Way to talks lies in PM-Pervez vibes
Pak embassy arrest casts shadow
Darjeeling police claim ISI catch
Mum’s the word for peacebroker Blair
Bengal bandh pot simmers
Five die in clash spiral
Board tests from class V
Security deposit for gas line slashed
Tighter clinical research rules
Calcutta Weather

Kathmandu, Jan. 4: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf found themselves under the same roof tonight nearly six months after they met at Agra. It was not an exclusive meeting: they had to share the banquet hall at the Royal Palace with five other heads of government and King Gyanendra.

Hopes for separate talks were kept alive by the Pakistan President’s remark: “For a dialogue you don’t need a request, you need the will.”

India responded through its foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao. “We have never abjured dialogue with Pakistan.” Although she was quick to add the well-known South Block line: “But the atmosphere is not conducive for dialogue”, signals emanating from the two camps do not preclude a bilateral meeting.

Musharraf, the last among the seven heads of government of the South Asian nations to arrive in Kathmandu, was the focus of the media and the majority of the diplomats here, if only because he kept everyone waiting. His inability to fly out of China on time — apparently because of bad weather — forced the postponement of the Saarc summit by a day.

The retreat to a nearby hill station has been cancelled but there were indications of informal talks still being held among the leaders. “The concept of a retreat has not changed,” a Pakistani spokesman said.

“The total retreat, as it were, has not been called off,” he said.

The three-day summit, curtailed by Musharraf’s late arrival, will now end on Sunday.

By afternoon tomorrow, the inaugural session of the summit will be over, leaving plenty of time for the Indian and Pakistani heads of government to meet. But so far nothing is on schedule and there has been no formal request from either side asking for such a meeting.

Baat ke liye request ki nahi, marzi ki zaroorat hoti hai,” were the Pakistani President’s opening remarks soon after he landed at the airport this afternoon.

Musharraf made it clear that though he was willing to meet Vajpayee, he would not make a request for talks.

India appeared to be expecting a request, though. “If we receive such a request, we have to see how that really evolves,” Rao said.

A senior Indian diplomat said the chances of a meeting were “fifty-fifty”, indicating that a lot will depend on the vibes between the two. The Indian side will get two opportunities to make their assessment: one, at tonight’s banquet, and another at the inaugural session. The Indians will keep their ears cocked to catch signals coming out of Musharraf’s speech at the opening. There were no reports of the two leaders having exchanged words at the banquet.

Vajpayee, who has had bilateral talks with five Saarc heads of government in the past 24 hours, is not known to have any plans so far for a meeting with Musharraf. Asked whether this was a snub to Pakistan, the Indian foreign ministry spokesperson said: “We would like no such value judgement to be passed.”

Rao pointed out that the bilateral meetings Vajpayee has had were the “sovereign decisions of the countries involved”. She argued that such meetings on the sidelines were a regular practice at every other regional and multilateral forum.

“The door is not shut on dialogue with Pakistan. We have always sought dialogue to resolve our differences and outstanding issues with Islamabad,” she said. But she insisted that the time was not right for talks.

“Under the present circumstances, especially in the wake of the December 13 attack on the Indian Parliament, a certain threshold was crossed.”

The spokesperson’s remarks, though an iteration of India’s well-known stand, were highly nuanced. They indicated that though officially Delhi would like to maintain its tough position on talks with Pakistan, enough openings were left to seize upon if specific assurances were made by Islamabad to address India’s concerns.

“Our demands are before Pakistan and we expect it to act,” she said.

Yesterday, foreign minister Jaswant Singh had said that though India expects Pakistan to take steps against terrorists based on its soil, it also realises that such measures cannot be taken overnight by Islamabad.


Kathmandu, Jan 4: 
The arrest of a Pakistan embassy official has become one more weapon in the Pakistani arsenal of anti-India rhetoric. So much so that it was one of the first things President Pervez Musharraf had to address as he arrived here this afternoon.

When he called on King Gyanendra and Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, Musharraf not only complained that the embassy official had been “wrongfully confined” but hinted that it was a calculated ploy to discredit his country on the eve of the Saarc summit.

Musharraf’s spokesman, Major General Rashid Quereshi, went a step further. He saw in it an attempt to “sabotage” Saarc. He told reporters later in the evening that Deuba had assured the Pakistan President of holding an inquiry into the incident. He would not name India openly but left no doubt that Pakistan’s needle of suspicion pointed towards it.

Siraj Ahmad Siddique of the Pakistan embassy here was arrested by police yesterday afternoon for carrying fake US and Indian currency. The police seized fake notes worth $9,200 and Indian currency notes valued at Rs 47,000. Nepal indicated that it might extradite the official.

Before Quereshi aired his complaint, the spokesperson for India’s external affairs ministry, Nirupama Rao, dismissed the Pakistani attempt to involve India in the incident. “It’s a matter between Pakistan and Nepal,” she said.

But Pakistan seemed hell-bent on implicating India in the incident. The Pakistani propaganda machinery, which has been on an overdrive here for the past three days, painted dark images of the “torture and humiliation” heaped not just on the junior official arrested in the incident, but also on another member of the embassy.

Ashaq Ahmad Gondal, principal information officer of the Pakistan government, complained that Siddique had been beaten up badly. A senior official of the embassy, who had intervened with the police, was also heckled.

While India has often accused the ISI of being involved in running a racket in fake Indian currency notes in Nepal, the incident took another dimension because of the seizure of dollars. That probably explains why Musharraf plunged into firefighting immediately on his arrival.

The information about the arrest of Siddique was publicised in Delhi through the security establishment. Sources said Siddique, an embassy employee of the upper division clerical grade, was released on a personal request from the deputy chief of mission of the Pakistan embassy in Kathmandu, adds our Delhi bureau.

The sources said this is the third case of involvement of Pakistan embassy officials in “anti-India” activity in Nepal in the last two years.


Siliguri, Jan. 4: 
Acting on a tip-off from a central intelligence agency, Darjeeling police today arrested an alleged Pakistani national and a senior Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operative and four of his Indian agents.

The Indians included a jawan from Siliguri. The police claimed the group had plans to blow up major army and public installations in north Bengal.

Thirty-two-year-old Mohammed Dilshad, a “master ISI agent”, was paraded at a news conference here this evening. The superintendent of police, Darjeeling, Sanjay Chander, said: “On a tip-off from a central intelligence agency, we conducted a joint raid and ‘ambushed’ Mohammed Dilshad, a Pakistani national.”

He said Dilshad was caught from Darjeeling More, on the outskirts of Siliguri town, early this morning when he was making a call to an ISI link in Dubai from a public phone booth.

“Dilshad, a resident of Hyderabad in Sind province of Pakistan, entered India with a proper visa through the Wagah border in August 2000,” Chander added.

Intelligence agencies had been keeping a close watch on Dilshad ever since he married a local lady on June 23 last year. During interrogation, Dilshad revealed he was trained by the ISI’s senior area-in-charge of Sind province, Major Ahmad, and Subedar Gul Mohammad at Hyderabad (Sind), along with another operative Razi Jahan.

The two ISI agents, part of a highly-trained group in the use of explosives, was given their final brief by ISI’s Karachi chief, said to be Col. Khatak. Dilshad and Jahan entered India together. Jahan headed for Hyderabad in Andhra.

After spending a month in Darjeeling district and making detailed grid maps of the region with army installations, he settled in Siliguri and rented a house at Adarsh Nagar, calling himself a “dealer in leather jackets”. He soon married 25-year-old Sabin Begum.

The police said they had confiscated two pocket diaries that contained a host of phone numbers of ISI contacts in India and Pakistan and of link men in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“We also seized several grid maps of all the major army installations in north Bengal, including the 33 Corps headquarters at Sukhna and Bengdubi, as well as the airforce station in Hashimara and army station at Binaguri. This apart, we seized a state-of-the-art digital camera, with several floppy discs, exposed film rolls and 19 photographs of major army and public installations,” Chander said.

There were pictures of New Jalpaiguri Railway station and oil installations. Dilshad may have e-mailed the photos to his Dubai contacts, the police said. A Chinese-made hand grenade and 500-gm of RDX were found at Dilshad’s house.

“We also seized documents pertaining to classified movements of troop trains from the region to the western front. A list of army officials, their respective ranks and units was also seized from the spy,” Chander said.

Dilshad’s arrest led the police to four other members of the alleged spy ring. One of them is an army supply corps jawan and three others are residents of an area bordering the Khaprail army headquarters in Sukhna.

“We arrested a cleaner of 5033 ASC battalion posted at Sukhna cantonment, Mohammed Azad (30). Azad is a long-serving ISI operative,” the police said.

The others are Azad’s brother Mohammed Sajjad (24), Manish Goel (37) and Mohammed Salim (23).

“ISD call receipts seized from Dilshad revealed that he used to regularly call up his ISI bosses in Pakistan and Dubai. Occasionally, Dilshad also made ISD calls from his in-laws’ house,” Chander said.

Dilshad has revealed that the ISI used to fund the gang’s activities through the hawala channel, routed through Calcutta, Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad.

A masked Dilshad, face wrapped with a muffler, answering questions from reporters, said he was trained by the ISI to carry out subversive activities and send maps and other information on the region. “I was paid by the ISI to collect information on troop movement and details of all the major installations in the region which I passed on to a contact in Dubai.” But he denied having any explosives.

Chander said several other suspects within the army are likely to be picked up soon along with other ISI operatives in the region.


Bangalore, Jan. 4: 
British Prime Minister Tony Blair today kicked off his four-day India tour from this southern metropolis, virtually acknowledging the city’s reputation as the country’s technology hub.

Blair and his wife Cherie received a warm welcome from IT-savvy chief minister S.M. Krishna when they arrived late this evening from Dhaka, but the British leader refused to answer questions on the war clouds hovering over India and Pakistan. The tensions between the nuclear-capable twins will dominate Blair’s visit to the subcontinent.

Krishna could not have asked for more as Blair’s visit would send the right signals to the international business community that Bangalore was the place to invest in Information Technology. Karnataka is co-partner of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) summit, which begins tomorrow.

Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, who is aggressively marketing Hyderabad as a favourite destination for multinational companies, has managed a visit by the British Prime Minister to the Charminar City for a few hours on Saturday.

“Effectively, Blair will be in the city for three days. This shows how much importance he is paying to Bangalore,” officials said, indicating that Bangalore was again one up on Hyderabad.

Blair is the second Prime Minister in recent years to visit Bangalore before proceeding to Delhi. Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori also started his India tour in 2001 from Bangalore, which he hailed for its expertise in information technology.

Blair will inaugurate the five-day CII jamboree tomorrow, followed by a lunch meeting with over a hundred corporate chiefs. He would also videoconference with young entrepreneurs and achievers from all over the country. Test cricketer Anil Kumble and formula racing driver Narain Karthikeyan will be among those to have a tête-à-tête with the British Prime Minister.

Blair will then spend time at Infosys, the country’s premier home grown software company. He is also likely to visit another Bangalore-based global IT company, Wipro, which has software development centres in the UK and other European countries.

World Trade Organisation director-general designate Supachai Panitchpakdi and World Economic Forum adviser Claude Smadja are scheduled to participate in the summit. Other leaders expected to take part are Russian communications vice-minister Alexandre N. Kiselev, Egyptian minister for economy and foreign trade Youssef Boutros Ghali and Israeli minister for regional cooperation Roni Milo.


Calcutta, Jan. 4: 
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today virtually indicated her party’s active support to the SUCI-sponsored Bangla bandh on January 10, saying “the bandh will be a success because of our support”.

Mamata, who had earlier pledged “moral support” to the bandh, hardened her stand after senior CPM leaders, including former chief minister Jyoti Basu, yesterday described her decision as “immoral” and urged chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to “take all possible steps to foil the bandh and maintain normal life”.

The Trinamul leader has directed her party workers to resist the CPM’s “strong-arm tactics” to oppose the bandh, called to protest against the hike in electricity tariff, hospital charges and education fees. Trinamul workers will be mobilised in different parts of the city and districts on the day of the bandh “to confront opponents of the bandh, if necessary”, sources said.

Rejecting state SUCI leaders’ assertion that her support to the bandh was “uncalled for”, Mamata claimed the party had sent feelers to her seeking her support. “That is why we decided to support the bandh. Besides, we have already highlighted the issues on which it has been called,” the Trinamul leader said this afternoon.

Mamata, who will lead her party’s Jail Bharo stir on January 8, two days before the proposed bandh, felt the CPM leaders were scared of her movement. “They have urged the government not to put us in jails but to take us to distant areas like Kakdwip and Gosaba. This shows that they are afraid of our political strength,” she asserted.

The Trinamul chief reiterated her determination to resist the eviction of settlers on the Kudghat-Hastings stretch of Tolly’s Nullah.


Kozhikode, Jan. 4: 
The ghost of communal violence reared its ugly head in Kerala for the second time in less than a month, killing five people over a New Year’s eve bash.

The violence erupted in the Marad beach area near Beypore, a small town in the northern district of Kozhikode, yesterday night and continued today. Of the five persons killed, three belonged to the minority community.

A boy from the community had allegedly misbehaved with a Hindu girl on 31st night. Local residents said the issue was sorted out the next day. However, the area, with an approximate population of 10,000, turned violent after a member of the minority community was killed yesterday while coming out of a mosque.

The murder sparked a spiral of bloodshed and tension. Forty houses were burnt and 21 completely gutted. Property to the tune of Rs 1 crore was damaged and twenty-three people were injured. The condition of 10 was said to be serious.


Chennai, Jan. 4: 
The Tamil Nadu government has decided to introduce “public examinations” from Class V upwards to Class IX in schools run or aided by it to arrest the fall in pass percentage at the high school and higher secondary levels.

School dropout rates have been rising and representation in the All-India Services from Tamil Nadu has been dropping over the years.

The Directorate of Elementary Education will conduct the “public examination” at the Class V level. For Classes VI to IX, the Directorate of School Education will hold the common test.

Chief minister O. Panneerselvam said the decision was taken to improve the quality of school education from the primary level upwards and better the pass percentage at the high school and higher secondary levels.

The government plans to start with the Class V examination next year. Depending on the logistics of implementing the scheme, it will be extended to the other classes.

“It is up to the Department of School Education to come up with a concrete proposal now,” an official source. The school dropout rate up to Class V is close to 15 per cent. But only 54 per cent of the children who pass attain the competency required at that level, say official figures.

The government is spending Rs 2,123 crore on elementary education in a year now.

The reforms were not aimed at a mere “pass-fail issue”, sources said. As a policy, the government does not fail anybody at the primary school level. The idea was to assess the school system and instil more seriousness in teachers at the junior level, sources explained.

In the government and aided-sector, there are 25,892 primary schools, 3,904 middle schools and 2,714 high schools. The “public examination” system will help the authorities find out how many schools were performing well and identify those that need more attention.

Though the bulk of the current state education budget of Rs 4,979 crore is allocated for school education, most of the funds go towards paying salaries and not much can be spent on improving the quality of education.


Guwahati, Jan. 4: 
Presenting a New Year gift package to consumers countrywide, the Centre has announced a cut in the security deposit for new LPG connections by Rs 200 and also offered the choice of 5-kg “portable” cooking-gas cylinders priced between Rs 90 and Rs 100.

Union minister for petroleum Ram Naik today announced the relaxation after inaugurating a “solvent dewaxing unit” at the 100-year-old Digboi refinery in the Upper Assam district of Tinsukia.

While security deposit for the standard 14-kg LPG cylinder connection would come down from Rs 900 to Rs 700, connections for the 5-kg cylinder would be available for Rs 400, Naik said.

However, the portable cylinder will be available for consumers only after about five months.

The Centre will also sanction 1.3 crore new connections this year, Naik said. This will help reduce a huge backlog of applications for new connections.

Naik said the decision to cut the deposit rate has been possible due to savings accrued from the introduction of cylinder procurement through tenders.

“The benefit of reduction in the cost of procurement has been passed on to the consumers.”

The Centre would give 3,000 new licenses for cooking gas agencies and rural markets would be given preference.


New Delhi, Jan. 4: 
The Union health ministry has banned the use of pregnant or nursing women as subject of any medical research and issued special safeguards for studies on children.

The new guidelines for safe clinical practices say: “Children should not be involved in any research that can be carried out equally well with adults.”

The guidelines present a long list of rules the researchers must comply with before using women and children as subjects of research. According to the directive, children have a right to refuse to participate in the project. If they are to be the subject of research, they have to be carried out in an environment where both the children and their parents can have adequate medical and psychological support.

“As a general rule, pregnant and nursing women should not be subjects of any clinical trial except those for protecting or bettering their health,” they say.

Trial of contraceptives has been a sensitive area of clinical research and the new guidelines seek better monitoring of women who have been injected with a contraceptive. “A proper follow up must be done of women who have been injected with an implant,” say the guidelines. Often, hospitals do not keep track of women who they put on trial for injectible contraceptives.

Closely linked to this is a stricture cautioning researchers against using persons from the disadvantaged sections as “guinea pigs” to help the better off. “Effort must be made to ensure that individuals or communities chosen for research are selected in a way that the burdens and benefits of research are equally distributed,” stress the guidelines.

There is an unqualified ban on any research that can lead to racial inequalities.

The guidelines have said all principles of clinical trial must also apply in trials of medical devices. Medical contraptions used inside the body have a greater chance of causing harm than those used outside. Medical devices include diagnostic test kits, crutches, electrodes, pacemakers, arterial grafts, intraocular lenses, orthopaedic pins and other orthopaedic accessories.

The Indian system of medicine, which includes herbal drugs and cosmetics, has also been brought under their scope.

“It is essential that such clinical trials are carried out only when a competent Ayurvedic, Siddha or Unani physician is a co-investigator,” prescribe the guidelines. It would be neither “ethically acceptable nor morally justifiable” if clinical evaluation of herbal drugs is conducted by an allopathic physician, they add.




Maximum: 25.6°C (-1)
Minimum: 14.4°C (+1)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 89%,
Minimum: 40%

Sunrise: 6.23 am

Sunset: 5.01 pm


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

Maintained by Web Development Company