Declaration for Agra, invitation for Atal
NDA cold water on tea party
Party tap on Sinha’s knuckle
Judicial probe into Enron deal
Too many Ajmer eyes on nazrana
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, July 11: 
Eager to lift the cloud of gloom settling on Sunday’s summit, Pakistan today indicated that an Agra Declaration would follow the talks between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf.

Musharraf will also invite Vajpayee to Islamabad soon to hold negotiations on outstanding disputes, especially Kashmir.

Till recently, Indians were cagey about suggesting a declaration at the end of the talks as they were told that Musharraf was “sensitive” to adopting such historical documents.

If Islamabad is now talking about an Agra Declaration, it is not only a big shift from the country’s earlier position but also an indication that a serious attempt is being made to lift the mood in both capitals in the run-up to the summit.

Signals emanating from Pakistan over the past week and the composition of its delegation — both the commerce and the interior ministers have been left out — suggested that it was hardening its position and was unwilling to discuss any issue that might dilute the focus on Kashmir.

Musharraf was today quoted as saying that he was going to New Delhi to initiate a process of finding a resolution to the Kashmir issue.

“I go there with all seriousness and aspirations... I go there with all seriousness to initiate a process of movement towards the resolution of the Kashmir dispute,” he told Reuters.

“I consider this extremely essential... because this is not only my hope but it is also the hope of the people of Pakistan. I think also it is the hope of the people of India.

“The entire world’s attention is focused on this dialogue. So I only hope that we achieve progress in the dialogue towards resolution of the core dispute of Kashmir,” Musharraf said.

But if Pakistan is expecting a declaration at the end of the Agra summit, the Pakistani leadership must be prepared to accommodate the Indian view and arrive at a middle path. Also, if a joint statement is to be issued, it will have to be negotiated with the Indians. There, too, Pakistan will have to be flexible.

High commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi told a group of Pakistani journalists, who arrived here today to cover the summit, that Islamabad wanted a joint statement to be issued after the talks and was also keen that Musharraf and Vajpayee address a joint press conference.

On the face of it, the Pakistani stand signals its seriousness in ensuring that the talks go beyond Agra. But the move is also a clever attempt at ensuring that the two sides not only focus on Kashmir, but also bring the issue back into the limelight at regular intervals.

Qazi told the Pakistani journalists that the confidence-building measures announced by India over the past few days were part of a “public relations exercise”. He felt the measures — on easing the existing visa regime and on army-to-army contact — should have been raised during the summit and not before that. However, he added that Musharraf and his team would be willing to consider the measures if they are raised once again during Sunday’s talks.

The high commissioner tried to play down the invitation to the Hurriyat for the high tea at his residence on Saturday in honour of Musharraf. He said this was “never an issue” with India.

Qazi argued that in the past, Hurriyat leaders have been invited to the high commission for several functions and Delhi had never objected. He, however, glossed over the fact that the Hurriyat leaders are to have a closed-door meet with the Pakistani President.

Indian officials have so far indicated that they are not in favour of a joint press conference by Vajpayee and Musharraf. But a joint statement or, even better, an Agra Declaration, might help the two leaders signal to their domestic audiences and to the outside world that serious attempts are being made to lower the temperature in volatile South Asia.

No PoWs: Pak

Pakistan today said it has no Indian prisoners of war although 135 other Indians were being held for various offences, including murder, adds Reuters from Islamabad.

A Pakistani spokesman Major-General Rashid Qureshi said Islamabad would be “too willing” to investigate if anybody could provide information or evidence about the presence of any Indian PoWs in Pakistani jails.


New Delhi, July 11: 
Marking fresh battlelines between the ruling coalition and the Opposition, the NDA today said it would collectively boycott the tea party hosted by Pakistan high commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi on Saturday to facilitate a meeting between Pervez Musharraf and Hurriyat representatives.

Both the Congress and the Left have decided to attend the tea party. The Samajwadi Party is expected to follow suit.

The NDA decision was taken at a meeting this evening chaired by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee. Coalition convener George Fernandes said the main reason behind the boycott was that the Hurriyat did not “represent the entire people of Kashmir”. The high commissioner, he added, has not invited representatives of the Kashmir government or the political establishment or any other group.

“If you are going to project the Hurriyat as the sole spokesman of Kashmir, it is not acceptable,” Fernandes said, but made it clear that the boycott would not affect the summit. “It is the government which is the host. It decides. The government will receive Musharraf with all the requirements demanded by protocol.”

Though NDA constituents like the Samata Party and the Janata Dal (United) appeared in two minds yesterday, they went along with the BJP, the main instigator of the boycott move.

BJP sources said the hardline stand was dictated “purely” by political considerations as the ground-level feedback was “by and large negative”.

Pervez-Hurriyat meet

The Hurriyat Conference will have a one-on-one meeting with Musharraf at the reception hosted by Qazi. “Let me make it clear that it will be a one-on-one meeting with the Pakistani President during his visit to Delhi,” former Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq told PTI.


New Delhi, July 11: 
In what seemed like a rebuke, though a mild one, to Yashwant Sinha on the UTI debacle, BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthi said the finance minister should not allow “things to happen” and then play the role of a “firefighter”. Instead, he should safeguard the interests of small depositors from the start.

Addressing a press conference today, Krishnamurthi said: “The government should not wait for things to happen and then play the firefighter’s role. Depositors’ interests will have to be kept supreme.” He urged Sinha to “make the necessary changes in laws to ensure greater regulation and provision of adequate safeguards to investors”.

Asked if he held Sinha responsible for the mess, Krishnamurthi said: “I don’t hold anyone responsible. The matter has to be probed, but I appreciate the steps the finance minister has taken to meet the contingency.” The BJP chief also ruled out Sinha’s resignation. “It certainly does not warrant his resignation.”

In a clear indication of the BJP’s anxiety over the perceived negative fallout of the Centre’s economic policies and the stock-related scams, a signed statement of Krishnamurthi, which was released to the press, said: “Common man like a farmer, a depositor, an industrial labourer and a middle-class man is more concerned with his immediate problems rather than trying to understand the economic compulsions of the government.” Asked to elaborate, he said: “The common man is not concerned with deficit financing or inflation. He is bothered about whether his deposits are safe and whether he gets a fair price for his agricultural produce.”

Krishnamurthi’s remarks seem to have emanated from the proceedings of the meeting at the BJP headquarters yesterday in which the party’s chief ministers and office-bearers “interacted” with Sinha, rural development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and minister of state for small industries Vasundhara Raje.

Although Krishnamurthi sought to play down the meeting’s significance, saying it was part of a series of interactive sessions to “better the co-ordination between the BJP and the government”, some participants confirmed that Sinha had a “tough” time parrying queries on the UTI crisis. He was told that governance was not just about “framing policies” but “being accountable to people as well”.

In Bangalore, the Congress too joined the attack with former finance minister Manmohan Singh demanding a thorough probe into the muddle by an independent agency. The Congress leader blamed the finance ministry and the UTI for the mess, but declined comment on whether Sinha should quit.


Mumbai, July 11: 
Picking up the gauntlet, the Maharashtra government today announced a judicial probe into the agreement signed between US energy major Enron’s Dabhol Power Company and the state electricity board, MSEB.

The development came at the fag end of the two-day visit of Enron Corp chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay

The decision followed the expression of support by Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party to a judicial probe after initial dithering over the recommendation in the Godbole Committee’s interim report.

The Left parties, also partners in the government, had set a deadline for announcing a judicial probe which was to expire today.

The terms and reference of the probe will be decided by the co-ordination committee of the ruling Democratic Front government within a month, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said.

He added that the government had taken legal opinion from advocate-general Goolam Vahanwati and once the coordination committee decides on the terms of the probe, these would be presented before the Cabinet.

The power company reacted to the proposal for a judicial probe as an “unfortunate reflection of the great difficulties in progressing business in India”.

Deshmukh said the probe would be conducted under the Commission of Inquiries Act.

When The Telegraph contacted Jayant Patil, the finance minister, he appeared to be ignorant of the late-night development.

The Maharashtra government had earlier put the onus on the Centre. Senior Enron officials were reportedly told that the standoff would continue until the Centre came forward to share the burden of purchasing Dabhol’s expensive power. MSEB has stopped buying from the power company.

There was tremendous pressure from the Left for a judicial probe, as suggested by Madhav Godbole, who was asked to review the agreement with Enron for renegotiation.

The Cabinet is yet to approve the decision. “Once the Cabinet okays it, further action would be initiated,” the chief minister said.

Stating that this development would have no bearing on the work of the Godbole renegotiation panel, Deshmukh said the inquiry would be time bound.

“We have to be very careful while drafting the terms and conditions of the probe as the stakes are very high,” he said.

This afternoon, after meeting Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, Lay appealed to all parties “not to mix the dpc-mseb dispute with politics”.

“Leave Enron alone,” he said.


Ajmer, July 11: 
The nagadas are out for President Pervez Musharraf. The huge ceremonial drums, used for welcoming the most revered of guests at the dargah of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, have been dusted and finetuned; the drum-beaters have starched their frayed uniforms and are flexing their rusty wrists.

But as the dargah at Ajmer readies to welcome Musharraf on Monday evening, a behind-the-scenes battle has broken out over the booty he will bring. Indications are that Musharraf will offer a hefty nazrana of Rs 50 lakh, and three parties are laying claim to it.

Traditionally, the nazrana goes to the khadim performing the ziyarat (ritual prayers). The right for performing the ziyarat for Musharraf has been given to the body of khadims called Anjuman Moinia Fakhria Chistia — 31 khadims have already been given special passes for the July 16 prayers. So they say the offering should also go to them.

Sarvar Chisti, secretary of the Anjuman, says: “It’s not that the money goes to our personal pockets. The Anjuman uses it for facilities that eventually profit the pilgrims. We use the money for prayers but we also use it for development purposes at the dargah.”

But increasingly, pilgrims have been trusting the ministry of social welfare-run Dargah Committee with their nazranas. The committee gives receipts stating the amount offered and keeps an account of the money. It has also built rest houses for pilgrims coming from abroad and distant places within the country.

The Pakistani delegation that came to oversee preparations for Musharraf’s visit has asked the state government where and how the money would be utilised.

Mohammad Illyas, Musharraf’s chief security officer, wanted the money to go to the committee so that it could build a new guest house for Pakistani pilgrims, a source said. The Pakistani team wanted the committee to look for a plot closer to the dargah. The present guest house is more than 2 km away.

Refusing to give up without a fight, the khadims have written to Musharraf, “presenting their credentials”. They have quoted tradition to state that the nazrana has always gone to the khadim and have given a list of the Anjuman’s development activities.

Now, a third player has made a dramatic entry. The diwan of the dargah, Zainual Abideen, has dashed off a letter to Musharraf, “inviting” him to the ziyarat. He has argued that he is a descendent of the Khwaja and should be allowed to perform the ziyarat.

The administration is talking to the three parties, hoping that matters will be sorted out by the time of Musharraf’s visit. But, as a khadim at the dargah says: “It is Musharraf’s show, he should have the last word.”




Maximum: 27.6°C (-4)
Minimum:25.6°C (0)


30.3 mm

Relative humidity

Minimum: 89%


A few spells of light to moderate rain.
Sunrise: 5.02 am
Sunset: 6.22 pm

Maintained by Web Development Company