Kashmir warm-up with talks terms tussle
US House opens door to Atal
Basu discharged amid flurry of get-well calls
Bishop stabbed in Andhra
If you can’t hack ’em, hire ’em
Calcutta weather

July 29 
The Centre and the All-Party Hurriyat Conference shadowboxed on the modalities for talks today even as they appeared to move closer to the negotiating table.

While the Hurriyat congratulated the government for not making the Constitution a condition, New Delhi made it plain that any talks would have to be held necessarily within its framework.

Clarifying the government’s position, national security adviser Brajesh Mishra said this evening: “Everybody is welcome to come for talks but all negotiations will have to be held within the Constitution.”

Mishra’s clarification was prompted by Hurriyat chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat’s statement this morning that the “government has tried to rise from its stubbornness to confine the talks within the four walls of the Constitution”.

The Centre’s position is bound to fetch a negative response from the organisation, which, at least on the face of it, still sticks to a separatist position and is unwilling to negotiate anything within the statute’s purview.

The separatist alliance had recently even rejected pre-1953 status for the state on the ground that no amount of autonomy could solve the problems of the people of Kashmir.

The Hizbul Mujahideen, which had sounded positive earlier in the day, could also come up with a negative response. Hizbul leaders are meeting in Islamabad to discuss Delhi’s offer. The outfit has already rejected any talks within the constitutional framework.

A day after announcing suspension of “offensive” operations against militants, the army, too, clarified that the initiative was restricted to the Hizbul only. “Operations against all other outfits will continue as hitherto before,” said Lt Gen. J.R. Mukherjee, commander of 15 Corps.

The government’s offer yesterday was a call to the Hizbul leadership and its largely home-grown Kashmiri cadre that they could come “overground”. “We may have reservations talking to Pakistan while it is trying to indulge in violence and cross-border terrorism, but we have no hesitation in talking to our own people even though they have strayed to the path of militancy. Even the security forces have been involved in this exercise. It remains to be seen how it shapes hereafter,” home minister L.K. Advani said in Chennai.

Some reports from Srinagar suggest that the Hizbul leadership is under great pressure, not only because they are not sure how the talks would shape up, but also because they are scared to come overground lest they are made targets by foreign mercenary outfits like Maulana Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammadi and Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Sources said Hizbul leader Abdul Majid Dar, who declared the ceasefire on July 24, and some of his lieutenants have been kept in a “safe house” with all protection.

The Vajpayee government’s offer is significant politically as well as it will force Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah’s to review his stand on autonomy. Abdullah met Vajpayee this morning to discuss the Centre’s initiatives. He is learnt to have welcomed the talks offer but remains concerned about being politically outflanked as a result of the government’ efforts to negotiate a deal with the Hurriyat Conference.    

Washington, July 29 
The US Congress has invited Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to address its joint session on September 14 as part of his official visit to Washington. Vajpayee will be the first — and probably the only — foreign leader to address the 106th US Congress whose term runs through the years 1999-2000.

Announcing the invitation, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, said “India is one of the United states’ most important allies from a strategic, economic and political perspective”.

Joining Hastert in extending the invitation, Senate majority leader Trent Lott added: “We stand on the threshold of a new, more positive relationship with India.”

A congressional announcement yesterday said the joint session will be “an opportunity for members of the House and Senate to hear Prime Minister Vajpayee address issues of mutual concern including trade, energy, science, information technology and security matters”.

The invitation from Hastert came two days after simultaneous announcements were made here and in New Delhi about Vajpayee’s visit. But the Prime Minister’s address to the joint session has been a foregone conclusion in view of the overwhelming demand on Capitol Hill in recent weeks that the US Congress should “return the honour” to President Bill Clinton in March when he addressed members of both houses of Parliament in New Delhi.

On June 30, Congressman Jim McDermott, a founding member of the India Caucus, sent a letter co-signed by members of the House of Representatives to Hastert, urging him to invite Vajpayee to speak to the Congress since “India is becoming an important focus of American foreign policy”.

This was followed by a letter from Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, and Sam Gejdenson, its ranking Democratic member, urging the speaker to invite Vajpayee to Capitol Hill.

Subsequently, Senator Sam Brownback, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Sub-Committee for East and South Asia, was joined by 30 Senators in requesting Vajpayee’s address. India Caucus veterans Gary Ackerman and James Greenwood also wrote supporting the invitation for the Prime Minister.

The request to Vajpayee to address the Congress on September 14 has, however, added a new dimension to speculation about the dates for the Prime Minister’s official visit here.

Yesterday’s congressional announcement said “the Prime Minister will be in Washington on an official state visit from September 14 to 17”.    

New Delhi, July 29 
Chief minister Jyoti Basu was declared fit by senior cardiologists at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and discharged this evening.

The 86-year-old chief minister was shifted to Banga Bhavan after he was discharged from AIIMS around 6.45 pm. “His condition is stable and he can resume his normal duties from tomorrow,” AIIMS said in its medical bulletin this morning. Basu is likely to take the evening flight to Calcutta tomorrow.

After a day’s nervous tension, the CPM heaved a sigh of relief as the doctors confirmed that the sudden uneasiness felt by Basu was because of his “irritable bowels” — an ailment plaguing the chief minister for several years — and not cardiac inconsistency.

“The doctors believe there is nothing wrong with his heart. A CT scan has been conducted and a ‘halter’ has been put on him to check his heartbeat for 24 hours,” said CPM Rajya Sabha member Biplab Das Gupta.

Party leaders said Basu was speaking with his colleagues and visitors. “He is not at all like a patient,” Das Gupta said. “I look more like a patient than him.”

The central committee continued its meeting today at the party’s A.K. Gopalan Bhavan headquarters.

President K.R. Narayanan visited the chief minister for half-an-hour in the morning. Sonia Gandhi drove over to Banga Bhavan later in the evening.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was scheduled to go over to AIIMS in the afternoon, but he called off the visit after doctors said the Marxist leader was fit to be discharged.

Vajpayee later called up Basu and wished him quick recovery. Andhra chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, too, spoke to Basu over the phone.

CPM leaders today revealed that Basu had spent a sleepless night before he went to the CPM headquarters to preside over the central committee meet yesterday. The chief minister, who fell ill an hour into the meeting, had initially refused to be admitted to hospital.

“Basu said he would go upstairs and rest for a while and there was no need for him to be hospitalised,” said a leader. But he gave in following pressure from his fellow comrades, who refused to take a “risk”.

The party was at pains today to gloss over the illness, saying his heartbeat had always been frail. “When he was in jail in 1948, doctors had asked him to have chicken every day to cope with this problem,” a leader said.

The CPM’s determination to avoid “publicity” on Basu’s health was clear from the way party leaders were instructed not to crowd the hospital.

The CPM top brass was resentful of the way the media had “hyped” the situation. “Is the Prime Minister more fit than Basu?” asked a senior leader.    

Hyderabad, July 29 
A bishop was stabbed to death within a church compound in Guntur district today, lengthening the list of attacks on Christians in the state.

G. Emmanuel, vice-president of the All India Evangelical Lutheran Church, was stabbed to death by three assailants just outside his office in the historical church compound. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Emmanuel was also a bishop and the president of the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church in Arundelpet. According to police reports, the priest was attacked while he was resting in a room next to his office. He died on way to the government hospital.

Police have arrested a suspect, T. Moses, in connection with the murder, while a search is on for the other two suspects, S.B. Ambedkar and L. Ravi.

Guntur superintendent of police Purnachandra Rao said that land dispute could be a motive behind the killing.

The cold-blooded murder, which follows the church blasts in the state, has sent shock waves through the minority community.

Only last month, an explosion in a mosque in the town had triggered large-scale arson and looting of a government bus stand.

Emmanuel is the first Christian to be killed in the state in 20 years. Earlier, in 1980, the wife of Bishop Ananda Rao Samuel was killed when they were attacked in Hyderabad during a communal flare-up in the city.

Fearing reprisal, the Guntur police have deployed RAF personnel and tightened security in minority-dominated areas.    

Washington, July 29 
After fighting an increasingly difficult battle against computer hackers and other cybervandals for years, the establishment in America has decided to set the thief to catch the thief.

The Pentagon’s elite shocked cybervandals when it turned up in force at their 5,000-strong convention in Las Vegas not to intimidate or charge them, but to invite these hackers to join the establishment in fighting information technology chaos.

“If you are thinking of what you want to do the rest of your life, then maybe you want to come and work with us”, Art Money, assistant secretary for defence, told DEF CON 8.0, a hitherto underground event held annually to get together those who have perfected computer break-ins. “I invite you to join the government or private industry for that matter. But get on the defence side”.

Reports from the convention said Money was very persuasive, citing unpublicised computer break-ins such as one in a military hospital where blood sample data was altered, to press his point.

He was joined by representatives from the US air force, navy and federal police agencies. As Money spoke, a recruiting officer from the US navy distributed papers among the delegates inviting them to join the defence forces, but reports said there were, as yet, no takers.

This year’s DEF CON also drew top executives from the private sector offering jobs to cybervandals in an obvious effort to save their computer networks from virus attacks and hacking which had caused record losses and disruption of business this year.

What persuaded the establishment in America to set the thief to catch the computer thieves was probably the fate of Jeff Moss, the founder of DEF CON eight years ago.

Moss, a teenage hacker, now 30, has become a consultant for Secure Computing Corporation, a leading computer security firm.

He was quoted at this year’s convention as saying: “It is not just for kiddies any more. Sooner or later you understand there is a limited life span for doing this stuff”.

The three-day event has sessions on picking network locks, cloaking the identity of hackers, and advice on breaking into every major software system.

A popular event at previous gatherings has been a competition to spot government agents infiltrating DEF CON, but the contest petered out this year with Money and others openly appearing at the venue and seeking the floor.    

Temperature: Max: 33.7°C (+2), Min: 27°C (+1) Relative humidity: Maximum: 95% Minimum: 60% Rainfall: Nil Today: Possibility of light rain in some parts Sunset: 6.17 pm, Sunrise: 5.09 am    

Maintained by Web Development Company