Handover of five on bargain table
Mix-up stink in Dutch deaths
A week to read signs for pullback
Pak positive on talks
Sun on your back & wind in your hair
China snubs Musharraf
China echoes India on third party role
Tax parity boost to Bollywood
State, RBI to crack down on chit funds
Calcutta Weather

 
 
HANDOVER OF FIVE ON BARGAIN TABLE 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Jan. 14: 
Pakistan may hand over five or six of the criminals among the 20 listed by India for extradition as proof of General Pervez Musharraf’s sincerity in implementing his vision outlined in an address to his nation on Saturday.

None of those handed over to India will be Pakistani nationals. Nor are they likely to be connected even remotely to any subversive activity in Kashmir.

This road map for de-escalation of tension between India and Pakistan is the result of home minister L.K. Advani’s visit to Washington.

During intense give-and-take, bargaining and bouncing of ideas at various levels during Advani’s stay here, it was conveyed to the Americans that nothing short of definite action on the part of Musharraf would satisfy New Delhi.

When secretary of state Colin Powell meets Musharraf this week, he will convey American fears that terrorists in Pakistan, who are now uncompromisingly opposed to the ruling junta in Islamabad, will engineer an Indo-Pakistan conflict through another daring attack on India similar to the one on Parliament.

It will be Powell’s argument that confidence-building with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is needed before such an eventuality if Musharraf wants to avoid a war with India.

An immediate — and easiest — way for Musharraf to build such confidence is to hand over to India some of the people on Delhi’s list of 20 who are unlikely to politically destabilise Musharraf. The Americans appear to have been prodded towards this course by Advani’s logic, combined with the grim tone of army chief General S. Padmanabhan’s news conference last week.

Padmanabhan made it clear that India’s war preparations are for real. At the same time, Advani conveyed the chilling assessment to the Americans that an Indo-Pakistan war would be triggered neither by Musharraf nor by Vajpayee, but by terrorists, who wanted such a war to divert America’s concentration away from al Qaida and the Taliban.

Powell is leaving for South Asia tomorrow, convinced that if some confidence-building is initiated between Musharraf and Vajpayee, the Prime Minister will be able to ask Indians to give Pakistan’s President the benefit of the doubt in any immediate terrorist attack on India.

The most logical and immediate confidence-building measure would be for Pakistan to hand over criminals who are Indian passport-holders into Delhi’s custody.

Advani has conveyed to the Bush administration the view that without actions to prove Musharraf’s sincerity, he cannot be absolved of responsibility for acts of terror. The dominant view here is that if Powell asks Musharraf to act on India’s list of 20, at least a quarter way, he is in no position to defy the US.

Advani pointed out to the Americans, who pleaded for time on behalf of Musharraf, that President George W. Bush hardly gave the Pakistani general breathing time before he was asked to train his guns on the Taliban after September 11. He said time had already run out on Musharraf as far as terrorism against India was concerned.

   

 
 
MIX-UP STINK IN DUTCH DEATHS 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Srinagar, Jan. 14: 
All papers of the two Dutch shot dead by the Border Security Force have been found to be in order, strengthening a perception that they were tourists who had been mistaken for militants.

A tourism department official said the slain foreigners had registered themselves as students with the foreign registration office of the state intelligence “as all foreigners visiting Kashmir have to do”.

The disclosure shoots down suggestions that the two -- Bakiowli Ahmad and El-Hassanowi Khalid -- had sneaked into Kashmir. They would not have registered themselves “if they were involved in any militant activity”, the official pointed out.

Police sources confirmed that the two had landed in Kashmir on January 6 with their passports and visas in order. They had set out from Amsterdam. If it is established that the Dutchmen were in fact students visiting Kashmir, it will be a diplomatic embarrassment for Delhi, which has been contesting Pakistani allegations of human rights violations in the Valley. The incident will also hurt Jammu and Kashmir government’s renewed efforts to revive tourism.

Few in Kashmir are buying the BSF’s version that the two were fidayeen militants. A BSF spokesman today said they had attacked a patrol party in a hotel close to their camp with knives, injuring two securitymen. “The troops then opened fire on the two fidayeen and killed them on the spot”, he added.

   

 
 
A WEEK TO READ SIGNS FOR PULLBACK 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
New Delhi Jan. 14: 
India will wait out this week before deciding on a pullout of troops from along the international border with Pakistan. A review on the situation on the Line of Control, too, will be made in the beginning of next week.

Officially, the government has set itself no time-frame before sending troops back to peace-time locations. The primary reason for this is the fear that militants might attack a high-profile target and upset the thaw that could otherwise set in.

“Musharraf himself has set no time-frame, so how can we?” a senior official said.

Union defence minister George Fernandes, asked for his assessment of Musharraf’s reforms, said: “For identifying all that is wrong with Pakistan, I give him seven on 10; As far as what we are concerned with, he is yet to submit his paper.”

Asked what the benchmarks for judging when the time would be ripe for a pullout of the troops, Fernandes was not categorical but did say a reduction in the level of firing, a stop to infiltration and action on the list of 20 wanted militants was among them.

“The mobilisation of Indian forces is complete and any effort at de-escalation can come only, I repeat, only if and when cross-border terrorism is effectively stopped.”

Daily reports from each sector along the Line of Control will be studied before deciding on a reduction of troops in Jammu and Kashmir, sources in the security establishment said.

Though Fernandes said no definite time-frame had been fixed, the understanding is that a reduction in shelling on the LoC and infiltration should be immediately palpable.

“India would wait for effective and full implementation of whatever measures have been announced by General Musharraf. The ultimate purpose is to end for all times cross-border terrorism. Presently we have undertaken an intense diplomatic effort in this direction and wish to pursue this,” said Fernandes.

Security establishment sources said troops moved close to the border in Punjab-Rajasthan may wait through February for scheduled exercises that have been put on hold because of the mobilisation and deployment that followed the December 13 attack on Parliament.

   

 
 
PAK POSITIVE ON TALKS 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR AND AGENCIES
 
Islamabad, Jan. 14: 
Pakistan today said India’s response to President Pervez Musharraf’s speech was not negative but lacked warmth, and hoped it could resume the deadlocked peace talks soon.

A foreign ministry spokesman said Islamabad had “taken note” of Delhi’s guarded welcome to Musharraf’s declaration of intent to stamp out terrorism from its soil.

Asked if Pakistan was satisfied with the Indian response, he said: “We don’t regard their response negative.”

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh had hailed the ban on five terror groups, but linked the defusing of military tensions with improvement on the ground.

Pakistan today detained more than 1,000 people in its biggest ever crackdown on Islamic militants. Several offices, including the headquarters of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, have been sealed.

The interior ministry said the banned groups would not be allowed to operate under new names. It warned that newspapers might be prosecuted if they published statements in support of the banned groups.

Abdul Ghafoor Haidari, secretary-general of the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, was arrested in Quetta.

Pakistan said it would not lower its guard on the tense shared border until its nuclear rival pulled back its forces to peacetime positions.

“We hope (India) will soon move towards the desired direction,” foreign ministry spokesman Kamran Niaz said. Military spokesman Rashid Quereshi said it was “difficult to predict” if the worst standoff since the 1999 Kargil war would now ease. But in a sign that fear of war might be ebbing, the Karachi stock market closed almost four per cent higher.

Quereshi said Pakistan had been cracking down on militants not on India’s demand, but as a matter of state policy to eliminate terror.

The crackdown has not triggered a backlash so far, but a prominent Muslim cleric said Musharraf was sowing the seeds of an Islamic revolution. “There may not be instant reaction but they will respond when the dust has settled,” Maulana Abdul Aziz of Islamabad’s main Red Mosque said.

   

 
 
SUN ON YOUR BACK & WIND IN YOUR HAIR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 14: 
The hotrods are coming. If you think the sedan is a classic bore and the sports utility vehicle is a hulking roadhog, get ready to belt up in a low-slung two-door four-seater cabriolet that’s being pitched at all “those who like the sun on their back, the wind in the hair and goosebumps on their skin”.

Say hello to the Daimler Chrysler’s CLK 320 cabriolet that will grace the Sixth Auto Expo that gets underway in the capital tomorrow.

Priced at a nifty Rs 48.7 lakh for the standard model, the CLK 320 cabriolet is one of six models that Daimler Chrysler India (formerly MercedesBenz India) is showcasing to assess public reaction to these models.

The standard-version cabriolet comes with a semi-automatic fabric soft-top, anti-lock braking system, front seats with electric height and reach adjustment and electronic locking system with immobiliser. Prepare to fork out another Rs 4 lakh for leather upholstery, metallic paint, Parktronic (a parking aid), rain sensor, CD changer and an anti-theft warning system.

The other cheesecake models that the company has on display include the two-seater SLK-Class Roadster and the C-class sports coupe — none of which bear an Indian sticker price yet.

These hotrods will rub shoulders with the traditional SL class (SL 500) — believed to sport a price tag of over Rs 70 lakh — and the M-class and A-class model (the carmaker’s smallest offering which created a storm when it failed the famous Elk test and had to be redesigned).

Daimler Chrysler, which was the first carmaker to receive the government’s approval to go in for imports of completely built units, has no plans to make any of these models in India.

“CBU imports will form 15-20 per cent of our turnover in 2002,” said Jurgen Ziegler, managing director and CEO of Daimler Chrysler India Pvt Ltd, who expects to double that component next year.

Other new launches this week will be the Ford Escape — one of the most successful sports utility vehicles in motoring history — and the Ford Ranger Splash, the versatile pick-up truck.

“We will assess market reaction to the new vehicles and accordingly decide on our launch schedule,” said Ford India managing director David Friedman.

BMW is coming in with its new super-luxury model in its 7 series and its Z3 Roadster.

Fiat India will have the Alfa Romeo 166 Super and the Palio Sport on display, while Hyundai Motors will take the wraps of the two new sedans it plans to bring to India — the Elantra and the Matrix. Also on display will be the five-door Accent and the new Santro version.

Toyota will unveil the Camry — its D segment offering that is supposed to take on Hyundai’s Sonata and Honda’s Accord which were launched last September — and the new version of its popular Qualis.

There’s action on the two-wheeler front as well — perhaps nothing as sensational as Royal Enfield Motors’ decision to break with tradition and put the brake-pedal of its 350 cc Thunderbird on the right. “For a long time now, consumers have been demanding that like all conventional bikes the brake ought to be on the right,” said Siddhartha Lal, chief executive of Royal Enfield Motors.

The company says it’s just one way to get riders of 125 cc bikes to graduate to the bigger bikes. And when the Thunderbird is priced at Rs 70,000 for the standard model, the company needs to get these little things right — even if this heresy unseats the traditional Bullet lover.

   

 
 
CHINA SNUBS MUSHARRAF 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Jan. 14: 
China, Pakistan’s closest ally, has said the Kashmir issue should be solved without involving a third party, glossing over the appeal of Pervez Musharraf for international intervention.

China’s position was conveyed by Prime Minister Zhu Rongji to his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee here this evening.

Zhu’s remarks bring out in the open not only China’s reservations over the presence of American troops in Afghanistan but also its differences with Pakistan on the role of foreign forces in Kashmir.

China and India have agreed to set up a mechanism to exchange information to counter terrorism.

   

 
 
CHINA ECHOES INDIA ON THIRD PARTY ROLE 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Jan. 14: 
Just days after Pervez Musharraf appealed to world leaders to play a greater role in Kashmir, Pakistan’s closest ally China today made it clear that Delhi and Islamabad should resolve the issue without third-party involvement.

Visiting Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, who stated his government’s position to his Indian counterpart and host Atal Bihari Vajpayee this evening, also urged the nuclear twins to resolve their differences soon for peace in the tense subcontinent.

Zhu’s remarks are a clear sign that Beijinghas serious differences with Islamabad on foreign intervention to resolve the Kashmir tangle. This is almost akin to India’s stand. Even yesterday, foreign minister Jaswant Singh rejected the Pakistani proposal for third-party mediation in the embattled Valley.

In another significant development, China and India today agreed to set up a counter-terrorism mechanism so that the two countries could co-operate in combating the menace.

Zhu made it clear that China, despite close relations with Pakistan, was willing to improve ties with India. Describing Delhi as Beijing’s partner, he said the two could also contribute towards world peace. This is the first time that China has recognised India as an equal partner for bringing stability in both the region and the world.

The interaction between the two delegations this evening showed that the neighbours, despite differences on thorny issues like the boundary problem and arms supply to Pakistan, are keen on improving bilateral ties with special focus on economics.

“It is a sign of our shared cultural legacy and of the maturity of our relations that we can successfully move ahead on all areas of our bilateral cooperation while sustaining a continuous dialogue to address our differences,” Vajpayee said at the banquet he hosted for Zhu.

“India and China are also amongst the two fastest growing economies in the world,” he added. “Amidst talk of global recession and economic slowdown, our two economies continue to surge ahead.”

Zhu, the first Chinese Prime Minister to come to India on an official visit after Li Peng in 1991, reciprocated Vajpayee’s sentiments. “India and China are the two largest developing countries and the fastest growing economies, and should draw upon each other’s experiences,” he said.

The two sides signed a number of agreements, including cooperation in the field of science and technology, outer space and tourism. They agreed to exchange information on the Brahmaputra to check floods in Assam and decided to resume direct air links from March. Zhu requested Jaswant to come to China by the inaugural Delhi-Beijing China Eastern flight scheduled for March 28.

The Chinese Prime Minister’s only public speech will be in Mumbai on Wednesday when he addresses the Joint Business Council meeting of the two sides. He is also scheduled to visit Bangalore.

Zhu held a series of meetings with Indian leaders, which included calls on President K.R. Narayanan and Vice-President Krishan Kant.

To the Indian leadership, the timing of Zhu’s visit is significant. General Musharraf, through frequent visits to China over the past few weeks, had tried to give the impression that Beijing would stand behind Islamabad if war broke out between India and Pakistan. But Zhu’s visit here, Indian leaders feel, showed that China would not like to be dragged into what it considers a bilateral issue.

Delhi’s relationship with Beijing has gone through several ups and downs in recent years. India’s description of China as “potential enemy number one” and citing threat from Beijing as one of the main reasons for its May 1998 nuclear tests had predictably soured relations between the two.

But over the past two years, both India and China have been making conscious efforts to rebuild the bridges.

   

 
 
TAX PARITY BOOST TO BOLLYWOOD 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Mumbai, Jan. 14: 
The Centre is working out a uniform entertainment tax structure in all states to help boost the film industry, Ficci secretary general Amit Mitra said today.

Announcing a three-day global convention on the entertainment industry, to be held in Mumbai in March, Mitra said 17 states met in New Delhi last month and expressed their willingness to go for uniform taxation. The meeting had been organised by Ficci.

The high taxation, coupled with rampant piracy of film and music cassettes, has long been the bane of Bollywood. But that problem may soon be over.

Mitra said the Centre felt the need for a change in the tax pattern, which varied from one state to another. He said the government favoured putting a 60 per cent cap on entertainment tax in all states.

Producer Yash Chopra said the tax system was highly discriminatory. “In some states like Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, the tax is ridiculously low, while in some states, it is as high as 125 per cent.

Mitra said the global convention, scheduled for March 14 to 16, would take up issues like film piracy, financing of films and taxation.

Chopra said the piracy was eating in a big way into the profits of the producers and called for a curb. Ficci will hold a national meeting with cable operators and television channels in Mumbai on January 22 to curb piracy.

Corporatisation of Bollywood has so far been restricted to IDBI, the only state agency now funding films. A number of other banks, both public and private, are now studying the issue and formulating modalities about the loans.

Producer Bobby Bedi said the only industry to grow despite the recession last year was entertainment. He said the convention will try to draw in “clean capital” to help boost the industry.

Among those expected to attend the convention are Star group CEO James Murdoch, BBC Worldwide managing director Patrick Cross and Michael Connors, senior vice-president of the Motion Pictures Association of America.

   

 
 
STATE, RBI TO CRACK DOWN ON CHIT FUNDS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 14: 
The state government plans to join hands with the Reserve Bank of India and move Calcutta High Court to attach the properties of non-banking finance companies that had duped investors.

The decision was taken at a meeting between chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and central bank governor Bimal Jalan at Writers’ Buildings today. Finance minister Asim Dasgupta was also present.

Dasgupta later told reporters that the state government had so far arrested the owners of 21 errant NBFCs and frozen their bank accounts.

“But what is most important is to acquire the right to attach their property and arrange for repayment to those cheated by these companies. The RBI has guaranteed the fullest cooperation,” he said.

There are over 600 NBFCs and nearly 4,000 branches of different nationalised banks in Bengal.

Dasgupta said the state would promulgate an Ordinance in three months to crack down on the unincorporated chit fund units in the state.

But the “main issue” discussed today, said Dasgupta, was the role banks could play in self-employment projects.

Jalan was told that 1.30 lakh specific projects had been referred to different nationalised banks by the unemployed youths in the state during the last nine months out of which only 64,000 proposals had been sanctioned.

“Unfortunately, only 14,000 actually received bank loans against their schemes,” he said.

The finance minister said Jalan had assured the chief minister that he would personally look into the matter.

Asked if the RBI would allow non-resident Indians to open a bank in Bengal, Jalan said: “We do not approve of any state-level banks. The finance minister said the state government had so far not received any written proposal from any NRI.”

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 27.6°C (+1)
Minimum: 14.4°C (0)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative humidity

Maximum: 94%,
Minimum: 44%

Sunrise: 6.25 am

Sunset: 5.07 pm

Today

Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of morning mist in some areas. Minimum temperature likely to be around 16°C
   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company