Editorial 1/ Frozen frame
Editorial 2/ Cross border rings
Get the arms for the man
The military and the militants
Document/ Thinking again about rape
Fifth Column/ To chase the crooked line
Letters to the editor

It is too early to say if the tension between India and Pakistan has been reduced after the recent summit of the south Asian association for regional cooperation at Kathmandu. It is unlikely, however, that bilateral talks will resume in the near future unless further steps are taken by Islamabad to clamp down on terrorist groups that are responsible for acts of violence in India, and particularly in Jammu and Kashmir. It is clear that some movement in India-Pakistan relations did take place in Kathmandu. Although images of the Pakistan president, Mr Pervez Musharraf, and the Indian prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, shaking hands, and later exchanging pleasantries, captured public attention, it was in discreet meetings, behind the scenes, that serious discussions must have taken place. It is now known that Mr Jaswant Singh, India’s external affairs minister, and Mr Brajesh Mishra, the national security advisor, met Pakistan’s foreign minister, Mr Abdul Sattar. Mr Sattar admitted that bilateral “contacts and conversations” had taken place throughout the summit, and it is now known that Mr Mishra handed over a list of Indian concerns and demands to Pakistan’s foreign minister. Thus even while Kathmandu may not have led to any great breakthrough in India-Pakistan relations, it did — at the very least — lead to close contact between high level officials from both sides that could eventually prove useful for diffusing the crisis.

The road from Kathmandu, however, is still difficult to predict. There is undoubtedly tremendous international pressure on New Delhi and Islamabad to revive the dialogue, and to thaw the relationship that has remained frozen since the Agra summit last year. The British prime minister, Mr Tony Blair, during his visit to India, has communicated an explicit message to New Delhi: mend the relationship with Pakistan and get the backing of the international community in India’s bid to secure a permanent membership of the United Nations’ security council. Mr Blair, who is now travelling to Pakistan, will, hopefully, be able to emphasize to Mr Musharraf the need for Pakistan to do more to satisfy Indian concerns. There are also reports of the United States of America appointing a special envoy to India and Pakistan, and the US secretary of state, Mr Colin Powell, hinted that such an official could be appointed within a week. A special American envoy to diffuse a south Asian crisis is not unprecedented. What, however, would cause concern to India is if the special envoy continued beyond a one-off mission, as this would virtually amount to unsolicited third party mediation.

If Mr Musharraf’s gestures in Kathmandu and the action against some terrorist groups in Pakistan are cosmetic, they must be so exposed before the international community. In such a case, New Delhi must continue to sustain maximum diplomatic pressure on Islamabad, and not let Washington or London force it to soften its stand. However, if the military regime assures India, through word and deed, that it has finally realized the follies of sponsoring terrorism, New Delhi must give Mr Musharraf the space and the time to act against the terrorist groups.


There is something very odd and ridiculous about the Central government’s decision to close down public phone booths that offer long distance call facilities in the border districts of Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The order also extends to internet cafes in these areas. It should be recalled that a similar ban was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir. The principal reason behind the decision is the elimination of the abuse of these facilities by militants and terrorists. The security concerns are entirely justified; it has been proved that modern terrorism thrives on the use it makes of sophisticated modes of communication that are now so easily accessible. But the decision also underestimates the strength of these modes of communication. Underlying the decision is the assumption that terrorists and militants talk to their controllers in foreign countries only from those areas that are near the Pakistan border. This is a ridiculous assumption. It is as easy today to communicate with somebody in Pakistan or any other country from Bhopal, Hyderabad or Patna as it is from Amritsar, Ganganagar or Jammu. Moreover, this kind of blanket ban makes no distinction between ordinary people, with no links with terrorist groups, who need and use phones and the internet, and militants who abuse these facilities. In some ways, the decision is an outcome of the state’s failure to eradicate terrorism from the border areas, especially in Jammu and Kashmir.

This ban imposed by the government provides another argument in favour of the position that advocates the removal of government controls in the sphere of telecommunications. The ban is enforceable because public call booths with subscriber trunk dialling facilities require licences to operate. This provides the government with a leverage to regulate operations. If phone and internet services were to be in private hands, no government would be in a position to restrict operations. The ban is a throwback to the days of the licence raj. It sits uneasily in an age of liberalization. This is one reason why it looks ridiculous; the other is its underestimation of the powers of modern communication. Even security concerns cannot override the freedom that modern technology has created.


As war cries once again reverberate across the sub continent, one cannot help but ponder over the state of preparedness of our armed forces. Not in respect of their training, determination or indeed morale, as historically these have never been found wanting, but their state of re-equipment and modernization. Few will forget a press conference in the midst of the Kargil conflict when the then army chief stated that should hostilities escalate, the army would do its best with “what we have”. Clearly the then chief was bemoaning the cumulative effect of the Bofors syndrome, which had left modernization and military procurement in the armed forces in a state of perpetual paralysis.

Apart from the urgent panic purchases that were made during and immediately after the Kargil conflict, and which have now snowballed into yet another controversy, one had hoped that major lessons would have been learnt and decade old gaps in service re-equipment and modernization made up in quick time. That is the impression one gathered from various statements that emanated from the defence minister and his ministry. Ironically, as the nation once again stares conflict in the face, there is every reason to believe that such hope has been belied. An authoritative international defence journal recently quoted the defence minister as saying that only a quarter of his ministry’s capital budget for this financial year had been spent. Further, it quoted military sources as saying that actually the figure was a paltry two per cent.

Amidst all the positive noises post-Kargil, there were signs that the ministry of defence was intent on moving rapidly towards making good the yawning modernization gaps. Almost immediately, the ghost of Bofors reared its head with a fresh set of allegations. Predictably, the procurement system froze in its tracks. The defence minister responded by asking the Central vigilance commission to review all defence deals post-1985. The CVC in turn shortlisted some hundreds of deals, each worth over Rs 75 crore for its investigation.

What this meant is that all files relating to such cases would be surrendered to the CVC and energies of those concerned with procurements in the armed forces and MOD diverted solely towards this investigative process with procurement activities once again grinding to a halt. Once the CVC had completed its preliminary investigations, the ever-optimistic armed forces were hoping that the derailed process would again be put on rails. But such optimism was belied as inevitably the ghost resurfaced in the guise of the Tehelka tapes.

Not only did Tehelka paralyse the MOD procurement system, it added an even graver dimension. Now that men in uniform were also shamefully implicated, even the armed forces would henceforth be tempted to gloss over their urgent procurements for fear of being drawn into the cesspool of charges and countercharges.

Even as Tehelka was fading from the collective memory of the nation, a damaging report of the comptroller and auditor general on urgent purchases during Kargil was tabled in Parliament. For the men and women in uniform, the ghost of Bofors had come to haunt them yet again. Moralists crying themselves hoarse on the disrespect heaped on our war dead due to the coffin scandal could hardly have been unaware of the consequences of such frequent disruptions to the modernization process of the armed forces.

Indeed it would be too much to expect them to reflect on how many more lives the nation would lose because of the gross delays in properly equipping them. Unfortunately, December 13 has changed all that and today the country is once again faced with the prospect of war with “what we have” even as adversaries, including terrorists, sport weapons and equipment far superior to our regular forces.

More than the coffin scandal, the people must now ask why the lives of our military personnel are unnecessarily being put to risk due to sheer procrastination in the procurement process. They must ask how many such complaints are out of concern for integrity and propriety and how many motivated. The armed forces being perpetually at the receiving end are undoubtedly watching this tragic drama with distaste.

In times when nothing seems improbable any more, one seriously wonders if this is not a well-conceived strategy by interests inimical to the security of this country. A strategy to sabotage defence purchases by throwing a spanner in the works appropriately timed, such that the capability of our armed forces remains sub-optimal. Such asymmetric warfare has great probability of success in an environment of unbridled corruption, a free-for-all democracy and a media, which can get away with anything, libel laws notwithstanding. To wily adversaries, this is yet another low cost option of harming our military potential. One hopes that this angle, however remote it may appear to be, is drawing the attention of our security planners.

It is not this writer’s case to say that irregularities in defence purchases can be condoned. Indeed, such purchases should be models of fair play and transparency such that those whose lives depend on them are also mentally at ease. But surely we have adequate laws and safeguards to ensure that those indulging in wrongdoing are brought to swift justice? Do we need to make these into political and personal sparring matches? Which in their wake bring disrepute to the system and undermine the confidence of those very people for whom crocodile tears are shed when coffin scandals surface. We have not once heard a chorus demanding to know why the armed forces are hopelessly behind their modernization plans. Hundreds of lives would be saved if only our forces are equipped with what they genuinely need. The nation, its polity and opinion makers across the spectrum need to pause and reflect before it is too late.

As a result of the inadequacies that were highlighted in the Kargil review panel report, the government had constituted various task forces to propose restructuring. A group of ministers reviewed the work of these task forces and made recommendations, which stand approved by the cabinet. One such change already instituted relates to revamping the defence procurement system with a defence procurement board and associated institutions. While any such change to streamline the system, making it both transparent and efficient is most welcome; it is a sign of our times that people working in the system cannot possibly have their hearts and minds on the job. Because they too know that notwithstanding their integrity and uprightness, vested interests will aim to tarnish their image. And as we have so often seen, nothing in this country seems easier.

In order to permit the defence procurement system to get on with its job such that years of neglect can be made good, the nation owes them full support. One positive way is to attach advisers from CVC and CAG to the procurement board, such that they can prevent potential lapses before any damage to the system is done. The only rider is that they should not become obstacles accountable to no one, but be facilitators to the larger cause of timely re-equipping our armed forces within bounds of propriety. Alongside, let a cell be constituted under a retired judge with some retired military members. It should be obligatory for any complainant to first take his complaint to this cell. Cases that the cell considers worthy of pursuing will be proceeded with as per laws of the land, while frivolous complaints must draw timely retribution. If these or similar novel changes are not instituted, there is every danger that in today’s world of asymmetric warfare, we shall become victims of our versions of selective morality, unbridled freedom and democracy.

The author is retired air marshal of the Indian air force


The attack on Parliament might appear to have brought comrades with the same goals in power politics onto a common platform. But the newly formulated ordinance to combat militancy, the prevention of terrorism ordinance, has created sharp divisions of opinion among politicians and commentators of various hues. A sizeable section of the custodians of society strongly feels that like the previous anti-terrorism laws, POTO too shall be misused by the custodians of law. This in turn will further worsen the situation.

The POTO puts a blanket ban on certain militant outfits engaged in terrorist and disruptive activities across the country. Several important leaders of the democracy, however, do not like this. Despite being fully aware that neither the jihadis nor the rebel comrades have any respect for the Indian democracy, the champions of a terror-free society strongly hold that militants cannot be cured by the military.

The reasons behind it are not hard to see. Stringent measures taken in the past to prevent terrorist and disruptive activities, through the Maintenance of Internal Security Act, the National Security Act, the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, and so on had to be withdrawn under mass pressure. Evidently, politicians and policemen allegedly misused them for personal gain.

And, the argument runs, what will POTO do if terrorists again hijack aeroplanes and hold important persons to ransom in order to get their associates freed from prison? Can this law persuade the suicide squads of militant outfits to abandon their missions?

Neither the fundamentalist fanatics nor the ultra-left rebels who have been banned under the new law, have so far “officially held meetings, mass demonstrations or even open press conferences, anywhere on the Indian soil”. Those of their workers who have been identified have prices on their heads. Still, on numerous occasions in the past, the sentinels of law and security were compelled to allow smooth passage for known gunlords. Can POTO prevent the repetition of such incidents in the future?

Be it cross-border terrorism or internal rebellion, both thoroughly expose the failure of the intelligence network in our country. Gathering intelligence reports is primarily the duty of the police. That apart, a few other reputed agencies too are engaged in the same task. Millions of rupees are being spent every year on these organizations. Every important functionary working with these organizations is allowed a certain amount for the smooth conduct of his business. And the law does not permit auditors to lay hands on the balance sheets of these expenses.

Still, the net outcome is quite disheartening. The Jharkhand chief minister, Babulal Marandi, has at least been honest enough to openly admit that to build a solid intelligence network, wholehearted cooperation from common people was needed.

Common people have no faith in the police. History says that most of the informers were “inadvertently” given raw deals in the long run. The bosses take a long time in ascertaining the genuineness of the items of information passed on by the “spies”. A police superintendent posted in an extremist populated district said that usually 20-30 per cent of the tip-offs were correct.

The circumstances are quite difficult if the raids have to be carried out in association with the Central paramilitary forces. The CPMF commanders first study the topography of the particular area which has to be raided, verify the credentials of other persons accompanying them in the raids, work out plans, and so on. By the time they finalize a strategy to proceed on the mission, the militants may have managed to make a smooth escape.

The worst happens if the information on the basis of which an operation is conducted is ultimately found to be incorrect. Next time the bosses are reluctant to act promptly on the basis of such information. Again, there appears to be “racial” rivalry between the CPMF and the local police. The paramilitary personnel do not like to be told anything by anyone other than their own bosses.

Today, the biggest challenge before the police is to somehow save its pickets, men and weapons. Most of the personnel in the state police are still carrying the traditional 303 rifle, which is no match for the sophisticated weapons possessed by the militants. The new arms and ammunition being given to the police from time to time are often being “taken away” by the militants.

Hence the need for carrying out joint operations. Apart from their expertise in efficiently handling the sophisticated weapons, the CPMF fighters are usually not involved in local politics. So an unbiased role is expected of them. And the state police too gain a little more self-confidence during the joint raids.

True, both the local police as well as the CPMF are strangers to the treacherous terrains in the extremist inhabited areas. The Central Reserve Police Force is specially trained to deal with the internal disturbances in the country. But the real deployment of CPMF in the affected areas comes to around 60-65 per cent. It is also true that 10 batallions of state police can easily be brought out with the amount being spent on utilizing one batallion of the CPMF.

In most states, young and energetic policemen have been deployed as personal bodyguards and house-guards of important politicians and bureaucrats. The older men, equipped with outdated weapons, are battling against the militants.

To ensure better administration for the masses, since independence, governments have been busy creating new states and smaller districts. It is true that the formation of a new state brings the masses closer to the chief minister, the high court, the chief secretary, home secretary or the director general of police; a smaller district reduces the distance between common people, the district administration and the lower courts. But, do these measures bridge the age-old gap between the police and the common man? Without this, gathering intelligence and fighting militancy will remain distant dreams.

Policing so long has been confined to the urban areas and the “accessible” rural belts. Areas with poor road connectivity, power supply and other communication links have now become safe havens for self-proclaimed revolutionaries. If the police set up new pickets and stations in such areas, it is likely that they will have to face a lot of damage. Does POTO make it mandatory for government agencies to ensure speedy implementation of development schemes in such areas so that militants never dare to encroach upon the police posts based there?


Under an order dated August 9, 1999 made in Writ Petition (Crl) No.33 of 1997, the Supreme Court of India requested the Law Commission “to examine the issues raised by the petitioners and examine the feasibility of making recommendations for amendment of the Indian Penal Code or deal with the same in any other manner so as to plug the loopholes.”

The petitioner, Sakshi, an organisation interested in the issues concerning women, had approached the Supreme Court of India with the aforesaid Writ Petition praying for (a) issuance of a writ in the nature of a declaration or any other appropriate writ or direction declaring inter alia that “sexual intercourse” as contained in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code shall include all forms of penetration such as penile/vaginal penetration, penile/oral penetration, penile/anal penetration, finger/vaginal and finger/anal penetration and object/vaginal penetration and (b) to issue a consequential writ, order or direction to the respondents in the Writ Petition and to their servants and agents to register all such cases found to be true on investigation.

The Law Commission was not made a party to the Writ Petition. The Supreme Court however directed the Law Commission, by its Order dated January 13, 1998, to indicate its response with respect to the issues raised in the said Writ Petition. The Law Commission in its affidavit dated March 25, 1998 brought to the notice of the Hon’ble Court that the 156th Report of the Law Commission on the Indian Penal Code had dealt, inter alia, with the issues raised in the Writ Petition, but since the said Report was not yet placed on the table of the Houses of Parliament, the matter may be adjourned by a few months. The matter was adjourned by three months. Meanwhile, the aforesaid Report of the Law Commission was placed on the table of both the Houses of Parliament. Thereafter, the Law Commission filed its affidavit dated July 28, 1998 setting out in extenso the portions of the said Report dealing with the issues in question. Suffice it to say that by and large the then Law Commission (14th Law Commission) did not agree with the viewpoint of the writ petitioners except in certain minor respects which would be indicated at the appropriate stage later. It is after considering the said affidavit and the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Company Affairs, that the Hon’ble Court passed the aforesaid order dated August 9, 1999.

The order of the Hon’ble Court records the statement of the learned counsel for the writ petitioners that the contents of the 156th Report of the Law Commission were known to the petitioners, but since according to them the Report did not deal with the precise issues raised in the writ petition, a request was made by the counsel for the petitioner to seek further consideration of the issues by the Law Commission and the Government of India. The Court was inclined to agree with the said submissions. The Court also noted that the 156th Report was submitted by the Law Commission prior to these issues being referred to the Commission and further that the said Report of the Law Commission did not in terms deal with various aspects of the issues raised in the Writ Petition. The order further recorded that at the suggestion of the Hon’ble Court, the petitioner did draw up a note containing the precise issues involved in the Writ Petition as well as other connected issues. After perusing the same, the Court asked the Law Commission to examine the said issues afresh. A copy of the “precise issues” with the appendix and affidavit were sent to the Secretary, Law Commission with a request to place the same before the Chairman of the Law Commission for consideration. It was also observed that the Law Commission may, if so advised, call upon the petitioner to assist it in such manner as the Commission thought appropriate. The issues, the Court observed, “need a thorough examination”. The matter was accordingly adjourned for three months within which period the Law Commission was expected to submit its response to the Hon’ble Court.

to be concluded


There is good news on the inflation front, or at least that is what the Central government claims. In December 2001, the inflation rate plummeted to a historic two-decade low of 2.21 per cent. But how far has this translated into low prices for the common man?

Different price indices have been moving in different directions, and it is this divergence which has caused the inflation rate to drop sharply without causing any appreciable slump in the prices of essential goods. Witness the rising prices of fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, fish, coconut oil and similar other commodities. In fact, according to the Indian credit rating agency, the inflation in primary foods (barring foodgrains) has been showing an annual acceleration of around 14 per cent. Such inelasticity in the prices of essential goods is definitely a cause for worry.

The all-India consumer price index — the inflation measure most relevant to us — stood above the wholesale price index. There is apparently no major discrepancy in principle. This is because the base year for the CPI has remained the same since 1980, though the one for the WPI has been revised. There have been drastic changes in the consumption basket in the past, but these have not been taken into account.

A fallacy

The inflation rate, which hit 8.57 per cent last February, has been steadily coming down since then. This has been ascribed to stable energy costs, abundant grain supplies and lack of demand. Prices of power, light and lubricants have remained stagnant for weeks, and this has subdued inflation. The revision of energy prices in 2000 had pushed up inflation. Since then, fuel prices have come down due to softer global crude oil rates and low domestic demand, which has cut down on oil imports.

The rate of WPI inflation is lower due to energy prices in the WPI basket. In contrast, the CPI basket has a larger share of food and final services items. The domestic recession, which has contributed its bit to the low inflation rates, can hardly be lauded. Domestic demand is so low that the industry cannot afford to hike prices and pass on the increased costs of production to consumers. Industrial production growth slid to 2.2 per cent between April and August, 2001, from 5.6 per cent.

Inflation is expected to accelerate once the economy revives and demand picks up. Till then, however, it should hover around 2 per cent. The World Bank believes that the mounting fiscal deficit and monetary expansion will lead to higher inflation levels. One, its reports indicate that although India’s fiscal deficit was shown as 5.3 per cent of GDP in 2000, it would actually be around 10.5 per cent when the deficits of the state governments are brought in.

Little infrastructure

Industrial activity is being shackled in the long term by insufficient investment in infrastructure.The Asian Development Bank last year pointed out in its report that the deteriorating fiscal health of the Central and state governments and inadequate public investment were significantly undermining the economy’s long-term growth potential.

The fiscal deficit and the consequent debt burden have reduced the government’s ability to undertake developmental expenditures to accelerate medium term growth. Investment demand has been weakened by structural bottlenecks and uncertainties in the economic reforms process.

The high money supply growth of over 16 per cent was due to greater commercial bank credit to the government rather than to the private sector, bank credit to which decreased. But despite the broad money supply growth, inflation has remained low. This exposes the weak linkages in the monetary system.

The news of low inflation must be taken with a pinch of salt. As pointed out, the inflation rate does not make essential goods any cheap. And when the economy revs up, the inflation dragon will rear its head again and then prices will soar. Which reminds us of what Frederick Keith-Ross once said: “Inflation is like sin; every government denounces it and every government practises it.”



On the bandh wagon

Sir — The bandh called by the Socialist Unity Centre of India on January 10 against the hike in electricity tariff, hospital charges and education fees is simply absurd. Before jumping on the bandh bandwagon the party needs to take into consideration the condition of electricity, health and education in the state. Focussing on merely electricity, we all know that the CESC is running into losses, even more so since power theft is on the rise. Therefore, a hike in electricity tariff is required. Similarly, education and health can be improved by increasing fees. It is also not surprising that the Trinamool Congress leader, Mamata Banerjee, is supporting the bandh. It is obvious that she is doing this simply for the publicity she will receive. Instead of supporting the bandh, Banerjee should support the present government as this would help solve a lot of internal problems and also be a big boost to her political career. But asking our political parties and leaders to display such common sense is asking for too much.
Yours faithfully,
Zaki Mubarki, Calcutta

No terrifying prospect

Sir — It seems that the Indian government had to step down its war rhetoric and head for the talks table after the United States of America stated through diplomatic channels that it disapproved of the cross-border hostility between Pakistan and India (“Open to talks by any other name”, Jan 2). New Delhi had been on the diplomatic offensive since December 13, but the war that looked so imminent has turned out to be a damp squib. But it is commendable that the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, stuck to his guns and laid bare the atrocities that Pakistan-sponsored terrorism has perpetrated in India since the Agra summit (“Drama unfolds on and off stage”, Jan 6).

It is good for India that Pakistan’s doublespeak has now been exposed. One only hopes that the prime minister’s office will not take refuge in semantics regarding the outcome of any talks between the two leaders, and Vajpayee will be able to push through certain decisions regarding Pakistan sponsored terrorism in India. Else, both the south Asian association for regional cooperation summit and any future talks between India and Pakistan will simply add to the many Indian failures on the diplomatic front.

Yours faithfully,
Avishek Biswas, Calcutta

Sir — It was sad that whatever little chance India had to initiate a dialogue on cross-border terrorism with Pakistan at the SAARC summit was ruined with the delay in the arrival of Pervez Musharraf due to fog (“America chases Pervez in China”, Jan 4). But the proceedings of the SAARC summit seem to be a replay of what happened at the Agra summit. That no concrete decision regarding terrorism has been reached was therefore not surprising.

With the Bharatiya Janata Party preparing for the assembly elections in four states, the sudden spurt of action on its part after the Parliament attack seems to be totally politically motivated. Why would the government wait for two years before asking Pakistan to take action against those involved in the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight to Kandahar?

The media has also played up two incidents. That of the two foreign ministers from India and Pakistan shaking hands at the summit, as well as the fact that the two leaders of India and Pakistan were made to sit at a comfortable distance from each other at the banquet hosted by the Nepal government so as to avoid any direct confrontation.

Pakistan has been trying to create the impression in the media that although it is keen on having a dialogue with India, the latter is refusing to comply. Tony Blair’s statement that Pakistan is justified in fighting for the cause of Kashmir, but does not have the right to sponsor terrorism, has added a new twist to the already complex situation. India needs to garner as much international support as possible and not let Pakistan suck the wind out of its sails.

Yours faithfully,
Harmeet Singh Chawla, Haldia

Sir — General Pervez Musharraf seems to have landed himself in a soup again. His refusal to fly over India on his way to Nepal and his decision to fly via China instead seem to have backfired (“America chases Pervez in China”). The United States of America deputed the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, to pressurize his Chinese counterpart in Beijing, Tang Jiaxuan, to speak to Musharraf on the terrorist situation. One had hoped that this would give India the upper hand in focussing international attention on the issue of terrorism at the SAARC summit in Nepal. Pakistan’s involvement in the attack on the Indian Parliament and its refusal to hand over the militants demanded by India will damage its image in the international arena.

Although it is true that Pakistan has friends in Beijing and in the US, these incidents can only be a boon for India. Although Pakistan refused to comment on the allegations made by India regarding its terrorist activities in India, the latter should not lose hope. This is after all the first time that India has been able to provide concrete evidence of Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism. With the correct amount of political pressure from the superpowers, Pakistan might at last agree to curtail its anti-India activities.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — It is foolish to think that there will be any change in Pakistan’s stand on terrorism. Even in the SAARC summit, while Pervez Musharraf spoke of friendship with India, he also tried to distinguish between terrorists and freedom fighters in Jammu and Kashmir. As long as the US refuses to remove its blinders regarding Pakistan’s involvement in militant activity in India, there is very little probability that Pakistan will stop in its tracks.

Yours faithfully,
Mahesh Kumar, New Delhi

Sir — During the final day of the SAARC summit, Pervez Musharraf stated that he was extending the hand of “sincere” friendship towards India (“Pervez offers friendship, Atal accepts with rider”, Jan 6). The president obviously does not realize that it is taken for granted that the friendship between two neighbours should be sincere. Or maybe Musharraf has let slip that the friendship being extended by Pakistan is actually an alliance of convenience, which keeps changing with the times.

Yours sincerely,
D.P. Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — While Pakistan and India were trying to sort out their cross-border tensions at the SAARC summit, little attention was paid to the interactions of Atal Bihari Vajpayee with other political leaders (“Bonhomie before banquet”, Jan 5). It is heartening that the Bangladesh prime minister, Khaleda Zia, has agreed to take some steps to set up a human rights commission to look into the attacks on minorities. It is high time that India made some noises regarding the influx of Bangladeshi refugees. It is this sort of concrete decision that the SAARC summit should result in.

Yours faithfully,
Jayprakash Dasgupta, Thiruvananthapuram

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