PM talks war, Pak signals retreat
Time for ‘decisive battle’
Assassination everyone’s loss: Amanullah
Cong blacks out Pakistan ‘pleasantries’
Delhi sees plot to scuttle J&K polls
Film mirror to economy pangs
US pressure on Pakistan begins to tell
Working holiday for wedding
Mayavati buffs BJP weapon
Calcutta Weather

 
 
PM TALKS WAR, PAK SIGNALS RETREAT 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, May 22: 
Amid mounting international pressure and signals of war from across the border, Pakistan appears to have decided to check infiltration of militants into Kashmir.

A statement issued after a joint session of the National Security Council and the Cabinet said: “The government will not allow the territory of Pakistan or any territory whose defence is the responsibility of Pakistan to be used for any terrorist activity anywhere in the world.”

This, some observers said, is an obvious reference to a decision to stop infiltration, which India has been demanding if a conflict were to be avoided.

Analysts read the description “any territory whose defence is the responsibility of Pakistan” as meaning Kashmir on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control.

In his January 12 speech, President Pervez Musharraf had said he would not allow terrorist activity from Pakistani soil. But today’s statement suggests the first public commitment not to permit such activity from the part of Kashmir Pakistan controls.

It may be too early to say if the assurance will avert a conflict, but it will give New Delhi something to chew on and buy Musharraf time, easing the pressure from the US.

The development came on a day Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared that the time had come for a “decisive battle”. Reacting to the threat, Islamabad said: “The Indian leadership should desist from such blatant war-mongering and instead focus on addressing their internal problems.”

Apart from holding the Cabinet and security council meeting, Musharraf today briefed senior journalists and editors on the situation on the border. During the discussion, sources said, indications were that the decision to stop ‘infiltration’ had already been taken, though it was not spelled out in clear terms.

The impression given was that the only way of easing the tension was preventing infiltration. Some of the participants felt the US and Britain had told Pakistan that “if infiltration is stopped, they would know immediately”. Musharraf, the sources said, believes it.

The Daily Telegraph, the British newspaper, published a report today, giving a vivid picture of how small groups of militants trained in Pakistan are being sent to Kashmir night after night.

The Musharraf administration’s statement also “reiterated that no organisation in Pakistan will be allowed to indulge in terrorism in the name of Kashmir”.

It must be kept in mind though that Musharraf had promised in his January 12 speech to crack down on militancy. India accuses him of not doing enough to stop militancy and said new terrorist training camps have come up with al Qaida and Taliban members.

Today’s meeting reaffirmed that Pakistan would continue to extend moral, political and diplomatic support to the struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir for the realisation of their right of self-determination.

It agreed that all differences, including the core issue of Kashmir, should be resolved through talks or other peaceful means. In this context, the meeting stressed the need for a comprehensive dialogue between the two sides.

Condemning the assassination of Kashmir leader Abdul Gani Lone, the meeting conveyed its condolences to the aggrieved family and called for an impartial inquiry.

In a move that may be construed as an indication that the international community does not see Pakistan as a safe place for its officials, the British government today decided to pull out around 150 of its diplomatic staff from Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. The US had taken a similar step earlier.

   

 
 
TIME FOR ‘DECISIVE BATTLE’ 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi, May 22: 
India today indicated that it had virtually reached the point of no return as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told front-line troops that the time had come for a “decisive battle”.

He characterised Pakistan as the enemy state that needed to be effectively countered.

“A war is being imposed on us. We will fight that war and we will emerge victorious. Let there be no doubt about it in anyone’s mind,” Vajpayee said in a speech dripping with determination.

He urged the armed forces to be “ready for sacrifice” in pursuit of victory. The Prime Minister was addressing front-line troops next to the Line of Control in Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir.

Vajpayee was at pains to imbue his visit to the front with a special meaning. He said it was immaterial whether India’s neighbour (Pakistan) or the international community understood the significance of his visit. What mattered was that India was poised to write “a new victorious chapter in its history. There can be no doubt about it”, a grim Vajpayee declared.

The Prime Minister claimed that the world knew that “India was being wronged”. However, he said, no one was willing to come out openly even though their opinion was in India’s favour. “We will have to protect ourselves and we are ready for that.”

India will not keep on stretching its limits of tolerance, the Prime Minister asserted. “Let not anyone think that there is no limit to our tolerance. Let not anyone think that we are not alert.”

Vajpayee openly characterised Pakistan as an “enemy state” which had refused to give up its animosity towards India despite several attempts to talk peace with it.

Referring to his Lahore visit, Vajpayee said Pakistan used stealth and deception” in Kargil even when India was trying to develop “brotherly relations”. He said the enemy lost decisively in Kargil and now a “proxy war” had been imposed on India.

The Prime Minister said mercenaries and jihadis were sent to fight in Kashmir with the promise of heaven after death. “They do not fight a war. They kill innocents,” he said.

Referring to the barbaric killing of the family members of Indian soldiers posted at the border, an angry Prime Minister asked: “What kind of a war is it in which women and children are targeted, where children are snatched from the laps of their mothers and murdered? What is this animosity with children? Yet, we have had to see this happening in our own country.”

Such “barbarism” was a challenge to India and” we have accepted this challenge”, he said.

The Prime Minister praised the armed forces for time and again fulfilling successfully their responsibility to protect the nation.

“We are being tested again. I have confidence in you, our soldiers and the 100 crore people of India who stand behind you as another line of defence. They, too, will fight for your victory in war. We must work towards victory and for that we should be ready to sacrifice (our lives) — because the time has come now for a decisive battle. May we be victorious in that battle,” he said.

Earlier, Vajpayee noted that emotions were running high in the country. Both he and defence minister George Fernandes were constantly being questioned by the people about what they were planning to do, he said, indicating that the answer could be found in his visit to the front line.

   

 
 
ASSASSINATION EVERYONE’S LOSS: AMANULLAH 
 
 
FROM BHARAT BHUSHAN
 
New Delhi, May 22: 
No one —neither the Kashmiris, nor India nor Pakistan — stood to gain from the assassination of Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone, according to Amanullah Khan, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, based in Pakistan.

Khan, speaking from Karachi over the telephone, said: “No one will benefit from the assassination of Abdul Gani Lone. Temporarily, the ego of some extremists may be satisfied, but in the long run, his death is everyone’s loss.”

Khan’s only daughter Asma is married to Lone’s son Sajjad Ahmed Lone.

While he had managed to talk to the Lone family after the brutal murder on Tuesday, a grieving Khan said he would not be allowed to visit them in Srinagar.

“I talked to Sajjad and his brother and consoled them over the phone. They are naturally in a state of shock,” Khan said.

The JKLF leader described the killing as “a great loss to the moderate political approach to resolving the Kashmir issue”.

He said Abdul Gani Lone was one of those leaders who was against fuelling conflict in Jammu and Kashmir and wanted a peaceful solution to the issue.

“If moderate politics receives a set-back, only extremism can gain in Kashmir. Even others who espouse moderate politics will be scared now and fear for their lives,” he said.

Asked who he thought was behind the assassination, Khan said he could not speculate on that. However, he said: “The extremists on both sides were opposed to him. His house had been attacked earlier by the extremist elements and recently he was also attacked by some Shiv Sena activists. So he was under threat from both sides.”

Khan said he for one had expected that an attempt might be made on Lone’s life.

A dejected Khan said: “Whoever has done this is an enemy of the Kashmiri people. The forces behind the assassination are also the enemies of India and Pakistan. If moderate politics receives a setback, only extremism gains. This is not good for Kashmir and it cannot be good for either India or Pakistan.”

   

 
 
CONG BLACKS OUT PAKISTAN ‘PLEASANTRIES’ 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, May 22: 
Taking a cue from the Prime Minister’s tough words, the Congress think tank late tonight drastically altered its international resolution, deleting its “usual pleasantries” towards Pakistan and doing away with its traditional focus on bilateral dialogue in the spirit of the Simla Agreement.

The revised resolution extends “cautious support” to the government and holds Pakistan responsible for tension across the Line of Control and whatever has gone wrong in Jammu and Kashmir. It also expressed displeasure with the international community over its failure to recognise Pakistan’s role in fomenting trouble in the Valley.

The resolution, which endorses the Vajpayee government’s tough line, will be placed before the AII India Congress Committee session in New Delhi on Friday. Senior Congress leader K. Natwar Singh, who had earlier drafted the international resolution, called on party president Sonia Gandhi late tonight to alter several paragraphs that deal with Pakistan.

Sonia herself took the lead in Pakistan bashing. Emerging from the Congress Working Committee meeting that vetted party policy papers, she accused Pakistan of masterminding the killing of Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone. “It is obvious that there are certain forces who do not want peace and the political process to continue in Jammu and Kashmir,” she said. Sonia claimed that Lone was keen on the electoral process and said his killing was a setback to it.

As a balancing act, Congress leaders have decided to limit criticism of Vajpayee to domestic issues such as Gujarat, Ayodhya and the anti-terror legislation. But there was a no-holds-barred attack on the Sangh parivar, ranging from tampering with secularism to running the NDA government from the wings.

The CWC met for two hours to vet draft political, economic and international resolutions. The meeting was held in a sombre atmosphere, with senior leaders admitting that the country was inching closer to war. They expressed their limitation in going “all out” against the government in the current scenario.

There was a general feeling among CWC members that the real objectives of the AICC meet — to showcase Sonia as the Prime Minister-in-waiting and project the Congress as the “natural party of governance” — were getting lost in view of the situation on the border.

While the original objectives have been largely retained, Sonia supporters admitted that statements to this effect would lack punch. “We will say all these things, but Gujarat seems to have gone out of focus. The war hysteria has overrun concern for communal amity,” said a CWC member.

On the economic front, the Congress has decided to defend reforms, making a distinction between Manmohan Singh’s “mechanism and objective” and Yashwant Sinha’s “reckless and directionless” polices. The party’s policy paper saw nothing wrong in reforms per se but said it was opposed to the way the BJP regime had interpreted Manmohanomics.

Sonia said her party wanted all sections of people to be involved in the polls in Jammu and Kashmir. This, she said, was necessary to bring about a certain amount of amity in the state.

   

 
 
DELHI SEES PLOT TO SCUTTLE J&K POLLS 
 
 
FROM SEEMA GUHA
 
New Delhi, May 22: 
Worried that it is increasingly being marginalised in Kashmir and fearing that before long the international community will recognise its role in sponsoring terrorism, Pakistan is desperate to ensure that Kashmir remains on the boil.

This is India’s reading of the assassination of Abdul Gani Lone and the stepped-up terrorist attacks in the state. Sources said Pakistan knows that holding free and fair elections in the state could be an opportunity for India to gain the upper hand.

“We have definite information that Islamabad is bent on terrorising people into changing their minds. We have information that there are between 3,000 and 6,000 armed militants in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, waiting to cross into India,” a senior bureaucrat said. He added that the rebels are being sent across to make it as difficult as possible for Delhi to make the polls a success.

Realising this, the government is ensuring that its Kashmir policy stays intact. The initiative began two years ago, when the Hizb-ul Mujahideen announced unilateral ceasefire. Though the move failed, the Prime Minister again took matters in hand and said all offensive operations by security forces in Kashmir would stop. Though nothing came off this effort, Atal Bihari Vajpayee did win the goodwill of the moderates in the state.

“The Prime Minister’s aim in Jammu and Kashmir is to restore peace, reduce the level of violence and allow for widest possible political participation in the state elections,” said an aide close to Vajpayee.

Officials said that despite setbacks the government’s position in the state today is much better than it has been in several years.

   

 
 
FILM MIRROR TO ECONOMY PANGS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 22: 
What is common to Do Bigha Zameen, Haseena Man Jayegi, Yes Boss, Damini and Zanjeer?

According to a joint study by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Bibek Debroy, director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies, and Amir Ullah Khan, director, South Asia Foundation, all these films, from the 50s to 90s, have in their own way charted out the dilemmas and opportunities facing India’s economy.

Economic transition, through the eyes of Bollywood, has either been fleeting or been explicitly dependent on the subject. The 1950s’ Balraj Sahni starrer, Do Bigha Zameen, saw the transition of the agrarian Indian society into an industrial one. The 1956 Raj Kapoor starrer, Jagte Raho, focused on food adulteration while Dev Anand’s Kala Bazaar, filmed in 1960, laid emphasis on black money and scarcity.

The 1967 film Upkaar focussed on the Green Revolution which was then sweeping the country. Deewar started off by showing India’s strained industrial relations and mafia control over dockyard labour while Zanjeer, which starred Amitabh Bachchan, dealt with corruption and the fight against fake medicines.

The 1998 Shah Rukh Khan-Juhi Chawla starrer Duplicate showed the increasing trend of Indian firms going in for collaborations and joint ventures.

Haseena Man Jayegi, the 1990s’ Govinda starrer, on the other hand, reflected the communication revolution in India with its heroes and heroines showing off their cellular phones. Yes Boss, which has Shah Rukh, filmed the aspirations of the middle class for a higher standard of living.

“The popularity of Indian cinema needs to be used to promote awareness and consensus on the economic reform process. In the past, cinemas have supported economic policies such as industrialisation and nationalisation. They can be used for modern economic reforms also, so as to break the view that WTO is concerned with elite and powerful people,” said N.K. Singh, member, planning commission, releasing the study.

“Cinema could play a pivotal role in addressing this misconception and assuring the common man that increased competition and liberalisation would lead to the overall development of the nation. Messages related to health issues and delicate social issues such as AIDS could also be successfully communicated through the medium,” he said.

Corporate representatives were present at the seminar. Sunil Kant Munjal, managing director, Hero Group, Subodh Bharghava from Eicher and the others arrived at a consensus that the corporate sector, which lends muscle to the films through advertisement spending, should also add a message of social well-being to the advertisements.

   

 
 
US PRESSURE ON PAKISTAN BEGINS TO TELL 
 
 
OUR BUREAU WITH AGENCY REPORTS
 
May 22: 
Pakistan’s statement today, indicating a willingness to stop infiltration from occupied Kashmir into India, was preceded by a steady bombardment of public exhortations from officials at various levels in Washington, apart from the telephone diplomacy US secretary of state Colin Powell has been conducting.

After the attack on the army camp at Kaluchak near Jammu, home minister L.K. Advani had told Robert Blackwill, the US ambassador to India, that President George W. Bush should be reminded of the prediction he had made in January.

When Advani had met Bush then, the President had told him that he expected Pervez Musharraf to “take all necessary steps in fighting terror. He has done it in the case of the Taliban... expects him to do it in the case of India, abandon terror as an instrument of state policy”.

Since the Kaluchak incident, it has been clear that a war could only be avoided if Musharraf could be made to commit himself to stopping infiltration, and India has been looking to the US to lean on the Pakistan President. Frustrated with what it sees as America’s failure, Delhi has frequently been making public its disappointment.

Addressing soldiers today, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said: “(The) world understands that we have been wronged, but they are not coming out openly in our favour. Hence we have to defend ourselves and we are ready for that.”

Over the past few days, US officials, starting with state department spokesman Richard Boucher, have spoken of infiltration, indicating that they believe Pakistan has not discontinued the practice.

Yesterday, disclosing a heightened level of diplomatic engagement in South Asia, Bush’s national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said the US viewed Musharraf’s assurance to “end activity across the Line of Control from the territory of Pakistan…quite seriously.”

A similar gentle reminder from the Americans to the ally they need most in the so-called war on terrorism came today from the US ambassador for counter-terrorism, Frank Taylor. “We have not gotten where we want to be... (But) We are not as sceptical. We believe he (Musharraf) is a man of his word and that he is making efforts to improve the circumstance (though) we have not gotten the total results we are looking for.”

He said this in response to a question whether Musharraf was implementing his pledge to oppose terrorism anywhere in the world.

Taylor said Washington had been talking with both the Indian and Pakistani sides. “In this very, very serious matter involving terrorist activity that is ongoing in Jammu and Kashmir...We want to make sure that there is no miscalculation on either side and that both sides work to stamp down the tension so that miscalculation does not lead to a confrontation that I don’t think either side wants to have.”

“It is very important that for lessening tension there be no infiltration across the Line of Control,” he added but, to cushion the impact of his statement, gave Musharraf credit for trying to “improve the circumstances”.

Powell, while introducing the terrorism report at the state department, did not name Pakistan but the import of his statement cannot be lost on Islamabad’s military leadership.

“In this global campaign against terrorism, no country, no nation has the luxury of remaining on the sidelines, because there are no sidelines.”

Taylor had explained what the US meant when it said terrorism would not be tolerated anywhere, an elaboration that acquires relevance in the context of frequent Indian accusations of Washington practising “double standards” in its anti-terror campaign. “Be it Kashmir, Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, terrorism is not acceptable. That is what this world campaign is about,” Taylor said.

Domestic circumstances may also be playing a part in Washington putting pressure on Islamabad. For the past few days, fears have been expressed about possible terrorist attacks in the US.

President Bush, citing an assessment by FBI director Robert Mueller, said: “He (Mueller) basically said, ‘Look, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is another attack, and it’s going to be difficult to stop them’, is what he said.”

“He was speculating based upon a lot of intelligence that indicates that al Qaida is active, plotting, planning, you know, trying to hit us,” Bush said.

   

 
 
WORKING HOLIDAY FOR WEDDING 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY AND MUNTAZIR IMAM
 
Patna, May 22: 
The corridors of power in Patna wore a deserted look on Tuesday with virtually the entire state administration relocating to Hichanbigha for the tilak ceremony of chief minister Rabri Devi’s second daughter Rohini.

The state secretariat appeared to be enjoying an unofficial holiday as ministers remained conspicuous by their absence. While the secretaries played games on their computer, the attendants and office staff cracked jokes at the ministers’ new assignment on the occasion of the wedding of Rabri’s daughter.

Ye Bihar ke beti ki shaadi ka sawaal hai (This has to do with the marriage of Bihar’s daughter),” said one deputy secretary in the education department.

Some departments such as power, the shortage of which has hit the state hard this summer, looked completely deserted.

Ab sare power to Hichanbigha me hai. Aap yahan kis kaam se aaye hai? (All the powers are in Hichanbigha now, what are you here for?),” said an assistant to the power secretary when asked the minister’s whereabouts.

The police department has been working overtime. Patna district police chiefs were busy deploying security personnel along the 60-km stretch that Laloo Prasad Yadav was supposed to travel to reach Hichanbigha since early morning. Nearly 400 policemen have been pressed into service for providing security and ensuring the smooth passage of the RJD chief’s cavalcade. At least 13 DSPs have been given charge of the 23 junctions at which police and paramilitary personnel were deployed.

“There is an abduction in Bihita, sir,” said a wireless message. The reply: “Ensure VIP security. Bihita DSP saab ready hai?”

The time for Laloo Yadav’s departure for the tilak ceremony was fixed at 9 am. Cars of virtually every make, from sturdy Boleros, Sumos, Marshals and Fiats, began moving into the VIP lane of 1 Anne Marg, Rabri’s sprawling bungalow in Patna, from 7.30 am onwards.

Unlike other occasions, the chief minister and the RJD chief have ensured that the media did not get inside the house. As the main door of chief minister’s residence opened, allowing cars to enter and make their way down to the front lawns, the media was kept waiting outside. The ministers had been asked by the RJD chief to keep shut their car windows so that they could pass undetected.

Around 10.40 am, over 100 cars carrying ministers, MLAs and MPs drove out of the chief minister’s house and hit the streets, escorted by four police vans. In the middle of the cavalcade were two tastefully decorated Swaraj Mazda trucks that carried gifts for the groom.

The ministers kept away from the media. Except for law minister Shakil Ahmed Khan, whose tongue-in-cheek reply to a reporter’s questions was: “Going to Hichanbigha, that is all.”

According to the tradition, Rabri stayed back at Anne Marg.

   

 
 
MAYAVATI BUFFS BJP WEAPON 
 
 
FROM YOGESH VAJPEYI
 
Lucknow, May 22: 
In a political masterstroke, Mayavati is turning predecessor Rajnath Singh’s More and Most Backward Class (MMBC) missile on rival Mulayam Singh Yadav and the BJP’s support base.

Rajnath’s BJP government had sought to use the caste card by passing an Ordinance strictly limiting reservation benefits for Yadavs and other upwardly mobile castes to wean several small but marginalised castes from the Samajwadi’s OBC umbrella.

He had also sought to isolate the Jatavs, who form the BSP’s core support group, from other Dalit castes by limiting their reservation quota, too, in a desperate bid to bolster the BJP’s support base on the eve of the Assembly elections.

Rajnath’s ploy not only failed to get the BJP the expected support from these marginalised castes in the polls, but now the move is backfiring on the party. Secure in the saddle, Mayavati wants to use his weapon to poach on the support base of both the Samajwadi Party and the BJP.

“My party had supported the recommendations of the Social Justice Committee of Uttar Pradesh last year even when it was not in power. Now that the BSP is a major partner in the new ruling coalition, we are committed to implement it to ensure that the benefits of reservation were spread evenly across all marginalised castes,” she said during the confidence motion debate on May 17.

She has instructed the state law department to put up a strong case in favour of the Uttar Pradesh Public Services (Reservation for SC/ST and OBC Amendment) Ordinance in the Supreme Court, where its legality has been challenged.

However, her primary objective is not winning the legal battle, but the political duel with arch-rival Mulayam. The last elections showed that the BSP not only got 80 per cent of the Dalit votes, but also received increasing support from the non-Yadav marginalised other backward classes.

The shift netted the BSP over 23 per cent votes. The BSP leader now wants to make this shift more pronounced and expand her party’s support base by wooing non-Yadav OBC supporters of both the Samajwadi Party and the BJP more aggressively.

The legislation fixing deferential reservation quotas for non-Yadav OBC castes and non-Jatav Dalit castes was introduced by the BJP government in August 2001 on the recommendation of the Social Justice Committee, which found that the reservations for the Dalits and OBCs had not worked out equitably. The Jatavs among the Dalits and the Yadavs among OBCs had virtually monopolised reservation benefits.

The Yadavs, who account for only 19.40 per cent of the OBC population, had cornered 33 per cent of the jobs reserved for the OBC population.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
May 22: 

Temperature

Maximum: 37.9°C (+2)
Minimum: 30.9°C (+4)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 84%,
Minimum: 61%

Sunrise: 5.42 am

Sunset: 6.10 pm

Today

Mainly cloudy sky, with possibility of the development of thunderclouds towards afternoon or evening
   
 

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