Pervez plays a broken record
Couch potatoes at seat of power
CBI raid on axed UTI chief
Naga rebels in Arunachal hit
High tide, low drive in Orissa
Pervez claims news meet refusal
Two men and a woman who rocked Agra boat
Congress slams Centre on summit
Govt mulls state funds for polls
Calcutta Weather

 
 
PERVEZ PLAYS A BROKEN RECORD 
 
 
FROM ASHIS CHAKRABARTI
 
Islamabad, July 20: 
He had not left any doubt at Agra, still President Pervez Musharraf was not taking any chances.

“Resolution of (the) Kashmir dispute is at the heart of Indo-Pak confrontation and this is the only issue that is blocking peace between us,” he said at a news conference with a large Indian presence.

He made it clear that the two countries could not move forward if India continued to consider Kashmir its “atut ang” (integral part).

For a man who “talks in direct language and hits straight”, talking of confidence-building measures without tackling the Kashmir issue was “like putting the cart before the horse”. And, “whether we like it or nor, the horse happens to be Kashmir”.

Calling the Kashmir violence a “freedom struggle” once again, he dismissed the allegation of cross-border terrorism. “There was nothing on the India-Pakistan border. And, on cross-LoC terrorism, I beg to differ because it is the indigenous freedom struggle and has nothing to do with cross-border terrorism.”

While saying he deplored “anyone trying to disturb peace in India”, he did not answer a question on threats by Lashkar-e-Toiba and some other militant groups to strike deeper in Kashmir and at key installations in India. His explanation once again: it is a “freedom struggle”.

Musharraf lost his cool only once when a local journalist suggested that politicians had done better at Simla and Lahore than an army general had at Agra.

He argued that the political leaders had failed at Simla and Lahore because they could not get the Kashmir issue incorporated in the agreements. Raising his voice to reflect his anger at the comparison between the army and politicians, he said the military was “part of the government and it understood issues better than the politicians.”

This was an indication that he would continue to use Agra, where no declaration was made, as the framework for future negotiations rather than the agreements at Simla and Lahore.

He disclosed that in the six hours of talks with Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee in four instalments, Kashmir was discussed “90 per cent of the time”. Musharraf said he and Vajpayee had come close to inking a declaration on an agreed draft twice.

Musharraf refused to call the summit a failure, though, choosing to focus on the process of dialogue that resumed with Agra.

“I return empty-handed but I’m not disappointed,” he said. “There was tremendous goodwill and understanding. There was resolve to carry forward the process.”

His Kashmir refrain may evoke screams of exasperation in New Delhi, but they would be happy to note his dismissal of the possibility of third party mediation.

“We are big, responsible and understanding states. It is best to solve our disputes mutually,” he said at the question-answer session. The comment represents a change from an oft-repeated Pakistani call for mediation that has survived through military and political regimes in that country.

As evidence of his willingness to take the process started in Agra forward, the general said he would formally invite Vajpayee and Jaswant for a second round of talks. “I am going to send an official invitation to Vajpayee and we are going to send an official invitation to foreign minister Jaswant Singh.”

“Now we have to see whether they come before my UN visit (in September).”

During his opening statement, Musharraf posed three questions, answering them himself.

“Do we genuinely want peace?” — “Yes.”

“Can we bring peace without resolution of the Kashmir dispute?” — “No.”

“Can we reach a resolution without ascertaining the wishes of the Kashmiri people?” — “No.”

The word “people” — Pakistani, Indian and Kashmiri — came back and back again to the lips of a general using the politician’s vocabulary. “I did not go to (Agra) for point-scoring. This is not a football match. People desire peace... People will not allow it (the process) to be stopped.”

   

 
 
COUCH POTATOES AT SEAT OF POWER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 20: 
It was a hurriedly-called meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to keep an eye on a newly-developing threat perception: General Pervez Musharraf’s offensive through the Indian media.

There were two fundamental differences from other CCS sessions: officially it was not labelled a meeting and its members had collected not to discuss security-related issues but to watch Musharraf’s news conference live on PTV which New Delhi had once banned.

The first response here to the general’s hour-and-a-half-long performance was to reject both his attempt at describing Kashmir as “a disputed territory” and downplaying the issue of cross-border terrorism by raising questions about the legality of the Line of Control. The Indian response was not shrill, but firm. It reaffirmed that Jammu and Kashmir was “an integral part” of India and that the LoC had emerged from the Simla Agreement and thus cross-border terrorism was a violation of that treaty.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh told reporters outside 7 Race Course Road that Musharraf’s news conference — where he stressed that unless Kashmir was accepted as the main issue and resolved first it was not possible to improve India-Pakistan relations — explained why the two sides could not agree on an Agra declaration. “I hope people will now understand it better.”

He said: “I take this opportunity to put it clearly and categorically that the thesis advanced by President Musharraf that Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory is totally not acceptable to us. We reject it outright.”

“It is an integral part of India and lies at the core of the Indian nation.” Singh argued that it was the ceaseless insistence on treating it as a disputed territory that became the most difficult hurdle for India to overcome during its negotiations with Pakistan at the Agra Summit.

He said it was also disappointing to see that cross-border terrorism, which claimed a large number of innocent lives daily, was “attempted to be explained away by Pakistan on some legalism”.

The minister said the LoC was a treaty document and there was a provision in the Simla Agreement that the two sides would do nothing to change it unilaterally. “The abetment of cross-border terrorism, which also includes encouragement of infiltration, therefore, is a clear violation of the Simla Agreement.”

Singh said these were the two key points on which Pakistan’s refusal to be flexible made it impossible for the two sides to “come to an agreed document”.

Singh, along with home minister L.K. Advani and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra, was present at the gathering at the Prime Minister’s residence this evening.

   

 
 
CBI RAID ON AXED UTI CHIEF 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi, July 20: 
CBI sleuths today raided the premises of former Unit Trust of India chairman P.S. Subramanyam, two executive directors and a general manager along with a stockbroker for allegedly defrauding the country’s largest mutual fund of Rs 32.8 crore through a dubious private placement deal in June last year.

Briefing reporters in New Delhi, CBI spokesperson S.M. Khan said the raids, which began around 6 am, were still going on at nine premises in Mumbai belonging to Subramanyam, executive directors M.M. Kapoor and S.K. Basu, general manager (Mumbai HQ) Prema Madhu Prasad and private broker Rakesh Mehta of Renaissance Securities.

Khan said the charges related to a deal that UTI had reached with the promoters of Century Consultants, Anand and Arvind Johari, under which shares of a group company — Cyberspace Ltd — were privately placed with UTI, which paid Rs 32.8 crore at Rs 930 per share. The shares are now valued at a little over Re 1. Renaissance Securities is believed to have brokered the deal between the Johari brothers and the UTI officials.

Khan said the Mumbai branch of the CBI had initiated the investigations for criminal conspiracy, cheating and misappropriation of public money. As the officers belong to the government, cases are also being registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

He, however, made it clear that the raids were not linked to the alleged insider trading in US-64, which led to large-scale redemption of over Rs 4,000 crore in April-May. This forced the board to freeze the scheme fearing that the reserves would turn negative. But as news of the raids spread, the stock market fell.

Late in the evening, the government appointed a three-member committee headed by former RBI deputy governor S.S. Tarapore to probe UTI’s activities, including alleged insider trading in US-64.

The committee, which has been asked to submit its findings within three months, would have National Institute of Bank Management chairman M.G. Bhide and former CBI director R.K. Raghavan as the other two members, an official release said. The panel has been set up after finance minister Yashwant Sinha’s decision to have an independent inquiry into the issue of insider trading and commercial decisions of UTI.

Investigations had revealed that Cyberspace Ltd had come out with an issue of private placement at Rs 930 per share on preferential allotment basis in June 2000. UTI’s equity research cell rejected the proposal. Based on it, Subramanyam and UTI’s executive directors decided not to participate in the offer. But the file was revived and the same UTI officials decided to subscribe to 3.45 lakh shares.

   

 
 
NAGA REBELS IN ARUNACHAL HIT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, July 20: 
Suspected NSCN(I-M) militants struck in a big way today, killing six CRPF personnel and injuring as many on a remote hilly route near Khonsa in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tirap district.

Arunachal IG Yudhbir Singh Dadwal confirmed the involvement of Naga rebels but added that “we are trying to ascertain if NSCN(I-M) militants carried out the ambush”.

The incident occurred around 1.30 pm near Pongkongh, about 28 km from the district headquarters of Khonsa. Tirap is among the two districts of Arunachal claimed by the NSCN(I-M) as part of “Greater Nagalim”.

   

 
 
HIGH TIDE, LOW DRIVE IN ORISSA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Bhubaneswar, July 20: 
Nature and a bumbling state government have conspired to starve millions of people marooned by the floodwaters in Orissa.

The rain has subsided, but tonight’s high tide is likely to aggravate the situation in the five coastal districts. Though nearly 14 lakh cusecs of water passed through the Naraj barrage into the Mahanadi yesterday, the situation in the coastal plains continues to be critical. A clueless state administration is keeping its fingers crossed, waiting for the high tide to ebb.

Some six million people have now been hit by the floodwaters, which have claimed 42 lives and left more than a million homeless. Triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains, the floods cut off 9,000 villages and washed away thousands of houses in Bhadrak, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Jajpur, Kendrapara and Puri districts. Nearly 5.52 lakh hectares of crop have been damaged.

In low-lying Kendrapara, devastated by the October 1999 supercyclone, close to 200 villages and around 2 lakh people were sucked into the calamity late last night as water, which had to be released from the swollen Hirakud dam, flowed through the district, causing 8 breaches in two tributaries of the Mahanadi.

“The worst is yet to cease. We are afraid that during high tide in the evening, fresh areas will be inundated as the floodwaters will spill into populated areas and farmlands through the 51 breaches in the embankments,” chief secretary D.P. Bagchi said.

Revenue minister Biswabhusan Harichandan, however, claimed that the situation was “well under control”.

The government said it had adequate amount of food, but people in several areas are without relief for four days. The 30 sorties carried out by air force helicopters have so far managed to provide only 40 tonnes of food.

As Orissa does not have enough chira for the affected people, neighbouring West Bengal and Chhattisgarh have promised to send 45 and 20 truckloads immediately.

While relief work has been badly hit, rescue operations are also progressing slowly as the government has only 100 motorboats and 1,000 countryboats for the job. Special relief commissioner H.K. Panda today said the collectors had requisitioned more countryboats.

The Paradip Port Trust was also asked to provide more boats for rescue and relief operations, he said.

The government has only 40 cyclone shelters and around 10,000 tents to house the 10 lakh people who have been evacuated.

Though the telecommunication system has not been affected yet, the government is not sure which areas are still under water. The 450-plus army contingent, headed by Maj. Gen. Puspinder Singh, has started evacuation work. Army coordinator Col S.K. Mohapatra said: “Two infantry columns and six engineering columns are currently engaged in relief and rescue work.”

A Central team, headed by agriculture minister Nitish Kumar, surveyed the flooded areas and promised help from the national calamity contingency fund.

The Centre has cleared the overdraft of Rs 220 crore for Orissa to expedite relief operations. The state government said it would need Rs 401 crore for relief work in areas that were flooded a fortnight ago.

   

 
 
PERVEZ CLAIMS NEWS MEET REFUSAL 
 
 
FROM ASHIS CHAKRABARTI
 
Islamabad, July 20: 
President Pervez Musharraf today said he was not allowed to hold a news conference at the end of his Agra summit with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Declining to go into details, Musharraf said the Indian side had “some compulsions” because of which he could not hold the planned press meet.

Musharraf’s statement came, at his news conference, on the heels of Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh’s earlier contention that the news conference could not be held because of security reasons.

Singh had claimed that the security protocol needed the host side to be given at least 90 minutes before any such programme of the Pakistan President in Agra.

Also denying the Indian foreign minister’s complaint that the Pakistani side sought to conduct “negotiations through the media”, he wondered why his breakfast meeting with the Indian editors had been made a big issue, “especially in this age of information”. He argued he had not said anything at the meeting with the editors that he had not said before.

And he assured to personally arrange a news conference if Vajpayee or Singh wanted to hold one as and when they came here for the next round of talks.

While praising Vajpayee’s “open-mindedness and pragmatism”, he refused to be drawn into any “rift” within the Indian camp, as several questioners suggested that it was “hawks” (led by Indian home minister L.K. Advani) who allegedly threw the summit off course and prevented a declaration. There were “hawks” on both sides but it was for the moderates to work out peace initiatives, by ignoring the “extremists”.

“I didn’t go there for point scoring. This is not a football match where we are trying to score goals against each other. I don’t do that. We are into too serious a business that involved not just governments, but one-fifth of humanity living on the Indian subcontinent,” Musharraf said.

He didn’t agree that all was lost at Agra. “Let’s not let history slip from our grasp.” And he would still want the media in India and Pakistan, along with the people, to play their roles in the rounds ahead.

   

 
 
TWO MEN AND A WOMAN WHO ROCKED AGRA BOAT 
 
 
FROM ASHIS CHAKRABARTI
 
Islamabad, July 20: 
Three rocked the boat in the Yamuna in Agra — two men and a woman — even as Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf not only kept it afloat but nearly oared it ashore. That is the post-Agra prognosia in the Pakistani capital.

Back from their sticky Indian summer, the Pakistani establishment holds home minister L.K. Advani, information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj and joint secretary (Pakistan) in the external affairs ministry Vivek Katju responsible for wrecking the Agra peace march from behind the scenes.

Advani, of course, is the public face of the demotion squad. In fact, while the Pakistani media has openly railed at “mosque-smasher” Advani, the foreign office mandarins here are simply livid at both the Indian home minister and Katju. Swaraj may have been a minor spoiler, but she is believed to have set the odd ball rolling by “leaking out” to the media the Indian side’s objections to the Pakistani approach to the Kashmir issue.

By contrast, Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh is perceived as something of a chameleon, who changed colours of a hawk to those of dove. And, Vajpayee is presented in the Pakistani script as the ineffectual angel who beat his wings in the void.

The countdown to the breakdown, as a senior Pakistani foreign ministry official put it, began around 6 pm on July 15, when Katju walked into the Pakistani camp, holding a copy of the draft of the stillborn Agra declaration. “Cataclysmic”, Katju apparently called it, “and we knew we are getting thicker into the mud”.

The draft had a “preamble and then went on to talk about a settlement of the Kashmir issue, including ascertaining the wishes of the Kashmiri people, a structure for future dialogues, narco-terrorism and economic and trade issues. It was a composite draft,” the official claimed.

If this was the beginning of the turbulence time, there were portents even before this. “Sunday afternoon, at the delegation level talks, your home minister brought up the issue of the POWs. He also mentioned terrorism. But we could have also brought in the issue of Indian oppression (in Kashmir) in response to that. We could feel the tension building up. But our president still thought we should keep on track and offered to come up with the declaration. Then came the Sushma Swaraj statement on TV. I protested to one of the Indian officials,” recalled the foreign ministry official who had been involved in the negotiations and the draft-making exercises.

Despite the hitches, however, the talks went on. “Advani and Sushma spanners notwithstanding, we knew the two principals did talk Kashmir at length. In fact, that morning (July 15) of a two-hour meeting, they (Vajpayee and Musharraf) talked Kashmir for 90 minutes.”

“The drafting committee met again around midnight. The two foreign secretaries were leading the two sides. Next morning, we gave the draft, which then went to the two foreign ministers who drafted the final agreement.” It was said to have “nine parameters for the agreement, starting with a settlement of the Kashmir issue to pave the way for normalisation of relations. It was shown to the two principals and they agreed.”

Upto now, the agreement or the joint declaration seemed a distinct possibility. Singh then took the agreed draft, saying “he would be back to us in 15 minutes after he had shown it to your Cabinet committee (on security). We waited and waited. He came back after an hour — around 1.30 pm — to tell us that the Cabinet committee has not accepted the final draft.”

Feverish attempts continued even after this to retrieve the lost draft, to no avail. That was why, even when Musharraf went to make the farewell call on Vajpayee, it lasted 60 minutes.

The Pakistani foreign office is not, however, consigning the unaccepted Agra declaration to the Yamuna waters. Reiterating the position earlier taken by Pakistan foreign minister Abdul Sattar on his return here, the official said the process started at Agra would be taken forward. “We have no problem with the agreements at Simla and Lahore, though India has violated the first agreement several times,” he said. But the Agra acrimonies, with its unfinished agenda, will continue to cast their shadow over future rounds.

   

 
 
CONGRESS SLAMS CENTRE ON SUMMIT 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, July 20: 
The Congress today contradicted parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan’s statement yesterday that all parties had expressed satisfaction over the Agra Summit, saying it was a “fiasco” that “represented a diplomatic disaster and a media mishap”.

Congress spokesperson Jaipal Reddy said at the all-party meeting called by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee “Dr Manmohan Singh expressed dissatisfaction at the way the summit was handled”.

Coming down heavily on the government for the failure of the summit, Reddy said no government in the history of independent India has received such unqualified cooperation from the Opposition in general and the Congress in particular. “The Congress gave the government a blank cheque. What did the nation get in return? It only got a heavy overdraft,” Reddy said.

Asked if the Congress felt the summit was “not a failure”, Reddy said: “We blamed Pakistan for the disappointing result. We did not want to use a harsh word like failure, but it was certainly a fiasco.”

“The pre-summit phase was characterised by lack of preparation. The summit phase was characterised by confusion and the post-summit has been characterised by one contradiction after another,” he said, adding that the summit ended in a non-statement. The second day, he said, was marked by a positive statement by the foreign minister. But on the third day, after the NDA meeting, the government issued a negative statement.

The Congress leader said that the government at the all-party meeting made half a statement. “After all, it was not such a bad thing, we are again going to talk, it is all going to be forgotten as a bad dream,” Reddy said.

   

 
 
GOVT MULLS STATE FUNDS FOR POLLS 
 
 
FROM R. VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, July 20: 
The Centre today took up the long pending recommendations for state funding of recognised political parties during elections.

The law ministry set the ball rolling by sending a draft proposal to the Union Cabinet.

An official note said the proposal has also been circulated to the ministries of home and finance and the departments of legal and company affairs for “comments and concurrence”.

The draft is based on the recommendations of the Indrajit Gupta committee, which had suggested “partial state funding” to recognised parties.

The official note said the Centre was “in the process of collecting inputs from all the state governments and Union Territories and authorities concerned on the recommendations of the Indrajit Gupta committee, which has financial and other practical implications”.

The late former home minister was an architect of electoral reforms. In his report submitted on January 14, 1999, he had suggested a series of measures and said that state funding would curb the “menace of black money”. The official note also made the same point, saying the proposed measure “is intended to curb considerably the menace of the use of black money power in elections”.

It said the draft note has been sent to the Cabinet in the “light of the information available so far”. This includes certain proposals suggested by the Dinesh Goswami Committee, predecessor of the Indrajit Gupta panel.

Before the Vohra Committee’s report on “criminalisation of politics”, there was a country-wide debate on the use of “illegal money” in elections and candidates spending amounts much more than the prescribed limit. This also meant that a successful candidate started his life as legislator with a lie, filing a false statement on election expenses.

The draft proposal says that India could model the new proposal on several other countries that have similar provisions. Under these provisions, a candidate of a recognised party would be provided with vehicles for campaigning and, by turn, given prime time on radio and television. To a certain extent, the candidates would also be provided with fuel and publicity material.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 30.3°C (-2)
Minimum: 26°C (0)

Rainfall

3.6 mm

Relative Humidity

Max: 97%
Min: 76%

Today

One or two spells of light to moderate rain.
Sunrise: 5.05 am
Sunset: 6.21 pm
   
 

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