss any realignment that would see the NCP pulling out of the government and propping up a BJP-Sena government in the state. “All parties have to take stock. There were some functions I had to attend in Baramati and Pune so I thought it best that the three of us should meet to discuss certain issues,” Pawar told The Telegraph on phone from Pune. He has since left for London. NCP sources said a sufficient part of the meet went in discussing Deshmukh’s attitude towards the NCP. Pawar is peeved with the chief minister for several reasons, not the least bei-ng his unwillingness to take him into confidence on key policies.

Deshmukh has also been engaging himself in one-upmanship games. Recently Pawar invited him to a function at Baramati. Despite giving his consent, he sent word at the last moment that he would not be able to attend. Pawar’s nephew was so upset that he flung down Deshmukh’s name plate off the dias.

The NCP has also objected to the government’s decision to impose a statutory 10 per cent public subscription for water supply schemes. During the ongoing Assembly session, former chief minister and NCP leader Sudhakar Rao Naik tossed a pleasant surprise at the Opposition benches when he agreed to their demand that 10 per cent public subscription for water supply schemes should be scrapped immediately.    

Mumbai, April 1 
Swamped by the excess baggage of returning Hajis and criticism as most of them were forced to leave their spill-over luggage at Jeddah, Air India has threatened not to fly pilgrims to Mecca unless baggage restrictions are imposed strictly.

This year, the airline, and the civil aviation and foreign ministries were caught on the back foot as almost all the 70,000 pilgrims returned with baggage far in excess of the permitted limit of 45 kg per person.

Keeping in mind the religious sentiment involved, the central Haj committee, consisting of representatives of the two ministries, the DGCA and Air India, decided not to charge for excess baggage but get it airlifted by the airlines’ scheduled flights.

Air India director, in-flight services, Jitendra Bhargava said: “We leased six aircraft from a charter company, MIDO, to carry a passenger load of 71,924 pilgrims to Jeddah this year. But with virtually all pilgrims returning with 100 kg of baggage as opposed to a 45-kg per passenger restriction, we are left with over 30 tonnes of excess baggage. So, we have been forced to get this baggage on our regular flights from the Gulf, much to the inconvenience of our regular Gulf passengers.”

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the civil aviation ministry’s consultative committee in Goa. It was attended by 50 MPs, including some who went to Jeddah to see the mess at the airport.

The airline top brass later met here and decided to “serve an ultimatum” to the Haj committee and other ministries concerned that unless the committee adheres to the baggage restrictions, there is no way the airline can continue to bear the excess load.

“The image of the airline has taken a beating for no fault of ours,” said V.K. Verma, director, operations.

Though Air India has not said so in as many words, it has decided as a “matter of principle” that it “cannot work if the circumstances continue to remain the same”.

Airline insiders said there is little the national carrier can do. Haj pilgrims carry back a lot of religious items, including 10 litres of holy water from Mecca, called “Zamzam”.    

New Delhi, April 1 
The Supreme Court has held that maintenance of minor children should be borne by the husband and the wife proportionately according to their incomes after dissolution of marriage.

Among the Hindu laws, the Hindu Marriage Act, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act and the Hindu Succession Act do not define maintenance. Only the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act spells it out, the judges said.

After assessing the income of the man and the woman in a case of dissolved marriage, the apex court directed the man to bear two-thirds and the woman one-third of the cost of maintaining their minor children.

The man’s income is approximately twice as that of the woman.

The division bench of Justice D.P. Wadhwa and Justice M.B. Shah said: “If we take the approximate salary of the husband to be twice as much as that of the wife, they are bound to contribute to the maintenance of their children in that proportion.”

“A minor child, so long as he or she is minor, can claim maintenance from his or her father or mother. Under Section 18 of the Maintenance Act, it is as much the obligation of the father to maintain a minor child as that of the mother.

“It is not the law that however affluent the mother may be, it is only the father’s obligation to maintain the minor,” the judges said.

“In the present case both the parents are employed. The wife is getting a salary of Rs 3,100 per month and husband is getting Rs 5,850 per month. She is, therefore, also obliged to contribute in the maintenance of the children,” the judges said, settling a nine-year-old dispute.

The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act says: “Maintenance includes provision for food, clothing, residence, education, medical attendance and treatment and in the case of an unmarried daughter also the reasonable expenses of and incident to her marriage.”

The apex court said Section 20 provides for maintenance of children and aged parents and a “Hindu is bound, during his or her life time, to maintain his or her children”.

Under the Act a “Hindu wife is also entitled to be maintained by her husband during her life time”, but it is subject to certain conditions, the judges noted.    

Patna, April 1 
Stung by the sudden burst of violence, Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi has decided to set up a special task force to restore rule of law in the state.

Taking a cue from Uttar Pradesh and Kerala, divisional inspectors-general of police will be empowered to act independently with crack squads to take on the underworld satraps. The strategy is part of a Rs 10-crore police modernisation programme unveiled by the Rabri regime.

In the past, too, Bihar had made similar announcements, but they remained on paper. “We will not be convinced until it starts functioning,” said leader of the Opposition Sushil Modi. “We saw such empowerments in the past without concrete results.”

Police chief K.A. Jacob, who has chalked out the strategy, is convinced of its success.

“Local police stations, overburdened with manifold jobs, cannot pay special attention to deal with the organised mafia. Neither do the officers there have adequate training. I would like to arm a zonal IG with an independent agency and empower him to operate independently,” Jacob said.

The director-general is under considerable pressure to counter the mafia menace, especially following the violence spiral over the past week.

On March 29, a ticket-checker, who was also an Asian Games medallist, was gunned down in Gaya. An industrialist’s son was killed in Jehanabad last night. Also, there has been a spate of kidnappings of businessmen in Muzzafarpur and Vaishali.

The police are ill-equipped to fight the Naxalites. The government has now decided to send personnel for specialised training in guerrilla warfare. Over 400 policemen have been killed in Naxalite attacks since 1998.

However, observers said the political parties should first get their act right and stop backing underworld bosses. “The police task force can only succeed in sending the right message by either arresting and ensuring their conviction in courts or eliminating them through encounters,” said a former director-general.    


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