Pervez mission to change history
Nervous BJP kicks off courtship with Mayavati
CPM goodbye to cheap degrees
Bloodshed on Bangla border again
Growing Indian empire at Harrods
Calcutta Weather

 
 
PERVEZ MISSION TO CHANGE HISTORY 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR AND PRANAY SHARMA
 
Karachi & New Delhi, June 15: 
Pervez Musharraf today said he would seek to “change history” and make a “new beginning” with India in summit talks planned for next month.

Pakistan’s chief executive said on state television tonight that he would go to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with an “open mind” and urged the Indian leadership to show the same spirit.

Musharraf acknowledged that similar summits in the past had made little progress towards solving the Kashmir dispute. The outcome, he said, would depend on the response of his counterparts in India, and “we will see how much open-mindedness they show”.

Musharraf said: “I am going there to change history this time. It all depends on their response, as I am going with an open mind and with cautious optimism.”

“If we get cooperation from there, God willing, we will change history and start a new beginning which has not been done before.”

He, however, made it clear that Kashmir would form “the baseline” of his talks. “Kashmir is my agenda. Discussions on eight other points without Kashmir is not acceptable,” he said, adding that his country was willing to allow the Indo-Iranian gas pipeline to run through its territory.

With Pakistan signalling it wanted a summit with more stress on substance than on frills, South Block is thinking of adopting much of the confidence-building measures laid out in the Lahore Declaration with some additions, probably on Kashmir. The government is also thinking of setting up a day’s meeting away from Delhi.

If Islamabad insists that Musharraf spends more time in discussing issues with Vajpayee, then a day’s meeting away from Delhi, and perhaps the Hindi-belt, may be fixed at a health resort or tourist spot. The likely places for such a tête-à-tête are Goa, Bangalore and Hyderabad. “There are several exotic places in India, but we will have to think of one that has the infrastructure,” a foreign ministry official said.

Attempts are being made to avoid any mention of the word Lahore in the document that is likely to be read out after the summit since it is an anathema to the military rulers in Islamabad. Some of the additional points that are being thought of may be Kashmir-related, but a lot will depend on the kind of assurance that Musharraf is able to give to Delhi. “Once Islamabad makes it clear to us what their minimalistic and maximalistic positions are, we too can respond accordingly,” a South Block official said.

The Lahore Declaration had provided for annual summit meetings between the two heads of government, foreign ministers and foreign secretaries. It also suggested regular interactions between the army chiefs.

“It is not old wine in new bottle as the grapes of Lahore were not even allowed to mature,” the official added. He made it clear that Delhi is trying to keep Islamabad’s sensitivity in mind by not overtly calling it a revival of the Lahore Declaration. But the official argued that the document covered almost all possible irritants and offered suggestions on addressing them.

Though the dates have not been finalised yet, the summit could be held anytime between July 9 and 22.

   

 
 
NERVOUS BJP KICKS OFF COURTSHIP WITH MAYAVATI 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
Saharanpur, June 15: 
Unsure of securing a working majority in the next Uttar Pradesh Assembly despite a pre-poll pact with its existing allies as well as prospective ones like Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, the BJP has begun looking at the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as its most promising post-election ally in the state.

The Uttar Pradesh BJP’s working committee, which began its two-day meeting this morning, reviewed the present alliances and explored the prospects of new ones: both before and after the elections, scheduled to be held early next year.

Briefing reporters after the inaugural session, state BJP vice-president Satyadev Singh did not rule out the possibility of a post-election tie-up with the BSP in case the BJP-led coalition fell short of majority. “We are always ready for post-poll alliances. It has happened at the Centre too. So we will also have to wait and see what the post-poll situation is like.”

Asked specifically about the BSP — with which the BJP had twice formed a coalition government in Uttar Pradesh — Singh said: “Alliances always happen. If the BSP comes to talk to us, we will gladly reciprocate.” But, he added: “As of now, nobody is talking to the BSP. We will cross the bridge when we come to it.”

Speculation about a BJP-BSP post-poll deal gained momentum in Lucknow after BSP legislator Mukhtar Ansari was expelled by Mayavati for reportedly pushing for a pre-poll alliance with Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Yadav.

After his expulsion, Ansari publicly alleged that Mayavati was again coming closer to the BJP, a charge reiterated by Mulayam at a news conference in Lucknow yesterday. She has, however, dismissed the speculation as “baseless”.

Uttar Pradesh BJP sources said there were two views within the party on reviving ties with Mayavati. “Some of us feel we should not open our cards until after the elections. If we start talking about the BSP already, there is a danger that we may antagonise some of our existing allies and possibly lose them even before the elections along with the upper caste votes which we are trying to consolidate. But there are others who think we should not go overboard in projecting Rajnath Singh as chief minister and criticising Mayavati,” explained sources.

Privately, sources admitted that if the BJP wanted to form the government again, it would have to be with Mayavati’s help and possibly at the “cost of making her the chief minister again”. “We all know she’ll settle for nothing else,” they argued.

With Kalyan Singh out of the BJP, almost the entire top brass in UP, barring Rajnath, is Mayavati-friendly, as is Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his senior colleague Murli Manohar Joshi.

The BJP adopted a political resolution that indicated that the party’s slogan would be based on providing a stable government. The Ayodhya issue was mentioned in passing while condemning the Opposition’s demand that the UP government issue a fresh notification for filing charges against the BJP leaders implicated in the Babri demolition.

   

 
 
CPM GOODBYE TO CHEAP DEGREES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 15: 
The CPM today formally fell in line with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s efforts to hike tuition fees in state-run universities and colleges in a move to bury the tradition of subsiding higher education.

Two important CPM leaders signalled the new thinking as they called for an upward revision of tuition fees in these institutions which offer higher education in general and specialised streams below the actual cost of operation.

State secretary Anil Biswas and Biman Bose, both politburo members, said the cost of running these institutions had escalated over the past 24 years but their earnings had remained at a pathetic level. They made it clear that, unlike in the past, there were no differences between the party and the government on education. The chief minister, they added, would be backed by the party to initiate the reforms.

“A postgraduate student still pays Rs 15 as the monthly tuition fee, an engineering student Rs 18 and a medical student Rs 25. This is regardless of the fact that the cost of providing higher education, especially in streams like engineering and medicine, has gone up tremendously,” they said at a seminar organised by the Students’ Federation of India (SFI).

The leaders pointed out that successive pay revisions had vastly increased the disposable income of middle-class families in and outside Calcutta, which could help change their attitude to paying for higher education.

Biswas and Bose asked the SFI to launch a “vigorous campaign” to convince students and guardians about the changed scenario — the play of various factors like market economy and globalisation.

“Go out and do it, because we think there is no other option but to push for increased tuition fees for long-term benefits,” they said.

SFI state secretary Partha Mukherjee said the student body, which has the largest number of members on its rolls, had decided to “actively discourage” demonstrations by students to disrupt classes.

“We will organise movements or agitations after the classes are over,” he said.

Biswas said expectations from the Left Front government had increased after the combine romped home for the sixth consecutive term.

“It is natural that people’s expectation will increase every day. At the same time, it is also very difficult to fulfil all the expectations,” Biswas said.

“We have to convince the people that we belong to a federal structure and have limitations. If we fail to convince them about our limitations, they will suffer from frustration and frustration will give birth to anarchy.”

He said the country was passing through a political crisis but “Bengal is an exception to this”.

This year’s Madhyamik and madarsa toppers, Amitava Pal and Shabnam Banu, were felicitated at the function.

   

 
 
BLOODSHED ON BANGLA BORDER AGAIN 
 
 
FROM DEBARATI AGARWALA AND FARID HOSSAIN
 
Malda & Dhaka, June 15: 
Three Bangladeshi nationals, said to be “cattle smugglers”, were shot dead by the Border Security Force on Thursday, a day after Delhi and Dhaka agreed to tackle disagreements over their frontier.

But the Bangladesh Rifles border force had a different version of Thursday’s flare-up. It said the Indian troops had opened fire on farmers grazing their cattle, killing three men and wounding another.

S.S. Bist, deputy inspector-general of police, BSF, said the trouble erupted after the jawans patrolling the border in Malda district challenged some people who were smuggling cattle to Bangladesh.

Seeing that the jawans had caught hold of a few of them, a large number of Bangladeshis, who had been working in the fields, crossed over to Indian territory and attacked the troops, Bist said.

As the information reached the Sirsi-Kalaibari camp, BSF jawans rushed to the spot to rescue their colleagues. The troops, Bist added, were being beaten mercilessly and some Bangladeshis were seen dragging them into their territory. The BSF then opened fire, in which three Bangladeshis were killed. While one body has been recovered by the BSF, two others were carried away by the Bangladeshis, Bist said.

Malda deputy superintendent of police Subrata Mitra, however, confirmed one death. The body of the Bangladeshi was handed over this afternoon to the Bangladesh Rifles, Mitra added.

However, Bangladesh officials said that the BSF jawans intruded into the village of Santoshpur in Chapainawabganj district bordering Malda. A senior Bangladesh Rifles commander said on condition of anonymity that a group of BSF jawans attacked rice farmers who were tilling the land. The jawans tried to snatch the ploughs from the farmers who resisted. This enraged the BSF soldiers who opened fire, killing two farmers instantly. Another died on way to hospital. The BSF carried one of the bodies with them.

“The incident has shocked us as it occurred only a day after officials of both the countries agreed to resolve the outstanding border issues,” Colonel Ahmedullah Imam of the Bangladesh Rifles was quoted as saying by Reuters.

India and Bangladesh said in New Delhi on Wednesday that they had agreed on a roadmap to resolve outstanding problems relating to their 4,000-km border, which triggered a clash nearly two months ago.

Sixteen Indian troops and three Bangladeshi soldiers were killed in that skirmish, which strained relations between the normally friendly neighbours.

   

 
 
GROWING INDIAN EMPIRE AT HARRODS 
 
 
BY SUTANUKA GHOSAL
 
Calcutta, June 15: 
Someone is gently picking his way through tea bushes in the Darjeeling hills, drawn by the flavours of Castleton, Ambootia, Seeyok and Selimbong. Deep down south, another is chasing the heady scent of the best of spices.

The British trader is here, again. But a very special trader: Harrods which divides the world into two kinds of people — those that have walked through its Knightsbridge portals and those that haven’t. And a world, entirely Indian, is being created in the mother of all shops in response to growing demand for products from this country.

As part of that effort, Harrods has also begun to buy products directly from India instead of using intermediaries.

“We have, henceforth, decided to source goods from India directly and promote them at Harrods. I am here to select the products which will be best in quality,” H. Rahman, chief buyer for the retail landmark, said.

Rahman fits nicely into the paradox of a revered British institution — the third most popular tourist spot in London after St Paul’s and Big Ben — being owned by an Egyptian, Mohammed al-Fayed. He is of Bangladeshi origin.

Harrods already buys tea from India — Darjeeling and Assam. To that will now be added coffee, basmati rice, spices, cashewnuts and, surprise of all, Kingfisher beer, which has made an appearance in retail chainstores, but Harrods is quite something else. Kingfisher, so to say, has arrived in British society.

Talks with the Indian government were initiated last year to source products directly. “Earlier, we used to source cashewnuts from Spain, spices from some other part of the world. At Harrods we have noticed that the demand for Indian products is increasing.

“So we have decided to procure products from India directly to give our customers the taste of India. We are currently restricting ourselves to commodities. But next year we may come up with other products, too,” he said.

For instance, spices will be procured from Peermade Development Society of Kerala and cashewnuts from Quilon. “We are getting valuable support from all the commodity boards of India,” Rahman said.

Harrods has identified a window space of 60 feet x 10 feet where Indian products will be displayed.

“On an average, about 30,000 people visit Harrods every day. We expect that this number will go up by another 5,000 once we open a proper Indian counter. We are extremely optimistic about Indian products,” Rahman said.

A promotional campaign, “Harrods foodhalls — Mystique of India”, will be kicked off on July 23 to run for over a month. It will be opened by the Indian high commissioner in the UK, Nareshwar Dayal.

“Harrods is spending a lot to promote Indian products. A cargo ship carrying Indian products will be displayed. Video clippings will be shown continuously to let the customers know how the products have been handpicked from different parts of India,” Rahman said.

The Tatas and Air-India are also throwing their business weight behind the campaign. Anyone spending £15 or more on Indian products will be eligible for a lottery, the winner of which will stay at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai for seven days. The airfare will be borne by Air-India.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 29.7°C (-4)
Minimum: 25°C (-2)

Rainfall

1.2 mm;

Relative Humidity

Max: 97%
Min: 79%

Today

One or two spells of moderate rain, accompanied by thunder.
Sunrise: 4.54 am
Sunset: 6.20 pm
   
 

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