US chopper in Chennai breach
George’s jumbo shopping begins
Spy in sky debuts with temple, war
Friday deadline in Speed post
Bengal’s millennium full bloom
Board open mind on Sehwag
England Eves game where men run
Lanka envoy for London
Laloo lawyers plot Patna ploy
Calcutta Weather

Chennai, Nov. 27: 
The American naval ship, USS John Young, docked at Chennai port since yesterday, has caused deep embarrassment to governments of both countries, with one of its two helicopters apparently violating Indian air space.

It hovered for “nearly two hours” over the metropolis and flew close to the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam near here without permission of either the defence or aviation authorities.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao confirmed in Delhi that “it was flying without prior intimation”. She said: “We will take it up with the US authorities concerned so that instances of this nature are not repeated.”

The US embassy said the helicopter was on a “training flight to maintain pilot proficiency”, but added that it was investigating the matter.

An air traffic controller spotted the chopper 50 to 60 nautical miles east of Chennai while routinely surveying the secondary surveillance radar early morning yesterday, before the ship docked at Chennai harbour. It was back at its base when reporters visited the USS John Young today. The destroyer is part of the Seventh Fleet.

Apparently, there was a communication gap between the ship, which has docked here for refuelling and replenishing stocks, and the Indian authorities. The helicopter had reportedly “even refused” to establish the mandatory radio contact with air traffic control in Chennai.

Although on the defensive in the face of a barrage of questions, the captain, Geoffrey Pack, said he was “not aware” of any air space violation. He insisted that “significant information on our helicopter operations (had been provided) to the right people”.

Terming the sorties “routine and scheduled”, the captain said he was not aware of any “communication gap” that had led to this “avoidable embarrassment”. He said he had discussed the development with the US naval attache in Delhi.

The incident comes at a time when the chief of the US armed forces in the region, Admiral Dennis Blair, is visiting Delhi.

The USS John Young is the second US naval vessel to dock at Chennai in a month, the first being the USS O’Brien, which was greeted with protests here by the Left. This time, there was no such reaction, but the air space violation is certain to cause political tremors. Already, the Left parties have urged the Centre to ask the ship to leave and have threatened to take it up in Parliament.

Delhi does not want to turn the incident into a major issue because of its expanding relationship with the US and the ongoing common war against terror.

The helicopters aboard the USS John Young are used for a wide range of operations, from search and rescue to surveillance. Asked whether it could be presumed that the helicopter had sophisticated cameras as it went close to the nuclear power installation at Kalpakkam, the captain said: “I would not make any assumption on what they have on board.”

Pack is unlikely to have a worry-free meal tonight when he joins his 300-odd crew at a dinner the Indian Navy is hosting for them. He will return the compliment tomorrow.


New Delhi, Nov. 27: 
Russia today began shipping T-90 main battle tanks for the army, heralding the beginning of a season of heavy military purchases after George Fernandes’ return to the defence ministry.

Analysts say the purchases could continue for two years and total nearly $10 billion (around Rs 48,000 crore at the current exchange rate).

The batch of tanks shipped from Russia today is part of a deal for 310 negotiated in February. Since then, defence acquisition was tardy because — Fernandes himself has said — Tehelka’s sting operation discouraged decision-making. Fernandes told Parliament last week that so far the army had spent 18 per cent, the navy 38 per cent and the air force 32 per cent of their capital budget this year.

After Fernandes’ return, the defence ministry has taken a series of measures aimed at making purchases faster. Many of these steps — like lifting the ban on agents (imposed 16 years ago after the Bofors scandal broke), the creation of the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff and the formation of the Defence Procurement Board — were recommended by a group of ministers but they have only now begun taking shape.

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s statement at a meeting of the service commanders yesterday that recent reforms in the defence ministry are aimed at decentralising decision-making and formulating a national defence policy is being interpreted as the go-ahead from the highest quarters.

Fernandes has put together the Defence Acquisitions Council that will be at the core of the procurement process. It comprises the defence minister, the minister of state for defence, the defence secretary, the secretary (defence production and supplies), the special secretary (acquisitions), the secretary (defence-finance division), the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff and the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Ironically, though the defence ministry will be spending a lot of money, precious little will be coming for the private Indian industry. Earlier this year, the government allowed private sector entry into defence production and FDI upto 26 per cent.

A CII source — the CII had lobbied for the opening up of the defence sector — said there would be almost no gainer out of sales for lethal products because there is no private manufacturer in the country in that area. Expectations that joint ventures could be set up with foreign companies such as Denel of South Africa (from whom India bought shells for its Bofors guns during the Kargil war) are running low.

With the government lifting the ban on agents, “foreign manufacturers will have little enthusiasm to set up ventures in India if they can sell from overseas”, the official said.


Bangalore, Nov. 27: 
The first pictures beamed by India’s technology experiment satellite, which can be used as a spying device, have come in. And they have sent the morale of the defence establishment soaring.

India is in possession of images of the war in Afghanistan. But many of the pictures are not being released for strategic reasons.

Launched in October from Sriharikota, the satellite is a precursor to fully operational spy satellites. The need for a spy satellite was highlighted by the Kargil intrusions.

The first high-resolution pictures from a one-metre camera were taken over the temple town of Puri. “We have got some excellent pictures of the temples,” sources in the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said.

With the satellite in position, India can pick up images of a truck moving in the border area of Pakistan. “Why trucks, we can even trace a camel or a horse,” the sources said. The smallest object it can detect is about three feet in length.

The sources said the temple images were shown to Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, who was impressed by the picture quality. One set of pictures was offered to Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik.

Other than meeting defence requirements, the satellite can map industry and provide geographical information services.


London, Nov. 27: 
In a friendly but firm “Dear Jaggu” letter to Jagmohan Dalmiya, Malcolm Speed, the chief executive of the International Cricket Council, has set “midday Friday, November 30 (Kolkata time)” as the deadline for deciding on playing Virender Sehwag in the Mohali Test.

The implication is that if Sehwag is picked for the first Test against England beginning on December 3, the ICC will be left with no option but to punish India.

Listing his areas of concern, Speed argued: “It is vitally important that we avoid any risk of injury to the public, players or officials should the ICC referee refuse to allow Virender Sehwag to play. If this issue is not resolved well ahead of the match, it is possible that it will take place at the start of the match in a highly charged and volatile environment that will exacerbate risk of injury.”

This was a clear indication that if the assurance Speed seeks is not received, Nasser Hussain’s team will fly home.

At a news conference later, Speed admitted: “It’s fair to say that the ICC and BCCI are on a collision course. It’s a good thing you know that you’re on a collision course. You have some time to avoid the collision.” He said he was hoping to talk to Dalmiya tonight to resolve the dispute.

In his letter, Speed included a conciliatory note by suggesting the BCCI’s concerns be raised at the next ICC executive board meeting. He also explained at length why the Centurion match between India and South Africa was stripped of official Test status.

Speed accused Dalmiya of waging war through the media. Later, asked if he thought Dalmiya had challenged his authority, Speed conceded: “Yes, there is a challenge to the authority of the ICC”.

He rejected the BCCI’s charge, levelled yesterday, that the ICC had not taken note of the sentiment in India after Mike Denness’ suspension of six players. “I’m aware of the strong nationalistic feelings in India from the e-mails and faxes received by the ICC.”

Speed’s letter, almost certainly drafted with the help of lawyers, included a lengthy defence of why he, as ICC chief executive, was empowered to make the rulings that he had in backing Denness, declaring the Centurion Test unofficial and insisting Sehwag could not play in Mohali.

Indian selectors are meeting tomorrow to pick the team in the backdrop of Dalmiya’s comment that Sehwag is “eligible” for selection.

Speed wrote: “You have indicated that it is your view that Virender Sehwag is eligible for selection… You will appreciate that BCCI and ICC are on a collision course and that the consequences for world cricket are of great significance.”


New York, Nov. 27: 
When UN secretary-general Kofi Annan was asked to choose poetry representatives of the millennium which has just passed, one of his five choices was Rabindranath Tagore’s celebrated lines about freedom: “Into that haven of freedom, Father, let my country awake”.

Tagore, in fact, is all over a 370-page volume of poetry which Annan released here yesterday as a final event to commemorate the passing of the millennium.

Tagore’s The Golden Boat is the choice of Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, the ambassador of Bangladesh to the UN, as well.

Chowdhury chose Tagore’s lines about a sense of loneliness and despair at having to let go of something valuable to convey his sense of loss over the passing of a millennium.

Of course, Kamalesh Sharma, India’s ambassador to the UN, has picked Tagore’s Geetanjali, along with Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhav, a Hindi poem by Kabirdas and an Urdu poem by Mir Taqi Mir.

The UN secretary-general says of his choice of Tagore’s lines: “What I like about the poem is that it shows that true patriotism does not mean hostility to other people or turning one’s back on foreign influence.

“On the contrary, it implies an opening of the mind to the world, an exercise of reason and independent judgement, a passion for truth and justice. (The poem) has special meaning for me as an African who grew up during my country’s struggle for independence from the same empire, although on a different continent.”

Bengali poetry, or rather poems scripted by Bengalis, are all over the commemorative volume and ranks along with French, Spanish, Arabic and, of course, English poetry in profusion.

Kazi Nazrul Islam’s Samyabadi, or one who believes in equality, was picked because of its powerful message that the soul is the epitome of equality and creativity and that religion, origin or belief cannot make one human being superior over another.

The Bangladesh ambassador picked Liberty, You Are by Shamsur Rahman, poet laureate of his country, because it is about the emancipation of Bangladesh, the hopes, aspirations and ideals which inspired the struggle for liberation.

The commemorative volume, called Mille Fleurs (Thousand Flowers) is the brainchild of the Indian ambassador to the UN.

It is Sharma’s second effort on behalf of India’s permanent mission to the UN to celebrate the end of the last millennium.

The first effort was at the start of the millennium celebrations at the UN when he brought out a 430-page volume of 50 essays outlining an agenda for the world and its challenges. The volume, Imagining Tomorrow: Rethinking the Global Challenge, was released during the Millennium Summit of the UN, the biggest gathering of heads of state and government ever.

It is to be shortly adopted here as a textbook on multilateralism for global use. Two months ago, the Foreign Policy Association, one of the most influential US think tanks on diplomacy adopted the title of the volume as the theme of its 2001 conference.

The publication was also distributed to participants in the conference, which was addressed, among others, by former president Bill Clinton.

Mille Fleurs was to have been released in September at the conclusion of the UN’s Millennium Assembly, but the event was postponed after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) partnered the UN and the Indian mission to the UN in bringing out the volume.

Kiran Pasricha, CII representative in the US, described the support as a step towards strengthening the bonding force of humanity and the ideals for which the UN and the CII stand.

In putting together the volume, Sharma and his colleague at the Indian mission, Atul Khare, asked

Annan, ambassadors of all member states of the UN and the staff of the UN secretariat to choose poems representative of the whole world which had relevance to the millennium.

Sharma said that “while the collection of world poetry gives an unusual literary flavour to the millennium year, there is also a parallel in spirit behind the universal creative activity represented by the poetic impulse and universal aspirations embodied in the UN”.Bengal’s millennium full bloom


Centurion, Nov. 27: 
The BCCI is “assessing” the Virender Sehwag issue on an “hour-by-hour” basis.

Sources said the BCCI now has an “open mind”, a shift from yesterday’s position that there was no bar on picking Sehwag for the first Test against England. It was then understood he would be selected, but probably not fielded.

Though no directive had been issued to the selectors on not picking Sehwag till late tonight, BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya is said to be “monitoring” things every hour. The XIV for Mohali will be chosen tomorrow.

It’s possible, therefore, a directive may be given in the afternoon/early evening, provided the ICC adopts a less hostile approach.

Usually, selection committee meetings are convened around noon. Tomorrow, however, Chandu Borde and his colleagues could meet late in the evening. This, it is learnt, is to allow Dalmiya “enough time” to possibly interact with the ICC.

If the selectors are to go strictly by merit, Sehwag can’t be excluded. But, for the ICC to even contemplate a rethink on the status of the game which ended today, the BCCI must first respond by keeping Sehwag out of Test No. 1 versus England.

With quite a few players unfit/doubtful, will it now be Sehwag’s turn to join the ‘club’?


London, Nov. 27: 
Whatever happens between Jagmohan Dalmiya and the International Cricket Council, the England tour of India will go ahead — by the women, that is.

Ignoring the battle raging round its headquarters at Lord’s, the England Cricket Board (ECB) today announced a 14-member women’s squad for India, where the team will play five one-day internationals in Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai and Calcutta and one Test in Mumbai.

Asked whether women administrators were altogether more sensible because there were fewer ego clashes, ECB spokeswoman Andrea Wiggins replied: “Oh, I don’t know. Women’s cricket has had its moments.”

She explained that while men’s and women’s cricket in the UK were merged under the ECB in 1997, in India, women’s cricket was controlled by the Women’s Cricket Association, a body quite distinct from the BCCI. “We have been negotiating with the WCA,” Wiggins said.

She added that none of the women cricketers, who were clearly made of sterner stuff than their male counterparts, had withdrawn because of security fears. Andrew Caddick and Robert Croft had dropped out of the Nasser Hussain-led team now touring India, citing the unsettled situation in the subcontinent because of the war in Afghanistan.

Four women had been forced to pull out, but only because the tour, which had been advanced from February to January next year, now clashed with either their university or A-level examainations.

The women hope they will get a fraction of the coverage accorded to such players as Nasser Hussain and Mark Ramprakash.

While the experienced opening bowling partnership of Clare Taylor and Lucy Pearson will travel to India, new additions include three young bowlers — Yorkshire’s championship-winning duo of medium-pacer Laura Spragg and off-spinner Helen Wardlaw, plus Surrey leg-spinner Sarah Clarke.

The comments from the England captain, Clare Connor, were diplomatic and may help to soothe ruffled male feathers on all sides.

“India is one of the most exciting places in the world to tour as a cricketer,” she said.

“We played to crowds in excess of 20,000 during the World Cup in India in 1997, and I can’t wait to play there again, especially to return as captain. India is an amazing, challenging place and a nation of cricket-lovers.”

The coach, John Harmer, said: “This is a balanced, competent squad which I expect to be competitive in India. We have worked hard during the autumn and the tour provides an opportunity to see how far we have come in a relatively short space of time.”

The chairman of selectors, Patsy Lovell — she is not called chairperson or chairwoman -- commented: “We have the chance to build on some of the performances this summer, and have introduced some young players, especially spinners, with India in mind.

We have also re-introduced some more experienced players who have shown good form in the domestic competitions.”

The women are meeting at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, this weekend for a training session.

They will have another one at Lord’s on December 30 before flying out to India.


London, Nov. 27: 
Gopal Gandhi, who translated Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy into Hindi, has at the age of 56, turned into a suitable diplomat.

He is being moved from heading the Indian mission in Sri Lanka, which is important enough, to become high commissioner in London early next year in succession to Nareshwar Dayal who is retiring.

London, along with Washington and Moscow, counts as one of the three key posts in the Indian diplomatic service, and has had over the years a number of very senior diplomats or politicians in charge of the mission. They have included everyone from Krishna Menon to Vijayalakshmi Pandit, B.K. Nehru, Apa Pant, L.M. Singhvi and Lalit Mansingh.

Gandhi, whose appointment is due to be officially announced in mid-December, will be returning to familiar pastures.

He was the first director of the Nehru Centre, the focal point in London for appearances by high-profile writers, academics, film-makers and many other Indian celebrities.

The Pakistanis attempted to match India by setting up a Jinnah Centre. However, this never got off the ground.

One aspect of his family background that Gandhi, famed for his excessive modesty, tries to gloss over is that he is “the 14th and youngest grandchild of Mahatma Gandhi”. This might have been one of the reasons why in July, 1996, he moved from London to be India’s high commissioner to South Africa, the country where as a young lawyer his grandfather developed his philosophy of non-violent political protest.

When Gandhi is asked whether it is a burden or an advantage to be the grandson of the Mahatma, he invariably replies: “Interesting question which we should leave to a much longer discussion another day.”

At a bilateral level, Indo-British political relations are probably as good as they have been for many years, with both countries taking a similar view on the need to establish a broad-based government in Afghanistan.

One looming crisis, which Gandhi may have to handle, is the spat between India and England over cricket. Gandhi has told friends that the one thing he is not interested in is cricket. “I know I should be but I am not,” he has commented almost apologetically.


Ranchi, Nov. 27: 
A multi-pronged strategy has been worked out by the RJD and its legal eagles to get Laloo Yadav out of jail in Ranchi and shift him to Patna while simultaneously launching a mass movement against the Babulal Marandi government.

While Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi made last-minute changes in her travel plans and decided to stay on in Ranchi for the night, Laloo’s lawyers went into a huddle with the RJD leader at the makeshift prison in the Bacon Factory guest house this evening to give finishing touches to their strategy.

Sources said the CBI special court in Patna is scheduled to commence hearing on December 6 on the disproportionate assets case filed against both Laloo and Rabri. The duo has been charged with owning assets of Rs 46.52 lakh in excess of their known sources of income.

Day-to-day hearing in the disproportionate assets case will begin on December 6 and continue till December 10. The sources said according to the strategy, Laloo’s lawyers would move the Patna trial court for his personal appearance in the Bihar capital on December 6. This will ensure that the RJD leader is moved out of the Ranchi camp jail and taken to Bihar.

The sources pointed out that with two simultaneous cases — one at Patna (RC-5A/98) and the other in Ranchi (RC-47A/96) — moving at the same time, any effort to shift the former chief minister would involve an inter-state court transfer.

They added that in the event the Patna trial court deems necessary Laloo’s personal presence, the Ranchi court would have no option but to shift him to the Bihar capital. “Since the Ranchi CBI special court has remanded Laloo in judicial custody till December 10, Laloo’s lawyers will retain him in Patna till December 9 and move him back to Ranchi to be present before the CBI special court in Ranchi the next day,” sources said.

Laloo’s lawyers in Ranchi would meanwhile move Jharkhand High Court for regular bail and ensure his freedom before the judicial remand set by the CBI special court expires on December 10.

Laloo’s counsel Ajay Kumar Trivedi said his client will challenge the trial court’s verdict before the high court tomorrow. Trivedi said though the court had agreed that similar charges had been framed against Laloo in the various fodder scam cases, it had rejected the bail petition on the ground that the amount of Rs 182 crore swindled from the state’s treasuries was too big to let Laloo off on bail. Trivedi and his colleagues will challenge this in the high court.




Maximum: 31.1°C (+3)
Minimum: 19.2°C (+3)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 89%,
Minimum: 42%


Sunrise: 6.03 am
Sunset: 4.46 pm
Partly cloudy sky

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