Pervez whips India to woo Pak
Taliban for talks, US for action
Pariahs turn patrons
India echoes Iran on terror war
BJP counsels caution on support
Congress for UN seal on terror war
BJP sees red over military help offer
Calcutta Weather

 
 
PERVEZ WHIPS INDIA TO WOO PAK 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, Sept. 19: 
After assuring Pakistanis that the US was neither targeting Pakistan nor the Afghan people, President Pervez Musharraf said in a nationally televised address that the country was facing its most critical time since the 1971 war with India.

Beyond listing what is already known: that the US has sought logistic support, permission to use Pakistani airspace and intelligence sharing, the President did not give out any operational details of a possible US action against Osama bin Laden or the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These had not been discussed yet, he said.

India was a recurring theme in his speech, though it was referred to as a “neighbouring” country most of the time. Musharraf sought to justify his decision to support President George W. Bush’s call for a global coalition against terrorism by saying that if he did not offer support, India would have walked away with all the credit.

He said India had gone out of its way to offer its facilities to the US. If Pakistan did not respond to US requests for help, it would have walked into a trap laid by New Delhi, which wanted to isolate Islamabad and have it tarred as a terrorist state. India “wants the US to be with them and get Pakistan declared a terrorist state”.

The President referred to a meeting in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe attended by India and Central Asian states, which have borders with Afghanistan, to suggest that New Delhi was trying to instal a regime in Kabul that would be unfriendly to Pakistan.

An opinion poll said that two out of three Pakistanis oppose joining the US in an action against the Taliban or in tracking down bin Laden, suggesting how difficult it is going to be for Musharraf to convince the country, and fundamentalist groups, that the path he has chosen is the right one.

“We must make sure we are supporting the right cause,” said Musharraf, who turned out in full military uniform, was flanked by the national flag and a portrait of the founder of the nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

As he went down the road of persuasion, Musharraf chose with dexterity all the issues dear to the heart of Pakistanis, and all concerning India: Kashmir and the nuclear programme, suggesting that had he not sided with the US, both causes would have suffered.

Using strong words, he accused India of giving Pakistan and Islam a bad name by associating them with the terrorist attacks on the US, telling New Delhi to “lay off”. He departed from his speech in Urdu to use those two words in English.

“It is regrettable that when the entire world is talking about terrorism, India, with whom we were discussing peace and cooperation, is trying to give Pakistan and Islam a bad name.”

India responded to Musharraf’s speech in nearly the same language. “Instead of focusing on terrorism, it is most regrettable that the Pakistan President continues to give voice to his anti-Indian tirade,” the foreign ministry said.

Musharraf used the Agra summit to drive home to the people his credentials as a protector of Pakistani interests. He said that as he had done before the meeting with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, this time too he consulted military heads, politicians and scholars before making up his mind.

Without informing the people what decision his government has taken, he asked the people to have faith in him. “I will not compromise the prestige of Pakistan.”

He supported America saying that whatever it was planning to do was in harmony with resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the Security Council on fighting terrorism. “It wants to take action against the people who are behind terrorism,” he added.

Musharraf hinted that he was expecting economic spinoffs to come Pakistan’s way from his decision to back the US.

Diplomatic sources said the first measures to help Pakistan could be announced by US ambassador Wendy Chamberlain at a meeting of the Pakistan Development Forum here tomorrow. The forum brings together officials from Pakistan and the World Bank and other donors.

“Let me just assure you that the United States stands by its friends,” she said today. “We are quite aware of a number of needs that Pakistan has really to accomplish the objectives of this government.”

   

 
 
TALIBAN FOR TALKS, US FOR ACTION 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, Sept. 19: 
The Taliban today offered to open talks with the US, but was snubbed by Washington which said it wanted action, not talks.

“We are ready for talks,” the Taliban’s reclusive spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, told a gathering of over 1,000 clerics in Kabul, Afghan Islamic Press said. Omar has convened the meeting to decide the fate of Osama bin Laden, whom the US wants the Taliban to hand over. A decision by the shura, or council, is expected tomorrow.

Washington responded by saying: “The President’s message to the Taliban is very simple — it’s time for action not negotiations.”

Asked to explain what this meant, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President George W. Bush wanted the Taliban to “take the actions necessary to no longer harbour terrorists – whatever form that takes.”

Bush said: “I would strongly urge the Taliban to turn over the al Qaida (bin Laden’s outfit) organisers who hide in their country.”

In a tone that appeared more conciliatory than it was earlier believed possible from the Taliban, Omar said: “We have not tried to create friction with America. We have had several talks with the present and past American governments and we are ready for more talks.”

The speech that was read out before the council suggested that the Taliban had offered a way out of the crisis but the Americans were not listening. “We have offered alternatives on the Osama issue.”

“We have said, if you have evidence against Osama, give it to the Afghan Supreme Court or the ulema (clerics) of three Islamic countries, or have OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) observers keep an eye on Osama,” he said.

“But it is sad that America does not listen to our word.”

Mullah Omar earlier appeared to rule out any swift handover of bin Laden. “Our Islamic state is the true Islamic system in the world and for this reason ... the enemies of our country look on us as a thorn in their eye and seek different excuses to finish it off.”

“Osama bin Laden is one of these (excuses),” he said of the man whom Bush said is wanted “dead or alive”.

The Taliban leader, however, did not issue the customary call for jihad against the US, appealing to it to show restraint. “We assure the whole world that neither Osama nor anyone else can use Afghan territory against anyone,” he was quoted as saying.

“If even after this, America wants to use force and wants to attack Afghanistan and our innocent and oppressed people and wants to destroy the Islamic emirate, we seek your guidance and a fatwa (ruling) on the issue in the light of Islamic Sharia.”

Taliban’s education minister Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi — who is attending the meeting — told the Pakistan-based AIP that the council would continue tomorrow, when the final discussion and fatwa can be expected. It was unclear if the clerics really have the authority to decide to surrender bin Laden given the reverence that surrounds Omar, who may have convened the meeting more to endorse his own views than to seek consensus.

   

 
 
PARIAHS TURN PATRONS 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Sept. 19: 
Yesterday’s enemies are becoming tomorrow’s associates, thanks to Osama bin Laden.

In a historic turnaround in American foreign policy, the Bush Administration has approached its arch foe, Cuba, for information about last week’s terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

State department spokesman Richard Boucher confirmed that a US official visited Cuba’s diplomatic mission in Washington —which does not operate under the Cuban flag — and sought any information which Havana might have about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The American initiative was a result of Cuba’s strong condemnation of the attacks.

At the same time, US secretary of state Colin Powell made an unprecedented phone call to Sudanese foreign minister Osman Ismail Mustafa and sought his cooperation. It was a sequel to Sudan’s offer to play a constructive role in combating terrorism. Boucher called the conversation “a good beginning”.

Sudan and Cuba are both on America’s list of countries which sponsor terrorism. Another state designated as a sponsor of terror, Syria, has also been approached for help.

The state department has acknowledged that it is heartened by Iran’s response to the attacks, but has denied any contacts so far with Teheran.

However, there is talk here that Switzerland has been in touch with Iranian leaders on behalf of the US.

Canadian newspapers yesterday reported a phone conversation between the foreign ministers of Iran and Canada, but Ottawa has denied that it was acting as a go between with Teheran for the US.

Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov, who is here for talks said: “One more time, the fact proved to be true, is that terrorism does not recognise borders”.

At the same time, Boucher reiterated that agreement with Pakistan for cooperation in fighting terrorism was entered into “without any demands, without any conditions, without any quid pro quos”.

However, an influential Senator, Sam Brownback, said today that the US should lift trade sanctions on Pakistan and vote for World Bank loans “so the population can see a positive reason to engage with the US”.

French President Jacques Chirac said after talks with President George W. Bush that he was in favour of anti-terrorist action, but only if its aims and strategy were first agreed upon.

Chirac’s reaction was lacking in the total support which the White House had expected from a fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member.

“Obviously, military cooperation is conceivable,” Chirac said at a press conference.

The President said France reserved the right, “like all Nato countries, to evaluate for itself the means and nature of any military intervention it conducted.”

Bush is now having talks with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and will soon meet foreign ministers from China and Saudi Arabia.

   

 
 
INDIA ECHOES IRAN ON TERROR WAR 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 19: 
Making common cause with Iran, India today said Islam should not be equated with terrorism and the global fight against it not “limited to an individual and any single manifestation alone”.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh spoke with Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharazzi over phone this afternoon on the global situation unfolding after the US strikes. The duo felt the situation called for “effective action which was needed to be based on co-ordinated action and co-operation by the largest possible number of countries”.

Iranian ambassador in Delhi M. Moosavi also called on home minister L.K. Advani in North Block to discuss bilateral “co-operation in security related matters”. Sources said both countries sought to know the other’s perception of the US situation and how it sought to help.

India denied reports that it was preparing to offer its airbases to the US troops and had even identified them in the last Cabinet Committee on Security meeting.

Dubbing the report “totally incorrect”, foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said “it was not only ill-timed but also ill-conceived”. She claimed India had neither offered airbases nor had the US asked for access to them.

Despite its growing closeness to the US, India values its relations with Iran, which continues to be America’s bete noire. Over the years, the BJP government has made special efforts to mend and strengthen ties with Teheran, and the common Taliban threat has speeded up the process. Iran and India, along with Russia, are the main backers of the Northern Alliance, the only opposition to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The upswing in Indo-Iranian relations was reflected in the Teheran Declaration signed this April during Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s visit to that country. In the declaration, both countries condemned “terrorism in all its forms” and decided to coordinate their efforts to fight the menace. Iran is also an important provider of India’s energy requirements and the seat of Shia Islam. Its geographical location in the Persian Gulf also makes it strategically important.

But the foreign ministry spokesperson sought to suggest that Jaswant’s phone conversation with the Iranian leader was part of the consultation process begun by India in the recent past. Delhi has also been consulting the US, Russia and the UK in the last few days.

India’s attempt appears to be to consult with major world players to evolve a consensus on tackling global terrorism. By consulting countries in the Islamic and Arab world, India is also trying to tell the domestic audience that it is not only trying to enlist the support of the West but also that of its traditional friends.

   

 
 
BJP COUNSELS CAUTION ON SUPPORT 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi, Sept. 19: 
The BJP today asked the Centre to exercise “utmost caution” before getting involved in America’s reprisal strikes, but the Congress chose to remain silent on the government’s handling of the situation.

The government’s initial response, virtually suggesting it was ready for any role in the counter-terrorism drive, seems to have embarrassed the BJP.

“We should be cautious about getting involved in military action. We can offer moral and diplomatic support and intelligence, anything short of military action. But physical involvement in the fight against Afghanistan has to be decided by experts,” a senior BJP leader said. He said India should think twice before opening up its military bases to the US as “offering bases means physical involvement”.

Notwithstanding foreign minister Jaswant Singh’s near-unconditional offer on these lines in an interview, BJP sources said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had never even remotely suggested anything like this.

“If anything, the Prime Minister indirectly criticised the US’ double standards in his address to the nation,” they said.

There is a feeling that India should have been more circumspect instead of letting the impression grow that it was all too willing to cooperate with the US.

“Pakistan again seems to have got the upper hand though its position is much trickier because of the tightrope walk between Islamic hardliners and US pressure,” the sources said.

The Samata Party and the DMK had yesterday warned Delhi against getting embroiled in military action. Today, another NDA constituent, the Janata Dal (United), spoke about forging a broad-based coalition against terrorism instead of allowing one or two countries to run the show.

The Congress refrained from criticising Delhi for its inability to match its neighbour in diplomatic drive but insisted that any action must be within the framework of UN resolutions.

At its working committee meeting held here tonight, the party adopted a resolution, saying any “international strategy must be credible, just, effective, sustainable and defensible in the eyes of international law and world public opinion”.

The party merely said it was imperative that the government anticipate the likely national and international fallout. “Effective measures should be taken to safeguard our sovereignty and our vital national interests,” the party said.

   

 
 
CONGRESS FOR UN SEAL ON TERROR WAR 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 19: 
Unlike some of the BJP allies and other Opposition parties, the Congress today chose to remain silent on the Vajpayee government’s handling of the situation after last week’s terror strikes in the US, but insisted that any action must be within the framework of UN resolutions.

The party took this stand at a Congress Working Committee meeting held here tonight to deliberate on the fallout of the attacks and the proposed US move to launch military action against Afghanistan.

The two-hour meeting, presided over by party president Sonia Gandhi, adopted a resolution which inter alia said any “international strategy must be credible, just, effective, sustainable and defensible in the eyes of international law and world public opinion”.

The party seemed to be in a please-all mode as it refrained from criticising the US for its silence on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in India and Delhi for its inability to match its neighbour in diplomatic drive.

The party merely said it is imperative that the government anticipates the likely national and international fallout. “Effective measures should be taken to safeguard our sovereignty and our vital national interests,” it said.

   

 
 
BJP SEES RED OVER MILITARY HELP OFFER 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 19: 
The Vajpayee government’s initial response to the Bush administrations efforts at reprisal, virtually suggesting that it was ready for any role in the counter-terrorism offensive, seems to have embarrassed the BJP, which advised “utmost caution” before getting involved in any form of military action.

A BJP leader said: “We should be very cautious about getting involved in military action. We can offer moral and diplomatic support and intelligence, anything short of military action. But physical involvement in the fight against Afghanistan has to be very discreetly decided by experts.”

He said India should think twice before opening up its military bases to the US. “Offering bases means physical involvement,” the leader said. Notwithstanding foreign minister Jaswant Singh’s near-unconditional offer on these lines to the US in an interview, BJP sources said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee never suggested anything even remotely close to this. “If anything, indirectly the Prime Minister criticised the US’ double standards in his address to the nation,” they said.

There is a feeling that India should have been circumspect instead of allowing an impression to gain ground that it was all-too-willing to cooperate with the US.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 33.8°C (+2)
Minimum: 24°C (-2)

Rainfall:

Nil

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 97%,
Minimum: 57%

Today

Partly cloudy sky, with possibility of light rain in some parts.
Sunrise: 5.27 am
Sunset: 5.34 pm
   
 

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