Vajpayee targets Musharraf menu
BSF shoots down girl fleeing Bangla backlash
George springs US proposals
Osama nuke bombshell

New York, Nov. 10: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today pre-empted Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf in the UN General Assembly by calling for a comprehensive rejection of “self-serving arguments seeking to classify terrorism according to its root causes”.

And to avoid even a chance meeting and a handshake with the terrorism-sponsor-turned-anti-terrorism-coalition-partner, Vajpayee stayed away from a lunch hosted by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan on the opening day of the general debate in the General Assembly.

By firmly rebuffing any ideological, political or religious justification for terrorism, Vajpayee anticipated Musharraf’s speech in which the President referred to Kashmir’s so-called freedom struggle and India’s “state terrorism” in Jammu and Kashmir.

Rightly expecting Musharraf to argue that India’s Kashmir policy is responsible for terrorism in the state, the Prime Minister criticised those who justify “terrorist action somewhere while condemning it elsewhere”.

Since Musharraf was speaking in the General Assembly after Vajpayee, the Prime Minister would not have got a chance to rebut any arguments by Pakistan’s President. Vajpayee did not, however, refer to Pakistan by name in his 15-minute address, once again delivered in Hindi.

Notwithstanding Vajpayee’s unequivocal rejection of Musharraf’s double standards on terrorism, Pakistan’s President was the flavour of the weekend in New York.

President George W. Bush led the pack of leaders queueing up to talk to and fete Musharraf, whose country has a strategic role in the current conflict in Afghanistan.

Bush is hosting a private dinner for Musharraf tonight and is expected to announce a new instalment of aid, including trade incentives, to Pakistan.

Since Musharraf is being lionised by the international media, which is dogging his every move, even a casual handshake with Vajpayee at Annan’s reception would have hogged television news and made it to the front pages of the international media.

It is understood that Vajpayee was advised by his top aides to avoid a dilution of the strong anti-terrorism message in his UN address.

In his address, the Prime Minister cautioned states, including the US, which had failed to take seriously his dire warnings about terrorism at previous UN General Assemblies that “neither distance nor power insulates a state from terrorism”.

Also, for the first time since the US bombing of Afghanistan started more than a month ago, India explicitly asserted that “it supports the current campaign against terrorist networks in Afghanistan”.

Officials accompanying the Prime Minister said this assertion should not be interpreted as support for a war against Afghanistan.


Siliguri, Nov. 10: 
The policy muddle on telling between “infiltrators” and “refugees” lay stained in blood today as a 12-year-old girl fleeing persecutors in Bangladesh fell to BSF bullets after crossing over to India.

Daya Rani Khatri was killed and her 15-year-old brother, Shanto, injured when BSF soldiers, unable to ascertain whether they are intruders or refugees, opened fire.

A steady stream of Bangladeshis has been escaping to Bengal since a change of government in Dhaka triggered a violent backlash on minorities. However, in the absence of clear-cut government guidelines, officials in India have been unable to define a “refugee” and an “infiltrator”, a sensitive issue in power politics.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who is leaving for Delhi next week to attend an inter-state council meeting convened by the Prime Minister, is expected to raise the influx issue with the Centre

The state government has sought a report from the district magistrate on the BSF firing.

The five-member Khatri family and two other families from Khanoga village in Thakurgaon had decided to sneak into Bengal under the cover of darkness on Friday.

The group of about 15 people crossed the porous border at Bashalgram under Haripur police station of Bangladesh and entered Baharbindol in Uttar Dinajpur on the Indian side without much trouble.

However, almost 200 metres inside Indian territory, the group was challenged by a BSF night patrol. “It was pitch-dark when we crossed over to the Indian side and some people opened fire. All I remember is being hit in the stomach and losing consciousness. I don’t know what happened to my father and elder brother, or where my mother is,” Shanto said.

The teenager, who was hit in the stomach, is now recuperating in the general ward of the Raigunj Sadar Hospital where the BSF rushed him last night. His father, Subash Khatri, and elder brother Satya, 18, are reported missing. The whereabouts of their mother Savitri is not known.

“Some people in this hospital told me that my sister, Daya, has been killed in the firing,” said Shanto between sobs.

The commandant of the 97th battalion posted at the Haripur-Bashalgram border, Raj Singh, said the border patrol had challenged the group well within Indian territory and asked it to halt before opening fire.

“The patrol warned the group to stop, but they did not heed. The jawans then opened fire. While a minor girl was killed, another boy was injured. We rushed him to the hospital with bullet injuries. The other members of the group managed to escape,” Singh said.

Singh did not clarify whether the fleeing Bangladeshis were “intruders or refugees”. “Anyone found entering Indian territory without valid documents is treated as an intruder by us,” he said.

Balcony collapse kills 4

Four persons, including a child, died after the balcony of a temple on Strand Road, near Howrah Bridge, collapsed tonight. The victims were sleeping on the pavement under the balcony, which collapsed after a truck rammed into the pillars of the 125-year-old temple.    

New Delhi, Nov. 10: 
Defence minister George Fernandes today said the Cabinet Committee on Security will discuss proposals made by the US for military support. Fernandes said this after external affairs minister Jaswant Singh said in Washington today that a proposal for a US-India military alliance was “fictitious”.

It was not immediately clear if Fernandes was talking of the same set of proposals that the US has reportedly made in its “non-paper” as claimed by India Today magazine.

Fernandes was not available to explain his comments, made only to a Hindi television channel this evening. He left for Bihar shortly afterwards. Officials refused to elaborate, saying they do not want to create the impression of a rift in the government.

But defence ministry sources said the US’ proposals were made after November 3. US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld visited New Delhi and met Fernandes on November 5.

“Our discussions were essentially on strategic relationships between us and on how to continue to build on what we have achieved so far. Naturally, we also discussed the ongoing war against terrorism on a global scale and the kind of developments that we visualise in so far as Afghanistan is concerned,” Fernandes had said in a statement after that meeting.

Today, Fernandes said there was no question of Indian forces being directly involved in the operations in Afghanistan. But there were requests from Washington that India will consider and decide upon after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee returns next week. Fernandes did not detail the kind of support the US has sought but said it included involvement of Indian air and naval facilities.

“A decision on these has to be taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security which can meet only after the return of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee from his foreign tour,” he told Aaj Tak. The issue was of national importance and he did not want to air his personal opinion on the matter.

In its issue that hit the stands today, India Today quoted documents which it said proved that the US proposals were discussed in two sittings of the Cabinet Committee on Security on October 13 and November 3. Fernandes was not in the Cabinet at the time of the first sitting — when Jaswant Singh was defence minister — having taken over on October 15.

Defence ministry sources said it had been made clear to the US at the start of Operation Enduring Freedom that India will extend assistance when asked for. But the relationship that could emerge should the US be allowed to set up military bases is far more long term than the extension of temporary support to the current war.

The sources said the direction of Indian support to the current military operations was clear with a US naval ship, the USS O’Brien, being allowed to dock at Chennai port earlier this week for refuelling, rest and recuperation. The war against the Taliban is now set to enter a new phase in which the US will seek more assistance from India, the sources assessed.


Islamabad, Nov. 10: 
A Pakistani newspaper editor said today that in a recent interview inside Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden claimed he had nuclear and chemical weapons and might use them in response to US attacks.

Bin Laden said “we have chemical and nuclear weapons as a deterrent and if America uses them against us, we reserve the right to use them”, Pakistani daily Dawn reported today.

The Pakistan foreign office refused to comment on the interview. Sources with knowledge of nuclear arms say even if bin Laden possesses nuclear arms, he certainly does not have the facilities to launch them.

The White House, however, said it took such remarks seriously and would do everything to prevent bin Laden from acquiring such weapons of mass destruction.


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