Breach adds to monsoon woes
No need for miracles, movement will do
Flexible on Kashmir, adamant on core status
Stars, Simla jostle for company
Sangh hawks lose sleep over ‘soft’ PM
Two homes, one window
Road of hope blurs borders
Hurriyat plays down Pervez date
Govt takes another shot at tobacco Bill
Laloo looks up to priests & prayer

Calcutta, July 13: 
Vast areas of Patharpratima in South 24-Parganas have been flooded after heavy showers over the past two days breached a 400-metre long dike.

More than 100 houses were washed away, rendering homeless about 500 villagers who have been given shelter in local schools. Standing crop of more than 70,000 acres has been damaged.

Sunderbans development minister Kanti Ganguly, who visited the flood-affected areas on Friday, said the flood was caused by the break down of a sluice gate. “Had the gate been repaired before the monsoon, the people could have been saved from this ordeal. The fault had been detected long ago. I don’t know what had prevented the authorities from taking timely action,” the minister said. Ganguly briefed the chief minister about the flood situation.

“We have started relief and restoration work on a war-footing and leaves of the employees of the irrigation department in the flood-affected areas have been cancelled till the situation improves,” said minister of state for irrigation Ganesh Mondal. The district magistrate said relief material has been despatched. The Kakdwip sub-divisional officer, who supervised relief operations, said the worst affected villages are Sitarampur and Gobardhanpur.

Wakf tribunal

The government today came under severe criticism from the Opposition while tabling the Wakf (West Bengal Second Amendment) Bill, 2001, which sought to raise from 60 to 62 the upper age limit of judges of the Wakf tribunal, adds our special correspondent.

Trinamul Congress legislator Sougata Roy said while the government had tabled a Bill to raise the age limit of judges appointed to the tribunal, it was not taking any conclusive step to restore Wakf properties transferred illegally. Roy and Congress MLA Abdul Mannan alleged that ruling party members were involved in the illegal transfer.


There is a principle in International Law called Rebus Sic Stantibus which means “the circumstances have changed”. This principle is mostly utilised to justify the legality of governments which come to power through revolutionary or non-democratic means.

In fact, this principle should apply to assessment of international behaviour as well, which is not normally done. In the case of the forthcoming Agra Summit, it is absolutely essential for those who desire to assess its likely outcome to keep this principle in mind.

To look back, from the beginning of the cold war era in this region, particularly the signing of the Baghdad Pact in the early fifties, till the beginning of the Kargil adventure by Pakistan in 1999, every government in Pakistan in its relationship with India had banked on support from outside, particularly from the United States and China. The pre-supposition in Islamabad all along was that any misadventure by Pakistan which misfired would be contained with the help of these foreign friends. Even though the Cold War ended 10 years back, foreign and defence policy experts of Pakistan persisted in their belief that the circumstances had not changed. Hence, there started a vigorous campaign in the nineties to internationalise the Kashmir issue or at least to bring in the mediation of a third party for its resolution. The policy makers across the border did not realise that the global strategic situation had undergone a sea change, and in the emerging scenario, the West, particularly the US, was looking for new friends.

Even China, which has emerged as the country with the strongest potential for rivalry towards the United States, needs new friends in this region. The conflict in Kargil awakened Pakistani rulers with a rude shock when they found that their allies had turned into judges. This was a most unpleasant left-over of the Cold War for Pakistan.

Another unsavoury leftover of the Cold War was the horde of religious fundamentalists which had been used to fight communist rule in Afghanistan. These unemployed violence-addicts needed new theatres to operate. The most foul outcome of this was the Taliban movement, which had come into existence with direct assistance from Pakistan. This association eroded away whatever credibility was left for Pakistan in the former allies with the West. This breaking of the political and strategic umbilical cord also resulted in tapering of trade and aid.

An isolated nation, ruled by an isolated regime, thus, waited to mend its relations with India as proof of its re-entry into the group of main players in this region.

The circumstances have changed not only for Pakistan but also for India. Suffice it to say that India today is a country on the march with the most developed nations in the 21st century. India has shaken a good bit of its political and ideological baggage. The new generation in India wants to be in the front rank in this race of knowledge-based societies.

The irony is that political analysts, strategists and social scientists on both sides of the Wagah border have, with few exceptions, not realised the operation of the principle of Rebus Sic Stantibus.

Fortunately, the leaders on both sides seem to be fully guided by it. It was in the light of this realisation that circumstances have changed that Prime Minister Vajpayee announced his unilateral ceasefire before the beginning of the holy month of Ramzan and issued his invitation to General Pervez Musharraf to visit India to hold discussions on the issues that have bewildered relations between the two countries. It was with the realisation of the same principle that Gen. Musharraf accepted his invitation and is coming to India.

It may be worthwhile looking at what the commentators and the analysts on the two sides are saying. As far as the President of Pakistan is concerned, the analysts on the Indian side are guessing what he will do, while those on the Pakistan side are saying what he should do. As far as India is concerned, those on the Indian side are saying what Prime Minister Vajpayee should do and those on the Pakistan are saying what he will do. Had these intellectuals based their judgement on changed circumstances, the “will” and the “should” would have interchanged their places.

Looking at the situation on the eve of the summit, however, it appears that the critics are going to prove right. The developments which have taken place during the past few days appear to show that the past is going to be repeated. India has announced a number of confidence-building measures. The Pakistan side sees this as a stratagem to lure President Musharraf away from the central issue of Kashmir. In the same way, the most undiplomatic insistence of the Pakistan President to meet the motley of Hurriyat leaders in the Pakistan high commission while he is a guest of the President of India, shows to the people in India that Pakistan does not care for their feelings and would not like to abandon the people who have collaborated with them so far in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

But, there is a deeper way of looking at these things. The very fact that Prime Minister Vajpayee has come out with confidence-building measures in the field of travel, trade and the military situation on the border before the Agra Summit shows that these are not the issues which India has kept on the top of its agenda. By implication, it shows that the Prime Minister has come out with India’s stand on all these issues leaving only the issue of Kashmir, particularly the continuation of violence in that state for Agra. In the same way, one is reminded of the fact that about a week back, President Musharraf had left the question of his meeting with Hurriyat leaders to his hosts. In view of this, one is encouraged to presume that the Pakistan President, being fully aware of the indecorum in meeting certain individuals against the wishes of his hosts, has agreed to do so only to accommodate the hawks and hot-heads at home and will not shy away from taking bold steps in resolving the major issues between the two countries.

The people in India and Pakistan, and the world at large, are waiting to see the beginnings of a new age.

No one expects that these two leaders will perform a miracle. What everyone expects is that they candidly show to their people that they are now determined to move ahead on the path of amity, understanding and all-round progress in this sub-continent. While they both must be flooded with advice, it is pertinent to mention to them that the top is always lonely.

I.P. Singh is a retired diplomat. Currently, he is co-chairman of Indo-German Consultative Group


Washington, July 13: 
As Pervez Musharraf prepares to get a good night’s sleep before taking the second most important flight in his life, the word from Pakistan is that the General is willing to be flexible about Kashmir in his discussions on possible solutions or even on reducing violence there.

At the same time, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will find the Pakistan President totally inflexible in his commitment that Kashmir should be discussed as the core issue between India and Pakistan.

Information pieced together about the most important in a plethora of meetings that Musharraf has had in Islamabad and Rawalpindi all of this week provides vital clues to the mind of the man who re-routed the Lahore-bound bus to the icy heights of Kargil just over two years ago.

Although foreign minister Abdul Sattar and foreign secretary Inamul Haq were present at yesterday’s meeting of corps commanders and principal staff officers at the army’s general headquarters in Rawalpindi, Musharraf, who presided, did a lot of talking, often indulging in soliloquies, according to knowledgeable sources.

At one stage, he answered a question on whether he would allow progress or even a discussion in Delhi and Agra on issues other than Kashmir, though no one actually posed the question to the President .

“How can we reduce tension between Pakistan and India?” the General thought aloud at one stage. “By solving Sir Creek? By agreeing on Wullar Barrage? Nonsense. By resolving the Kashmir issue,” he said.

Pakistani political sources in exile, who are keeping close tabs on every action of the General, said it was as if he was rehearsing for his meetings in India. It is reasonable to assume that this is exactly what he will tell Vajpayee if the Prime Minister proposes progress on issues other than Kashmir.

A confident Musharraf told his aides that he had pored over every detail of every big meeting between India and Pakistan since Independence. He was mortified by the account in the files of a meeting between Vajpayee and former Pakistani foreign minister Sartaj Aziz, who went to New Delhi in 1999 suing for peace in Kargil.

Vajpayee, who did not allow Aziz to speak throughout the meeting, told the foreign minister that India would take back the territory it had lost in Kargil, but could not get back the trust lost after Lahore.

“What trust are they (Indians) talking of?” Musharraf is said to have thundered. “They came into Siachen. They violated the Line of Control long before we did. They unilaterally threw out the Simla Agreement. General Zia had to swallow the humiliation and keep quiet just as Nawaz had to silently take the humiliation from Clinton. Why is it that we (Pakistanis) are the ones to be always humiliated?”

Should Vajpayee mention Kargil to the architect of that misadventure, this is a sample of what he might expect to hear.

So, will there be an Agra Declaration? Although the two sides are working on a draft, Musharraf has told his aides that there could be no declaration unless the Kashmir dispute is defined in Pakistani terms. If there is no agreement between the two sides, the so-called Agra Declaration may be downgraded to a mere joint statement.

At one pre-summit meeting in Islamabad, Musharraf is said to have rejected even the format of the statement on “composite dialogue” issued after the foreign secretaries of the two countries met in Islamabad in October 1998.

US post-summit visit

US assistant secretary of state for South Asia Christina B. Rocca will visit India, Pakistan and Nepal shortly after the Agra Summit, officials said.

The visit will provide an opportunity to discuss matters of mutual interest, bilateral and multilateral relations.


New Delhi, July 13: 
Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Dilip Kumar, Saira Bano, Dev Anand and Sunil Gavaskar will rub shoulders with the political and diplomatic class at the President’s banquet in honour of Pervez Musharraf and his wife Sehba tomorrow.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s guest list for the Taj Palace luncheon includes Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi, Sharmila Tagore, R.K. Laxman, Amjad Ali Khan, M.F. Husain, the heads of CII, Ficci and Assocham, captains of industry and media moguls.

Rashtrapati Bhavan chefs are working overtime to dish out a food fest for a guest who is returning to India after 54 years. Musharraf had left Delhi’s Kucha Saadullah Khan before August 15, 1947, at the age of four. Some of his distant relatives living in India were disappointed that neither the Pakistan high commissioner nor the ministry of external affairs had bothered to invite them to any of the functions.

President K.R. Narayanan plans to make Musharraf’s “homecoming” memorable but the Nehruvian statesman also has a good mind to underline the importance of the Simla Agreement as a cornerstone in Indo-Pakistan relations.

In political and diplomatic circles, Narayanan’s reference to the Simla Agreement would emphasise the nation’s resolve to tackle all outstanding issues between the two countries in the spirit of the 1972 accord.

Narayanan has also invited two former Prime Ministers, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Inder Kumar Gujral, who have assisted Vajpayee in the pre-summit preparations. During the Rao regime, Parliament had passed a resolution declaring that Kashmir was an integral part of India and that integration of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir with the Indian union was an “unfinished agenda”.

Apart from the Prime Minister, leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi, CPM leader Harkishen Singh Surjeet, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan, senior Union ministers L.K. Advani, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Murli Manohar Joshi, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Karan Singh, Manmohan Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav are some of the people invited by Narayanan.

While the menu has been kept a well-guarded secret, sources said a variety of kebabs has been included, keeping in mind Begum Musharraf’s interest in Mughlai dishes. For non-vegetarians, chicken, fish, mutton and prawns in garlic sauce are likely to be served. For vegetarians, about a dozen delicacies from the north and the south will be on offer. But a cultural feast by two singers has been called off.

In his speech, vetted by the Prime Minister’s Office, Narayanan will focus on the virtues of democracy, highlighting India’s successful experiment with it for decades, leading to all-round development and prosperity.

The President is, however, unlikely to talk about Kargil and cross-border terrorism. His speech will deal at length about the need for friendly relations with Pakistan.

Vajpayee is hosting his lunch for the Musharrafs at Taj Palace hotel where chef Neeta Nagraj is being assisted by food czar Jiggs Kalra. The Prime Minister has invited another set of celebrities for a lunch with the Musharrafs at Agra.


New Delhi, July 13: 
With President Pervez Musharraf upping the ante on Kashmir over the last two days, the BJP has given up all hopes of the Agra Summit yielding anything tangible.

According to a senior office-bearer, the party’s immediate worry is how to contain a perception it thinks is rapidly gaining ground: “India is willing to cave in under pressure on just about anything, including Kashmir, while Pakistan always manages to hold its ground.”

Hamstrung by the “compulsion” of endorsing the Centre’s policies and moves, BJP sources hoped the other Sangh constituents would start “raising” their voices against Pakistan. As if on cue, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad was the first to get off the mark.

A senior representative of the VHP, Acharya Dharmendra, announced his decision to go on a two-day fast to protest against the summit. Interestingly, he has decided to sit outside the residence of BJP MP Mahant Adityanath who is also a VHP member. The fast, Dharmendra told the press, was intended to “give strength to the Prime Minister so that he does not get carried away emotionally and make any blunder for which the nation would have to pay a heavy price later”.

Dharmendra summed up the Sangh hardliners’ view of Vajpayee by describing him as a “liberal and emotional person with a poetic heart” and Musharraf as a “cunning person who does not believe in even basic courtesy and formal mannerisms of respecting the host country’s sentiments as was evident from his invitation to the Hurriyat Conference” — as if to underline Vajpayee’s “soft” approach to politics and diplomacy.

Privately, BJP sources said they agreed with Dharmendra’s assessment. “Our greatest anxiety is that Atalji may promise just about anything to the Pakistan President in their one-on-one meetings. He has proved to be quite unpredictable in the past,” they maintained, referring to Vajpayee’s public expression of regret, a day after the Babri mosque was demolished. His view was in total contrast to the BJP’s stand that a “symbol of slavery” had been obliterated even as its leaders sought to distance themselves from the act.

Within the BJP, there was an undercurrent of approval for Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray for describing Musharraf as the “butcher of Kargil”.


New Delhi, July 13: 
If the high road to peace snakes its way by the Pakistan High Commission here, it will be crammed with tense visa seekers.

Applicants from all over the country have to cover quite a distance since India has only one outlet for issuing Pakistani visas. They swarm in hundreds, in anticipation just to cross the border to meet their dear ones. These dear ones could be anybody — parents, siblings, cousins or even one’s spouse.

Nazma arrived here last evening. Though Ferozabad is not too far away from Delhi, travelling with three children is not easy. That’s not all. She had no choice but to park herself on the footpath along the high commission, while she awaited her turn for the visa interview. “My grandparents and cousins live in Pakistan. I want to meet them. There is so much uncertainty when it comes to getting the Pakistani visa, I think it depends on the mood of the official on duty.”

A placard, placed on the wall of the high commission, states that application forms are available between 8.30 am to 11.30 am, which is followed by an interview between 8.30 to noon. But it is only at 4.00 pm that applicants get to know whether they have got the clearance to go to Pakistan.

Rehana and her parents want to attend a wedding in Karachi, which is scheduled towards the month-end. Her parents have received the visa, but Rehana has been unlucky. “The officials in the high commission said that only after an inquiry of three months, they would decide whether I should get the visa or not.”

Salma, who has been selling food in front of the high commission for the last eight years, says: “Rehana is not the only one who has to go through the inquisition period. There have been many instances where the husband gets the visa but the wife is refused, although it is comparatively easier for senior citizens to get the visa.”

According to Salma, on Mondays, there is a mad rush — there could be as many as 200 applicants — while Friday being a half day, there are less people around.

But the problem does not end here. From July 2, visa forms were made available through a pay order of Rs 15 made in Delhi. Earlier, visa forms were issued by paying cash.

“Although the amount is paltry, the people stationed in Jama Masjid and around the high commission who sell visa forms charge anything between Rs 50 to Rs 70. They are not connected with the high commission, but make their living by helping the unlettered applicants fill the forms,” said Sidiqqui, who has been visiting his parents and brothers in Pakistan once a year since 1967.


Uri, July 13: 
For Mohammad Akram, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s announcement that the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road would be re-opened was like a dream come true.

“My father died with such a hope,” 47-year-old Akram said with tears rolling down his eyes. He said his father wanted to meet his brother and other relatives living on the other side of the border. “My father’s last words to me were: ‘one day you should come to my grave and tell me that restrictions along the border have been lifted,’’ Akram recalled.

Today it might be possible for Akram to visit his relatives across the Line of Control (LoC). In fact, the opening of the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar road is all that Akram expects from the Vajpayee-Musharraf summit. More than 60 per cent of his relatives live across the LoC.

“But all will depend on the outcome of the Agra Summit. Only a positive result will fulfil my dream of seeing my relatives across the LoC,” Akram said.

People of Uri also have welcomed Vajpayee’s announcement. Ghulam Rasool, a shopkeeper, is also eagerly awaiting the opening of the road. “I want to visit Muzaffarabad to meet the family of my brother who died last year. I made several attempts to visit them. But was stopped at Wagah,” he said.

“When we heard the announcement our joy knew no bounds. I want to help my brother’s family. I want to visit them at the earliest,” Rasool added. However, he said it was too early to say whether or not the government would open the road.

There is heavy deployment of paramilitary and army personnel in Uri. Vajpayee’s announcement has become the talk of the town. Such was the excitement in the market that police had to clear the road of people for letting the army convoy pass. “The tension in Uri and adjoining areas has eased ever since both countries decided to exercise restraint along the LoC. Earlier, one could see shells land even in the busy market,” Zahoor Ahmad said.

According to Ghulam Mohammad, a school teacher, the opening of the road would boost trade along the LoC. “It will become a major trade route between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. The business in Uri will boom once the road is opened,” he said.


New Delhi, July 13: 
Leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference today said their proposed meeting with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf would not, and should not, come in the way of his summit with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Agra.

At a news conference for Pakistani journalists addressed by five Hurriyat leaders, Abdul Ghani Bhat and his colleagues presented their case on Kashmir and asked the visitors from across the border for support.

Bhat regretted the uproar in the Indian media over their meeting with Musharraf and said it was being played up unnecessarily to pollute the atmosphere for the summit. “It has nothing to do with the summit and I am confident our meeting with President Musharraf would not have any negative bearing on the talks between the two leaders,” he said.

Flanked by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and two other members, the Hurriyat chairman said it was wrong to even think that the Hurriyat leaders had sought participation in the formal talks. “The summit is between leaders of the two sovereign states and we know we do not figure in it,” Bhat said.

Bhat said they have welcomed the summit and would expect the two sides to continue the peace process in the interest of the people of the region.


New Delhi, July 13: 
The Centre is trying to push through the anti-tobacco Bill, pending for several years, despite strong protests from trade unions and the powerful tobacco lobby.

A parliamentary committee on subordinate legislation has summoned all trade unions for a hearing next Friday. Labour leaders remain as vehemently opposed to it as before.

“We support the spirit of the Bill —- the social objective of protecting the health of the people. But we are gravely concerned over the disastrous fallout of the Bill on some 36 million tobacco growers,” Hind Mazdoor Sabha leader S.N. Rao said.

According to official statistics, eight to nine lakh people die of smoking every year. “This is the official figure. Unofficially, the number is more,” said Tapas. K. Ray of the Voluntary Health Association of India. In his deposition before the committee, Ray stood firm with the association’s demand that the Bill be introduced as soon as possible.

The Bill bans smoking in public places, any direct or indirect advertising of cigarettes, sale of cigarettes to minors and lays down the rule that the consumer should be adequately warned before he/she chooses to be a smoker. Recently the Centre had put out an advertisement asking the citizens to depose before the parliamentary committee.

When the Narasimha Rao government had tried to introduce the Bill, truckloads of farmers from Andhra Pradesh drove down to the capital to oppose the move. The intensity of the opposition from those who are making a living out of cultivating tobacco and a profit out of selling it has in no way lessened.

The health association says it is a social legislation which does not aim at banning smoking overnight. “They have to gradually decrease the acreage of tobacco cultivation,” said Ray.

Trade unions, on the contrary, insist that the government first put out alternative livelihood measures for the tobacco growers before introducing the Bill which will push the cultivators to the edge.

The debate hinges on the same issues as in the case of environment vs development. “The health ministry is invoking Article 47 of the Constitution which says the state will endeavour to improve the health of the people. But what about Articles 39 and 40 which are committed to employment for the people?” ask labour leaders.

They are also flinging another question at the government: how come the Centre is promoting the asbestos industry when it has been banned in most countries? Those among the anti-tobacco lobby who have appeared before the commission are also suspicious of the government’s intentions.

“Out of 43 members only nine or 10 were present at the hearing,” one of them said. According to some, most of the members are clueless on how to interpret the Bill. “For instance, one of them asked how are we to ban advertisement of cigarettes,” said one member.


Patna, July 13: 
With another CBI chargesheet dangling over his head, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav has embarked on a week-long schedule of special prayers at his residence.

Every day, at the end of the prayers, the “raja of Bihar” will invite Brahmins to an elaborate lunch — believed to earn the blessings of God. Today, the RJD chief also organised a “feed the poor” programme and directed all his party district presidents to organise the programme at their respective offices.

The programme has been devoted to the memory of Mungeri Lal, a former Bihar minister and architect of the job-reservation scheme, who died last week after languishing in a state hospital. Laloo met Lal a few hours before he breathed his last, unsung and unnoticed.

The RJD chief invited to the yagna even those with whom his relations have soured. RJD leaders such as Lalit Yadav, who was expelled from the party and high-profile MP Mohamed Shahabuddin, who had a disagreement with Laloo early this year, joined the leader at his residence.

Chief minister Rabri Devi’s brother, Sadhu Yadav, who had severed ties with the RJD chief, was also invited.

Some of those who attended the puja had been at the forefront of the “Upbit toro (tear the sacred thread)” movement against Brahminism started by Jai Prakash Narayan in the mid-seventies.

According to party sources, Laloo was advised to undertake a spiritual exercise by “the high priest” of his family. The RJD chief had to adhere to all rituals of Brahminism, including sporting a tilak on his forehead.

Politically, things look ominous for Laloo. The CBI has approached the Governor for sanction to prosecute the former chief minister in yet another fodder scam, in which more than Rs 32 crore had allegedly been siphoned off from the Chaibasa treasury by a nexus of bureaucrats and politicians in 1991-92. The accused allegedly furnished fake bills to account for the money.

Another worry for the RJD chief is the Doranda treasury case. Though the Supreme Court had ordered a stay on his arrest in May, the spectre of his detention in NDA-ruled Jharkhand still hangs over his head as the apex court is slated to hear the case again on July23.

If the CBI gets sanction for prosecuting the former chief minister in the Chaibasa case, he would have to spend a longer time in a Jharkhand jail as both the Doranda and Chaibasa cases originated in that region.

The RJD chief is, however, lashing back. “The new chargesheet is another effort of the RSS-BJP combine to harass me politically,” he bellowed.


Maintained by Web Development Company