President in Panchsheel pitch
Fiji mission to calm home jitters
AIDS campaign clean-up
CBI to probe foreign link in mahant attack
Pamela & Paul in cattle crusade
Shanmugham takes charge

 
 
PRESIDENT IN PANCHSHEEL PITCH 
 
 
FROM SANKARSHAN THAKUR
 
Beijing, May 30 
President K.R. Narayanan drove to the sylvan Peking University campus today to renew the call for stronger Sino-Indian bonding to fight off what he called efforts to impose a “uniform monolithic system” the world over.

“I hold that in the new century, cooperation between India and China is a historical necessity... theories of globalisation extinguishing national sovereignties are unsustainable and destructive of a democratic world order... the appropriate code of conduct for a globalised world would be the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence jointly offered to the world by China and India, and not overlordship by any one nation or group of nations,” Narayanan told a hall packed with faculty members and students of the university.

The end of the Cold War and economic liberalisation, the President said, offered both Asian neighbours an opportunity to “regulate their relations in the tradition of their age-old friendship and brotherhood” and pleaded that the opportunity be grabbed. “At this new stage there is much that India and China can exchange with each other, learn from and cooperate on with each other. Along with other countries of the region developing fast, that cooperation would usher in the true Asian Century that Deng Xiaoping had visualised and that our leaders dreamt of in the 1950s,” the President held.

It was perhaps indicative of the direction Narayanan visualises Sino-Indian relations is taking that his 45-minute speech dwelt at length on the rich past of cultural and political relations between the two countries and referred to irritants only briefly, though bluntly. “It is perhaps inevitable that there would be differences between neighbours. Between India and China, too, there are differences, but that does not mean these differences cannot be resolved,” he said, adding that apart from the history of good relations, the “compulsions of the present and the vision of the future drive us towards cooperation”.

Just before he addressed the Peking University students, Narayanan paid tribute to one of the most vibrant symbols of Sino-Indian cultural friendship: Rabindranath Tagore, who came to this campus to interact with Chinese scholars and students in 1924 and who remains, to the Chinese, the greatest overseas man of letters, a cultural icon almost. Unveiling a bust of Tagore in the foyer of Peking University’s spanking Library Building, the President expressed the hope that Tagore’s vision of a “mutual contact of hearts and minds” between China and India would become reality. “Tagore laid the seeds of a new understanding and friendship between our two countries in the modern age... Let me wish that the memories of the life of this great poet and his writings will inspire the two countries”.

Narayanan recalled that both India and China had waged sustained struggles to break free of colonial clutches and were not only inspired by each other during their independence movements, but also came to each other’s aid whenever the opportunity arose.

He, in fact, went on to emphasise that India had stood by China despite the Cold War “distorting the outlook of nations and peoples everywhere, sowing distrust and suspicion in their minds”. In this context, he referred to India’s instant recognition of the Peoples’ Republic of China and her “principled one-China polity without any sort of reservation or equivocation”.

President Narayanan’s stress on India’s consistent support to China is perhaps an articulation of the deeply-felt sense on the Indian side that China has not reciprocated in good measure India’s gestures through the years.

Delhi would particularly like China to support its case for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and — although that remains a hope more than tinged with scepticism — a greater balance in China’s relations with Pakistan and India.    


 
 
FIJI MISSION TO CALM HOME JITTERS 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA AND KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, May 30 
The government has despatched a top foreign ministry official to Fiji in a bid to assure the people in India that it has not washed its hands of the crisis in the Pacific state.

The BJP-led government has been under mounting pressure to take steps to get deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhury out of the country. But to ensure that the effort does not have an adverse affect on the people of Indian origin living in Fiji, Delhi has couched its initiative by roping in representatives from Australia and New Zealand as part of the team to Fiji.

Sudhir Devare, secretary (economic relations) in the foreign ministry, left for Canberra en route to Suva this morning. At the Australian capital, he will hold discussions with Australian and New Zealand officials. The delegation will land at Nandi airport, north of Suva.

The government’s initiative comes at a time when even the BJP is worried about the possible fallout in India. More than 40 per cent of the Fijians are of Indian origin, mostly immigrants from Haryana and Gujarat.

Aware of the domestic repercussions, the party today called for stringent trade and economic sanctions on Fiji, which has been taken over by the army. The BJP urged the Centre to mobilise global opinion to restore democracy and “protect the ethnic Indian community”.

Describing the events in Fiji as “thuggery”, BJP spokesman Venkaiah Naidu said: “The government is under obligation to make efforts to bring the crisis to an early end.”

The Vajpayee government, despite the BJP’s demand, is not too keen to clamp sanctions as they would affect Indians in the island most as the majority of them are traders.

As part of the global initiative, the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers’ Action Group — formed to deal with member countries where military rulers have come to power — will meet in London on June 6 to deal with the situation. Thereafter, a delegation is likely to visit Fiji and hold talks with the military rulers there. Indications are that the foreign ministers will set out benchmarks for the army to restore democracy at the earliest. If it fails, Fiji, too, will be suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth. Last year, Pakistan was suspended from the Councils after the coup..

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh, who was in London recently, spoke to his British counterpart Robin Cook on Fiji and steps the Commonwealth should take to restore democracy in the island-nation. Singh has also been in touch with Australia’s foreign minister Alexander Downer. The two leaders also spoke to each other over the phone this morning.

India, which was a little unhappy with the initial position taken by Australia, now seems to be banking on Canberra. Australia’s geographical proximity to Fiji will be of help if a need to intervene militarily arises.    


 
 
AIDS CAMPAIGN CLEAN-UP 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, May 27 
Socialites from Delhi, Mumbai and Leftist organisations are being eased out of anti-AIDS campaigns.

The Sahyog experiment and its “disturbing literature” on AIDS in the Uttar Pradesh hills, that incensed the locals, has strengthened the Centre’s belief that only home-grown non-government organisations (NGOs) can convince local populations to join the war against the disease.

The centrally administered National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) has become choosy about the NGOs it would back. All state governments and the state AIDS societies have been instructed that the selection of an NGO should be based on its past performance in the chosen area and its familiarity with the idiosyncrasies of the target community.

Earlier, NGOs would branch out from urban centres, led by socialites or the Left intelligentsia, with little understanding of ground realities.

AIDS literature is a touchy issue in conservative societies both in the metros and the countryside. Insensitive attitude can only alienate and harden people against a campaign that preaches safe sex. Yet this was happening during the first phase of the AIDS campaign that ended in August last year. Some NGOs were even corrupt.

However, since early this year NGOs are being screened before being given an assignment. All of them are expected to have at least three years’ experience in a related field before they even apply.

After selection, the NGOs are now being asked to address not just high-risk groups like truck drivers and prostitutes but also the youth. They are being advised against multi-partner sex.

After a training of six days the NGOs are being asked to assist in the control of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD), engage themselves in condom promotion, and disseminate correct information.

The results are already showing in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat. In fact, the volume of NGO participation has gone up substantially. At this moment there are around 230 NGOs in the country to campaign against AIDS.

The NGOs now have to hire a doctor to be able to monitor the prevalence of STD in the community within which they operate. The state AIDS societies have been told to monitor their functioning regularly and keep a check on their assets.

The Centre has a target of extending the NGO network from the 230 at present to anywhere between 5,000 and 6,000 in the course of the Phase II of the NACO campaign against AIDS. Almost 14 per cent of the total amount of Rs 1,400 crore, to be spent for the Phase II, would be spent through NGOs.

The NACO is, however, unhappy about the flow of funds from a few international donor agencies to an exclusive NGO network.    


 
 
CBI TO PROBE FOREIGN LINK IN MAHANT ATTACK 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 30 
The Centre today ordered a CBI probe into the mysterious bomb attack on senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader and president of the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans.

Paramhans and 15 others were injured following a powerful explosion at the gates of the Faizabad district hospital on the morning of May 15. The explosive device was placed on a bicycle.

The impact of the bomb was so powerful that nearby stalls and shops were damaged.

Paramhans, along with two armed bodyguards, was standing by the gate when the device went off around 7.15 am. He received shrapnel injury in his right arm and left leg and had to be hospitalised. Apparently, the target was Paramhans. No arrests have been made so far.

The Centre’s justification for ordering a CBI probe stems from the investigation report sent by the Uttar Pradesh government to the Union home ministry.

Government sources said according to the report, the device was of a fairly sophisticated make and preliminary investigations have led the police to suspect the involvement of a “foreign hand”.

Quite obviously, the BJP government of Ram Prakash Gupta was referring to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) while pointing out the involvement of a foreign hand.

But the government’s quick reaction to order a CBI probe is significant. Officials say it is an internal security matter where there is some evidence of the involvement of the ISI in a bid to incite communal violence.

But certain other officials wonder why the government has ordered a CBI probe into the Faizabad blast when numerous other explosions set off by suspected terrorist elements are routinely investigated by various state police forces.

They feel that similar blasts have been set off by the ISI and terrorist elements in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, where the CBI was not asked to step in. In most cases, the individual incidents were probed separately by state police forces.

The government’s decision comes at a time when the Centre has been treading cautiously on matters relating to Uttar Pradesh as chief minister Gupta is being hounded by a section of dissidents. It could be a way of appeasing the state government at a time when it needs all possible help, both political and administrative.

Politcial observers, however, feel that the government is trying to “appease” Hindutva forces at a time when Gupta is having to ward off dissidence within the state BJP unit.    


 
 
PAMELA & PAUL IN CATTLE CRUSADE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 30 
In a potentially devastating blow to leather manufacturers of the two Asian majors, international clothing retailers, who boast of successful brandnames, are abandoning use of Indian and Chinese leather.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), a Mumbai-based right’s group, claimed that in mid-April, GAP — the second-largest clothes-chain in the US — had announced that it had stopped using Indian leather. Other chains like Banana Republic and Old Navy followed soon.

According to Peta’s director of investigations, Poorva Joshipura, five more retailers — J. Crew, Liz Claiborne, Clarks, Fiorucci and Florsheim — have pledged to stop using leather brought from India and China. Peta has been campaigning worldwide against cruelty to animals in these countries.

To boost their cause, former Beatles Paul McCartney even wrote to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee asking him to ensure that the animals were not transported in such inhuman conditions and slaughtered so cruelly.

But it was only after their meetings with Indian officials proved inconclusive, that Peta members approached these international retailers with videotapes on how badly bruised cows and buffaloes were denied water and crammed into overloaded lorries and taken to slaughterhouses all over the country.

Revealing in graphic detail what goes on in the Indian cattle trade, Peta told the companies that “because it is illegal to slaughter cows and young cattle in most Indian states, corrupt skin-traders use bribes to smuggle the animals across state borders”.

The cows and calves, Peta activists said, “were marched for days and crammed into lorries and trains in bone-crushing conditions in violation of Indian laws. Those who collapse have chilli peppers rubbed into their eyes and their tailbones broken”.

The video exposé and the sustained campaign helped. The right’s group now says other retailers — like Hush Puppies and Nordstrom — are also planning to impose a ban on Indian leather. In fact, last week, the Dalai Lama joined Sir Paul in writing to Vajpayee and urged him to reduce the suffering of the bovines.

Support for the activists is coming from other quarters too. Actress Hayley Mills, her musician son Crispian Mills and Gandhiji’s grandson Arun Gandhi have also urged the Indian government to enforce the existing laws designed to protect cattle.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, the Tibetan spiritual guru said the condition of the cattle these days were “too horrific for words”. While Swami Satchidananda, America’s sweetheart guru has said: “These helpless creatures, God’s creatures — who in our land are considered sacred — are subjected to unspeakable abuses and horror.”

The video has been a hit with those who saw it because of superstar Pamela Anderson’s appearance in it. It was shot when Peta president Ingrid Newkirk went to Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and other states where the illegal trade is rife.

For the Indian leather market, the decision of these retailers might come as a body blow. The country produces 230 million hides and skins annually. An estimated 13.7 million cows are killed every year to support India’s leather industry. And the figure does not include those slaughtered in the 32,000 illegal abattoirs.    


 
 
SHANMUGHAM TAKES CHARGE 
 
 
 
New Delhi, May 30 
N.T. Shanmugham, the new coal minister, today took charge of his ministry after a sulk of three days, reports our special correspondent.

PMK leader Shanmugham, who was shifted from the health ministry in Saturday’s shuffle, had left for Chennai without taking charge, in protest against his transfer.

Party chief S. Ramadoss had threatened to quit the NDA against the “shabby” treatment of his party. The other PMK minister in the Centre, E. Ponnuswamy, skipped work yesterday till he received a clearance from Ramadoss.

Sources close to the minister said Ramadoss spoke to the Prime Minister who convinced him the shift was in Shanmugham’s interest. The real reason for the PMK’s shift from a tough stand and what transpired inbetween is not clear.    

 

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