Pak warns US on topple bid
Anand likes catching ’em young
Delhi turns spotlight on Osama’s Pak links
Blair speaks Atal language
Cough in right places, win a jackpot
PM pinches terror-busters, sounds war alert
Explosion rocks N-E Express
Sonia rally upstaged
Isro eyes space mart
Calcutta Weather

 
 
PAK WARNS US ON TOPPLE BID 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
Sept. 25: 
A potential point of conflict between US and Pakistani interests emerged today, casting a shadow on President George W. Bush’s plan of action for Afghanistan.

Alarmed at the possibility of the US-led international coalition installing an unfriendly regime in Afghanistan, Pakistan today warned against meddling in the internal politics of its next-door neighbour.

The caution came a day after Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told his British counterpart that the world should look at a post-Taliban Afghanistan and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced an offer to arm the opposition Northern Alliance.

Foreign minister Abdus Sattar said “foreign powers”, trying to instal a “puppet regime in Afghanistan”, should keep in mind that those who tried to do so in the past had to pay a heavy price.

The Northern Alliance is the best bet for the US in its effort to unseat the Taliban. Secretary of state Colin Powell has said the US would try to split the Taliban movement. But, after Pakistan’s caution, Bush said the US was not interested in engaging in “nation-building”, suggesting he was not looking to topple the Taliban.

Sattar’s warning was voiced amid reports that forces opposed to the Taliban were regaining territory near Mazar-i-Sharif and inching towards Kabul.

He expressed concern over moves to arm the Alliance. “We fear any such decision on the part of foreign powers to give assistance to one group or the other is a recipe for great suffering for the people of Afghanistan.”

After Saudi Arabia today snapped diplomatic links, Pakistan remains the only country to recognise the Taliban regime. It said it would keep its ties to the Kabul government intact.

The majority of Afghans are Pushtoo speaking, and the Northern Alliance, made up largely of minority Uzbek and Tajik Afghans, has been opposed to Pakistan. Realising that the Alliance would not be an acceptable substitute for the Taliban, efforts are being made to build up former king Zahir Shah as the rallying point for opposition Afghan factions.

US officials met Shah today at his Rome residence. A Northern Alliance delegation is slated to meet him shortly.

The active position taken by India in putting together an anti-Taliban force is also a cause of worry for Pakistan.

National security adviser Brajesh Mishra was in Moscow last week and help for the Alliance figured prominently in his talks there. Mishra will visit Paris tomorrow where he will try to elicit French support for efforts to strengthen the Alliance, with which India’s links are close.

In New Delhi, the foreign ministry said: “We would like to see a multi-ethnic, broadbased government in Afghanistan.”

   

 
 
ANAND LIKES CATCHING ’EM YOUNG 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Sept.25: 
The world champion had just begun nibbling at a piece of cake, at Gorky Sadan, when a clutch of youngsters besieged him for autographs. Viswanathan Anand, smiling in trademark fashion, obliged.

He couldn’t return to the cake as it was the turn of lensmen to keep him (and petite wife Aruna) engaged.

All this, of course, was before the NIIT’s Brand Ambassador moved to the Gorky auditorium to add glamour to The Telegraph Schools’ Chess Championship’s prize distribution.

In taking those few steps, Anand immortalised edition No. 14.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to be in the midst of so many kids… It’s best to catch them young and I see so many of them here,” Anand himself remarked, amidst cheers.

Recalling his association with the city, Anand reminisced about being driven in a motorcade (for the first-time ever) during his maiden trip after becoming GM.

The world champion feels at home and much of it, clearly, has to do with the Calcuttans’ affection. It was much in evidence this evening: The auditorium was packed way beyond its 300 capacity.

From Bangladesh’s Shamima Akter Liza to Priya Ratnam of Chapra; Assam’s N. Shashank Singh to Bhubaneswar’s Nishikant Mishra… Not to speak of the local achievers (including champion Somak Palit)… The prize winners came in different categories and, well, sizes.

After collecting their prize, many shook Anand’s hands and, gradually, came requests for autographs too: The smarter ones got his signature on their certificate, others elsewhere.

For many, that was the icing on an already special cake.

   

 
 
DELHI TURNS SPOTLIGHT ON OSAMA’S PAK LINKS 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Sept. 25: 
India is trying to highlight the links of Pakistan-based terrorist organisations with Osama bin Laden, the man US wants “dead or alive”, while keeping up its efforts to join the global war on terror.

To start with, officials are pointing out that Masood Azhar, one of the three terrorists freed in Taliban-held Kandahar last year in exchange for the release of passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight, had close links with bin Laden.

Masood’s Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, which figures on the list of 27 terrorist groups whose assets have been ordered to be frozen by the US, is part of bin Laden’s al Qaida.

National security adviser Brajesh Mishra has already raised the issue with Washington. Foreign and defence minister Jaswant Singh is scheduled to visit the US early next month to hold talks with his American counterpart, Colin Powell, and other senior leaders of the Bush administration.

Jaswant will also visit Paris on September 27 and hold talks with French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine on the global impact of the terror attacks.

On his way back from the US, the foreign minister will stop at Berlin to meet his German counterpart, Joshker Fischer.

But while this effort is on, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has made it clear that India is committed to continue its dialogue with Pakistan. He iterated this at a rally in Mathura today, adding that the country expected Islamabad to give up its hostile attitude towards Delhi.

During last year’s hijack crisis, the US was one of the countries with which India was constantly in touch. The crisis was resolved only after the release of three dreaded terrorists lodged in Indian jails. Masood, one of the three, was later reported to have resurfaced in Pakistan.

Taking advantage of the growing concern in the US about bin Laden and his worldwide terrorist network, India is trying to highlight the fact that Harkat is one of the fronts of the Saudi-born terrorist and Pakistan is a backer of such outfits.

India has not questioned Washington’s failure to declare most Kashmir militant groups as terrorist organisations. The US yesterday froze the assets of only one Kashmir group, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, along with 26 terrorist organisations active in other parts of the world.

Reacting to the move, Delhi today expressed the hope that similar action will be taken against other Pakistan-backed outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

“We would like the list to be expanded to include other terrorist organisations,” foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said.

“India was confident that its concerns over terrorism would be recognised by the US and the international community,” she added.

Harkat response

The Harkat-ul Mujahideen today said that it had no assets in the US or any link with “terrorism”, reports Reuters. The outfit was fourth in a list of 27 groups, charities and individuals issued by Washington on an order from President George W. Bush to freeze their assets for alleged links with bin Laden.

“We have no assets in America or anywhere else,” a Harkat spokesman, Amiruddin Mughal, said over telephone from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. “Even if we have (assets), we are not involved in any terrorism,” he added.

Harkat was put on a US list of “foreign terrorist organisations” before it changed its name from Harkat-ul-Ansar in 1998.

   

 
 
BLAIR SPEAKS ATAL LANGUAGE 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY
 
London, Sept. 25: 
Indian and British aims have coincided with Tony Blair announcing today that his government’s ultimate aim was not merely to bring Osama bin Laden and his men to justice but to isolate the Taliban.

The expectation in London is that the Northern Alliance could be assisted militarily to take over from the Taliban.

Although the British media, especially the tabloids, have made bin Laden the villain of the unfolding drama, Blair and his minister have conspicuously avoided President George W. Bush’s “dead or alive” rhetoric nor expressed any wish to “smoke him out”.

British diplomacy is aimed at building up the widest possible international support for replacing the Taliban with a government friendlier to the West and neighbouring countries. “If they (the Taliban) stand in the way of bringing bin Laden to account, they are every bit as much our enemy as bin Laden himself,” Blair today told reporters at Downing Street.

He left the Taliban in no doubt that the US and Britain had the military capability and the determination to topple the regime by inflicting “considerable damage” on it. “The Taliban regime know exactly what they need to do,” he said. “They could do it perfectly easily. They could act at any point in time.”

Blair recognised there was a strong and growing lobby in Britain in favour of minimising civilian casualties. He stressed that military action would be directed at the Taliban and not at the ordinary people of Afghanistan. He added that Britain would bring forward new measures to deliver food to fleeing Afghan refugees in order to avert a humanitarian crisis.

It was important, said Blair, to get help into the region quickly with the severe Afghan winter only weeks away. Britain was looking, with the United Nations and other countries, at ways of getting food supplies to refugees, both outside Afghanistan and also within the country.

As part of his continuing telephone diplomacy, which involved a 10-minute talk with Atal Bihari Vajpayee yesterday, Blair has now had discussions with the leaders of Syria and Japan. He also had to soothe the ruffled feathers of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister who had to be sweet-talked into meeting Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary who has undertaken shuttle diplomacy in West Asia.

Sharon had earlier taken offence at an article written by Straw in a Tehran newspaper suggesting that anger at the treatment of the Palestinians was helping to “breed” terrorism. “There was never any issue of an apology being asked for at all,” insisted Blair. “The most important thing is that we discuss how we get the peace process moving forward again.”

   

 
 
COUGH IN RIGHT PLACES, WIN A JACKPOT 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY
 
London, Sept. 25: 
One of the world’s most popular quiz shows, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? on which the Amitabh Bachchan-fronted Kaun Banega Crorepati? is based, is at the centre of a remarkable row over allegations of cheating.

A 38-year-old army major, Charles Ingram, whose winning jackpot of £1 million is being withheld, is being investigated by police after allegations that he was assisted by a friend in the audience who “coughed” in all the right places.

Under the rules for the programme, fronted by Chris Tarrant — he has met Bachchan to give the actor tips on how to enhance the dramatic element of the quiz show — prize money can be withheld in the event of dishonesty. If new rules are drawn up, Celador will probably insist that KBC introduces them to protect the reputation of the parent programme.

Ingram, who says his reputation with the Royal Engineers has been ruined, is in turn threatening to take legal action against ITV, the television network that broadcasts Who Wants to be a Millionaire? on behalf of Celador, the programme makers.

The pre-recorded programme, which was due to have gone out on September 18, will now not be broadcast until the investigations, which police say may prove lengthy, are completed.

The alleged cheating came to light during the editing process when one of the producers heard repeated coughing from someone in the audience. Now, all 200 members of the audience are being checked by police to see if any of them have mobile telephone lines open for an extended period of time.

Some curious coincidences, which are not necessarily sinister, have come to light.

Ingram’s wife, Diana, and her brother, Adrian Pollock, have previously made separate appearances on the programme. They each won £32,000. Diana Ingram has gone on to write a book, Win a Million, based on her experiences and those of her brother.

One area for investigation is the way in which Ingram kept repeating his questions, as though he was playing for time.

Ingram, who acknowledges his wife gave him tips before the programme, denied any wrongdoing. “I repeated the questions out loud because when you’re in that chair your doubts are magnified. I was also deliberating because I knew it would make better TV.”

There is no limit on the time a contestant is given to answer a question. Some take as much as 25 minutes, leading to calls for the introduction of a time limit.

According to quiz show experts, programmes with multiple choice answers have the biggest scope for cheating. The huge sums on offer also make cheating worthwhile. For example, an accomplice can assist a contestant by coughing, they say.

“What is to stop the contestant having four or five mates in the audience?” asked one expert. “They could work out some way of signalling, even a slight glance, which a security camera would find hard to pick up.”

So far, there is nothing to stop the “friend” a contestant ring from being surrounded by knowledgeable friends. In future, contestants be put into soundproof boxes and “friends” isolated at home by representatives of the quiz show.

The question Ingram was asked to get to a million pounds was: “What is the name of a figure with 100 noughts?

Answer: Googol.

   

 
 
PM PINCHES TERROR-BUSTERS, SOUNDS WAR ALERT 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
Nagla Chanderbhan (Mathura), Sept. 25: 
The Prime Minister today asked the people to remain vigilant as a war could break out “anywhere and in any form”.

“A crisis is looming large over the world’s horizon. There can be a war anywhere and in any form,” Atal Bihari Vajpayee told a rally here, 25 km from Mathura, after launching the Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana.

In an apparent reference to the US’ new found concern against terrorism, Vajpayee said: “It pains only when the shoe pinches. We don’t want anyone to suffer. We have been fighting terrorism and sacrificing lives for 20 years.”

Without naming Pakistan, he said it would be difficult to wipe out terrorism unless “there is a change of heart and a realisation that terrorism is a common danger”. “We want to solve the problem in a peaceful manner. We are ready for dialogue,” he added.

Stating that the country’s economy was better than that of many other countries, the Prime Minister said foreign exchange reserves were good and inflation was under control. “We should be cautious and vigilant, and accelerate our development. Political parties should rise above petty politics,” he added.

The Prime Minister called upon the people to remain united notwithstanding differences in faiths. “Only when peace is maintained will the security forces be able to discharge their duties freely,” he said.

During his address, protesters showed black flags demanding the setting up of a bench of the Allahabad High Court in western Uttar Pradesh. They were pushed back by the police. Vajpayee assured the protesters he would look into the matter if raised at an appropriate forum.

At another rally in Killianwali, Punjab, Vajpayee again dwelt on terrorism. “We have been raising our voices against terrorism for a long time. What is happening now cannot be termed jihad. It is not jihad. And we have to guard against the phenomena whose ugly face we witnessed in the US on September 11,” he said.

The Prime Minister was here to unveil a 12-foot bronze statue of former deputy-Prime Minister Devi Lal. Vajpayee described Lal, who passed away in April, as a “man of the masses”.

He complimented Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for commemorating Devi Lal’s 88th birthday. “This is the first instance when the birthday of a former chief minister is being celebrated by a chief minister of another state. This is the love between Haryana and Punjab,” he said. Vajpayee also released a stamp on Devi Lal.

The NDA government at the Centre is working to ensure that farmers got a good deal for their produce, the Prime Minister said. “Developing nations are meeting next month to discuss WTO. The picture will become clear after the meeting but I can assure farmers that their rights will be safeguarded,” he said.

Referring to Punjab-Haryana ties, Vajpayee said the Centre was keen to mediate on river water-sharing and other disputes. “Both should try to solve their problems together. We have to remain one,” he added.

   

 
 
EXPLOSION ROCKS N-E EXPRESS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Guwahati, Sept. 25: 
Suspected Bodo militants triggered an explosion on the Guwahati-bound Northeast Express in Bongaigaon district tonight, disrupting rail communication with the rest of the country. Three passengers are feared killed. Over 97, including four seriously, have been injured in the blast, according to preliminary reports.

Police said the explosion occurred between Sapakhata and Garaimari under Bijni police station in Bongaigaon district at 6.55 pm. Of the eight damaged bogies, two overturned while another caught fire. Two sleeper coaches, a general coach, one three-tier A/C and two A/C two-tier coaches and the engine of the train derailed. The train was coming from New Delhi. The injured were admitted to Gauhati Medical College Hospital and Bongaigaon civil hospital.

Militants may have also fired at the nearby police camp.

Confirming the blast, the North East Frontier Railway said senior railway and police officials have rushed to the site. “Train services will be affected. Senior railway officials, including the general manager along with a few engineers, have reached the spot. A medical van has also arrived,” an official said.

Allaying fears of commuters, a railway official said train services with the rest of the country would be maintained through the south bank route. However, it is unlikely that night running of trains will continue.

The Rajdhani Express, also coming from Delhi, was supposed to cross the site of the incident about 15 minutes later. The train was halted at Bongaigaon station while another train, Manas Rhino, proceeding towards Bongaigaon was stopped at Patiladah.

Talking to The Telegraph, inspector-general of police (law and order), B.P. Rao said he suspected the hand of the banned National Democratic Front of Boroland. “The blast could have been triggered by a remote-controlled or a pressure device,” Rao said. There were reports of militants targeting the trains in the proposed Bodoland area, he said.

Earlier in the day, suspected NDFB activists killed an Adivasi woodcutter and injured several others in Kokrajhar district. The Bodo heartland is witnessing a surcharged atmosphere following the Centre’s reported move to include non-Bodo government groups in the peace process before sealing a fresh Bodo accord.

   

 
 
SONIA RALLY UPSTAGED 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Sept. 25: 
The terror attack on the US and the buildup to a war at India’s doorstep have robbed political parties of their share of media attention.

The Congress and the Samajwadi Party are the worst hit as war preparations edge out all other reports from the front pages of newspapers.

Congress leaders are a worried lot. Sonia Gandhi’s visit to Amethi tomorrow, billed as the party’s relaunch in Uttar Pradesh, is now certainly not going to make it to the front page.

The party had planned a “Parivartan Yatra” from six places in Uttar Pradesh - Gautambuddh Nagar, Saharanpur, Lalitpur, Varanasi, Deoria and Balia – that would converge in Lucknow on October 3. The next day, Sonia was to address a rally there.

“It is too late to reschedule the rallies,” rued a senior Congress leader. “We have to be content with whatever space we get in the media,” he added.

The Samajwadi Party is another victim of the terror war. Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had directed all his MLAs in Uttar Pradesh to resign so that he could score political points with the BJP. On September 11, 100-odd legislators quit the House. The resignations became the talking point in political and media circles, but by evening the big news of the day was buried underneath the rubble of World Trade Center and Pentagon. Sources close to Mulayam said he still regrets his decision.

On September 19, the Samajwadi had organised a demonstration across the state to demand dissolution of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly. Barring a few vernacular newspapers, the media by and large ignored the event.

The Lok Janashakti Party chief and minister for coal and mines summed up the predicament of political parties. Ram Vilas Paswan, who calls press conferences with unfailing regularity, is waiting for the war clouds to lift before he holds a press meet. Asked why he was not holding “political” press conferences, Paswan said: “What is the use? America sara space kha raha hai.” (The US is consuming all the newspaper space).

Janata Dal (United) president and labour minister Sharad Yadav also has reason to complain. His public meeting at Dardi in Uttar Pradesh did not get the expected coverage. Sharad’s party had organised a “big” rally at Sambalpur on September 21 and was planning to take reporters along. But again, barring a couple of vernacular journalists, none turned up.

   

 
 
ISRO EYES SPACE MART 
 
 
FROM HABIB BEARY
 
Bangalore, Sept. 25: 
Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will forge strategic alliances with US aerospace majors to manufacture communications and remote sensing satellites.

Relieved by the US decision to lift sanctions, Isro scientists are optimistic of collaboration between the two countries in the field of space.

To begin with, Isro will renew ties with companies such as Hughes Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, and PanAmSat. Prior to the sanctions, Isro did business with these companies but sanctions put paid to the joint ventures planned.

Hughes and Lockheed Martin were buying sub-systems and components from Isro’s marketing arm Antrix Corporation Ltd. Antrix has a partnership with Space Imaging, US, for marketing data and pictures beamed by Indian remote sensing satellites.

Isro’s long-term goal is to get a slice of the multibillion dollar global satellite launch market after successfully testing the delivery rocket geo-stationary satellite launch Vehicle (GSLV).

The first GSLV was launched from Sriharikota in May this year. India will use the GSLV to launch huge communication satellites for the global market.

Former Isro chairman U.R. Rao believes that US sanctions were motivated by business interests. Major US companies do not want India to enter the multibillion dollar market.

India will be able to accelerate its satellite building programmes after the lifting of the sanctions, feels Isro chairman K. Kasturirangan.

Critical components could be sourced easily from the US at a cost-effective price. Post-Pokhran, Isro had been procuring components from Europe at a higher price.

Another area where India stands to benefit is in joint scientific research on inter-planetary missions. Scientists from both the countries could also collaborate in the study of weather in the tropics. It would also facilitate more exchanges of scientists between the two countries.

“It is a positive development. We can now buy the sensors for the satellite Megha Tropiques from the US,” said Space Commission member Roddam Narasmiha. The 500 kg weather satellite is being manufactured jointly by India and French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 33.6°C (+2)
Minimum: 26.3°C (0)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 93%,
Minimum: 63%

Today

Possibility of light rain, accompanied by thunder, in some areas.
Sunrise: 5.29 am
Sunset: 5.28 pm
   
 

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