Delhi alerts Pak on Hurriyat
US explores possibility of Gulf oil axis
Burden off Sourav’s head and shoulders
Labour mahajot to rebuild Bengal
Power tour: Pervez plot to Atal’s ruins
Khalistan exile returns home
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, June 27: 
India has made it clear to Pakistan that calling leaders of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference on the eve of the mid-July summit will not be “very conducive” to the talks between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf.

The Hurriyat leaders had recently written to both leaders, requesting a pre-summit meeting with them to discuss ways and means to resolve the Kashmir dispute. Though there has been no formal response from either side, Pakistan’s high commissioner in Delhi Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who is planning a civic reception here on the evening of July 14, when Musharraf arrives, may have given the Hurriyat leaders an opportunity for a meeting with the general.

But the Prime Minister’s Office has indicated to the Pakistan leadership, through its mission here, that the presence of the Hurriyat leaders at the civic reception may not be welcome. “A meeting on the sidelines of the civic reception between the two may not be very conducive to the summit meeting,” a close aide of Vajpayee said.

Though the Prime Minister did not invite the Hurriyat leaders with any specific date, he did say his “doors were always open” for discussions with them. The message was clear: the Kashmiri leaders can meet him anytime but a meeting before the summit was not a very good idea. The Hurriyat leadership took the hint and indicated they were not insisting on a meeting with him before the Agra summit.

In Islamabad yesterday, Musharraf told editors of leading Pakistani newspapers that though he would try his best to meet the Hurriyat leaders, he would not like to enter into a confrontation with the Indian leadership on the issue.

It is common practice for visiting dignitaries to chalk up their private schedules even during state visits. In the mid-1990s, when then President Farooq Leghari came to Delhi for the Nam summit, he also had a private sitting with the Hurriyat leaders.

The Indian government was initially against the meeting, but later gave in when it was pointed out that a refusal may make headlines for days, while the meeting between the two may be front-paged only for a day.

But India, right from the outset this time, has asserted that it is not in favour of any meeting with the Hurriyat leaders on the eve of the summit that could be interpreted as a trilateral arrangement taking shape.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh had spelled out India’s stand when he described the Hurriyat request for a meeting with Vajpayee and Musharraf as a “non-issue”. The understated remark was a clear signal that India does not expect Pakistan to spoil the chances of a successful summit on a minor issue on whether Musharraf would be allowed to meet the Hurriyat leadership.

India’s confidence in not including the Hurriyat in the talks in any form stems from some of the steps it took in the past six months in dealing with the Kashmiri leaders.

South Block officials pointed out that since Delhi had already started holding direct talks with the Hurriyat through its special envoy K.C. Pant, there was little clamour from the international community to also involve the Kashmiri leadership in the talks.

On the other hand, by not including the Hurriyat, India only re-affirms its stated position that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the country and Delhi would deal directly with the leaders of the state.

India today dismissed reports suggesting that it had invited Musharraf following pressure from the US. Newspaper reports from Islamabad had said that Musharraf, during his meeting with the editors yesterday, had agreed with a journalist that India was under pressure from US to resolve the Kashmir tangle.


Washington, June 27: 
The US has added the objective of energy security in the Gulf to the growing vista of cooperation with India.

Robert D. Blackwill, the Bush administration’s ambassador-designate to India, told Senators at his confirmation hearing yesterday that India imported more than 50 per cent of oil requirements from the Gulf.

The US has been actively involved in safeguarding the movement of oil along the sea lanes in the Gulf to the extent of deploying its navy during the Iran-Iraq war and subsequently protecting oil producing states like Kuwait against threats by Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Given the vulnerability of US forces in the Gulf to terrorist threats, such as the recent attack in Yemen on US naval vessel Cole, Washington would like the responsibility of energy security to be shared with like-minded countries.

Blackwill, unlike several of his predecessors in Roosevelt House, is credited with being a strategic thinker, and his vision of Indo-US cooperation in the Gulf, therefore, assumes significance.

His statement is also of interest in view of persistent reports here that the Bush-Cheney team, which has the strong backing of oil interests in Texas, would like next month’s Indo-Pakistan summit to move forward on the question of a pipeline supplying Iranian energy to India which will run through Pakistan.

Blackwill, who has strong views on non-proliferation, told Senators that “I wish to go to India and be a very good listener”.

The US, he said, should have an intense dialogue with India on the future of nuclear weapons, not only in South Asia, but world-wide.

There was no disagreement within the administration or between the administration and Capitol Hill on promoting a strong non-proliferation policy in the South Asian region or globally.

But sanctions, he said, were not a viable strategy in achieving this objective. “We want India to take seriously our perspectives on nuclear non-proliferation and the future of weapons of mass destruction. The best way to accomplish that objective is to have a broad, comprehensive, robust relationship with India on many subjects.”

By achieving that, he said the US will have Indian interlocutors “take much more seriously what we have to say, not incidentally only on the issue of nuclear proliferation but some of the other important matters”.

The other areas in which the bilateral relationship could be intensified were business and counter-terrorism. India and the US both face serious problems with respect to terrorism, sometimes from the same groups.

Blackwill’s commitment to work closely with India on fighting terror came on a day when the Indo-US Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism, meeting here, agreed to undertake a joint survey on how Washington could help New Delhi through its Anti-Terrorism Training Assistance Programme. On the cards was Centre for Counter-Terrorism to be set up in India with US assistance.

The Indian side was led at the talks by Jayant Prasad, South Block’s joint secretary in charge of Americas and the US side by Edmund Hull, the state department’s acting coordinator for counter-terrorism.

The two sides agreed that a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between India and the US should be signed expeditiously. The text of the treaty has been finalised by the two governments.

This will be followed by a meeting of a Joint Work Group on Peace-Keeping and a string of meetings on Capitol Hill and the White House separately by National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra and Sonia Gandhi, leader of the Opposition.


Calcutta, June 27: 
With two required off the last over, Sourav Ganguly reached for the ever-present Maa Chandi locket around his neck. Perhaps, memories of the hara-kiri at Leicester, against the same opponents in the World Cup two years ago, had returned.

Or, sitting in the dressing room after his highest score on tour, the Indian captain perhaps realised he himself ought to have been around till the end instead of falling deep in the country after a character-packed 85.

As it turned out, Sourav, who has undergone an Afro crew-cut, didn’t have to reach for the locket a second time: Vice-captain Rahul Dravid, Man of the Match in today’s tri-series game against Zimbabwe, ensured the home team’s hopes didn’t go beyond the second delivery of that final over.

The four-wicket win at the Queen’s Sports Club in Bulawayo took India to the final but, more important, relieved Sourav of much of the form-related pressure.

Sourav himself acknowledged as much: “Oh yes, I’m happy and it feels good... I’m thankful to not just teammates and my wife and the rest of the family for their support, but the many well-wishers who kept telling me I would quickly be back among the runs.”

Quickly gone, too, was the slight weariness which was evident in Sourav’s tone till the other day. Yet, he added: “I’m still not in the best of form... Not at my best... I probably got bogged a bit, initially, but the wicket wasn’t as easy as it may have appeared.”

This afternoon, of course, Sourav took guard not with the weight of 6,379 handsome ODI runs behind him, but with his nightmarish sequence in Zimbabwe — scores of 5, 9 and 0 in the two Tests and only 2 in the first tri-series match —- actually pulling him down.

For the many self-proclaimed pundits (offering unsolicited advice) to shut up, Sourav simply had to come good. He did, authoring an innings which shouldn’t really be quickly forgotten.

More to the point, Sourav got the runs as opener, having disregarded the suggestion of the Ravi Shastris to drop down the order. But, yes, the captain did get a reminder that there is no substitute to spending time out in the middle. Also, that it pays to get the footwork right.

It wasn’t many days ago that Andy Blignaut got Sourav for a duck on that dramatic fourth morning of the Harare Test. His dismissal dragged India to defeat and, for the time being, did call into question an out-of-form captain’s ability to lead from the front.

Today, it’s off Blignaut that Sourav got the initial confidence-boosting boundaries.

While India have already made the final, manager Chetan Chauhan told The Telegraph: “Frankly, we didn’t exactly have a convincing victory and the boys realise that. We conceded too many in the last 10-11 overs (close to a hundred runs) and, then, lost wickets when near the target....”

Chauhan indicated that an informal post-mortem was done straight after the match, before the players returned to the hotel for a quick change and an evening out.

Well-deserved, yes, and in keeping with Sourav’s policy (which took shape during last October’s ICC KnockOut) of collectively celebrating every win. This, for now, is the Team India culture.


Calcutta, June 27: 
The central trade unions are rallying again: but this time it isn’t to mar, but to mend. Burying the orthodoxy of their political affiliations, the unions have come together for a cause — to save Bengal and revive its floundering industry.

The trade unions, including Citu, Aituc, Intuc, BMS, UTUC (Lenin Sarani) and NFITU, held an hour-long discussion at the Intuc office here today. They agreed to hammer out a common policy to protect the interests of the workers keeping in mind that the process of industrialisation had been hampered not only in West Bengal but in other parts of the country as well.

Industrialists, who have often been pitted against the labour groups, have welcomed the unions’ decision to abandon their adversarial relationship among themselves and work together in an effort to spur the pace of industrialisation of the state.

At the end of the meeting, Intuc general secretary Lal Bahadur Singh said: “Today’s meeting will help us open a new chapter in trade unionism.” However, he accepted that the “anarchism” of the jute industrialists had forced the trade unions to work out this common policy.

The recent events at Baranagore and Ganges Jute Mills had forced the unions to join hands to stop the canker from spreading.

The unions are also worried that the move to privatise public sector undertakings and close down the unviable units has resulted in employees losing faith in the trade union leaders.

“The employees have lost faith in us. We have to recover their trust while ensuring that industrial peace is not disrupted,” Singh said.

Harsh Neotia, promoter of Bengal Ambuja Cement, said: “Working out a common policy to foster an investor-friendly environment is a welcome gesture. We have to see what their common policy contains.”

Ranjit Neogi and Jyoti Lahiri of Aituc said: “This is just a beginning. We will sit together again. The policy will highlight the cause of industry and concern for industry as well.”

The state government is also planning to constitute a committee consisting of the representatives of the state government, chambers of commerce and industry and trade unions. The committee will sit regularly and try to resolve prickly problems in worker-management relations.

But industrialists feel that the trade unions should be extremely cautious while charting out a common policy.

“In other states, the industrialisation process has already gathered momentum; but that isn’t the case in Bengal. Bengal already has a stigma because of its militant trade unionism in the eighties. The policy should not obstruct the chief minister’s move to hasten the process of industrialisation in the state,” said a senior industrialist.


Agra, June 27: 
As the immediate neighbourhood around the haveli where Pervez Musharraf spent a part of his childhood gets a facelift to break into the chart of Delhi’s must-sees, a little-known town near Agra has begun a silent journey to become a stopover spot on the golden triangle of Indian tourism.

Bateshwar, 65 km from here, has had its temples and fortress for hundreds of years. Now it has a Prime Minister. Atal Bihari Vajpayee has his ancestral home here.

“Bateshwar is important because of the large number of pilgrims who come visiting this place every year,” said D.K. Burman, the Agra-based joint director of Uttar Pradesh tourism.

Forgive him if he’s trying to say Bateshwar’s claim to tourism fame does not rest on the Prime Minister’s reflected glory. For he’s right.

Named after Vateshwarnath, this town by the Yamuna has 101 temples. Nearly half of them, dotting the riverbank, are dedicated to Lord Shiva. Painted white, they glimmer in north India’s harsh summer sun as the murky waters of the Yamuna gurgle by.

Burman harps on its proximity to Agra, suggesting that tourists doing the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur routine tour could be drawn to the town — sitting on the edge of the Chambal ravines — where Vajpayee used to spend his summer holidays with his grandfather Pandit Shyam Lal Vajpayee. The Vajpayee family had a small zamindari here.

If the Pakistan President’s haveli has been divided up, what remains of Vajpayee’s ancestral house is a dilapidated wall. Strewn on the dusty road are hundreds of bricks that had held the building up on an incline, a few metres away from the river.

“Bhaisahab as a child would take a bath in the Yamuna when he visited our grandfather with our mother,” said Kamala Dixit, the Prime Minister’s younger sister.

On Kartik Purnima, it’s a religious ritual to take a dip in the Yamuna.

Kamala, who lives with her retired postmaster husband in Agra, recalls how Vajpayee would do all the things children in rural India do everyday.

“He would lift water from the well and carry the bucket on his back to Baba’s house,” she said. Vajpayee used to call his grandfather Baba.

“We wanted a library and a room to be built here since Bhaisahab used to frequent this place in his childhood,” Kamala added.

Uttar Pradesh tourism has different ideas. It plans to build an open-air amphitheatre and a dharmshala with the Rs 99.39 lakh sanctioned last March. More than half of this has come from the Central government.

The fortress, once the seat of power of the medieval Chandela dynasty, is to be beautified.

If all this sounds par for the course, here’s what separates Bateshwar from other aspiring tourist centres, other than, of course, the link with the Prime Minister. It holds an annual cattle fair that is said to be 400 years old.

Although the Pushkar fair in Rajasthan is better known, Bateshwar’s is considered to be the biggest in north India — the high point being the sale of horses. It is one of the few occasions when foreign tourists visiting Agra make a detour and visit Bateshwar.

Like the Buddhist tourist circuit, the tourism department hopes that Bateshwar will become a touchstone for the Jains. It is claimed that the 22nd Tirthankar, Bhagwan Neminath, set foot there. A number of Jain temples stand testimony.

A couple of years ago, Bateshwar did not have a railway link or guest house. In 1999, Vajpayee inaugurated a railway track from Agra to Etawah, running through Bateshwar. The tourism department has set up a guest house. It has not had any guests yet.

However, the queue of pilgrims is already forming in the minds of Uttar Pradesh tourism’s bosses, what with Bateshwar being linked to so many deities. It got its name from Lord Shiva and ancestors of Lord Krishna are also believed to have hailed from there.

Atal Bihari (another name for Krishna) — though he prefers Manali now — tourism officials hope will once spend his summer vacation at Bateshwar.


Chandigarh, June 27: 
After 22 years in exile, the self-declared president of the Republic of Khalistan, Jagjit Singh Chauhan, reached home late this evening. He reached Delhi last night from London but was taken for interrogation.

It was a “nostalgic” homecoming for the 70-year-old leader who went to the UK in 1979. A beaming Chauhan vowed to keep the movement alive. But he added: “I was against violence earlier and continue to believe that nothing can be achieved with violence.”




Maximum: 31.5°C (-2)
Minimum: 26.6°C (0)


20.4 mm

Relative humidity

Max: 97%
Min: 77%


One or two spells of light to moderate rain in some parts.
Sunrise: 4.57 am
Sunset: 6.22 pm

Maintained by Web Development Company