Bickering cricket bosses in phone marathon for give-and-take
Covert training for Nepal
Basu buries Buddha Bill
IOC snaps Haldia’s naphtha lifeline
US defence dalliance
Foreign throne turns too hot
King can play unifying role: India
Maoists bomb Coke plant
No takers for private artefact shops
Calcutta Weather

London, Nov. 29: 
A way out of an imminent cricket showdown emerged today with indications that the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the game’s Indian administrators are working on a compromise.

Under the deal being discussed, India will drop Virender Sehwag from the playing XI at Mohali. In return, the ICC will concede that teams will have the right of appeal against decisions of match referees.

The need for such a provision is being felt after Mike Denness suspended six Indian players in a match, setting in motion a chain of events that has led up to the possibility of the cricket world being torn asunder.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said: “We are looking at whether there should be a right of appeal.”

This will be part of a re-examination of regulations concerning match referees. “One of the things we have been looking at, and we have been looking at it before this occurred, is that from April 2002, we have a completely new system for match referees,” he said.

Jagmohan Dalmiya, the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), is holding long telephone conversations with ICC chairman Malcolm Gray and Speed to arrive at a settlement so that the India- England Test from Monday can go ahead.

To buy time for talks, the ICC extended by a day the Friday deadline set for India to decide if Sehwag, served a one-match ban, will play at Mohali. The ICC has proposed to Dalmiya a meeting at Kuala Lumpur on Saturday if a solution is not found by then.

“Mr Gray will fly from Sydney, Mr Dalmiya from Calcutta and I fly from here,” Speed said.

In Calcutta, Dalmiya confirmed receiving the offer, but said “wait until tomorrow”.

Speed disclosed that over the past three days, between 10 and 20 conversations have taken place, varying in length from half-an-hour to an hour. The talks are taking place across three cities, Sydney, Calcutta and London.

“They were having to cope with the tyranny of time zones. It has been difficult to have all parties talk at the same time.”

“The good news is that we are making progress,” Speed added, but warned that there was still a long way to go. Discussions will continue through the night.

The ICC chief executive offered a glimpse of the way negotiations have gone. “It is often two steps forward, one step backward. Sometimes, it is two steps forward, three steps backward.”

He said the ICC has gone out of its way to resolve the crisis, which had appeared yesterday to be building up to a showdown between the ICC and the BCCI after Sehwag was named in the 14-strong Indian squad for Mohali.

Dalmiya also dismissed the deadline set by the ICC, saying that the playing XI cannot be decided before the morning of the match.

Speed said he did not want the dispute “going down to the last moment, to the teams being presented to the opposing captains just before the toss, with an excited cricket ground full of cricket fans when we will put the safety of players, officials and the public at risk”.

If the match were to be cancelled, the ICC would want it to happen well before start of play.

Questioned on Sehwag, Speed said a number of options had been looked at, but not one that involves him playing. “That is not an option that we are discussing seriously.”

Asked whether he was optimistic, Speed said: “At the moment, we sit between two extremes. I am an optimistic person by nature. So, yes, I am optimistic. But I am also a realist.”

“We recognise there is a very serious international issue here.” But if there was a great Test series, as he hoped there would be, “cricket would bounce back”.


Siliguri, Nov. 29: 
Three months before Saturday’s Maoist mayhem in Nepal, the Himalayan kingdom had entered into an “unofficial” deal with India to help build a crack commando team to take on the rebels.

This came to light when border guards on Tuesday intercepted some 120 Nepal police recruits en route to the Indian army’s specialised training centre for jungle warfare at Mizoram.

Indian police and customs officials stopped two busloads of Nepalese in civilian clothes at the Ranigaunj border check post at Panitanki, some 25 km from here.

“The Nepal police contingent in crew-cuts and identical tracksuits stood out… and were detained. A group of some 120 men travelling together is not something one can ignore,” a senior Darjeeling police official said.

“They were held for over an hour-and-a-half before we could verify with authorities in the Army’s 33rd Corps headquarters at Sukhna and let them proceed,” the official added.

Intelligence officials here said Nepal struck the deal with India in July, soon after the Maoists entered into a truce with Kathmandu. Nepal secretly approached India to raise a crack police commando force trained in counter-insurgency and guerrilla warfare.

“India agreed to train Nepal police personnel in batches at the Indian army’s specialised centre for jungle and guerrilla warfare at Vairengti, some 500 km south of Aizawl on the Assam-Mizoram border neighbouring Silchar,” an intelligence official said.

The hush-hush project was known only to a few defence, home and foreign ministry officials.

The operation began in August. The first batch of Nepal police personnel is still undergoing training at the Vairengti camp run by the 57th mountain division.


Nov. 29: 
First it was H.S. Surjeet who said the CPM politburo has decided that the Bengal government would drop its proposed anti-crime Ordinance. Today, it was Jyoti Basu who said the party has decided to stall the Bill that was to be moved in the winter session of the Assembly.

Both decisions were made by the politburo and both were announced in Delhi and both by not the chief minister who governs Bengal. One either occasion, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was not even present when announcements deciding the fate of a piece of legislation he had conceived were made.

Jyoti Basu, who had been at the receiving end of party diktats as chief minister, is now speaking for the party, if not against Bhattacharjee’s government, then perhaps undermining the chief minister’s authority.

Bhattacharjee refused comment. “You write what Jyotibabu said in Delhi, I will disclose the government’s position in the Assembly,” he said.

A fortnight ago, Bhattacharjee had told a meeting of Left Front partners that the government was preparing a note to inform them of the provisions of the Bill before it was moved in the House. The objective of the Bill is to arm police to tackle organised crime syndicates.

After that meeting, front chairman and senior CPM leader Biman Bose had said Bhattacharjee would explain the Bill’s provisions in the Assembly.

Today, Jyoti Basu said: “The Bill will not come. Buddhadeb will make a statement in the Assembly on the opening day to this effect.”

The reason for the change in the stand, Basu explained, was that the party wanted to wait for the Centre to decide on the anti-terrorism law that has kicked up a storm. The CPM opposes it. So much so that at the previous politburo meeting Bhattacharjee’s Ordinance was spiked to scotch allegations of following double standards. That was announced by Surjeet.

Basu said the politburo had decided at its meeting yesterday to keep the Bengal law on hold because of the confusion in people’s minds that it is the same as the Central legislation.

“The fact is that they are not (the same),” he added.


Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
Bengal’s showcase venture Haldia Petrochemicals hurtled towards a crisis with Indian Oil Corporation stopping naphtha supply. HPL requires 150,000 tonnes of the raw material naphtha every month.

Indian Oil has informed HPL and the Bengal government of its decision. An Indian Oil official said: “If any of our naphtha consumers fail to make payment within 60 days, we stop supply. We had extended the credit period (for HPL) by another 30 days. But they have failed to clear their dues within that period also.”

The 90-day period came to an end early this week.

HPL denied the supply freeze. “We do not have immediate requirement of naphtha. There is a stock of naphtha for one month. A crisis has arisen due to a payment problem. It is expected to be sorted out soon.”

The company’s finance team is negotiating with Indian Oil to get some relief. “We are trying to convince all our creditors to give us some time,” officials said. Three of HPL’s cheques have bounced.

Indian Oil’s decision comes on the eve of the expiry of the November 30 deadline it had set for HPL partners to decide to take it on as the fourth equity holder.

With Indian Oil’s entry uncertain, Purnendu Chatterjee, Bengal’s partner in HPL, is expected to bring in funds. Chatterjee was today given 15 days to come up with Rs 107 crore.


New Delhi, Nov. 29: 
The US is looking forward to building an “unprecedented” military-to-military relationship with India. The ties will be “non-traditional and unconventional”, not necessarily flowing out of a rigid defence treaty.

“We believe that a robust US-India defence relationship of a kind that is unprecedented in our bilateral history can play an important role in contributing to peace, security and freedom in Asia. We will develop our relationship with India on the basis of India’s emergence as a rising global power,” Admiral Dennis C. Blair, commander-in-chief of the US Pacific Command, said today.

This is the clearest enunciation yet of where the US sees India in its matrix of strategic alliances spanning the Asia-Pacific region. Blair also spelt out five areas of military activity the two countries have agreed to explore together in the short term.

Since the September 11 attacks on America, the US Pacific Command chief — who reports to the defence secretary and the President — has been mostly involved in working out alliances in the Indian Ocean region while his counterpart in the Central Command — General Tommy Franks — has been leading the war.

Travelling through the Indian Ocean Rim countries, Blair has been actively seeking and making arrangements to patrol the Malacca Straits and sea lanes. He said many nations have offered to participate in the patrol.

Set against this background, the US views the row on the reported overflight of the helicopter in Chennai as much ado over nothing. Another American warship — the third since Operation Enduring Freedom began — is due to dock in Mumbai.

Blair is on a visit to India as a follow-up to the meeting between the Indian Prime Minister and the US President in Washington on November 9. Next week, US under-secretary of state Douglas Feith will be in Delhi to continue with a US programme of a military relationship with India.

“Over the coming weeks, an intense series of meetings and visits between civilian and uniformed leaders of the US and India will hammer out the specific policies and detailed plans for execution. We in the Pacific Command very much look forward to building combined operational skills with our Indian counterparts. India will play a greater role in Asian security,” Blair said at a CII meeting.

When a magazine reported earlier this month that the US was keen on firming up a military alliance with India, the defence ministry denied the story. Blair, too, refused to use the word “alliance” but he left little doubt that a roadmap for more involved cooperation was being drawn up.

“A more dynamic, a more non-traditional cooperation,” was how he put it in answer to a question. Blair’s use of words in describing the kind of military relationship he envisaged left little doubt about what Washington wants.

“I believe that US-India military-to-military relations ought to be multifaceted and should extend to all aspects of cooperation, including a wide variety of individual and unit visits, officer and unit exchanges, multilateral and bilateral training exercises to prepare for future common missions and military technology sales and cooperation,” he said.

Implicit in the admiral’s statements is that India would gain militarily, in terms of access to technology and products, should such a relationship materialise.

Blair did not comment on where US-India military ties would leave Pakistan, which is looked after by the Central Command. In Blair’s observations, though, there was a hint that the US wanted a military relationship with India for the long term, despite putting a premium on its ties with Pakistan for the short term.


Mumbai, Nov. 29: 
It’s May Day for Indian high-fliers in the West.

Less than 24 hours after Rakesh Gangwal resigned as chief executive of US Airways, Rana Talwar, director and group chief executive of Standard Chartered plc, has stepped down. Media reports in London said Talwar was ousted in a boardroom coup.

India-born Talwar has been replaced by Mervyn Davies, group executive director since 1997, who headed Stanchart’s Hong Kong operations.

Talwar said: “I recognise that now is an appropriate time to move on. After working for 33 years in the industry, I look forward to taking a break before considering other opportunities.”

“I have relished the challenges of the last three years transforming the group. I remain confident that the group has the right strategy and direction and will continue to flourish,” he added.

However, a report in the Financial Times of London said Talwar, a former Citigroup executive who took over the reins at Stanchart three years ago, was forced out as a result of a serious “culture clash” between the former Citigroup executive and the others on the board, including chairman Sir Patrick Gillam.

Talwar’s resignation heightens speculation that the bank, which has focused heavily on emerging markets and China under Talwar, could be a prime takeover target. Stanchart has received informal feelers from Barclays and Lloyds TSB, two of the largest banks in London, over the past six months but have been rebuffed by Talwar.

Talwar was one of only a handful of Indians who have been able to break the “glass ceiling” — the metaphorical bar to career advancement on the grounds of gender, race, creed or colour — to occupy top management positions in a major global organisation.

The year 1998 was a eventful year for Indian managers. Jim Wadia took over the reins of the leading management firm Arthur Andersen, Rajat Gupta was chosen to head high-profile management consultancy McKinsey, and Talwar was crowned the head of banking operations in North America.

What differentiates Talwar from the rest is the fact that he is not an MBA.

Talwar, 52, a graduate from St. Stephen’s College in New Delhi, is a man who rose from the ranks. He had a high-profile career at Citibank, having spearheaded Citibank’s consumer operations in Asia and Japan.

But the Indian managers have had a hard time since. Wadia was embroiled in a serious controversy that eventually led to the breakup of auditing and the consultancy arms of Arthur Andersen.

This week there was more bad news. On Wednesday, Gangwal quit as chief executive and president of US Airways, the embattled carrier that posted one of its worst results in the third quarter and laid off almost a quarter of its employees since September 12.

Another Indian top boss to depart in recent times is Shailesh Mehta who transformed Providian from a little-known subsidiary of a Kentucky insurance firm to a San Francisco-based financial services giant. It became America’s fifth largest issuer of MasterCards and Visa cards and earned $651 million last year.

Providian’s problems and losses started with the slump in the US economy, leaving unpaid credit card bills. September 11 complicated matters further. This month, Providian closed its Nevada office, and started a salvage operation. But it did not save Mehta.

Talwar was one of only two Indians who headed leading global banks. His exit means that Victor Menezes, who leads Citibank, will be the sole Indian to keep the flag flying.

The Financial Times said though Sir Patrick was as determined as Talwar in keeping Stanchart independent, they could not agree on the strategy for future growth with Talwar keen to expand operations in China and Taiwan and other emerging markets and dead set against acquisitions in the UK, Europe or the US.

The Standard Chartered board met on Wednesday to decide Talwar’s fate. He was not present. The Financial Times report said Talwar will receive a total compensation package of up to £2 million (Rs 13.6 crore).


New Delhi, Nov. 29: 
India is of the view that the ageing former King Zahir Shah could play a socially unifying role in war-torn Afghanistan, but may not be effective for playing an executive duty.

It is also of the view that the international community should not try to force the peace process in Afghanistan, but allow Afghans to take their time to evolve a consensus on deciding the nature of the new regime in Kabul that can bring peace and stability to the country.

New Delhi is trying to impress upon other countries that an UN-like protectorate, earlier seen in either Somalia or East Timor, will not work in Afghanistan.

Though India has not spelt out whether it supported sending in UN peacekeepers to Kabul till a stable regime is instituted, remarks made by the Indian establishment indicate that New Delhi would rather agree to a formula, if the Afghans are able to evolve one.

The Indian special envoy to Afghanistan Sati Lambah is currently in Bonn where the various Afghan groups and factions are congregating to work out a plan to restore peace and stability to the war-ravaged country.

India’s advice for the Bonn meet, where it is present as an observer, is to allow the Afghans to evolve a consensus at their own pace and not to rush the proceedings. Though many countries would like the deposed King Shah to play a role in restoring stability to Afghanistan, India has made it clear that though the former king may be in a position to command respect and, thus be a socially unifying force, he may fall short of expectations if asked to play an executive role.

South Block feels the King, though respected in his time, represents only a segment of Afghan society — the Pashtoons. Afghanistan has witnessed much change during his absence and there are other important players who cannot be ignored.

The signal is clearly towards the Northern Alliance, a coalition of Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and other ethnic minorities in Afghanistan. India has been one of the main backers of the Alliance along with Russia and Iran.

With the United Force President Burhanuddin Rabbani taking control of Kabul and much of Afghanistan immediately after the Taliban retreat, New Delhi, for obvious reasons would like the Alliance to play a greater role in the new regime in Kabul.

At the political level, India is trying to ensure that whatever decision is taken or consensus arrived at towards peace in Afghanistan, New Delhi remains in the loop. Its main thrust at the moment appears to be in the areas of reconstruction and rehabilitation. India feels countries keen on helping the Afghans should ask what are the essential items required rather than imposing them on the people of the country.


Kathmandu, Nov. 29: 
The Maoists made a daring attack this morning at the Coca-Cola bottling plant in the Balaju industrial district on the outskirts of the capital, a home ministry spokesman said.

The attack came at the start of the fourth day of a military offensive against the rebels

Two powerful blasts caused extensive damage at the plant. There were no casualties and the police started an investigation, the spokesman added. The sounds of the blasts resonated throughout the Kathmandu valley.

The government today confirmed the death of 11 more Maoists in the latest clashes between the army and the rebels in Dang, one of the two districts where the Maoist rebels had launched their Friday blitzkrieg. It has also said the army clashed and repelled terrorist attacks in eastern Tehrathum district last night. Dusk-to-dawn curfew has been imposed in at least in six districts in west and mid-west Nepal.

Witnesses said six masked men armed with pistols and a rifle knocked on the gates of the plant, saying they were police. They jumped over the iron gates when security guards asked them for identity cards.

“Once they were inside, they told us they were Maoists and we had nothing to worry,” N.B. Shreshta, a guard, said.

The guerrillas then told the guards to leave the plant and left two bombs.

The first went off at 5.10 am and the second some four minutes later, Shreshta added.

The roof and windows of the plant were blown off and the wall damaged. Police said six people had been detained for questioning after the attack and the plant had been cordoned off.

Company officials said the factory would be out of operation for several months. “It’s all over, the damage is very extensive,” Chandra Shreshta, sales manager of the plant, said.

Minister of information and communications Jayaprakash Prasad Gupta said the security situation in the country has significantly improved since the imposition of the state of emergency earlier this week.

He said the army and other security forces have been involved in operations against the Maoists.


New Delhi, Nov 29: 
It takes two to tango. The ministry of culture wants to privatise museum shops, but are private operators willing to take the risk? It would seem not going by the lukewarm response to the department of culture’s advertisements inviting bids.

The ministry has decided to let out two shops at the National Museum and the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi to private parties on an experimental basis.

About 200 square feet of space would be handed over to private operators for developing into trendy souvenir shops. The shopkeepers would have to pay rental at the rate of Rs 100 per square foot and a cut of the turnover not less than 10 per cent as part of the profit-sharing arrangement.

In return, the private parties would have access to some of the museum’s collections for purposes of reproduction.

Recent efforts undertaken by the National Museum of selling reproductions of the Nizam’s Jewels as souvenir in Hyderabad has proven to be a money-spinner. The government is keen on several such brand extension exercises.

Private operators have been indifferent to the ministry’s proposal and there have not been too many bids. Officials of the culture ministry, however, are optimistic and expect to arrive at a decision next month on the proposal.




Maximum: 28.8°C (+1)
Minimum: 20.5°C (+5)



Relative humidity

Max: 91%
Min: 55%

Sunrise: 6.04 am

Sunset: 4.46 pm


Partly cloudy sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 19°C

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