Match-fixing shadow over World Cup upsets
India savours Nam blow
Dialogue-shy Delhi stands ground
Pak build-up in Sir Creek
Electricity supply
Poll-stung Sonia set to axe Bengal duo

 
 
MATCH-FIXING SHADOW OVER WORLD CUP UPSETS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 10 
Arrested bookie Rajesh Kalra has insinuated that subcontinental cricket sharks made a fast buck during the World Cup in London, particularly in two matches that produced upset results — the South Africa-Zimbabwe encounter, which Hansie Cronje’s team lost and the inconsequential Pakistan-Bangladesh match, which Bangladesh won.

“Kalra has said nothing definite and we are not in a position to verify these charges,” a police officer, who is part of the investigation process, said. Kalra, however, felt that the Zimbabwe-India match in the group league, in which the Indian batting suddenly collapsed and gave the match away was not fixed. But Zimbabwe’s victory did mean a lot of money for the handful who had put their money on the African country.

The policemen had argued that Zimbabwe’s victory or Bangladesh’s historic first win over Pakistan could be “gifts” made without any financial consideration. It could well be that South Africa was doing Zimbabwe a good turn. After all, it helped Zimbabwe cricket flourish for some time though they could not persist with the good form after the World Cup. Similarly, Pakistan has been strong supporters of the growth of Bangladeshi cricket.

However, Kalra apparently came up with the logic that no game is “given” away without hefty financial considerations. He has not given any information on the role of the subcontinent bookies operating in the London-Dubai network, pleading that his only contact in the bookie network abroad was Sanjeev Chawla. But he revealed that Chawla had played an active role during the World Cup.

Cricket-betting is legal in England and is run through official channels. But the match-fixing is engineered by South Asian bookies operating in the Dubai-Karachi-Mumbai-Delhi network. Kalra believes these two big “upset results” helped bookies wipe out their losses in a few matches and rake in huge profits. “Who would have put his money on Zimbabwe against South Africa?” he asked.

Kalra insisted that this result alone could have ripped off the mask of honesty which Cronje wears. Even Delhi police are hoping for greater cooperation from their British counterpart once they seek help from them through Interpol. “They will obviously want to know if there was anything funny in that Zimbabwe-South Africa match,” the officer said. After all, it was this result that cost England its place among the Super Six. The debacle led to an overhaul in the English team, with Nasser Hussain taking over as captain from Alec Stewart.

Delhi police say there is no need to look back at the World Cup at this stage of the investigation.    


 
 
INDIA SAVOURS NAM BLOW 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
Cartagena, April 10 
India notched up a perfect score at the Non-Aligned Movement (Nam) foreign ministers’ meet today when it successfully managed to execute its two-pronged strategy of marginalising Pakistan further and regaining the mantle to lead the developing world on the other.

The main embarrassment for Pakistan came with the Nam foreign ministers agreeing to include in its final document the example of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which does not allow countries with military dictators to be part of the organisation. This suggestion, made by foreign minister Jaswant Singh in his speech yesterday, will be discussed by the heads of government at the next Nam summit scheduled for later this year in Dhaka.

Apart from Pakistan, Myanmar and Ivory Coast are the two other members which have military dictators. Though the document technically does not disqualify these countries from Nam, it keeps all such regimes on tenterhooks till it is finally discussed in the Nam summit.

In an unusual gesture, the Nam foreign ministers also came out strongly against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. This move is significant since Nam has rarely condemned particular regimes by name. It is important not only because of the growing recognition that a regime that exports religious fundamentalism and terrorism is not acceptable, but also because it tightens the screw on Islamabad, a known ally of the military regime in Kabul.

Singh expressed happiness and made it clear that India has “every reason to be entirely satisfied” with the Nam foreign ministers meet. He pointed out that there have been areas of significant gain for Delhi. He claimed that one of the achievements for India has been its ability steer the meet away from the South Asia rut. “The international community is now tired of Pakistan’s attempt to seek an identity out of its constant opposition and hostility to India,” he said.

He added: “The initiatives taken by India, particularly those on making restoration of democracy an important principle of Nam, should not be seen in the bilateral context. Rather it should be seen in the direction in which the world was moving.” But his remarks notwithstanding, the major gains for India came from isolating Pakistan.

In another Indian coup of sorts, the Nam foreign ministers, while welcoming the forthcoming Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) meet in Qatar in July, signalled that the OIC should refrain from taking decisions which may hurt the sentiments of Nam members.

Pakistan, which considers the OIC its pocket borough, has been systematically passing anti-Indian resolutions on Kashmir. Today’s development may make the OIC a little more sensitive to India’s sentiments. Or at least, it will give countries in the OIC an alibi to temper the resolutions so that they do not irk Delhi.

Realising it was being cornered, Pakistan tried to get back at India by raising the “flash point” theory, which argues that outside intervention is necessary to make the nuclear twins return to the negotiating table to bring down the temperature in the volatile region. But India, stressing the need for urgent steps towards global disarmament, managed to rope in other countries to force Pakistan to withdraw the three amendments it had proposed in this crucial area.

Coupled with this was the Nam foreign ministers’ recognition of the need to fight the scourge of terrorism and support the Indian draft on a comprehensive convention on terrorism at the next session of the United Nations General Assembly in September this year.

But the icing on the cake for India was the recognition that it was in a position to lead the developing world in its fight against disempowerment with the developed world on key economic and trade issues.

Jaswant Singh, happy with the recognition of India’s pre-eminent position in Nam, made it clear that as far as Delhi is concerned, this grouping of the developing countries continues to relevant. He explained that in the Cold War period, Nam had lost its focus and therefore, the movement needed to be revitalised to face the realities in the post-globalisation age. “Nam is not at war with the world. What this meet has demonstrated is that Nam has to change tact and re-position itself with the new realities,” he said.    


 
 
DIALOGUE-SHY DELHI STANDS GROUND 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Cartagena, April 10 
India today refused to respond to Pakistan’s overtures for resuming talks saying that a return to the negotiating table with Islamabad cannot be seen only as a public relations exercise. It said dialogue between the two South Asian neighbours will not be meaningful unless there is substantial change in bilateral relations.

Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh said: “The issue is not public relations but that of bilateral relations.” Referring to the Pakistani chief executive’s offer for holding talks with India “anytime and any place” he said: “It may sound glib, but is this the substance? The substance is in bilateral relations.”

Pakistani foreign minister Abdul Sattar had yesterday expressed hope that the stalled dialogue between the two sides could resume within a couple of months. He said Pakistan cannot afford to take no for an answer and came out with a formula where Islamabad will try to rein in the militants operating from its territory to stop violence and anti-Indian propaganda to which Delhi should reciprocate by starting dialogue with Kashmiri leaders. Sattar felt that this could create the right atmosphere for the talks between India and Pakistan to resume.

But Singh made it clear that Delhi was in no mood to rush into a dialogue with Islamabad. He said Pakistan should prove its bonafide before India can resume talks. He argued that India had taken the initiative for the Lahore Dialogue process to resolve all disputes between the two sides. However, in return it had to face an armed intrusion in Kargil, followed by the airbus hijacking and stepped up violence in Jammu and Kashmir. “We are faced with an unending serial of events,” Singh said, adding that “a proper atmosphere is needed before the two countries could restart the dialogue.”

Reacting to the constant refrains from different quarters about the resumption of bilateral talks between the two sides, Singh indicated that “there was not much scope for testing the water any longer.” This in effect means that Delhi would not resume talks unless there were concrete signs of improvement in bilateral relations with Islamabad. “We have to approach the talks with more seriousness of purpose and with greater transparency,” he said. “The onus now lies with Pakistan,” he added.

Pakistan feels that an improvement in its economy and governance will force India to review its stand of isolating Pakistan. It will then be faced with a situation where the world leaders will nudge it to return to the negotiating table. But Singh said such a possibility would not arise. “Let me make it clear that no one can nudge us to resume bilateral talks with Pakistan. We will do it only when we are ready for it and when we feel that Islamabad is serious about improving bilateral relations through a dialogue,” he added.    


 
 
PAK BUILD-UP IN SIR CREEK 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT AND AGENCIES
 
New Delhi, April 10 
Pakistan has reportedly begun massing troops and armed militants closer to the frontier in the Sir Creek region, causing some concern to Indian security agencies.

According to officials in the defence ministry, a number of regular army battalions and hundreds of militants have been mobilised in the Umerkot and Musafirkhana areas of Sir Creek, a long disputed frontier between India and Pakistan around the Rann of Kutch.

Several new army posts have been set up in the area and Pakistani Rangers have been replaced by regular Pakistani army troops, according to defence ministry officials. Their estimates are that nearly 2,000 armed militants have also been moved to the Umerkot and Musafirkhana areas. Another 200 have been brought to the Nawabkot region from training camps in Hyderabad, Sindh. “This could either be aimed at pushing militants across into India or the Pakistani army may be planning some activity in the area,” the officials said.

According to the officials nearly 800 militants have also been moved down from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) to pockets like Ketibandar, Sahabandar and Gadap in the Sir Creek region.

Hyderabad is one of the many places in Pakistan where ISI camps are being run to train militants from all over the world.

The Indian Air Force had shot down a Pakistani surveillance plane, Atlantique, in the Sir Creek area in August last year when it was on a suspected spying mission inside the Indian territory. Pakistan is seeking compensation for the downing of the plane, in which 16 of its defence personnel had been killed.

The dispute over Sir Creek is a fallout of the demarcation of the border in Rann of Kutch by the India-Pakistan western boundary case tribunal about four decades ago. The issue was left unresolved by the tribunal.

Although a number of rounds of talks have been held between India and Pakistan to resolve the dispute, it remains one of the eight outstanding matters to be settled.

The ISI had earlier got hundreds of Afghan mercenaries settled close to the Line of Control (LoC) in PoK by evacuating the local populace in Bagh Tehsil, Kotli, Nikial and Balnoi areas, the sources said.

The Afghans have been settled in increasing numbers opposite Rajouri, Poonch and Doda districts of Jammu and Kashmir, obviously with the intention of pushing them across through these areas for militant activities.

Defence minister George Fernandes today said an experts’ group to draw up policies and programmes as per the recommendations of the Subrahmanyam Committee on Kargil will be formed soon. He gave hints of a Pakistani build-up in the Kutch region since US President Bill Clinton’s visit last month. “Talks regarding the formation of a group were being held with the finance ministry and soon the group which would draw up policies and programmes on intelligence gathering based on the committee’s suggestions would be formed,” Fernandes told reporters here.

The proposed group, as the first follow-up of the recommendations of the Subrahmanyam Committee, will look into ways for better intelligence gathering, co-ordination between various agencies and ensure availability of accurate intelligence to the armed forces.    


 
 
ELECTRICITY SUPPLY 
 
 
 
Durgapur, April 10 
West Bengal power minister Mrinal Banerjee said here on Monday that power supply was being affected for the past fortnight due to the non-functioning of a number of units at the Bandel Thermal Power Station and NTPC, reports our correspondent.

He added snapping of electrical wires and bursting of transformers in some places also contributed to power cuts.

The minister appealed to the consumers to resist from hooking, tapping and pillaging electrical wires to maintain normal power supply.

Later talking to reporters, Banerjee said the number of legitimate customers of the State Electricity Board was rising at the rate of three lakhs per year.

“The Board is trying to cope with the rising demand by importing transmission and distribution system.” he said.    


 
 
POLL-STUNG SONIA SET TO AXE BENGAL DUO 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, April 10 
With the opposition to the mahajot gaining momentum in the Congress, Sonia Gandhi is toying with the idea of replacing West Bengal party unit chief A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury with Motahar Hussain, MLA from Muraroi in Birbhum.

An AICC probe team is likely to visit Calcutta after April 16 to look into the shock defeat of Rajya Sabha nominee D.P. Roy. The team is likely to consist of Jitendra Prasada, P.J. Kurien, Prabha Rau and Pawan Bansal.

Throughout the day, Sonia chaired meetings on West Bengal. She met Rau, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Bansal. “The reports emerging from West Bengal are not good. If the high command does not assert itself, it will send a wrong signal across the country,” a source close to 10 Janpath said.

Senior leaders made it clear that if “Barkatda” is removed, the axe will also fall on West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee working chief Das Munshi. As a consolation, Ghani may be made special invitee to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and asked to head the state-level campaign committee for the Assembly polls.

A number of CWC members are getting restless with Ghani insisting on a tie-up with Mamata Banerjee at “all costs”. Leaders like Arjun Singh, Madhavrao Scindia, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ambika Soni, Ram Niwas Mirdha, Ahmad Patel and Rau strongly feel that the Congress should have “nothing to do” with the Trinamul as long as it is an ally of the BJP. Some leaders have already cautioned Sonia against giving “too much independence” to the WBPCC, namely, Ghani and Somen Mitra.

Sonia is under pressure from Kerala unit of the party to act fast where Congress ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) is threatening to walk out of the United Democratic Front (UDF). The IUML is already in touch with the ruling Left alliance for a tie-up in the Assembly polls early next year. The Kerala versus Bengal line is bothering the leadership as the Congress is hopeful of wresting the state from the Left with the help of the IUML.

Party Sources said Sonia initially had an open mind about the mahajot and had promised to take up the matter with Mamata whenever it was necessary. But some tough-talking by Mamata and Ghani’s insistence on the tie-up with or without the BJP has now hardened the AICC’s attitude. Sonia has been told by senior party leaders not to dilute their stand on secularism. “That is the only issue we have against the BJP. Any sign of weakness will not only strengthen the BJP and its allies, but also place the Congress behind the Left, Samajwadi party and other non-NDA parties,” a CWC member said.

Sonia’s choice of the little-known Hussain as Ghani’s possible successor is a feeble attempt not to disturb the power-equations within the faction-ridden WBPCC. According to AICC assessment, both Ghani and Somen would not leave the party on their own as long as their rivals are not given key positions.

“Sonia plans to give more time to Barkatda to persuade Mamata to leave the NDA. If she does not give up ministerial berth, the Congress will prefer to go alone rather than playing a second fiddle to the Trinamul,” an AICC functionary said, claiming that it will still be in a position to tilt power-balance in the state. In such a scenario, the high command plans to consider a post-poll tie-up with Mamata on the lines of power share in Bihar, if there is a hung Assembly and the Trinamul leaves the BJP out.

Another factor which agitated the Congress about the mahajot was Union home minister L.K. Advani’s thesis that anti-Congressism was now dead and there was no harm in political realignment. “If that is true then the corpse is extremely alive,” a CWC member said, pointing at Telugu Desam and the DMK who, he said, were backing the NDA due to anti-Congressism.

The Congress’ organisational polls have been deferred for the fourth consecutive time. So Sonia is well within her rights to revamp the WBPCC. A unanimous CWC resolution has given her a blanket mandate to bring about “whatever changes she deems fit at all levels of party organisation”.    

 

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