Big Two position between twins
Godhra clash test for Gill
Missile and covert gestures fly
Night flight to southern nuclear huddle
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, May 25: 
The reigning superpower and a fallen one today stepped out on to the diplomatic front line in an unusual scramble to disengage India and Pakistan before they slip into an armed conflict.

US President George W. Bush provided the ballast, bluntly telling Pervez Musharraf to stop cross-border infiltration. Russian President Vladimir Putin then moved in, saying he expected to meet Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Musharraf at Almaty in Kazakhstan early next month.

“I hope they will come, so that we can discuss the matter here and prevent further escalation of the conflict,” Putin said as his nuclear arsenal summit with Bush shifted to Russia’s former imperial capital, St Petersburg, from Moscow.

The burst of high diplomacy in full public glare, usually seen when West Asia is on the brink of eruption, came after Pakistan test-fired a missile and India warned that its patience was wearing thin.

Bush said: “It is very important for President Musharraf to do what he said he was going to do.… And that is to stop the incursions across the border. It is important that India knows that he (Musharraf) is going to fulfil his promise.” “We are spending a lot of time on this subject,” Bush added. His comments capped a shift in the public pronouncements of Washington, which started using the word “infiltration” in briefings only last week.

Vajpayee kept up the pressure, saying at his Manali retreat: “We have waited for long, there is a limit to our patience.” The Prime Minister added that he was not taking the test with “any seriousness”. The US and Russia led the world in condemning the test. French President Jacques Chirac spoke to Vajpayee and was scheduled to call Musharraf.

CNN and western news agencies said India might go in for a military strike within two weeks. Quoting US diplomats, they said the Indian leadership has made it clear that if Pakistan fails to deliver within a fortnight, Delhi will have little option but to launch armed action against terrorists based in Pakistan and occupied Kashmir.

Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao clarified that Putin has said he would like to have separate meetings with Vajpayee and Musharraf on the sidelines of a conference on confidence-building-measures in Asia, scheduled to be held between June 2 and 4.

Rao said bilateral meetings were a common practice and there was nothing in Putin’s remarks to suggest that he was planning to hold a trilateral meeting with Vajpayee and Musharraf.

In private, Indian diplomats said if an invitation for a trilateral meeting comes from Moscow, India will politely decline to take part. Pakistan, which has been pushing for talks, said it would “respond positively” if Putin proposes a meeting between Vajpayee and Musharraf.

Keen to quash suggestions of mediation, Russia later said it has “no concrete plan”. It said the Almaty conference would be a “convenient occasion for such discussions at which Russia could state its stand and influence both the parties”.

Even if a trilateral meeting does not take place, a direct intervention by Putin, with the backing of Bush, is expected to have a bearing on the standoff.

Moscow is likely to send the deputy foreign minister in charge of international anti-terror cooperation, Anatoly Safonov, to Islamabad on Monday. There are no indications whether he would come to Delhi.


Ahmedabad, May 25: 
Shattering nearly a fortnight’s calm, miscreants struck in Godhra late yesterday, with bombs and firecrackers, barely two days after 57 people were chargesheeted for their involvement in the February 27 train massacre.

At least two persons were killed and nine injured in the flare-up that forced authorities to clamp indefinite curfew in almost the whole of Godhra, the original flashpoint of the Gujarat riots.

The violence came as a challenge to K.P.S. Gill, who rushed to the town for an “on-the-spot assessment of the situation”. The state government’s security adviser held separate discussions with leaders of both the majority and minority communities and persuaded them to attend a joint meeting.

Official sources claimed both sides “shared their respective agony but at the end embraced each other”.

The clash, which comes close on the heels of the army being pulled out of Gujarat’s troubled streets, began with a bomb explosion in Zuhurpura followed by firecracker bursts in the minority-dominated area. Police suspect the involvement of “miscreants from outside the town” who wanted to create trouble on the eve of Id-e-Milad to keep the communal pot boiling.

The bursts of firecrackers brought people out on the streets where the two communities fought a pitched battle, hurling stones and crude bombs at each other.

The police had to fire teargas shells to disperse the mob. The police later ran into a volley of stones when searching the area, forcing them to open fire. One person was killed and several were injured.

The Rapid Action Force, the CRPF and the local police rounded up 43 people. Of them, 40 are from the minority community. The police also found an abandoned Ambassador, bearing a Baroda registration number. Sources said the car was used by the miscreants, who managed to dodge the police.

Even as the combing was on in Zuhurpura, the minority community retaliated in Makankuwa, about 1 km away, where two sleeping women were stabbed. Two houses and one shop were set on fire. With tension building up, Hindus came out on the streets and began pelting stones and setting two-wheelers on fire. The police had to open fire again, killing one person.

A resident of Zuhurpura said last night’s bomb explosion was not the first. He said there were two blasts on the night of May 22 followed by another two the next day. According to him, people lost their temper last night when some children were injured in the explosion.


Islamabad, May 25: 
Hours after test-firing a missile capable of dropping nuclear warheads on Delhi and Mumbai, President Pervez Musharraf announced plans to reappear on television on Monday with an address on the border tension.

Away from the fire and fury of the missile test, reports began to surface that Pakistan has informed the US of steps taken to curb infiltration into Kashmir and a new crackdown on terrorism.

Musharraf, who defied international counsel by testing the 1,500-km range Ghauri missile, said “it was not meant to give any message to anyone”. But the statement that followed suggested that the launch was targeted at the domestic audience. The President himself declared the success of the test and pointed out that it was carried out on the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad.

“On this auspicious day, I want to give you auspicious news,” he told a meeting of Islamic scholars. “I want to convey to the entire nation and to you that today... we tested our indigenous Ghauri missile.”

“It reached its target with great accuracy and great success,” he said and chanted “God is great” thrice. “We don’t want war, but we are not afraid of war,” he added in the speech broadcast on national television.

The surface-to-surface Ghauri, or Hatf-V — which critics have dubbed a clone of the North Korean Nodong II — can reach most big Indian cities. Today’s test was the first in a series that will last till Tuesday.

Musharraf will again address the nation at 8.30 pm on Monday to apprise it of the border tension. The President is expected to announce more anti-extremist steps but domestic compulsions might prevent him from directly referring to cross-border infiltration.

Such sensitive decisions are usually conveyed to the global powers in private. The reported new initiative to rein in militants, which was referred to by American and Pakistani media today, has also been communicated to US secretary of state Colin Powell.

Military commanders have decided to take whatever steps necessary to prevent extremists from crossing into Indian territory, The Washington Post reported, quoting senior Pakistani officials familiar with discussions held on Thursday at the joint staff headquarters in Rawalpindi.

After this meeting, the Pakistani army’s 10 Corps, deployed along the border with India, was ordered to block the mountain routes traditionally used by militants to cross the border.

A Pakistani minister said the government decided to “take a leap forward towards a durable peace with India” by “realigning” its position on militant violence after receiving international assurances that India would also take significant steps to end the decades-old stalemate.

The Pakistani daily, News, said the emphasis of the new security strategy would be on approaching the pro-Kashmiri jihad leadership and volunteers to convince them that the current international climate demands that the Indian Army be given “a breather”.

The News said the fresh crackdown was being launched “on a scale never seen before”. It said the government had ordered “appropriate measures against five banned militant outfits, including the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashka r-e-Toiba. Orders have also been issued to “shift all dangerous jailed activists to some ‘safer’ places from where they could not manage to flee”, the News said.


Chennai, May 25: 
When Pakistan was busy laying the ground for the test-launch of Ghauri, a plane carrying the cream of India’s nuclear establishment landed in Chennai last night.

Among the passengers were national security adviser Brajesh Mishra and members of the Atomic Energy Commission. Soon after touchdown, they drove to Kalpakkam, which houses one of the country’s premier nuclear power facilities.

A full meeting of the atomic panel took place today at the Kalpakkam complex, turning the spotlight on safety and security issues concerning nuclear installations in the country.

The meeting was a long, but quiet, affair and was lost in the din and bustle of a byelection campaign that saw both chief minister Jayalalithaa and her rival M. Karunanidhi canvassing in the area on the same day.

Sources at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research sought to downplay the significance of the conclave, saying it was a “regular meeting”.

“We cannot say anything else about the meeting,” a source said. Asked whether it was related to the “external circumstances”, he said: “It has nothing to do with that. Speculation in this direction is totally unfounded.”

However, sources conceded that it was a “full meeting” with all members attending. The participants left for New Delhi this evening. Sources in Delhi said Mishra is expected to brief the Prime Minister tomorrow in Manali, where A.B. Vajpayee is vacationing. Mishra’s association with the nuclear establishment goes back a long way. During the second round of the Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998, Mishra, who is also the Prime Minister’s principal secretary, had helped the scientists secure equipment from an African nation after Germany declined to do so.

It is understood that today’s meeting discussed the Centre’s next-generation fast breeder reactor project — the ‘Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor’ — which uses a technology that generates more fuel than the reactor consumes for power generation.

The commission members were not put up during their brief stay at the usual Madras Atomic Power Station Guest House at Kalpakkam Township. They spent the night at an undisclosed hotel near the heritage-tourism centre of Mamallapuram.

The meeting came at a time the question of nuclear safety in South Asia has been haunting the world. A British study has claimed that at least three million people will be killed if a limited nuclear war broke out between India and Pakistan.

The American magazine New Scientist quoted M.V. Ramana, a nuclear researcher at Princeton University, as saying that “at least 2.6 million people would die or be injured in India and 1.8 million in Pakistan even if only a tenth of the nuclear weapons of the two countries were exploded above 10 of their largest cities”.

An unknown number of deaths would occur from cancer in future years, the study said.

The figures are based on the impact of 10 Hiroshima-force bombs detonated at a height of 600 metres over the five largest cities each in India and Pakistan. The targeted cities used in the scenario are Calcutta, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi in India and Faisalabad, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi in Pakistan.




Maximum: 33.5°C (-3)
Minimum: 24.9°C (-2)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 93% ,
Minimum: 49%

Sunrise: 6.11 pm

Sunset: 4.55 am


Partly cloudy sky with possibility of rain accompanied by thunder towards afternoon or evening

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