Army booms, Pak reply ready
Bush chemistry formula for Advani
Delhi adds war drums to diplomacy chorus
Burial binds Musharraf & militants
Dalmiya to no-ball Denness trio
Foreigner shot in Bodhgaya
Storm over general’s nukespeak
Calcutta Weather

 
 
ARMY BOOMS, PAK REPLY READY 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, Jan. 11: 

Pervez to air address today

Pakistan has announced that President Pervez Musharraf will address the nation tomorrow evening. The speech, keenly awaited by the entire world, is scheduled at 7.30 pm (8 pm IST) and will be broadcast on Pakistan Television.

Facing one of the biggest challenges in his career and the country’s history, Musharraf may iterate Pakistan’s position on Kashmir to assure the domestic audience. But there is a strong possibility that he will appeal to militant groups to announce a unilateral ceasefire to defuse the tension on the border and pave the way for resumption of a formal dialogue with India.

Musharraf’s initial plan included wide-ranging measures to reform thousands of madarsas, perceived as the recruiting ground for religious militant movements.

Restrictions on foreign funds to the madarsas and a proposal to set up a board to introduce modern education in these institutions were part of the initial anti-militancy package.

Musharraf also intends to ban groups involved in sectarian violence in the country and set up special tribunals for their trial. Such tribunals are expected to have three members each, including an officer from the armed forces.

Officials privy to the draft of the President’s anti-militancy package did not rule out last-minute changes to include further action against jihadi groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammad. They pointed out that pressure was mounting on Musharraf by the hour.

US secretary of state Colin Powell spoke to the President late tonight and is expected to phone the leadership in Delhi, too. “Tomorrow is an important day,” Powell said in Washington, asking India to be patient. He conceded that a war between the neighbours would be a “heavy blow” to the US campaign against terrorism.

Reports from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir said fears of a backlash in the event of harsher steps in Musharraf’s address have forced the authorities to launch a crackdown against jihadi outfits. But there was no official confirmation.

The Lahore high court has upheld the three-month detention of Jaish chief Masood Azhar and Lashkar-e-Toiba leader Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.

Musharraf, concerned about the adverse reaction at home if he is seen as drastically changing the Kashmir policy, has stepped up efforts to build public opinion in his favour.

Foreign minister Abdus Sattar said the speech would be an attempt to revert “to the dream of our founding father, who envisaged Pakistan as a moderate and progressive Islamic state based on principles of freedom and tolerance”.

Sattar said some former leaders had erred in allowing Islamic militants to build their power base in the country.

The government has banned two sectarian organisations, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Mohammed, and put under vigilance their parent organisations.

   

 
 
BUSH CHEMISTRY FORMULA FOR ADVANI 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Jan. 11: 
If India was waiting for that moment in Indo-US relations akin to when Ronald Reagan told Mikhail Gorbachev that he could do business with the Soviet leader, that moment arrived yesterday.

In the White House where the present chief executive functions on his personal chemistry with the people he has to interact with, India has established a personal rapport unprecedented in its dealings with Washington since Independence.

President George W. Bush conceded as much when he told home minister L.K. Advani the importance of personal chemistry in his dealings with people, especially foreign leaders.

Bush spent quite a bit of the 25 minutes in national security adviser Condoleezza Rice’s office yesterday telling Advani how Russian leader Vladimir Putin had become a friend of his.

Sure enough, the personal chemistry between Bush and Putin was being reflected in US-Soviet relations. The US President had told his Russian counterpart that Putin had nothing to fear from Bush, Advani was told yesterday.

Bush began his conversation by telling Advani the home minister’s reputation had travelled to the White House ahead of him.

It was only to be expected. The most intense interaction at the level of ideas between India and the US since Bush took office has been between Advani and the US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill.

Blackwill is one of four or five Americans who taught Bush foreign affairs as he plunged into the presidential campaign, plucked out of Texas governorship where he was blissfully steeped in domestic issues such as education. Bush trusts Blackwill and is beholden to him. So in the president’s Texan way of thinking, anyone recommended highly by a trusted adviser like Blackwill must be a good man.

And so it was with Advani at the White House yesterday. Advani’s meeting with Rice was actually a meeting with Bush.

It was not surprising that at that meeting there was none of the rancour or frustration found in some other offices in Washington in recent weeks that India is ostensibly weakening America’s fight against the al Qaida by forcing Pakistan to divert its military resources away from helping the US.

If Advani came prepared to be harangued by Bush or harangue him, it was not necessary. Partly because in 24 hours of meetings before coming face-to-face with the President, Advani had made the most cogent case for India on Kashmir and relations with Pakistan since V.K. Krishna Menon did in America more than half a century ago.

But without Menon’s arrogance and abrasiveness! At his meetings with officials such as secretary of state Colin Powell, in unprecedented interaction with the US media by any Indian leader and in a spirited encounter with thinktanks in the Washington area, Advani candidly set out the parameters of the Vajpayee government’s policy on terrorism, on the possibility of war, on the communal situation in India.

Reports about these meetings had been carried to Bush before he came face-to-face with Advani. The president was neither inclined nor felt necessary to refute Advani’s logic.

A few examples: At a meeting with members of thinktanks yesterday, one old South Asia hand conveyed to Advani US worries that if India fought with Musharraf and weakened him, the Pakistani junta would be replaced by a militant mullah. Was India also not worried about this possibility?

Advani countered with a poser if anything could be worse for India vis-a-vis Pakistan that what already is. We are bleeding from a war of low intensity waged by Pakistan for 20 years, the home minister pointed out.

For India, a mullah would not be worse, but not so for the US. Indeed, the argument could be developed further: a mullah in Islamabad would be too bad for India because the US would not be as friendly with such a regime as it is with Musharraf.

Advani spoke at length at various fora on why the Agra talks last year collapsed. He had himself tried to persuade Musharraf to engage in a continuous dialogue with India on Kashmir so that differences are gradually narrowed.

But meanwhile, let us talk about other issues also, he urged the Pakistani strongman, who was unwilling to do this. Advani also “met” vice-president Dick Cheney. Their dialogue was through tele-conference since Cheney is held in a secure location while the President is about.

The home minister left for New York today and will spend two days there before travelling to Spain.

   

 
 
DELHI ADDS WAR DRUMS TO DIPLOMACY CHORUS 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
New Delhi, Jan. 11: 
Indian army chief General S. Padmanabhan said the forces are ready at battle stations and prepared to go to war with Pakistan if the political leadership gives the nod.

“Yes. Affirmative. Complete. Ready,” the general said, when asked if the mobilisation and deployment were over.

The army chief’s unequivocal statements propel the might of the Indian military machine into the barrel of a diplomatic offensive. But his comments on the nuclear issue created a flutter in the security and diplomatic establishment, forcing defence minister George Fernandes to issue a clarification later

India’s military is two-and-a-half to three times the size of Pakistan’s. This time, India is not fighting shy of military muscle-flexing. Indeed, it is advertising the fact. The army chief said he was acutely aware of moving forces under the glare of the world’s eyes.

“The situation on the border can comfortably be described as ‘serious’...there is no tension in the army, just professional confidence... conceptually scope exists for a limited, conventional war,” Padmanabhan said.

Addressing the world’s media in one of the most candid interactions by a serving army chief, Padmanabhan said the forces were primed for an offensive.

His statements, timed just before Pervez Musharraf’s speech, were open to interpretations. At one level, it was clear that India and Pakistan are closest to a war since Kargil. At another, Padmanabhan was only adding more fat to the fire of “coercive diplomacy”.

“There is no question of war. Nobody makes a speech before going to war. I do not think the army chief was taking a hawkish position. He was just explaining things the way he saw it,” said analyst Major General (retd) Afsir Karim.

Padmanabhan, who is also chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, said the possibility of a conflict snowballing into a nuclear war was not inevitable given the international scenario.

“Nuclear weapons are not meant for war-fighting. We have a clearly enunciated nuclear doctrine of no first strike. Pakistan, on the other hand, has stated that it can use nuclear weapons... Should they be man enough —correction, mad enough — to use nuclear weapons against India, its military or economic assets, the perpetrators of that outrage shall be punished so severely that their continuation in any form or fray will be doubtful...yes, we have the capability of second strike.”

One of the inhibiting factors, he said, was the presence of American troops in the subcontinent. “On the other hand, when two wild bulls decide to fight in the jungle, they don’t care.”

The army chief said he did not anticipate India being caught in tensions of two fronts — the second being along the borders with China. “I trust the peace and tranquillity agreement of 1993 will ensure peace and tranquillity with China,” he said.

The army chief said the mobilisation of the forces this time was on a much higher scale than that during Operation Brasstacks (1986-87), in effect meaning that this was the largest ever deployment of troops by India.

“This is not an army exercise. We are preparing for war,” he said. The transportation and deployment have been codenamed Operation Parakrama, the military objective of which “was the better defence of the nation”.

   

 
 
BURIAL BINDS MUSHARRAF & MILITANTS 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 11: 
No nation claimed them or mourned them. But in burial, the five militants who attacked Parliament shared a bond with Pervez Musharraf.

The Delhi Gate graveyard where the five were buried is also the last resting place of the Pakistani President’s last close relative in India. The plaque-less grave of Khalid, who died a year after his illustrious cousin snatched power in Islamabad, lies in anonymity in a corner.

The graveyard was today turned into a fortress for the funeral of the five — Mohammad, Rana, Raja, Haider and Hamza.

The government had decided to bury them as the deadline set for Pakistan to claim them expired last night. Pakistan has been refusing to accept them, demanding proof of their nationality. The militants were buried next to veteran CPI leader M.M. Farooqui’s grave.

Police were careful not to make any gesture that could be termed insensitive. Security forces had cordoned off the graveyard, located off Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg that houses a number of newspaper offices.

Only journalists and those performing the last rites were allowed in. The reporters were frisked five times — a drill which is observed neither in South Block nor in Parliament.

Escorted by heavily armed guards, police vans, instead of pall-bearers, carried the bodies to the cemetery. Haroon Yusuf, a Delhi government minister, was the only politician around as he is a Waqf Board member.

“It is a job we have to perform as members of a civil society,” said Yusuf, who was accompanied by a group of maulvis.

   

 
 
DALMIYA TO NO-BALL DENNESS TRIO 
 
 
BY LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Calcutta, Jan. 11: 
The International Cricket Council (ICC)-constituted Referees’ Commission is not acceptable to a fuming Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

And, so, Mike Denness and Virender Sehwag are back in the news — indirectly, yes, but in a big way all the same.

A formal announcement over the BCCI not having anything to do with the Justice A.L. Sachs-headed Commission, is expected to be made tomorrow by president Jagmohan Dalmiya. For now, nothing more will be said.

Former Pakistan captain Majid Khan and one-time Australian vice-captain Andrew Hilditch, now a solicitor, are the other Commission members. Besides a seat on the ICC’s Code of Conduct Commission, Justice Sachs sits on South Africa’s Constitutional Court.

In turning down all the BCCI nominees, including icons Imran Khan and Richie Benaud, the ICC claimed the former wasn’t available for “personal reasons” and that the latter had “business” commitments.

Benaud couldn’t be contacted, but The Telegraph did get through to Imran (on an associate’s cellphone), after much difficulty, in Islamabad late this evening. His reaction shows the ICC in very poor light.

“Fact is nobody from the ICC spoke to me. And, so, where’s the question of citing personal reasons for not being available? I don’t know whether somebody from the ICC spoke to our Board. But, then again, nobody contacted me from Lahore,” Imran pointed out.

After what Imran has said, the BCCI is within its rights to ask the ICC for an explanation — indeed, the entire fraternity should be nailing the governing body. Incidentally, the BCCI had also suggested the names of Ian Chappell, Zaheer Abbas, Arjuna Ranatunga and Justice Ahmed Ebrahim.

As per the November 30, 2001 agreement between ICC president Malcolm Gray and Dalmiya, the Commission was to have been constituted “in consultation” with the BCCI.

Clearly, that has not been done with the ICC steadfastly maintaining “consultation” ought not to be confused with “consent.” The BCCI’s interpretation has been quite different.

In fact, despite being omitted in Centurion, Sehwag wasn’t fielded in last month’s Mohali Test only after the BCCI was convinced it would have a definite say when the Commission was constituted. Now, it has ‘lost’ both ways.

According to sources, a hawkish section within the BCCI had been speaking of forming a parallel Commission, should the ICC disregard its sentiments, but that is unlikely to be done.

Having repeatedly talked of being part of “one family” and that the ICC “wouldn’t split,” Dalmiya can’t now do a volte-face. Unless, it’s time to move away from the ICC and establish a rival HQ at the Eden here.

As of now, then, the BCCI will take its case directly to the ICC’s Executive Board, which meets in Colombo two months from now. Predictably, the lobbying will be at a high-pitch.

One understands the BCCI favoured Zimbabwe’s Justice Ebrahim over Justice Sachs as the former is himself a Match Referee, while the latter has no known involvement with cricket.

As for Hilditch, there are whispers he and Malcolm Speed, the ICC’s chief executive, were corporate colleagues at one time. In other words, Hilditch could get influenced by the Establishment-line.

Where Majid is concerned, he has always been regarded as being fanatically rigid. Moreover, his allegation that the India-Pakistan match in the last World Cup was fixed, hasn’t exactly endeared him to many on this side of the border. Not many in his own country either.

[For the record, India posted a handsome win at Old Trafford, with Venkatesh Prasad emerging Man of the Match.]

Not only has the ICC ignored every single name put forward by the BCCI, it has rubbed salt into its wounds by declaring “… The Commission will not review the actual disciplinary penalties imposed by the Match Referee (in Port Elizabeth).”

The Commission, though, will review “whether the Match Referee followed procedures laid down by the ICC’s Code of Conduct…”

Well, what if the former England captain didn’t follow procedures? Will the disciplinary penalties still not be reviewed?

Denness, it may be recalled, banned Sehwag for one Test and slapped suspended sentences on captain Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Shiv Sundar Das and Deep Dasgupta during the Port Elizabeth Test, in November.

While the others got a one Test suspended sentence, Sourav received special treatment: One Test and two ODIs.

The BCCI was up in arms then. Today, it isn’t any less infuriated.

   

 
 
FOREIGNER SHOT IN BODHGAYA 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY AND MUNTAZIR IMAM
 
Bodhgaya, Jan. 11: 
A South Korean engineer working for a monastery was gunned down near here last night, ripping the veil of an extortion racket that feeds on foreigners in the pilgrimage town busy preparing for a renowned festival.

The 45-year-old Korean Buddhist, Seul Siyang Dong, was shot dead by a gang when he was supervising the expansion of a school for Dalits at Dhungeswari Hills, about 5 km from Bodhgaya where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment.

The murder occurred a few kilometres from where the Dalai Lama, who has arrived to attend the Kalchakra cultural festival, is staying.

The festival, celebrated once in 16 years, is expected to draw thousands of foreigners, including the queen of Thailand. Officials said the festival will begin on January 21 as scheduled.

The flashpoint for the killing is being seen as an altercation between the engineer and a group of labourers.

But police feel that extortion gangs living off the large number of foreign pilgrims and tourists in the area could have used the squabble as an opportunity to strike against the engineer for possible refusal to pay them.

“It is a cowardly act of the extortion gangs but investigations have just started,” said Ravindran Shankaran, Gaya superintendent of police.

Dong, known for his dedication to the project and integrity, had removed three construction labourers for neglecting work and raising slogans to form a union, the police said.

The slain engineer was attached with the Join Together Society, run by Koreans.

It is on the Dhungeswari Hills, where the Korean society is based, that Sujata had offered a bowl of payas to an emaciated Gautam. But the hills have now become a hunting ground for extortion thugs. The town has as many as 70 foreign trusts.

“We are social workers. We came here to work for the distressed people. No one would have thought that a Buddhist will have to fall to bullets here,” said Kim Dong Hun, a Korean social worker.

The area was rocked by violence this week, too, when priests from a Hindu mutt at Kajwati were abducted and assaulted. Last night, a panchayat member was killed in Thankupa.

The spate of violence has left the police baffled. However, the DG of Bihar, R.R. Prasad, put up a brave front, saying: “The murder is not going to affect Kalchakra.”

   

 
 
STORM OVER GENERAL’S NUKESPEAK 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 11: 
Army chief S. Padmanabhan’s statement on nuclear war created a flutter in the security-diplomatic establishment which feared it might lead to a setback to the diplomatic offensive.

Later this evening, defence minister George Fernandes issued a statement: “The army chief’s answers to questions at a news conference today on nuclear weapons has provoked uncalled for concern. India’s nuclear doctrine is clear…. It looks upon nuclear weapons as deterrents.”

Fernandes said in the event of India being attacked by nuclear weapons, it will reply accordingly. “I wish everyone gives up this talk of nuclear warfare. The use of nuclear weapons is far too serious a matter that it should be bandied about in a cavalier manner. As the army chief has said in his reply, ‘a nuclear exchange between the two countries will be disastrous for the whole region (South Asia) and no sensible country will take such a step to disaster’”.

It is understood that the foreign ministry was concerned about General Padmanabhan’s statement on nuclear war after the Western media repeatedly asked for clarifications. In effect, Padmanabhan has not said anything contrary to India’s nuclear policy.

However, the explanations after the army chief’s news conference comment against his power of articulation.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 26.2°C (-1)
Minimum:13.4°C (-1)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative humidity

Maximum:93.%,
Minimum: 42%

Sunrise: 6.24 am

Sunset: 5.05 pm

Today

Mainly clear sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 13°C
   
 

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