Japan lifts nuke freeze on cash
Hizb in clarification cold war
Atal evicts Swadeshi HQ
KBC-struck kid flees home
Calcutta weather

 
 
JAPAN LIFTS NUKE FREEZE ON CASH 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Aug 23 
Setting aside their differences, India and Japan today entered into a “global partnership” to face the challenges of the 21st century with the assurance that Delhi will not break its moratorium on nuclear tests and Tokyo reopening the loan tap.

The flow of Japanese funds, which dried up after Pokhran II, was resumed with clearance of loans for the Delhi Metro Rail and a power project.

After a meeting with his Indian counterpart and host A.B. Vajpayee, visiting Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said: “India-Japan relations have entered a global partnership from today.”

Vajpayee matched his warmth by saying: “Bilateral ties have gained a new dimension and depth” to meet regional and international challenges.

Japan is India’s biggest aid donor and Mori’s words will be comforting for the Indian leadership. To give Tokyo its due and in recognition of its regional and international role, India also agreed to have regular political-level dialogue with Japan. This mechanism will include annual interactions between the Prime Minister, the foreign minister and other senior ministers of the two sides.

They also agreed to start a security and strategy dialogue, the first meeting expected at the end of the year or in early January. This will offer the opportunity to thrash out whatever differences they have on security issues.

An economic mission from Japan will visit the country next month to look for newer avenues of investment and the private sectors of the two countries will resume their high-level interactions.

Mori, who flew in from Bangalore and is spending four days in India, has made it clear that though his visit here is part of his South Asian tour, Delhi is his biggest port of call. He is the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit India in 10 years. The fact that he decided to come even without India’s signature on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is a clear indication of Japan’s keenness to repair ties.

Relations deteriorated after the nuclear tests in May 1998. Japan had lodged a strong protest against the tests and was one of the last members of the powerful G8 countries to normalise relations. Though it never termed them sanctions, Tokyo imposed economic measures against Delhi and took a decision to slow most of its investments in projects in India.

The ice started melting with the Indian foreign minister’s visit to Tokyo last November and Mori has come here to give the final healing touch to the damaged relations.

Yesterday in Bangalore, he heaped praise on Indian infotech entrepreneurs and accepted India as a leading player in the field.

Today’s meeting with Vajpayee was meant to give political direction to bilateral relations. India, realising that the nuclear issue continues to be an important one for Tokyo, made no bones about acknowledging Japan’s concerns about weapons of mass destruction, being the only country to have been a victim of them.

But it also made it clear that while Japan had its own compulsions for taking the stand it is on the issue, India, too, keeping the regional security environment in mind, had to take care of its own interests.

Vajpayee assured his Japanese guest that India has no intention of breaking the moratorium on nuclear tests. He said once all 44 countries signed and ratified the test ban treaty, India will not stand in the way of it coming into effect.    


 
 
HIZB IN CLARIFICATION COLD WAR 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 23 
The undeclared oneupmanship war between Hizbul Mujahideen factions led by Pakistan-based Syed Salahuddin and Kashmir-based Abdul Majid Dar rose closer to the surface today with Salahuddin unilaterally altering Dar’s statement on a possible renewal of the ceasefire and Dar not daring a rejoinder.

Salahuddin virtually dustbinned Dar’s statement yesterday that another ceasefire could come within the next two months, saying the Hizb leader had been “misquoted”. What Dar really meant, according to Salahuddin, was that the “situation would become clear” in that period. Speaking to a wire service in Muzaffarabad, Salahuddin said: “The ceasefire will be resumed only after India accepts our basic demands, whether in two days, two months or in 10 years.”

Salahuddin’s “clarification” on Dar’s remark falls into a pattern set immediately after the declaration of ceasefire by the latter on July 24. Salahuddin took time to react to the announcement but cleverly chose to seize the initiative by owning Dar’s ceasefire call. It was backing the ceasefire call that enabled him to set new conditions and slash the three-month deadline set by Dar to August 8, the day Salahuddin pulled the plug on the peace offer. Dar was unable to quarrel with it openly. That process is being repeated.

The Hizb boss reiterated today he was ready to offer steps “bigger than a ceasefire” if India agreed to unconditional tripartite talks involving Pakistan. But the offer is nothing new; conditional upon fulfilment of the terms set by the Hizb.

Salahuddin had made a similar offer immediately after scrapping the ceasefire. It is more of a non-offer for it is well known that Delhi is stoutly opposed to discussing any solution outside the Indian Constitution or bringing Pakistan on the table.

Though the disconsonance between Salahuddin and Dar is becoming clearer by the day, it is also apparent that neither is prepared to hasten a split in the Hizb. Perhaps because they are still in the process of sizing up their ground support, both Salahuddin and Dar are careful not to contradict each other openly.

Salahuddin is unsure of Dar’s influence among the cadre and is yet unwilling to write him off. Unlike in the case of Fazal Haq Qureshi, Salahuddin is stepping carefully before he disowns Dar.

Dar, on the other hand, is shaky about how many Hizb commanders and cadre he will carry with him in case he decides to openly defy the Pakistani headquarters and head for talks with Delhi. He may fear not just for his political credibility if he begins negotiations with the government but also for his life.

Dar betrayed his insecurities when he himself was forced to “correct” the part of his statement yesterday in which he praised Indian intelligence agencies. Dar clarified today that he actually meant the Indian “intelligentsia” and not intelligence agencies.    


 
 
ATAL EVICTS SWADESHI HQ 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 23 
Atal Behari Vajpayee has shown hawks in the Sangh parivar their place. Bowing to the Prime Minister’s diktat, Union culture minister Ananth Kumar yesterday asked the Swadeshi Jagran Manch to move its office from his official bungalow.

The manch has shifted its base to the residence of Suresh Chandel, a BJP MP from Himachal Pradesh. Kumar asked the manch to clear out after its mouthpiece, Swadeshi Patrika, in a recent issue blasted Vajpayee and his economic policies in an editorial piece, which was accompanied by a cartoon.

The weekly also carried the minister’s official address in its printline.

Matters threatened to snowball when the Congress pounced on the issue, indicating that it would raise it in the Lok Sabha asking how the official premises of a Central minister could be used to mount an attack on the Prime Minister.

But BJP floor managers assured the main Opposition party that the manch would be asked to move out of Kumar’s house immediately and the matter was taken as “settled”.

The directive to the manch came after Mahesh Chandra Sharma, the editor of the weekly and a Rajya Sabha MP, on Tuesday personally apologised to Vajpayee for the controversial article. Though he pleaded “ignorance” before Vajpayee, Sharma is expected to express his regrets in the next issue for carrying the piece.

Asked if the Prime Minister had threatened to drop Kumar from his Cabinet, as reported in a Hindi newspaper, a BJP office-bearer said “no such warning was needed”.

“The minister himself developed cold feet after the Swadeshi Patrika editor was summoned by the Prime Minister, and in his wisdom asked the Manch to clear out,” he added.

BJP sources said the Manch has called off its public programmes meant to “educate” people on the Centre’s “anti-national” economic policies. Plans for such meetings were decided in its Agra convention in June. It had also planned a “salt satyagraha” on August 9 to demand repeal of the official ban on the sale of non-iodised salt.

According to the sources, only one “token” satyagraha was organised in Ruri — a town in Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh district — and that too since the local Kisan Sangh, a non-political peasant outfit, had taken the initiative.    


 
 
KBC-STRUCK KID FLEES HOME 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 23 
Class IV student Jitendra Rajak tried several times to talk to Amitabh Bachchan on Kaun Banega Crorepati. Like hundreds of others who have attempted and failed to lock in with superstarji, Rajak didn’t succeed.

Unlike others, adults chasing dreams worth a crore, Rajak is only about 10 years old. Once the phone lines shut him out with the monotone of rejection, the boy from central Calcutta thought the shortest way to get to Bachchan was take a train from Howrah station to Mumbai.

“How can I talk to Bachchan if I don’t go to Mumbai?” Rajak explained after being caught while setting off for the land of crorepatis by the Arabian Sea. “So, I decided to steal money from my home and go to Mumbai to watch the show live,” he said.

Rajak was among seven school students detained by the railway protection force at Howrah station on Wednesday morning, their dreams stopped in their tracks before they could board the Mumbai Mail. Railway police officer B.D. Bhattacharya became suspicious after finding the boys roaming aimlessly on the platform. All the boys are students of a school in Amherst Street.

Rajak is the youngest among Mohammed Kamran, Sabir Ahmed, Mohammed Kasim, Mohammed Sarfaraj, Mohammed Saddique and Mohammed Motiuddin. The others, however, were heading for Mumbai to become film stars, but had to settle for a return to their middle-class homes after being handed over to their parents in the evening.

Between the seven of them, the boys had two general class tickets which they acquired after bribing a paanwallah at the station. They were carrying hand bags, in which they had packed their clothes. The books were there too. All of them confessed to stealing money from their parents.

Many of the boys are admirers of Juhi Chawla and were planning to form a fan club. “I want to work in a film with Juhi Chawla,” said Sarfaraj, a student of class IX. All the boys were confident that if they somehow managed to get to Mumbai, it was only a matter of time before they became stars. “How can I work in a Mumbai film if I can’t go there?” asked Kasim, a student of Class VII.

The abortive bid by Rajak and his friends coincided with the news that someone from Calcutta has won the highest amount so far in Crorepati, which has created a frenzy never before seen over a television programme.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 33°C (+1)
Minimum: 27.1°C (+1)

Rainfall:

Trace

Relative humidity

Maximum:97%
Minimum: 71%

Today

Possibility of light rain in some parts of Calcutta and its suburbs.
Sunset: 5.59pm
Sunrise: 5.18 am
   
 

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