US missile talks run into China wall
Frozen smile for Australian PM
Cracks show up in BJP on reforms
Car blast survivor key to church attacks
Naidu-baiters in survey fight

 
 
US MISSILE TALKS RUN INTO CHINA WALL 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, July 10 
The US has failed to persuade China to stop its renewed and vigorous assistance to Pakistan in developing missile systems which could be used against India.

“We raised our concern that China has provided aid to Pakistan and other countries,” John Holum, senior adviser to the US secretary of state on arms control, said after talks with Wang Guangya, China’s vice-foreign minister.

Holum who has been in China since last Wednesday claimed the two sides “made progress”, which he refused to qualify, but confessed that “the issue remains unresolved”. Another attempt may be made to influence China on the issue when US defence secretary William Cohen goes to Beijing this week.

The failure of the Sino-US talks has put India in a quandary with China’s foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan arriving in New Delhi in a few days for talks which South Block is touting as proof of its claims of having improved relations with Beijing which were strained by the Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998.

South Block now has the option of continuing its weak-kneed policy of looking the other way while China arms and equips Pakistan against India or taking the bull by its horns and asking Beijing to explain its duplicity in pretending friendship with India even as it gets Pakistan into a state of battle-readiness.

American intelligence briefings here, which prompted Holum’s visit last week spoke of fresh Chinese supplies of guidance systems, technical expertise and special quality steel for Pakistan’s missile programme in the last 18 months.

At these briefings, US intelligence also cited instances of Chinese experts having been seen at Pakistan’s missile sites which have been built on Chinese design.

Washington fears that China is now providing crucial help to Pakistan in the development of a new long-range missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Holum’s talks in Beijing were the first between the US and China on arms control since the Nato bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May last year.

China suspended talks with the US both on non-proliferation and on human rights in anger at the bombing.

Analysts here are not surprised at the failure of last week’s dialogue. The Chinese are incensed that Holum’s visit coincided with the controversial test of a new anti-missile system which the Clinton administration is considering. A Chinese official went on record as saying that the test and the timing of the talks were “insulting to China”.

Secondly, Holum told reporters in Beijing that “we do not rule out the possibility that some time in the future Taiwan may have (theatre missile defence) capabilities”.

Even before Holum arrived in Beijing, China reacted angrily to the anticipated prospect of the US giving advanced defence capabilities to Taiwan and including it in a future Asian missile shield.

Last week, Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji said in Rome: “The system would aim to put Taiwan in a sphere of protection. this would be blatant interference in Chinese affairs.”

Analysts here believe that Chinese exports of missile technology to Pakistan — or at least the threat of such exports — would give Beijing a bargaining tool in any future talks with Washington on its own missile cover for Taiwan.    


 
 
FROZEN SMILE FOR AUSTRALIAN PM 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, July 10 
India today put forward a tentative hand of friendship to Australia, one of the bitterest critics of the Pokhran tests, by denying its Prime Minister John Howard the ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt.

In another departure from tradition, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee hosted the banquet in honour of his guest this evening at Vigyan Bhavan and not Hyderabad House, where official lunches and dinners for visiting dignitaries are held.

Howard is the first Australian Premier to visit India in 11 years.

Indian officials sought to play down these deviations. They said that the venue for the dinner had to be shifted to Vigyan Bhavan as Hyderabad House is under renovation. The officials then argued that the traditional welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan was done away with since Howard arrived around mid-day when it is too hot to hold such a ceremony in the open.

The official argument notwithstanding, the signals being sent out by Delhi indicate that the leadership is still reluctant to greet Australia with warmth though it accepts Canberra’s potential as a key player in the region.

Australia, too, has not been forthcoming in what it expects of India. Officials are unsure of the signal that Howard wants to send out during his visit. That he has decided to stop in Delhi on his way back from the United Kingdom is being seen in some circles as an attempt on his part to have an “extended transit halt”.

Moreover, the Australian Prime Minister, who is weighed down by strong opposition to his proposed Goods And Services Tax in the country which is even threatening his government, is hardly in the right frame of mind to have substantial discussions on bilateral issues with India.

Though the crisis in Fiji is one of the items on the agenda which he is reported to have discussed during talks with Vajpayee and foreign minister Jaswant Singh, it is not clear if he agreed to accept India’s position on the nuclear issue.

Foreign office mandarins had interpreted Howard’s decision to visit Delhi as Canberra’s acceptance of a nuclear India. But it is not yet clear whether the Australian Premier made any remark to indicate a shift in Australia’s stand.

During Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer’s visit in March, he had made it clear that differences on the nuclear issue notwithstanding, bilateral relations should not be held hostage to any single subject.

But irrespective of whether there is any progress on the nuclear front, Howard, who has been forced to visit India under pressure from Australian business groups, will try to work out a relationship with Indian leaders that will help pave the way for greater cooperation on the economic front.

Before he leaves tomorrow, Howard will meet finance minister Yashwant Sinha, commerce minister Murasoli Maran and address business bigwigs at a meet organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry.    


 
 
CRACKS SHOW UP IN BJP ON REFORMS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 10 
Exposing differences within the BJP over the Vajpayee government’s economic policies, party leader K.N. Govindacharya today suggested that the Centre adopt a “cautious and balanced approach” to the reforms, taking into account the needs of diverse interest groups.

While senior party leaders Jana Krishnamurthi, J.P. Mathur and Venkaiah Naidu have been backing Vajpayee to the hilt, Govindacharya, a hardliner, said the RSS’ criticism was genuine and should be considered a valuable input for the government.

The BJP general secretary, known to be close to RSS chief K. Sudarshan, had attended the meetings of Swadeshi Jagran Manch at Agra and the RSS at Gandhinagar, where the economic policies came under fire.

The Manch has decided to organise a series of protests to “educate the people” about the pitfalls of the “pro-multinational” economic policies pursued by the Vajpayee government.

Two days ago, Jagdish Shettigar, convener of the BJP’s economic cell, said the party is publishing a booklet to educate the RSS on the compulsions behind the reforms. He is reported to have said that “it is the party which is accountable, not others” and that, “the government has to deliver the goods”.

Another BJP leader said the booklet was meant to prevent party cadre from getting “confused by RSS criticism”.

“The issue of economic reforms is a complex one and the RSS understands this... therefore, there was need to adopt a cautious and balanced approach, and the needs of different groups may be taken into account,” Govindacharya said.

The party general secretary said the views of those who differ from the government on economic policies or other issues “should also be considered”. However, he said, “after all government knows best in these matters”.

He said there were two main aspects of reforms — external liberalisation and internal liberalisation. Increasing productivity, tax reforms, exit policy and disinvestment come under the ambit of internal liberalisation.    


 
 
CAR BLAST SURVIVOR KEY TO CHURCH ATTACKS 
 
 
FROM RAMAKRISHNA UPADHYA
 
Bangalore, July 10 
The lone survivor of a car bomb explosion last night, which preceded another blast at a church just four km away, could lead police to the mastermind behind serial blasts at churches across the country.

Two persons were killed and one seriously injured in the explosion that ripped apart their Maruti van on Magadi road around 9.30 pm last night.

The bomb attack on St Peter and Paul’s church at Jagjivan Ram Nagar, again involving a Maruti van, occurred 45 minutes later. No one was injured in the second explosion, though a portion of the rear wall of the church collapsed, most of the window panes and a door were damaged.

The vicar, Rev. Thomaiar, said the hundreds of devotees who gathered to celebrate the annual feast, had dispersed only an hour earlier. He suspected the involvement of “outside elements” in the blast.

The police are wary of linking the two incidents, but joint police commissioner B.N. Nagaraj said: “We are looking at all possible angles, including whether there is any similarity in the type of explosives found in both the blasts.”

The explosion in the van was so powerful that parts of its top and the limbs of some of the victims were found hanging from a tree 20 metres away. The police have ruled out the possibility of an LPG cylinder causing an accident.

Police commissioner T. Madiyal said forensic experts were conducting a chemical analysis of the nature of blasts in the two incidents. “We will not hazard a guess until we get the report,” he added.

The survivor, who has merely given his name as “Ibrahim”, is battling for survival at St John’s hospital. Madiyal said Ibrahim, who had suffered external burns and internal injuries, was still in shock. He said the names and addresses of the other two were not known, though the van carried a Goan registration number.

Chief minister S.M. Krishna, who had put in an appearance at St Mary’s basilica on Sunday morning to reassure Christians on the Hubli blast two days ago, saying the government would “ruthlessly pursue the culprits,” was in a bit of shock himself this morning.

He said the government had some “vital clues” regarding the identity of those behind the serial attacks and the detectives would work in collaboration with the CBI in solving the problem.

Accusing some forces of trying to instil fear in the minds of minorities, Krishna said: “Nobody can destabilise our government by such terror tactics.”

Asked about the possibility of the involvement of external forces like the ISI, he said: “I don’t want to jump the gun till investigation is complete.”

State home minister Mallikarjun Kharge, who visited the church as well as the site of accident, said there was similarity between the blasts at Wadi, Hubli and Bangalore.

“It is an attempt to discredit our government. The involvement of some organisations supporting a political party cannot be ruled out,” he added.

Krishna held a high-level meeting with senior police officials on the need to step up security to all important places of worship in the state.

Kharge has appealed to all religious institutions to take precautionary measures as it was impossible to provide security cover to all churches and mosques.    


 
 
NAIDU-BAITERS IN SURVEY FIGHT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Hyderabad, July 10 
Disgruntled workers of the Telugu Desam are circulating a pamphlet which carries the unpublicised result of an internet survey, according to which chief minister Chandrababu Naidu’s popularity is sliding down.

The survey, purportedly conducted by a regional daily, says the decision to raise the power tariff has not gone down well with the people and is the main reason for their disenchantment with the ruling party.

The findings are in sync with the views of a section in the Telugu Desam. They believe that Naidu’s reforms overdrive, especially in the power sector, has alienated a large chunk of the electorate which feels “burdened”.

According to the survey conducted last Friday, Naidu is more popular with those living in urban areas than with the rural folk. Of the people who gave him the thumbs-up, over 68 per cent stay in cities and towns.

The pamphlet also highlights that nearly half of those surveyed believe Naidu should step down as chief minister as they are unhappy with the way he has handled power reforms.

Women, too, are miffed with the computer-happy chief minister. Nearly 60 per cent of women found him unattractive and not as charismatic as NT Rama Rao, the Desam patriarch whom Naidu toppled to sit on Andhra’s throne.

The survey says that contrary to what the Desam has been trumpeting, women are yet to accept Naidu as a mass leader despite his welfare programmes such as Deepam. The Desam maintains that women have given it the cutting edge in its battle with the Opposition parties.

However, several non-government organisations say that most of the women’s programmes are still to be implemented and those that have been are gasping for lack of funds.

“Women are angry that Naidu was slowly inching towards withdrawal of partial prohibition,” says Padma leader of Mahila Samakhya, an NGO for women.

In the early Nineties, the Desam under NTR had marched into power by clamping prohibition and winning over the women electorate.

However, many political observers are sceptical of the results. “Such surveys are very easy to generate. The outcome could be bizarre in many cases,” said a political analyst.

The Opposition, particularly the Congress and the Left parties, is rubbing its hands in glee. “Did I not tell you that Naidu’s days are numbered?” said Pradesh Congress president M. Sathyanarayana Rao.

The Desam leadership is, however, unfazed by the findings. The party has decided to give tips in strategy to its newly-elected legislators.

It has compiled a list of 32 MLAs who have won every election since 1982. The party plans to collect data on their strategies in all the six polls held since then. The list has been posted on the party website: www.telugudesam.org.    

 

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