Powell mediates in garb of helper
Musharraf erases Zia’s poll bias
Beijing business basics
Kissinger on Kashmir recce
Yeh dil maange less of cricket
Afghan lesson in attire for Atal
Calcutta Weather

 
 
POWELL MEDIATES IN GARB OF HELPER 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, Jan. 16: 
The nudge has turned into a push. US secretary of state Colin Powell tonight said a dialogue on the “issue of Kashmir must begin” and offered American “assistance” to facilitate talks.

His comments effectively mean third-party “mediation” — a word dreaded by both India and America. Powell was at pains today in Islamabad to insist that the US would not “mediate”, but would do anything “to get the two sides talking”.

Powell, who is scheduled to reach Delhi tomorrow, said in Pakistan what President Pervez Musharraf would like to hear. However, he also voiced India’s concern on “Mr Ibrahim” — a name no American leader has uttered in public on Pakistani soil till now.

He indicated that efforts are on to persuade Pakistan to take some action on Delhi’s most-wanted list, which has Bombay blasts mastermind Dawood Ibrahim’s name.

“The Indians would like to see action on that list and on Mr Ibrahim, wherever he may be. I think the Indians are still anxious to see some action on the list of 20, and Mr Musharraf has left open the possibility of action against those who are not Pakistani…. On non-Pakistanis, he certainly can take appropriate action. The fact is, most of these people are not easily findable,” he added.

Before Powell landed in Islamabad, America had discussed with Pakistan the possibility of handing over five or six suspects named on the list of 20.

In India, home minister L.K. Advani turned up the heat, saying Pakistan must stop militants from crossing the border and hand over the wanted 20. “These are the two touchstones on the basis of which we will judge (the sincerity of Pakistan’s pledge),” he said.

But the overriding theme of Powell’s public pronouncements in Pakistan was the need to resume talks. “We stand ready to assist but it has to be a dialogue between the two sides,” he said, adding that they must ask for such assistance.

“Ultimately, if we are going to achieve the kind of peace we want to see here in South Asia, a dialogue must begin that will deal with the issue of Kashmir,” Powell told the state-owned Pakistan Television.

Later, Powell said he could play some role in bringing the two to the table. Once the dialogue has begun, he said, it would be up to India and Pakistan to decide what role, if any, the US should play.

But India stuck to its stand and ruled out any third-party role in bilateral affairs.

Powell has passed on to Musharraf an invitation from President George W. Bush to visit Washington.

The secretary of state said resuming talks was more crucial to reducing tensions than pulling back troops from the borders. Powell said he would ask India and Pakistan to lift the tit-for-tat diplomatic and travel sanctions.

He told reporters en route to Islamabad that the “rush towards conflict has slowed quite a bit”.

“I am somewhat encouraged. I think that President Musharraf gave a very historic speech this past weekend... I think the Indian response was quite measured and I think they are reflecting on the speech.”

Basking in the Powell glory, Pakistan announced that its National Committee on Kashmir would send a team to India to discuss the issue.

Sardar Qayyum Khan, the moderate head of the committee, said he would soon approach Indian authorities to explore the possibility of sending a team. He said he was also keen to establish contact with Hurriyat leaders.

   

 
 
MUSHARRAF ERASES ZIA’S POLL BIAS 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR AND AGENCIES
 
Islamabad, Jan. 16: 
Pervez Musharraf tonight began the countdown to a second burst of reforms by abolishing the discriminatory separate electoral system for minorities.

The landmark decision, considered a precursor to a new democracy roadmap expected to be unveiled soon, allows Christians and Hindus to vote and contest elections along with the Muslim majority for the first time in 16 years.

Under the separate electorate system, Muslim voters were required to vote for different lists of candidates and the non-Muslim minorities for separate lists of special seats in parliament and in provincial assemblies. The separate electoral system was introduced by former dictator General Mohammad Zia-ul Haq in the eighties.

Islamic militant groups, now the target of a government crackdown, had derailed efforts by former regimes to introduce a joint electoral system. The government also raised the number of seats of the National Assembly, the Lower House, to 350 from 237.

The announcements coincided with a report that Musharraf was planning to make another “historic” speech later this month to draw a fresh map to restore democracy by advancing elections by two months. The Pakistan President had last year promised to hold the elections by October 2002, the deadline set by the Supreme Court.

Musharraf’s “revised” roadmap is expected to lift some of the curbs imposed on political parties after he came to power, Pakistani daily The News said.

   

 
 
BEIJING BUSINESS BASICS 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Mumbai, Jan. 16: 
When captains of the Indian industry were gearing up last evening for a “ground-breaking” meeting with the Chinese Premier, Zhu Rongji sent his aides window- shopping for household stuff like television sets and washing machines.

The Chinese officials had a clear brief from their boss: don’t buy anything, just compare the prices of the consumer goods. When they reported their findings, the Premier was pleasantly surprised. “The members of my delegation whom I had sent to some electronics shops told me the prices of colour televisions and washing machines are six to 10 times higher here than they are in China,” Zhu said today at a meeting organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

As the Prime Minister of a nation which has already conquered Indian markets with cheap toys, mobile phones and television sets, Zhu had a proposal for Indians looking to do business with China: import Chinese spare parts and then assemble them here. “That way, you will be able to provide your people with cheaper household goods and employment, too,” he said.

Zhu, an electrical engineer by training, had no qualms about telling the Indian entrepreneurs where his country’s business interests lay. “We are good at making electrical appliances. It is one of the areas we are strong on in international markets.”

The other Chinese “strong business point”, the Premier said, was computer hardware. And he would not mind a commercial relationship with software-strong India. “You are good at computer software, while we are good at its hardware. You can introduce your software to China and we can set up our hardware units in India, so both countries would get better and cheaper computers,” he said.

The Chinese Premier put politics behind him to talk shop at the gathering of top-notch industrialists who assembled to listen to Zhu and find a way into the Chinese market.

   

 
 
KISSINGER ON KASHMIR RECCE 
 
 
FROM SEEMA GUHA
 
New Delhi, Jan. 16: 
US ambassador in India Robert Blackwill and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger will meet K.C. Pant tomorrow.

Pant, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, is the chief pointman of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government on Kashmir. Kissinger and Blackwill will provide him valuable inputs on the Bush administration’s thinking on Kashmir.

The interaction comes at a time the US is stepping up pressure on India to resume talks with Pakistan.

The British high commissioner is also scheduled to meet Pant before the week ends.

   

 
 
YEH DIL MAANGE LESS OF CRICKET 
 
 
BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
Cola and cricket don’t make a heady cocktail anymore. Ask Pepsi.

Three days before the first match at the Eden Gardens, the India-England one-day series has a new sponsor, LG Electronics, when even tickets have been sold carrying the Pepsi logo.

LG, the South Korean consumer electronics company, has taken over as the title sponsor of the series from Pepsi, which will now only be the associate sponsor.

The series will be called LG Cup 2002 and the winning team will be awarded the LG Trophy. The company will also sponsor the Man of the Match award of Rs 35,000 for each one-dayer, but the Man of the Series will still be from Pepsi.

Under the current three-year contract with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which runs out in 2003, Pepsi pays Rs 85 lakh for each match.

LG officials said the rights had been acquired for Rs 3.25 crore for the entire series. “Usually, the costs are shared in a 60:40 ratio between the lead sponsor and the associate sponsor,” a Pepsi spokesman said.

Since the decision was announced only today, spectators in Calcutta will find the Pepsi logo on tickets.

“This is something beyond our control as the tickets are printed well in advance. But we will try to change the logo for the last three matches,” LG marketing general manager Ganesh Mahalingam said.

This is the second time in quick succession Pepsi has stepped back from a deal, the first was when it gave away the rights to the India-England Test series late last year to Hero Honda.

Cricket has been steadily losing sponsors. One of the first to back out was Coca-Cola, which said it had no plans to lead-sponsor cricket tournaments.

Pepsi officials deny having made any such decision, but agree that cricket is becoming expensive, forcing them to look for partners.

The spokesman said: “We had planned to sponsor two series this year — one in the beginning and one at the year-end. However, we also decided to sponsor one in the middle of the year but that was tentative. So we are happy to be the associate sponsor for the one-day series.”

   

 
 
AFGHAN LESSON IN ATTIRE FOR ATAL 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, Jan. 16: 
If Afghanistan’s new leader Hamid Karzai is the world’s most fashionable man, India’s politicians figure somewhere near the bottom of the list. At least, that’s what Indian designers think.

American designer Tom Ford described Karzai as embodying the look of his fall-winter collection shown in Milan yesterday.

“The choicest man on the planet today is the new president of Afghanistan, whose look is very elegant and very proud,” Italian news agency Insa quoted Ford as saying after showing his line for fashion house Gucci. “Return to formality” was the theme of the collection.

If the Bushism — Karzai is not president, but only head of the interim administration — is excluded, Indian designers have no big argument with Ford.

Leading menswear designer Ravi Bajaj would like to add a qualifying clause, though. Karzai, according to him, can be described as an exceptional dresser “compared to Indian politicians”.

Latin American leaders top the Delhi-based designer’s list of chic, while he dismisses George W. Bush as “too straight-jacket” and Britain’s Tony Blair — recently seen in Bangalore in a Nehru jacket — as “too Oxford Street”. That Pervez Musharraf “looks civilised”, feels Bajaj, “proves the power of a good suit”.

What about Atal Bihari Vajpayee? “The less said the better,” cringes Kiran Uttam Ghosh, the Calcutta-based womenswear designer. Her prescription for a “more hip” Prime Minister includes shawls in “rich wine shades, aubergine or turquoise”.

Maybe Karzai — shown frequently on television draped in elegant capes — will hand him a tip or two, given the rediscovered bonhomie between Kabul and Delhi.

But Karzai is obviously a connoisseur. In Rome last month to visit the exiled king Zahir Shah, he spent a morning shopping in the fashionable Via Della Croce near the Spanish Steps, a famous tourist spot in the Italian capital.

It’s not that Indian leaders don’t shop while abroad. But they simply don’t take the need to dress well seriously, Bajaj said.

While few politicians make the cut, Jaswant Singh and George Fernandes are the “worst of the lot… If they can’t dress up, at least they should dress normal, as they are ambassadors for a country which produces beautiful fabrics and great garments,” he said.

Formality goes a step too far for Indian politicians, believe Calcutta-based designers. But they agree that Afghans are a well-turned-out race, with foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and Osama bin Laden (who’s an Arab) figuring high on the list.

“Calcutta’s first menswear designer”, Sharbari Datta, agrees that Karzai is indeed “very well dressed”, but does not break the mould of fashion convention. “Afghans are definitely the best looking, they all carry themselves very well,” says the veteran designer, who feels the Dalai Lama is not far behind in the style stakes.

While Kashmir’s Farooq and Omar Abdullah lead India’s list of fashionable leaders, none of the present flock can come close to Jawaharlal Nehru’s trend-setting ways. India has lost its only leaders with a sense of style, Madhavrao Scindia and Rajiv Gandhi, according to Kiran Uttam Ghosh. “They had an innate sense of style, which only Omar Abdullah has nowadays.”

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 28.2°C (+1)
Minimum: 19°C (+5)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 98%,
Minimum: 51%

Sunrise: 6.25 am

Sunset: 5.08 pm

Today

Partly cloudy sky, with morning fog in some areas. Minimum temperature likely to be around 18°C
   
 

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