Vajpayee shuts TV out for House
US bridges Pokhran defence divide
India greets India’s purr with a roar
Pak misreads invisible-hand message
Rating race: Cricket and Pervez
Koirala quits on rebel pressure
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, July 19: 
Perturbed by feedback that Pakistan has won the first round of the propaganda war after President Pervez Musharraf’s televised breakfast meeting with editors, the BJP has urged the Prime Minister’s media managers to arrange a live address on Doordarshan at the earliest to counter the charges.

The party’s spin doctors were, however, told that since Parliament would be sitting next week and Atal Bihari Vajpayee was expected to make a statement on the summit on the opening day, it would not be “proper” to have a live television address before that.

BJP sources said the argument has apparently not gone down too well with the party. This is largely because of the perception that Vajpayee’s “reluctance” to face the media was being contrasted with Musharraf’s enthusiasm to go public with tomorrow’s news conference in Islamabad, which is expected to be covered by a huge Indian press contingent.

“People are asking why Atalji is not willing to speak to the nation. We are afraid a Parliament statement may not have the same impact as a live address to the nation,” a source added.

According to the BJP, it was not the failure of the summit to produce an agreement that bothered people as much as the hint of an “internal sabotage”, which was dropped not just by Pakistan but by party loyalists as well. Indian Council of Social Sciences Research chairman M.L. Sondhi, for instance, publicly accused — and was sacked for that — senior ministers of jointly sabotaging the summit.

“Pakistan’s innuendoes can be laughed away but what about charges levelled by our partymen?” asked the sources.

A live telecast by the Prime Minister, it was felt, would have cleared the air on this issue as on others, such as the Opposition’s criticism that not enough preparation was made for the meeting and the various changes that the stillborn draft was purportedly subject to.

BJP sources said that efforts to set up a cell to oversee the media were stymied from the start when Pramod Mahajan and Arun Jaitley, the two Central ministers who were asked to be part of it, stayed away.

Information minister Sushma Swaraj was asked by Vajpayee to constitute and head a core media management group of ministers and BJP office-bearers, primarily to appear on TV discussions.

Apart from Mahajan and Jaitley, Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan and Shahnawaz Hussain were included from the government, and Narendra Modi, V.K. Malhotra, Sunil Shastri and M.A. Naqvi from the BJP.

Sources claimed Mahajan was “furious” when contacted on behalf of Sushma and refused to appear. Later he pleaded sickness. Jaitley went away to Jabalpur to attend a lawyers’ function.

The sources admitted that with two “competent” spin doctors abstaining, the government was left with only Sushma since neither Paswan nor Nitish was “accomplished” enough to wax eloquent on Kashmir.

In an effort to counter the criticism against Sushma’s role, sources said the information and broadcasting minister had taken her brief seriously. She stayed with the press at Mughal Sheraton and not Jaypee Palace where the rest of the Cabinet was put up.

BJP sources said: “She was constantly in touch with the ministerial delegation and took regular briefings from them on what happened in the one-to-one sessions. Her decision to tell the press what issues were discussed apart from Kashmir was a considered diplomatic move because at a time when Pakistan was crowing over Kashmir, what she said burst their bubble. That was the idea, that it was not just Kashmir that figured on the agenda.”


New Delhi, July 19: 
India and the US today put in place a crucial plank to strengthen bilateral ties by agreeing to revive the Defence Planning Group, idle since 1995.

The decision, seen here as a “substantial leap” in military-to-military cooperation between Delhi and Washington, was taken at a meeting between Indian leaders and the US armed forces chief, Gen. Henry Shelton.

On his first visit to India, Shelton made it clear that closer ties between the two countries were not aimed at containing either Pakistan or China.

The thaw in Indo-US relations, which had plumbed the depths after the May 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests, began with the visit of President Bill Clinton in March 2000. Though it led to high-level contacts at the political and economic levels, the third crucial link, defence contact between the two sides, was missing. Shelton’s visit is aimed at bridging that gap.

After a 30-minute meeting with foreign and defence minister Jaswant Singh, the US general said: “There is a common desire on the part of two countries for a substantive military-to-military relationship.”

Foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said various regional, global and strategic issues were discussed at Shelton’s meetings with Indian leaders and defence officials. Among other things, India sought details of the new defence and security policies of the Bush administration, particularly on the national missile defence.

The Defence Planning Group will be led by the Indian defence secretary and the US under-secretary for defence. It is likely to be in place by the year-end. The revival of the group is primarily aimed at starting a defence dialogue between the two sides on political and military issues, including operations. Though it is the first step forward, it can only be broadbased once the Bush administration takes a final decision on lifting the post-Pokhran sanctions, which, Shelton hinted, could come shortly.

Borrowing Clinton’s phrase to describe India and the US as “natural allies”, Shelton told a select group of newspersons that America’s relationship with Pakistan was not determined directly by its ties with India. “We will continue to work with both the countries,” he said.

Asked specifically whether the military proximity to India was aimed at containing China, the general added: “My current visit as well as our growing military engagement with India has nothing to do with China.”

Though much of what the two sides are trying to resume was already agreed upon in 1995, India’s defence relations with the US had not really taken off. There were several reasons for this, chiefly Delhi’s ties with Moscow during the Cold War. A modest beginning was made in the mid-nineties, but unstable governments and Pokhran froze the ties.


Mumbai, July 19: 
It’s a bit catty.

Why else should US President George W. Bush name his cat after a country of one billion? BJP leaders asked in righteous indignation, as they staged a protest today at the US consulate against “India”, the Bush pet.

They said they were not against the cat as such, but its owner, the most powerful man in the world with a supportive wife, troublesome twin daughters and two dogs and a cat.

“We are hurt,” said Vinod Tawde, Mumbai BJP president, who made the “discovery” while surfing the Net the other day. He had stumbled upon the White House website.

As President Bush’s thumbnail bio flashed on his computer screen, Tawde’s straining eyes caught the cat’s name at the bottom of the webpage. He was outraged.

“The American President knows very well that India is the name of a great country. How could he do this?” Tawde, an engineer by profession, said.

This is not the first time that President Bush’s cat has made news in the country it is named after. But for a different reason.

Reports from Washington after the 55-year-old Texas Governor took over as the 43rd President of the US had described the naming of the cat as Bush’s love for the country he has never visited.

The BJP does not clearly see the feline that way. “Mr President, don’t make mistake. Indians are lion, not the cat,” read a big banner held aloft by 30 silent demonstrators outside the US consulate in the financial capital.

So “outraged” are the party leaders that former minister Nitin Gadkari, Opposition leader in the Legislative Council, urged people to swamp the White House website with protest emails.

“It’s an insult to one billion people in our country. The naming of the cat after India is really in bad taste,” Gadkari said.

US consulate officials, who accepted a BJP memorandum demanding an apology from President Bush, said they were not sure why he had named the cat India. A senior consulate official said the cat’s name was actually “India Ink”, derived from its jet black fur. Later, it got shortened to India.

Bush adopted another cat, a stray, after Spot, one of his dogs, chased it up a tree near the Texas Governor’s mansion during the presidential campaign.

The US President named it Earnie after Ernest Hemingway, a Bush favourite. Earnie had six toes on each foot like Hemingway’s cat. Earnie, now in Los Angeles, was not allowed into the White House because it was considered “too wild”.

Cats, with their nine lives, have an uncanny tendency to land their owners in diplomatic trouble, at times. John Kenneth Galbraith, as US ambassador to India, once faced demonstrations because he had called his cat Ahmed.

On a visit to Ahmedabad, Galbraith had been gifted the cat by some residents. He had named it Ahmedabad, but later changed it to Ahmed, sparking protests not just in India, but also Pakistan. He rechristened it again to Gujarat.


Washington, July 19: 
When Union home minister L.K. Advani stopped over in Abu Dhabi on his way home from Turkey at the beginning of this month, little did he realise that his detailed talks with United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan would have a bearing on the Agra Summit to be held a fortnight later.

Shaikh Zayed told Advani that he would use the UAE’s influence on Pakistan to convince Islamabad to be constructive in Agra.

True to his word, the UAE President conveyed to General Pervez Musharraf his assessment of the talks with Advani through diplomatic channels: India genuinely wanted peace with Pakistan and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Agra initiative was as sincere as it could have been, had it come from a non-BJP government.

The UAE has always been the “invisible hand” in the crucial stages of Indo-Pakistan engagements. In December 1999, hijackers of the Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu took the aircraft to the UAE.

In 1993, it was from the emirates of Dubai that the Memon gang of terrorists oversaw the Pakistan-orchestrated serial bomb plot in Mumbai. In 1985, the Khalistanis flew a hijacked Indian Airlines plane first to Lahore, where they were given arms by Pakistan, and then they took the aircraft to the UAE.

The list is long.

At the army general headquarters in Rawalpindi and at the Presidency in Islamabad, Musharraf’s advisers — some of whom have a long association with the UAE — grossly misread Shaikh Zayed’s message.

These advisers interpreted the content of Advani’s talks with the UAE leader as a sign of India’s weakness in handling Kashmir.

India was growing weary of its protracted engagement with militancy in Kashmir, they told Musharraf. Delhi was at a loss how to deal with Islamabad — and with Kashmir — after the ceasefire against the militants had run its course, they argued.

They failed to see Advani’s conversation with Shaikh Zayed as a sincere elucidation of the collective wisdom of the Indian government. Instead, they fell into the simplistic hawk vs dove trap which is so common in India in dealing with the BJP.

If even Advani, a hawk, is asking for peace, Pakistan must have a definite advantage over India, the advisers told Musharraf. In Agra, Pakistan must aggressively press on with its agenda on Kashmir, they convinced the dictator in Islamabad.

And that precisely is what Musharraf did.

It is a mistake which Pakistan has repeated ad nauseum in dealing with India. After India’s military rout at China’s hands in 1962 and his own inconclusive war in 1965, General Ayub Khan mistakenly thought it was time to teach India a lesson. This miscalculation led to Pakistan’s comprehensive defeat over Bangladesh in 1971. General Zia-ul Haq made the same mistake in the 1980s. He thought he could rip up India’s soft under-belly of Punjab and then proceed to tear away Kashmir.

Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who are now standing back and criticising Musharraf, believed that P.V. Narasimha Rao was too weak a ruler and that he could not hold on to Kashmir.

Vajpayee and his delegation did not go into Agra with their eyes blindfolded. They had the means to find out what exactly was the thinking in Islamabad.

In the run-up to the summit, the Cabinet Committee on Security discussed this scenario in detail. But having invited Musharraf and with the D-Day in Agra just round the corner, all that the Indian delegation could do was to be prepared for the worst.

An abiding lesson from Agra is that military dictators have difficulty in interpreting signals from hard-boiled democratic leaders with decades of ups and downs in dealing with the people.

Another lesson is that what Advani started in Abu Dhabi — and earlier in Ankara — must be relentlessly pursued by South Block. What Rao initiated in 1993 in engaging the Organisation of Islamic Conference to influence Pakistan and was never followed up must now continue.


New Delhi, July 19: 
Indian officials are keeping their evening free tomorrow. Not to catch Sourav Ganguly in Sri Lanka, but watch President Pervez Musharraf in action in Islamabad.

South Block mandarins and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s advisers are clearing up their schedules to grab the Pakistan President’s news conference live on PTV at 5.30 pm, when the India-New Zealand match will be in progress.

For South Block, what Musharraf has to say at the news conference is important as it will be a major factor in deciding India’s policy towards Pakistan. Delhi is miffed with the way the general spilt key negotiating points on the breakfast table with the Indian editors at Agra.

The fact that Pakistan foreign minister Abdul Sattar followed it up by detailing the points agreed upon by the two sides on the draft of the joint declaration to reporters in Islamabad on Tuesday, has made matters worse. There are indications that Musharraf’s advisers have selectively released the draft to some journalists.

“If this is the way international negotiations are to be conducted, then we will have to re-think our future tactics while dealing with Pakistan,” a senior South Block official said.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao expressed similar sentiments this evening. “We are of the firm view that such negotiations cannot be conducted through the media,” Rao said.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh has accepted an invitation from his Pakistani counterpart to visit Islamabad. Rao said the dates of Singh’s visit will be worked out later. But indications suggest that if Musharraf adopts a hard line and keeps giving out details of the negotiations of the Agra Summit, India will be forced to rethink whether it should maintain the dialogue process.

“How can we, or for that matter any country, rely on Pakistan if they continue to give out details of negotiations that the two principals had at Agra?” a senior foreign ministry official said.

The issue also came up at the meeting that US chief of armed forces General Henry Shelton had with Singh and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra this afternoon. Sources said Shelton asked the Indian leaders why the Agra Summit could not come out with a joint declaration.

Shelton was told the reason lay in Pakistan’s insistence on resolving the Kashmir issue first before progressing on other areas. But he was assured of Delhi’s commitment to peace and establishing friendly relations with all neighbours. Asked if this meant the summit had ended in failure, Rao said: “Agra has marked the beginning of a journey and commencement of a process to establish peace and friendship between the two countries.”

Pakistan today said “several understandings” had been reached at the summit and these should be carried forward, adds PTI.


Kathmandu, July 19: 
The flames of disquiet fanned by the Nepal palace massacre singed the political landscape today, forcing Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to resign in the middle of a hostage crisis.

Maoist rebels, who have stepped up since the massacre their violent campaign to topple the constitutional monarchy, had abducted 70 policemen and set Koirala’s departure as a condition for talks. The rebels are now locked in a stand-off with the Royal Nepal Army near a hideout where the policeman are being held captive.

The palace carnage and the insurgency had added zest to Koirala’s rivals — within and outside his party — who have levelled corruption charges against him.

“I have decided to resign to make way for new initiatives to solve various problems facing the country,” Koirala said in a pre-recorded statement on state radio and television.

“The country now is passing through a very serious situation. The attack by the Maoists is directed not only against the democracy of the country but it is also directed at disturbing national security and integrity.”

Koirala, 78, rode to power for the fourth time in March last year on an anti-corruption ticket. He had also promised to stamp out the Maoist rebellion. Koirala lambasted the Maoists “supported by forces inside as well as outside the country” for spreading terror in the Kingdom.

Koirala handed his resignation to King Gyanendra at 4.30 pm in the Narayanhity Palace. State media said the King asked him to continue till the next Cabinet is formed.

The embattled Koirala, who had assumed office after forcing out Nepali Congress colleague Krishna Prasad Bhattarai 16 months ago on March 16, stepped down after friend-turned-foe Bhattarai refused to bail him out.

Party insiders said Koirala made a last-ditch attempt to gain time by approaching arch-rival Sher Bahadur Deuba. But Deuba, his erstwhile protégé and now a strong candidate for the top post, asked Koirala to resign.

In a bid to retain influence, Koirala is likely to support either his relative and Nepali Congress general secretary Sushil Koirala or foreign and home minister Chakra Prasad Bastola for the post. His confidant, Govind Raj Joshi, could also throw his hat into the ring. But Deuba, backed by Bhattarai, is likely to win the parliamentary party elections.

The campaign against Koirala gathered momentum after corruption allegations surfaced over an aircraft leasing deal by the state airline from Austria’s Lauda Air. Koirala denied any wrongdoing but the deal was terminated yesterday.




Maximum:30.7°C (-1)
Minimum: 26.7°C (+1)


2.8 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 95%,
Minimum: 76%


A few spells of light to moderate rain.
Sunrise: 5.05 am
Sunset: 6.21 pm

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