Delhi drops diplomatic bomb
Terror alarm in cellphones
Warning shot for Bush
Jogi lift-off on split booster
Samajwadi MPs rise against star culture
Ulfa-trained KLO leader arrested
Konnagar clash
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi/Islamabad, Dec. 21: 
India today announced it was recalling the high commissioner to Islamabad, sending a warning to Pakistan and the US that the absence of action by President Pervez Musharraf on terrorist outfits was pushing the situation in South Asia towards a flashpoint.

Pakistan is not withdrawing its high commissioner in retaliation, but Delhi could ask Ahsraf Jehangir Qazi to leave if it wanted to turn up the pressure.

“The government of Pakistan regrets the decision of the government of India to withdraw its high commissioner,” Islamabad said, adding that Pakistan does not intend to “respond in kind”. The statement said that “in the prevailing tense situation it is all the more important to keep all channels of communication open.”

This is only the second time India has decided to downgrade its diplomatic relations with Pakistan, the first was during the 1965 war. During the 1971 war, the two countries had temporarily closed down their missions.

Along with the decision to recall Vijay Nambiar, India terminated the highly symbolic Delhi-Lahore bus service opened by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999, and the Samjhauta Express — the only rail link between the two nations. Both services will stop from January 1.

Pakistan expressed regret, saying stopping the services would only cause hardship to ordinary people.

The decisions come less than 24 hours after President George W. Bush’s announcement to freeze the assets of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, describing it as a “Kashmiri terrorist group” responsible for attacks both in India and Pakistan and protecting Musharraf against allegations of a Pakistan hand in the Parliament attack.

India welcomed the announcement, but made it clear by its decision today that it was not willing to give Musharraf a clean chit till he acted against the terrorists. “Since the December 13 attack on Parliament, we have seen that no attempt on the part of Pakistan has been made to take action against organisations involved in the terrorist attack,” foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said, justifying India’s decision.

Rao said the government decided to recall its high commissioner “in view of the complete lack of concern on the part of Pakistan and its continued promotion of cross-border-terrorism in India”.

Islamabad said: “The government of Pakistan rejects the Indian allegation of continued promotion of cross-border terrorism by Pakistan and reminds the government of India that Pakistan had asked for credible evidence about involvement of Pakistan-based groups/individuals for investigation and appropriate action by the government.”

The decision to recall Nambiar was announced after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Vajpayee. Later, Vajpayee called on President K.R. Narayanan.

Commenting on the US action against Lashkar, foreign minister Jaswant Singh said after the 90-minute CCS meeting: “It has been long expected. I am glad that Lashkar-e-Taiba has been included in the list of terrorist groups.”

India’s decision to force the pace of developments is part of a series of moves to signal its anger at Islamabad not responding to its call to take action against the terrorists. There are a few more diplomatic steps India can take. For instance, it can further downgrade its mission in Islamabad and subsequently close it down. It can also stop flights to and from Pakistan.

Sources in Islamabad said the Pakistan government has been told by US secretary of state Colin Powell India would not mount an attack.


New Delhi, Dec. 21: 
Mobile-toting terrorists and mercenaries are ready to hit Ground Zero again. No, they aren’t quite like Ghazi Baba and Mohammad Afzal. They might not carry ammo, but these disgruntled customers can vote with their beeps — and that could spell disaster for the country’s cellular industry, which boasts 5.2 million subscribers.

A survey of cellular users in India by NFO Worldgroup, a marketing research company, presents a psychographic profile that hangs some blood-curdling labels on them: Terrorists, Mercenaries, Hostages and Apostles.

The Terrorist are “customers who are disappointed in their business relations with the company and tell everybody about their bad experience”. They are determined to quit the service. The worrying aspect for the cellular industry is that almost a quarter of the subscribers — 24 per cent of post-paid customers and 22 per cent of pre-paid card users — are ready to quit and bad-mouth their current service provider.

The next group comprises the Mercenaries: these are happy and content customers but, like the smiling assassin, they are never loyal to the company and shop around for a better bargain. The survey says that 16 per cent of post-paid customers and 19 per cent of pre-paid users fall in this category.

The third category comprises Hostages: disgruntled customers who cannot get out because they are trapped by certain “exit barriers” which largely arise because they are part of some group or employee schemes. They account for 17 per cent of the post-paid customers and 16 per cent of the pre-paid card users.

The Apostles are the customers that the cellular companies would love to have more of: they are highly content, loyal customers whose contacts with potential customers are more valuable than any sales force. The Apostles comprise the largest group — 43 per cent of post-paid and pre-paid customer categories. While that is good news for them, they can’t be too pleased about the fact that 57 per cent have some major grouse against the existing service provider and could drop out at the slightest opportunity.

This is the second survey carried out by NFO — the first was in October-November 2000 and the second during the same period this year. There’s some good cheer for industry — the number of Terrorists has dropped from 31 per cent overall in the first survey to 24 per cent in the case of post-paid customers and 22 per cent in the case of pre-paid card users. Mercenaries are down from 25 to 16 per cent (19 per cent in the case of pre-paid card users) and Apostles have risen from 33 to 43 per cent in both categories.

But the number of Hostages — users who are trapped by the conditions of their plans — has risen from 11 to 17 per cent (16 per cent in the case of pre-paid card users).

The survey was conducted among 2,674 subscribers across 24 different network operators spread over 13 circles, which constitute more than 85 per cent of country’s cellular subscriber base. NFO claims to have spoken to 1,311 pre-paid customers and 1,363 post-paid subscribers.


Washington, Dec. 21: 
The recall of high commissioner Vijay Nambiar from Islamabad was prompted, in part, by extreme displeasure in Delhi over yesterday’s statement by President George W. Bush.

Notwithstanding the public praise for US action against Lashkar-e-Toiba, India’s leaders consider Bush’s description of Lashkar as “an extremist group based in Kashmir” and a “stateless sponsor of terrorism” as extremely insensitive.

India has provided the US conclusive proof that Lashkar is based in and operates out of Pakistan, not Kashmir. New Delhi has also given the US proof that the terrorist outfit is not stateless, but sponsored by Pakistan’s government.

At a high-level meeting held in New Delhi after the US presidential action freezing Lashkar’s assets, several voices were raised to say that such a description by Bush was an insult to those who died defending India’s symbol of democracy.

On record, however, India will not say anything to the US or take any step which may be considered churlish. The overwhelming view in the Prime Minister’s Office is that the immediate objective of Indian diplomacy should be to get other leading countries to follow the Bush administration in acting against Lashkar and other similar outfits patronised by Pakistan.

In the light of Bush’s confusing and patently untrue statement that “LeT has committed acts of terrorism inside both India and Pakistan”, New Delhi no longer believes that Washington will shed its double standards on terrorism when it comes to Islamabad.

India may, therefore, now be expected to act on its own in whatever way it feels best suited to protect the country’s interests.

As part of the government’s resolve to exhaust all diplomatic options before considering other ways to tame Islamabad, South Block may now ask the Pakistan high commission to drastically cut down its strength.

When P.V. Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister, South Block cut short the tenure of Pakistani diplomats of its choice in a similar operation. In doing so, it picked individuals who were conducting intelligence and covert operations as well as the political section, effectively crippling the functioning of the mission.

Despite yesterday’s balancing act in trying to please both India and Pakistan, the Bush administration’s action in freezing the assets of Lashkar and Umma Tameer-e-Nau has once again put the spotlight on Pakistan as a haven for terrorists.

Bush was effusive in his support for India in the context of the attack on Parliament. “The legislature of the world’s largest democracy, a nation founded on the principles of freedom of speech, freedom of worship, was ruthlessly attacked.”

Bush accused Lashkar of attempting to undermine Musharraf and working to “destroy relations between Pakistan and India”. He also made an error in saying that the organisation had “committed acts of terrorism inside both India and Pakistan”. As the Indians assert, Lashkar has practiced terror only within India and never inside Pakistan.


Raipur, Dec. 21: 
Chief minister Ajit Jogi will fly to Delhi early tomorrow to present to Congress president Sonia Gandhi the 12 MLAs who quit the BJP last afternoon and declared themselves part of the Congress today.

With the MLAs — who formed the Chhattisgarh Vikas Party — switching loyalties the Ajit Jogi-led Congress in Chhattisgarh now has the numbers to send two members to the Upper House. The Opposition BJP is not in a position to send any.

Before yesterday’s development, the Congress had 49 seats in the 90-member Assembly, while the BJP had 35. The Congress has a two-third majority with 61 members now and the BJP has 23. To be able to elect a member to the Rajya Sabha, a party would need at least 31 votes.

Sources in the state Congress said the high command has already given the nod to include the dissident BJP members in the Congress.

BJP leader and Raipur MLA Brijmohan Agarwal said: “We were not told anything. But the 12 MLAs who left the party had issued statements that they were not being given a fair deal by the present party leadership. Some of them were afraid they might not be given tickets for the next Assembly elections scheduled for December 2003.”

Brijmohan, who is himself not in the good books of party president Lakhiram Agarwal, said: “Ajit Jogi had been trying from day one to break the BJP. It is true he had a majority with 49 seats, but his intention was to weaken the BJP which has been growing in numbers in Chhattisgarh.”

When Jogi became chief minister in November 2000, he was not an MLA. In February, he chose to contest from a BJP seat. Ram Dayal Uike, the BJP MLA from Marwahi, evacuated his seat on frivolous grounds and laid the red carpet for Ajit Jogi. The chief minister won with a margin of over 50,000 votes. Uike was made chairman of the state SC/ST board with perks equivalent to a Cabinet minister.

If the BJP is to be believed, yesterday’s crisis occurred because the Jogi government had more than one aspirant for the Rajya Sabha, one being a leading industrialist who has a steel and power plant in the state. The government had recently entered into an agreement for a Rs 1,200 crore project with him.

The Congress cannot afford to send an industrialist to Parliament when there are so many aspirants within the party, the BJP says. Now, the Congress has the required numbers to send the industrialist and one partyman to the Rajya Sabha. Jogi’s image in the party as well as investments in the state would get a boost.


New Delhi, Dec. 21: 
Three “As” — Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Ambani and Amar Singh — may spell trouble for Mulayam Singh Yadav.

In the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, a revolt is brewing against the “cultural pollution” of the party — its “change” from a grassroot, socialist party to a “five-star” party.

“Amitabh Bachchan has taken the place of Dr. Lohia (in the party), Anil Ambani, that of Chaudhary Charan Singh,” bemoaned Balram Singh Yadav, one of four Lok sabha MPs who has revolted against the leadership. To drive his point home and expose the cultural decay, he said: “Party meetings are held in five-star hotels followed by dances and liberal doses of daaru (liquor). No political party holds meetings in five-star hotels.”

“Since 1991, Mulayam Singh Yadav has not travelled by train, but by helicopter and planes. How could he know the sufferings of the people?” Balram asked.

The four MPs today claimed that soon the 29-member party will split “as it has become a private limited party of Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh”.

The rebel MPs are getting liberal help from a desperate BJP and Janata Dal (United) president and labour minister Sharad Yadav to decimate the Samajwadi in its home turf.

Of the four, Balram Singh Yadav, Bhalchand Yadav and Sarvaraj Singh held a press conference today which was later joined by Sharad Yadav. Asked for his comments, the Dal (U) chief merely described it as “home coming”. The fourth rebel, Ramakant Yadav, and Bhalchand Yadav have written to the Speaker, asking for separate seats in the Lok Sabha.

Though a larger political gameplan appears in place, the rebels today vent their ire against Amar Singh in particular to send out an ostensible message that they are leaving because of the style of functioning of the party general secretary and Mulayam confidant. Alleging that the party was moving on the fascist lines, they said: “We want liberation from Amar Singh”.

Though no action was taken against Balram Singh Yadav, Bhalchand and Ramakant Yadav were expelled from the party recently. Sarvaraj Singh was suspended for “anti-party activities”.

Sarvaraj said Mulayam wore a mask to fool the minorities. “Actually, he is working in league with the BJP. On various issues, like even Tehelka, he tried to bail out the government. Demanding a probe into the assets of the Samajwadi chief, Sarvaraj said Laloo Prasad Yadav was questioned after the wedding of his daughter and a disproportionate assets case was slapped against him, but Mulayam had printed one lakh wedding invitations, he alleged.

Bhalchand said there were times when Mulayam did not talk to the MPs as long as one year. “If he happens to meet us he would talk 15 minutes about Amar Singh’s services and credentials.”

The rebel MPs said they were also prevented from meeting the Prime Minister, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister or Sharad Yadav, a Union minister. “Is it a sin to meet central ministers and the chief minister? There are so many constituency-related matters,” said Bhalchand.


Siliguri, Dec. 21: 
A hardcore Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) activist was arrested today as he returned to Dansherjoth village under Bagdogra police station.

Bishnu Burman, 22, was trapped by a team of plain-clothes police personnel along with two other KLO activists. He had been on the ‘most wanted’ list for the past one year.

Burman was allegedly running a thriving “extortion racket” in the predominantly Kamtapuri Shivmandir-Bagdogra area.

Burman was part of the 32-member KLO camp of the 1997-’98 batch, which received advanced training in sophisticated arms from the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) at their area command camp in the Nichula forest in south-east Bhutan.


Konnagar, Dec. 21: 
The board meeting of the Trinamul Congress-led Konnagar municipality took a violent turn tonight when retired employees barged into the room demanding disbursement of gratuity and provident fund. Congress and CPM councillors supported them, reports our correspondent.

Chairman Swapan Das and six of the Opposition councillors and agitators had to be rushed to Uttarpara general hospital with serious injuries.

The Trinamul- and CPM-led unions in the municipality have called a dawn-to-dusk Konnagar bandh tomorrow.




Maximum: 23.4°C (-4)
Minimum: 14.9°C (+1)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 91%,
Minimum: 62%

Sunrise: 6.20 am

Sunset: 4.51 pm


Partly cloudy sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 14°C

Maintained by Web Development Company