PoK answer to Kashmir card
Israel radar at work on border
Rider hunt with doctor tips
Bride makes big business wait
Heat on bandit cradle
Calcutta Weather

 
 
POK ANSWER TO KASHMIR CARD 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Patna, Feb. 3: 
For the second time in quick succession, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee swivelled the arclight away from Kashmir to Pak-occupied Kashmir indicating a rediscovered emphasis in India’s Pakistan strategy.

Last week, Vajpayee had said in Raipur that PoK should be returned to India, taking a leaf out of the book of predecessor P.V. Narasimha Rao who had famously said that the only dispute over Kashmir related to the portion occupied by Kashmir.

Today, Vajpayee clarified that unlike Pakistan, which made Kashmir the be-all and end-all of any talks with India, he was not insisting that handing over of PoK would be a condition for resuming discussions.

“Let me clarify that return of PoK is not a precondition for talks. But if the talks begin, PoK would top the agenda,” Vajpayee said, replying to Pakistan’s Kashmir chorus with a line that has the potential of becoming an Indian refrain.

For the moment, it will add zing to the image-building the BJP is engaged in as a government that is pursuing an aggressive policy towards Pakistan with a troop build-up on the border as the Uttar Pradesh elections draw near. “UP election is internationally important since I hail from the state. The people of the state have elected me Prime Minister,” Vajpayee said.

As the Vishwa Hindu Parishad keeps the Ram rath rolling as an issue in the run-up to the polls later this month, Kashmir could be the cornerstone of the BJP’s official campaign as its leaders cannot really go around demanding a temple at Ayodhya.

Vajpayee also referred to Pervez Musharraf’s handshake at Kathmandu, saying he told the General that this would serve no purpose unless “our hearts too meet”.

Much of his 40-minute address here was consumed by attacks on Pakistan, but Vajpayee spoke at length on the Ram temple also while insisting that the controversy would not be allowed to play a role in the Uttar Pradesh polls. “We have always been saying that it could only be settled through dialogue between the two parties or we could wait for the court order,” he said.

Vajpayee showcased his government’s “achievement on Kashmir”, saying that Delhi’s stand on Pakistan as a facilitator of terrorism had now been acknowledged across the world.

“We are not alone and we have been supported by America and other countries. Between us and America, Pakistan does not figure. Our role is also being appreciated.”

Vajpayee said at the time of signing the Simla Accord, he had suggested that India should pressure Pakistan to hand over PoK in return for 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war (POWs).

“We had in our possession vast Pakistani land and their 90,000 POWs and could have sought and might have even got PoK in exchange for them but the Indian government of that time paid no heed to my suggestion,” Vajpayee — who was then in the Opposition — said.

He ruled out converting the Line of Control into the international border.

He accused Pakistan of playing with words and cited Musharraf’s statement that “Kashmir runs in the blood of every Pakistani”. The Prime Minister said Pakistan had no right to make such claims. “When the country could not retain Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan), how can they hope to make Kashmir an integral part of Pakistan?”

   

 
 
ISRAEL RADAR AT WORK ON BORDER 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
New Delhi, Feb. 3: 
An Israeli electronic surveillance system that tracks missiles was deployed on the quiet along the Line of Control since the Pakistani troops build-up began in end-October.

The system possibly gave crucial inputs to the Indian defence establishment before it fully deployed its army on the borders and put all three services on operational alert.

The Israeli Green Pine radar system is being negotiated for purchase by India since last year. But even before a formal seal on the agreement to acquire Green Pine has been signed and announced, India used the system in its “trip-wire” deployment since the Pakistani army conducted its exercise “Operation Khabardar” in end-October.

The system is said to be under “evaluation”. Official sources neither confirm nor deny it has been used and that it continues to be in operation. As the system was installed — it is possible that more than one radar was put into use — it was with the help of technical experts from Israel who, too, were in Kashmir for a short duration. It is understood they have since left.

The Green Pine is a ground-based radar system made by Israel’s Elta company. It is said to be capable of tracking a missile for 400 km and is normally used in conjunction with the Arrow anti-missile missile. Arrow is also made by the Israelis and, combined with the Green Pine all-weather radar, it forms an umbrella of protection against enemy missiles.

In the India-Pakistan context, the system is assessed to be of great strategic value to New Delhi because of the inputs it might be capable of giving on Pakistani tactical installations close to India, including at least one of its nuclear facilities at Kahuta and Sargodha. India could be in negotiations for the three systems.

It is possible that the Green Pine radar actually entered service in India even before October. A report in the Israeli daily Haaretz on March 20 last year said India had been supplied parts of the sophisticated radar system Green Pine.

India and Israel generally play down their military ties for diplomatic reasons, chief among them the resentment that might be caused in the Arab world. Last month, the US, too, frowned on Indian efforts to acquire the Israeli Phalcon airborne early warning systems.

Aside from buying military equipment, India may have acted as a testing pad for Israeli weapon systems. As part of this, an Israeli Navy Dolphin submarine came up to Balasore to test-fire an anti-missile missile.

   

 
 
RIDER HUNT WITH DOCTOR TIPS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 3: 
As doctors today tipped off detectives on the looks and mannerisms of motorbike rider Sadaqat, a multi-pronged operation got underway in Hazaribagh and adjoining areas to track him and two of his comrades down.

Police added another name to the list of arrests made in connection with the attack in front of the American Centre, netting a close comrade of Jamaluddin Nasir from a Howrah slum. A firearm and three bullets were seized from him.

The special investigation team probing the strike launched a manhunt spanning Hazaribagh, Rajgir, Gaya and Bihar Sharif for Sadaqat and his associates Sarvar and Hasan, suspected to be holed up in these areas. Police teams, including officials from Calcutta, chipped in, starting an operation to hunt out the trio.

Investigators also managed to track down two of the Hazaribagh doctors who examined Sadaqat’s X-ray and ultrasonography reports for a kidney ailment. A detective department official said they had given clues that could go a long way.

“They have been able to provide us with clues on how he looks and his mannerisms. One of the doctors told us that Sadaqat had met him under a false name. Sadaqat also introduced one of his friends to the doctor, who had a slight limp. We gather this fellow was none other than Mohammad Zahid (alias Idris), the man who had sprayed bullets on the policemen at American Center,” he said.

Over the past two days, the police in Hazaribagh raided two of Sadaqat’s suspected hideouts, but drew a blank. “Both raids were top secret and were carried out on the basis of concrete information, but it seems he had prior information,” an assistant commissioner of police said.

Nasir’s accomplice was arrested this afternoon on the basis of leads given by Asadullah Malik, picked up from Tiljala yesterday. Nasir himself guided a CID team to the suspect who was arrested today, special inspector general of police, CID, V.V. Thambi said.

But the police declined to elaborate. “He was recruited by Nasir. He has a shop below Nasir’s apartment in the city. We have to interrogate him to get more information,’’ was all they said.

Deputy commissioner, detective department, Soumen Mitra, said: “It is a huge network, there are several people yet to be arrested.”

Investigations revealed that Aftab Ansari, the Dubai-based strike mastermind, had gone on a recruitment drive weeks before the incident after differences over ransom payments with his trusted trio — Md Naushad, Md Shakeel and Md Khalil.

The threesome, picked up last week, spilled the beans on several associates, including Malik, who, in turn, revealed the names of several others. Malik said he “merely agreed to help Nasir because of handsome payments”. “I do not know Sadaqat or the others,” he added.

   

 
 
BRIDE MAKES BIG BUSINESS WAIT 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
New York, Feb. 3: 
Here is the latest from New York’s high society quiz.

Where was Bill Clinton, the Big Apple’s most wanted guest, on Saturday evening when scores of parties all across Manhattan were drawing the rich and the powerful from all over the world gathered here for the World Economic Forum (WEF)?

And his Senator wife Hillary who was on the cover last month of a string of popular magazines?

Where was Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres, the toast of not only this town’s influential Jewish community, but also the radicals protesting against the WEF because of his support for peace?

Answer: At industrialist Sanjiv Goenka’s party across the road from the world-famous Waldorf Astoria, which he was hosting as the president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

And you know what? Clinton stayed on at the CII bash obviously chatting with Indians he was comfortable with for quite a while after the appointed time of the party, holding up many guests who were due at a WEF dinner for 2,500 guests at the New York Stock Exchange.

CII’s party was to have been originally held at Waldorf Astoria, the venue of the WEF meeting normally held in the Alpine surroundings of Davos. But one woman saw to it that this was not to be.

Indeed, Elizabeth Friedland, an American lawyer now living in Europe, was last night virtually holding the WEF to ransom. She was to wed at the Waldorf Astoria last night and entreaties from the WEF to change the venue of her wedding dinner for over 500 guests would not persuade her to do so.

She put up with Park Avenue’s barricades and New York police department’s intrusive identity checks to drive CII across the road to Marriott hotel and the WEF to the New York Stock Exchange.

The talk of this town was a concert of Friday night at the Waldorf Astoria of which Ravi Shankar and his daughter Anoushka were a part.

Hosted by Vivendi Universal, the French utilities and media company, others who performed with Ravi Shankar were Bono of U2, himself a WEF delegate, Lauryn Hill and Branford Marsalis. The concert was put together by Quincy Jones and Phil Ramone.

This evening, at Carnegie Hall, Ravi Shankar will perform in an American Composers’ Orchestra concert to celebrate the 65th birthday of composer Philip Glass. Dennis Russel Davis, the orchestra’s music director, is collaborating with Ravi Shankar in this event, which will premiere Glass’ Symphony No.6. Ravi Shankar has been an early mentor of Glass.

In fees, the top billing here has gone to Elton John, who received $1 million for a private concert. Ravi Shankar, Clinton, Peres and others have, however, raised India’s profile at the WEF in an year when the September 11 terrorist attacks have edged out almost everything else as the most important issue among those attending the meeting.

Finance minister Yashwant Sinha is somewhat smug that India has been vindicated on the Enron issue.

At last year’s conference, Enron was an albatross round the necks of Indian government delegates who were harangued for Delhi’s failure to deliver in what was being seen as a test case for India’s economic reforms.

At one WEF panel attended by Sinha yesterday, speakers from the US admitted bad judgement on the part of America in having lectured the Third World on accounting norms and business ethics.

   

 
 
HEAT ON BANDIT CRADLE 
 
 
FROM M.R. VENKATESH
 
Mettur Dam (Tamil Nadu), Feb. 3: 
A massive contingent of the joint Special Task Force (STF) of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka searching for forest brigand Veerappan has begun zeroing in on the forests around Gopinatham, the outlaw’s place of birth just outside Tamil Nadu.

This strategy became inevitable after the ADMK regime turned down Veerappan’s latest offer to surrender to the Tamil Nadu police, largely on health grounds, sources said.

Significantly, the Karnataka government had no objection to Veerappan’s offer to surrender, which came attached with such conditions as a willingness to undergo a jail term of not more than two years, withdrawal of all cases against him and allowing him to contest elections in the future.

Karnataka is determined not to allow another kidnap episode like the one involving Kannada superstar Raj Kumar.

With the Veerappan gang now reduced to just three members, the other two being Sethukuli Govindan and Chandre Gowde, Karnataka has come round to intensifying the STF operations after Tamil Nadu refused to accept the surrender proposal.

Sources said the latest STF offensive was focusing on Gopinatham because of reports that Veerappan had been making tracks back to the Karnataka side of the massive forest.

But there “is no progress as yet,” sources added.

Chennai police commissioner Vijayakumar, who was earlier handling the Tamil Nadu side of the STF operations under the supervision of supercop Walter I. Davaram, made a dashing trip to the STF camps in Mettur and M.M. Hills to inform officials on Tamil Nadu’s position and share information to enable an intensified STF assault.

A 100-strong STF contingent, including personnel from both states, was quickly mobilised from camps at Bailur check-post, Palar check-post, Garikiyakandi and Andhiyur, sources said.

Sources expressed confidence that the brigand would be nabbed by February-end even if the task on hand was “difficult”.

Veerappan still moves from place to place and the nature of the terrain of the massive Western Ghats forests makes the job of the STF all the more difficult. But the pursuers are banking on the brigand’s deteriorating eyesight from cataract.

However, the locals believe Veerappan is healthy, given the hilly environment and his fondness for nature food.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 27.2°C (-1)
Minimum: 13.9°C (-1)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative humidity

Max: 95%
Min: 28%

Sunrise: 6.20 am

Sunset: 5.21 pm

Today:

Mainly clear sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 14°C
   
 

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