Delhi puts ear to the ground
Militant tag on killed foreigners
Purnendu gets Haldia control
Peace, pressure on parallel tracks
Madarsa debate spills across border
Harry’s doping puts focus on absence of mother Diana
Briton lurks behind Taliban hood
Pull-back pressure mounts on India
Four reasons for show of force
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Jan. 13: 
Aware of the positive signals coming out of world capitals on President Pervez Musharraf’s statement, India today welcomed Pakistan’s declaration of intent to stamp out terrorism on its soil but said it would wait for an improvement on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir.

This means the troops stay on the border and the stalled talks stay frozen.

“We welcome the now declared commitment of the government of Pakistan not to support or permit any more the use of its territory for terrorism anywhere in the world, including in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir,” external affairs minister Jaswant Singh said.

He added that this commitment would have to extend to all territories under Pakistan’s control, meaning occupied Kashmir. “We expect Pakistan to cooperate with India in stopping all infiltration across the international border and the Line of Control.”

Speaking after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, he put the onus of stopping infiltration on Musharraf. “General Musharraf has said that any such activity should be seen as a challenge to the government’s writ.”

As India made its response known 17 hours after Musharraf made his speech, armed police raided homes and sealed offices of banned Islamic militant groups in Pakistan.

For the first time, the crackdown was carried out under the full glare of the official media. Pakistan television showed offices of the five banned militant outfits, including the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, being sealed.

Police with assault rifles burst into homes and offices of sectarian and pro-Kashmiri militants, picking up more than 250 people and sealing offices. Reports put the number of arrests variously between 400 and 900.

In volatile Karachi, armoured vehicles patrolled streets for fear of a violent backlash but there wasn’t any.

A spokesman for Lashkar said that during the night some 20 group members were picked up in Lahore, several in Islamabad and 15 in Karachi. But the group would not abandon its fight in Kashmir, Abdullah Sayyaf said. “We will fight... If the Indians have the guts, let them stop us.

Musharraf had reaffirmed Pakistan’s moral support to the “Kashmir cause” but said he would not allow terrorist activities under that pretext.

Reacting to his call for international intervention in the Kashmir dispute, Singh said: “We do not see such a possibility in the near, middle or distant future.”

He said that though Delhi did not agree with Musharraf’s allegation of human rights violations by the Indian security forces, it was willing to discuss Kashmir and all other differences with Islamabad.

Disappointed at Musharraf’s outright rejection of India’s demand that the 20 offenders it has named in a list given to Pakistan be handed over, Singh made it clear that there was scope for negotiation on this issue.

Musharraf has not ruled out handing over Indian nationals figuring on the list.

“Caution is not a bad policy,” Singh said when asked to comment why India’s reaction had been guarded. Taking advantage of India’s delayed reaction, Pakistan said today it needed time to examine Singh’s statement.

Justifying the careful response, Singh said India’s experience in dealing with Pakistan had not been encouraging. But he added that if Musharraf was serious this time, he would not find the Indian leadership wanting. “Every one step by Pakistan in this direction will be matched by two from India.”

The Vajpayee government will now assess if Pakistan’s words and actions can be sold to the domestic audience. As part of this exercise, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee held an all-party meeting to gauge the Opposition’s assessment of Musharraf’s speech.

“A lot will depend on General Musharraf’s intention to operationalise what he has promised to do,” Singh said. If the situation in Kashmir improves, the government can claim Pakistan has been forced to give up its policy — which Singh described as a “major shift” in Islamabad’s stand — because of the tough measures taken by India.

Delhi sees the ban on Lashkar and Jaish as an example of its pressure working on Islambad. Singh was, however, cautious in his reaction. “We would like to see how these measures (ban) are implemented and also want to ensure that the activists of these outfits are not allowed to operate under some other names,” he added.

But he was prepared to give the Pakistan President time and acknowledged the threats Musharraf faced from remnants of al Qaida and the Taliban who have fled from Afghanistan.


Srinagar, Jan. 13. 
Two Dutch nationals were shot dead by Border Security Force personnel early this morning at Dalgate here.

A BSF spokesperson said Bakiowali Ahmad (passport no. 20666150) and El-Hassanowi Khalid (passport no. 90571894) “who appear to be from Arab countries” attacked a BSF patrol with “long daggers”, around 7.20 am.

“They were members of a suicide squad… The patrol opened fire in retaliation and killed the two foreigners on the spot,” claimed the BSF spokesperson in Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital. The Dutch embassy in Delhi has been alerted.

A shadow was, however, cast over the reported “foiling of a suicide attack”. The BSF was quick to pronounce the two “foreign militants” but then, later in the day, changed that to “assailants”.

The police said the two had registered as “students” and refused to slap any labels till investigations were complete. The two Dutch “students” had arrived in Delhi from Amsterdam, via Amman, on December 26, 2001. “They came to Srinagar on January 6 and signed in at the foreigner’s registration office… They were, apparently, here to study,” the police said.

Eyewitness accounts suggested that trouble broke out over a “molestation attempt” by securitymen. Some alleged that members of the BSF patrol had molested a woman accompanying the Dutch duo, while others claimed that the securitymen had misbehaved with one of the foreigners “who looked like a woman”.

A BSF statement said: “The patrol was returning to its headquarters after a routine check when the front scouts were attacked… Constable Y.P. Tiwari sustained injuries under the right eye and on the right shoulder. Constable Shiv Sagar Yadav was also injured. The constables fired in self-defence and killed the assailants… Two daggers were recovered from their possession and a few documents were seized.”

R.S. Bullar, DIG, BSF, however, told PTI that no weapons had been recovered from the foreigners.

Both Ahmed and Khalid had been staying in a houseboat since January 6. The acting Inspector General of police, Ashok Bhan, said: “Two credit cards and two cellular phones have been recovered from the houseboat.”


Calcutta, Jan. 13: 
After two years of protracted negotiations, the Bengal government has decided to hand over the management control of Haldia Petrochemicals to the US-based non-resident Indian and its equal-stakes partner, Purnendu Chatterjee.

The deal to hand over control was signed yesterday in the presence of industry minister Nirupam sen, finance minister Asim Dasgupta, Haldia Petro chairman Tarun Das and Chatterjee.

Confirming the agreement, Tarun Das said from Delhi: “It has been decided to hand over the majority stake to Purnendu Chatterjee. He will clearly own 51 per cent in the company. He is the right person to give leadership to the company. The West Bengal government had helped a lot to facilitate the entire process. The industry minister and the finance minister helped in the entire negotiation. (Chief minister) Buddhadebbabu was involved in the entire process.”

Das added: “Without their help I would not have been able to solve the problem within three months of taking over as chairman. I am extremely happy. It is a great achievement for HPL as well as West Bengal government. I feel that the crisis will be over and it will become a healthy company. We had hectic discussions involving the West Bengal government, Chatterjee and the financial institutions.”

The Chatterjee group also confirmed the development. Its officials said: “Yes, Purnendu has got the management control. But we will not divulge further details.”

This will also facilitate debt restructuring by the financial institutions, without which the company cannot survive.

Haldia Petro has been seeking rescheduling of loan repayment and an interest rate cut. An official of the Industrial Development Bank of India said from Mumbai that the lenders would immediately start the process of debt restructuring.

To retire high-cost borrowings, the government had earlier asked the promoters to contribute Rs 500 crore in two tranches as advance against equity. The Bengal government and the Tatas, the third and smaller partner, had brought in Rs 143 crore but Chatterjee did not. He said that unless the question of management control was settled, he would not make fresh investments.

“Every issue has been sorted out. There will be no more misunderstanding between the promoters. There will be peace in the company henceforth,” Das said.

Chatterjee is now expected to take his stake up in the company from the existing 43 per cent in stages, as and when he brings in the money.

The deal puts an end to prolonged and frustrating efforts to bring Indian Oil Corporation in as the majority partner. Indian Oil had demanded management control with only a 26 per cent stake, a proposal that was strongly oppposed by the promoters, mainly Chatterjee.


Washington, Jan. 13: 
In the diplomatic chess game between New Delhi and Islamabad, which has begun following Pervez Musharraf’s address to the nation, India will not de-escalate the military situation along the border or ease pressure on Pakistan on the ground.

But India will match Musharraf word for word in being conciliatory because it does not want to give the wily general the advantage he is seeking in good public relations on the world stage.

During extensive analysis of Musharraf’s speech at the highest levels of the Indian government today, there was acknowledgement that the Pakistan President had scored handsomely in showmanship.

Hence foreign minister Jaswant Singh’s statement that “should the government of Pakistan operationalise its intention and move purposefully towards eradicating cross-border terrorism, the government of India will respond fully and resume the composite dialogue process” with Islamabad.

The unequivocal offer to resume the dialogue, the government believes, will pre-empt those world leaders who may pile pressure on New Delhi, following Musharraf’s speech, to start talking to Pakistan.

This morning, President George W. Bush talked for five minutes each on telephone to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Musharraf. According to White House spokesman Sean McCormack, Bush discussed Musharraf’s speech with Vajpayee, but did not go into details.

But Bush complimented Musharraf for his promise to crack down on terrorists. The spokesman said both Vajpayee and Musharraf “agreed to continue to work to reduce tension in the region”.

While the foreign ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office recognise that Musharraf has caught the imagination of those concerned about events in South Asia with his showmanship, they feel it has given Islamabad very little by way of substance.

Virtually every world leader who responded to his televised address ignored Musharraf’s call for UN intervention in Kashmir. “Let human rights organisations, Amnesty International, the international media and UN peacekeepers be allowed to monitor activities of the Indian occupation forces,” Musharraf had thundered.

At his press conference, Singh rejected Musharraf’s formulations on Kashmir. But India is willing to live with that much of anti-Indianism in Musharraf and do business with him as long as it is part of his strategy for survival and he does not translate it into an active instrument of policy the way Zia-ul-Haq did.


New Delhi, Jan. 13: 
Is President Pervez Musharraf trying to do a Kamal Pasha Ataturk?

Opinion among Indian Muslims is sharply divided after his historic speech where he promised to regulate madarsas and mosques in a sweeping reform to separate politics from education and religion. Conservative sections of Indian Muslims are wary, fearing that the BJP-led government may embark on a similar course, leading to a witch-hunt.

Anis Durrani, chairman of the Delhi Haj Committee, said madarsas operating in Pakistan and India were vastly different in nature. “In Pakistan, most of these institutions are commercially run. They are like shops, receiving funds from West Asia. In India, most madarsas are old and in dire need of money,” he said.

He feared that Musharraf’s remarks are likely to give credence to the campaign that many madarsas in India are breeding grounds of ISI activities.

But members of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board differ. They even see a lesson to be followed here. “We will be only too glad if efforts are made to regulate religious institutions. But there should be no discrimination. Let the government of India also check activities of the Bajrang Dal, VHP, RSS shakhas and Bal Shishu mandirs,” said Kamal Farooqui, a member of the board.

He said the Milli Council, a body of prominent Muslims, had already conducted a survey in Rajasthan to check the activities of madarsas and mosques. “I can say it with authority and satisfaction that there was nothing that could be described as suspicious or illegal. Our conscience is clean. Let there be an investigation,” he said.

G.M. Banatwalla, an MP of the Indian Union Muslim League, said there were many misconceptions about madarsas in India. He said a home ministry document had stated that thousands of madarsas had recently mushroomed along the Indo-Nepal border. “We checked and found nothing of that sort so I wrote to the home secretary. I was shocked to get a reply that said that these madarsas were on the Nepalese side.”

Other religious leaders said there were similar misunderstandings over the Deobandi sect. “In India, the Deobandi sect implies those against the worshipping of graves but in Pakistan, the Masood Azhar (Jaish leader) brand of Deobandi militancy has an altogether different connotation,” said Naeem Ur-Rahman, a scholar from the Nadwa school of Islamic learning.

Khalid Rashid, deputy imam of the Lucknow Idgah, and other leaders said Musharraf’s bid to crackdown on Islamic extremists should be seen in the Pakistani context as it has little or no relevance in India.

“India is a secular country so the government should not interfere in religious affairs. If there is a need, the community itself would take the lead to set the house in order,” said Durrani.

Khalid said that under Islam different sets of rules apply in different situations. The holy scriptures talk about codes of conduct in “Darul-Islam” (Islamic state), Darul-Aman (peaceful land) and Darul-Kufr (land of the infidel). Since India is Darul- Aman (land of peace), religious obligations such as jihad have no relevance, he said.

At another level, Musharraf’s speech has begun a debate in the Muslim community. While a majority favours action against extremists, some feel the Pakistani President is going the way of Ataturk who demolished the decaying and defunct Ottoman empire to create modern Turkey. But many conservative Muslims believe Ataturk’s experiment failed.


London, Jan. 13: 
Prince Charles was simply wild about Harry after discovering his 17-year-old younger son had been regularly smoking cannabis and also indulging in heavy drinking.

Although all parents in Britain will sympathise with Prince Charles’s difficulties in bringing up his sons, there is speculation that the princes, William and Harry, are missing the motherly influence of the late Princess Diana who never neglected her children.

William, who is a 19-year-old undergraduate at St Andrew’s University, has also behaved in a way which would not have made his mother proud.

At a recent hunt meeting, he galloped up “with his eyes wide and his teeth showing” to a photographer, Clive Postlethwaite, who works on the royal circuit, and swore, “fucking piss off” — the words were quoted in full even by posh broadsheet newspapers.

The 51-year-old photographer was forced to drop his cameras and fall back into a ditch.

But William’s misdemeanour is considered relatively minor compared with the admission from St James’s Palace, which represents Charles, that Harry has been experimenting with drugs.

Many will invariably draw the conclusion that Charles has been so busy and preoccupied with his own affair with his mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles, that he has not been able to give his sons the attention they need.

It emerged that Harry smoked joints at Highgrove, his father’s Gloucestershire home, and at a nearby public house called the Rattlebone Inn.

There was also late night binge drinking in the company of his inner circle of friends. For a while, Harry was even barred from the pub after getting involved in fights.

Charles has tried to turn Highgrove, where Amjad Khan has played the sarod at his host’s birthday party, into a peaceful haven complete with an Indian room. But these are clearly not appreciated by his teenage sons.

A family friend explained: “Since Princess Diana died, there has been a family rule that when Prince Harry is home from school, his father is at home at Highgrove. But last summer was different. Prince Harry was getting older, Prince Charles was often away on business in London and Prince William was on his gap year.”


London, Jan. 13: 
The foreign office in London is seeking consular access to a British man who is said to be in the first batch of 20 hardcore al-Qaida and Taliban hooded prisoners, airlifted shackled to their seats by the Americans from Afghanistan to the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba.

“We asked for the bad guys first,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert, the US commander overseeing the transfer of prisoners from Afghanistan. “These represent the worst elements of the al-Qaida and the Taliban.”

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell reflected the growing unease about the method of transportation and the conditions of captivity of the prisoners. The men, he said — and Amnesty International agreed with him — were “entitled to be dealt with humanely and should not be subject to degrading treatment”.

He argued: “Nothing is more likely to damage support for the campaign against terrorism, particularly in Arab countries, if these men are seen to be humiliated.” If the British prisoner turns out to be white, the method of transfer — manacled, head shaved and hooded — and detention in small, open air and floodlit cages could allow the human rights lobby to cause friction in the hitherto solid Bush-Blair alliance.

But if, as is statistically more probable, the so far unnamed prisoner turns out to be a British Muslim of Pakistani origin, his family in Britain is likely to become the target for revenge attacks. Since the start of the Afghanistan campaign, there have been persistent, although unsubstantiated claims, that a number of British Muslims have gone off to fight for the Taliban.

The British were informed by the Americans that a Briton was among the first batch of prisoners airlifted to the American naval base which is on a tip of Cuba leased in perpetuity to the US. “Our consular staff are trying to verify his identity and inform his next of kin,” a foreign office spokeswoman said today.

The US base, which could ultimately hold 2,000 prisoners, is surrounded by shark-infested waters, two electrified razor wire fences and a minefield.

The first batch arrived at the weekend in a converted American C141 cargo aircraft after a 20-year flight from Kandahar.

The Americans have said they are “illegal combatants” and not covered by the Geneva Convention. It is not clear whether the prisoners’ beards were also shaved off. The prisoners will be held for sustained interrogation in conditions which are “humane but not comfortable”, the Americans have said.


London, Jan. 13: 
He might be a military dictator but Britain, in close partnership with the United States, has decided to throw its full weight in ensuring General Pervez Musharraf’s survival as leader of Pakistan.

Musharraf received fulsome praise from Tony Blair today for his much-anticipated speech, whose main points were probably cleared in advance with both London and Washington.

The foreign office, too, paid tribute to Musharraf. “We hope India will respond positively to President Musharraf’s speech and that the Pakistani government will take further action to follow up President Musharraf’s pledges,” its spokeswoman said.

The line adopted by the BBC, which has hyped the LoC as “the most dangerous place on earth”, is that the ball is now in India’s court. The general feeling that has been engendered is that it would be most unreasonable of India not to pull back its troops and negotiate with such a patently honest man as this straightforward general.

Blair’s statement, issued from 10, Downing Street, said: “We welcome President Musharraf’s outright condemnation and rejection of terrorism in all its forms, and his pledge to deal very firmly with anyone committing terrorist acts from inside Pakistan. We applaud his courageous and forceful defence of a tolerant and moderate Islam and condemnation of all forms of sectarianism and religious hatred. And we welcome President Musharraf’s clear appeal for a normalisation of relations with India and resolution of differences over Kashmir through peaceful means and dialogue.”

Blair added: “We hope that India will respond positively to that message and to the banning of the two Kashmiri separatist groups suspected of links to the December attacks on the Parliament in New Delhi.”

Neither Blair nor the Foreign Office gave support to India’s call for the extradition of the 20 wanted people on the list submitted to Pakistan.

One potentially awkward problem for Britain is that it wants to push ahead with its campaign to sell 60 Hawk jets worth £1 billion to India. Sources in London have told The Telegraph that the Indians consider the British deal too expensive. Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, has been pressing India to make a decision on the Hawk deal, The Guardian reported yesterday.

The paper added that John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, is scheduled to visit India next month for a conference on sustainable development, but he is also expected to raise the Hawk deal, which he had championed during a visit to New Delhi last year.

Blair was asked to throw his weight behind the Hawk campaign. Downing Street, after reviewing the request, decided it was not opposed to the sale, but that, politically, it would be unwise for the Prime Minister to be involved.


New Delhi, Jan. 13: 
The armed forces will continue with their preparations on the border with Pakistan despite Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s “intention” of a “jihad on the jihad factory”, sources in the security establishment said today.

There are essentially four reasons for persisting with the current deployment, a senior official said, explaining the role being played by the forces.

First, the presence of forces on the border and the heightened state of alert continues to be “as much a declaration of our intent to be offensive against terrorists in as much as Musharraf’s speech was a statement of intent”. Whatever be the pressures of the US on Musharraf, the Pakistan President would not have even made his “statement of intent” had it not been for the presence of Indian forces close to the border, the security establishment sources believe.

Second, there is a real fear that a major attack on an important establishment of the government either in Kashmir or elsewhere might be mounted as a signal from militants that their fight continues despite Musharraf’s reformist act. The Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, in particular, had enough notice to prepare for an emergency and there are serious doubts over whether the ban will effectively curb them.

“Take for example Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish,” the official said. “Nobody doubts that he is a terrorist. He was released because of the hijacking (of IC 814) and hijacking is recognised internationally as a crime. Why is there no demonstrative action against him yet?”

Third, India has repeatedly given the US and other countries evidence it has of militant camps in Pakistan, including those in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, but there has been no demonstrative action against these.

The sources lay particular stress on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir — referred to as Azad Kashmir in Pakistan. “Sometimes, there are elements in Pakistan who seek to make a distinction, as if camps operating out of PoK are not operating out of Pakistan. We want this to end,” the official said.

He pointed out that army chief General Padmanabhan in his news conference on Friday, was categorical on the types of camps that continue to exist. One military intelligence intercept puts the number of these camps in PoK at 43.

Over the past couple of months, the army has taken “punitive actions” on the LoC — particularly in the Medhar and Pooch sectors — and the possibility of more such operations continues to exist.

Though such actions are carried out by smaller formations and confined to small locations and does not involve the forces as a whole, the presence of the army on the border is essential to back them up.

Fourth, the official said, the presence of the army near the border in such large number was by itself a message “not only of the intent to wage war, as it were, but also to show the world that we mean business”.

In this context, the withdrawal of troops right away without “demonstrative action” — “demonstrative” to the Indian public, that is — “could be interpreted as a climbdown without substantive gains and that, in turn, will impact on the morale of the forces”.




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Minimum: 14.3°C (0)



Relative humidity

Max: 95%
Min: 42%

Sunrise: 6.25 am

Sunset: 5.06 pm


Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of morning mist. Minimum temperature likely to be around 15°C

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