Delhi gives Pervez a chance
Shell for shell, ear to the ground
Softly goes on reconversion
Sati finds nook and corner in metropolis
Islamabad shifts focus to Almaty
Congress tip to Atal: step up heat on US
Time for men to stand up and be sterilised
King’s party to leave Deuba without subjects
British Jaguars fly into Indian nuclear storm
Calcutta Weather

 
 
DELHI GIVES PERVEZ A CHANCE 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, May 28: 
India today said it will wait for a few more weeks to see if Pakistan is serious about stopping infiltration before announcing its next step, keeping alive hopes for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

That step could be military action against terrorists based in Pakistan, or a return to the talks table, depending on developments on the ground along the Line of Control.

“If Pakistan acts on the assurance it has given, India will respond,” external affairs minister Jaswant Singh said in response to Musharraf’s address last night in which he claimed that infiltration was not taking place.

“But these steps have to be irreversible. The camps of the terrorists have to be closed down permanently. If they are serious, we will know. If action is taken by Pakistan, India will reciprocate,” he added.

Washington, which has been pressing Musharraf to stop infiltration, also appeared to be giving him a chance to come good on his word.

“We welcome President Musharraf’s commitment that Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for terrorism. This positive statement needs to be coupled with positive actions,” PTI quoted a state department official as saying.

Asked if military action is an option India is considering, Singh declined comment. But he said if it does pursue that option, the presence of US soldiers in Pakistan would not be a deterrent.

Listing the series of terrorist attacks in the last one year, Singh said: “We cannot be penalised for our patience and restraint.”

He made it clear that India is not buying the argument that Musharraf is not in full control in Pakistan. Many western leaders have been trying to convince Delhi that despite the best intentions of the Pakistani President, rogue elements in the establishment continue to support militants.

“Often this question has been asked whether Musharraf’s writ runs in Pakistan,” the foreign minister said. “We are of the belief that he is in control of the situation in the country.” He argued that Musharraf could not claim to enjoy the support of 98 per cent of the Pakistani people on one hand and on the other plead that he is not in control.

“I am, therefore, intrigued by these contradictory positions,” Singh added.

India’s response to Musharraf’s speech came this afternoon at a news conference addressed by the foreign minister. Before that, an unofficial meeting attended by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who returned to the capital from Manali around 1.30 pm, and other senior Cabinet members took place to assess the message the Pakistani President was trying to send.

Describing Musharraf’s speech as “disappointing and dangerous”, Singh matched the Pakistani President’s rhetoric. “It is disappointing, as it merely repeats some earlier assurances which remain unfulfilled till today, and dangerous because through belligerent posturing tension has been added, not reduced.”

“Evading altogether the central issue of Pakistan’s promotion of terrorism, the general, unfortunately, engaged instead in an offensive and tasteless revilement of India,” Singh said.

He termed Musharraf’s claim that no infiltration was taking place and the assurance that terrorist activities would not be allowed from Pakistan “mere verbal denials… they run against facts on the ground”.

Pakistan expressed “regrets” at India’s response to Musharraf’s speech.

“Jaswant Singh’s allegations against Pakistan are baseless. If India is so concerned about the so-called cross-LoC infiltration, it should accept Pakistan’s oft-repeated proposal for strengthening Unmogip (UN monitoring group) or posting of independent observers to monitor the Line of Control,” it said.

Singh refused to comment on Musharraf’s observations about the treatment of minorities in India, particularly in the context of the violence in Gujarat. He dismissed most of them as either “regrettable” or as a reflection of the “limitation in the general’s vocabulary”.

He said the world community and Pakistan should instead focus on the central issue of cross-border terrorism. Singh felt that India’s diplomatic moves were working, but argued that it was for countries like the US and Britain to assess whether or not the pressure they claim to have applied on Musharraf was yielding results.

Siachen firing

An artillery duel that broke out in the Siachen glacier between Indian and Pakistani troops this afternoon was continuing till early evening even as army sources said shelling across the international boundary in Jammu “was not particularly heavy” today.

Siachen is beyond the LoC, across the Actual Ground Position Line. Sources said that in Batalik in the Kargil sector, too, artillery firing was reported yesterday. On most other parts of the LoC, the exchange of fire was limited to infantry weapons and 81mm and, in a few cases, 120mm mortars.

In the Pallanwala and Rajouri sectors, firing continued last night. Indian troops retaliated with concentrated fire assaults on certain pockets, targeting Pakistani posts.

   

 
 
SHELL FOR SHELL, EAR TO THE GROUND 
 
 
FROM BHARAT BHUSHAN
 
New Delhi, May 28: 
In not reacting belligerently to President Pervez Musharraf’s televised address yesterday reiterating old positions, India seems to be following a two-pronged strategy.

It is keeping up the exchange of fire on the Line of Control (LoC) as a part of its “proportionate response” to Pak firing. However, firing has come down “drastically” since Tuesday forenoon and New Delhi has taken note of this fact. At the same time, there is awareness that Musharraf has sent instructions to his corps commanders that infiltration needs to be stopped.

The government has also learnt that various militant groups operating from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir are being told by the Pakistan establishment that infiltration must be stopped for the time being. The emphasis apparently is on stopping infiltration temporarily, government sources said.

There are also reports in Pakistan’s Urdu media that the militants are complaining of their wireless communication being disrupted and jammed. This can only be done by Pakistani security agencies and is a good sign.

Taking cognisance of these developments, India, it would seem, has decided to wait and watch to see how the ground situation develops while keeping up the military pressure.

However, it has refused to set a deadline for Pakistan to stop infiltration. Judging infiltration takes time.

These factors perhaps have prompted external affairs minister Jaswant Singh to not say anything in his news conference to escalate tensions. How much of this wait-and-watch policy is the result of US and other western initiatives is difficult to say. But it would be safe to assume that the western refereeing has something to do with the Indian posture.

As of now, it would seem that the war clouds are showing signs of receding. But their presence is still palpable.

The imponderables in the present situation are: India’s reaction if another major terrorist incident were to take place; what New Delhi would like to tell the troops on the border about its wait-and-watch policy; and the amount of consolidation India wants to allow to the Pakistan army. The longer India waits to take military action, the more the advantage for the adversary.

Most important, experts believe, is that the initiative is moving into US hands and towards third party arbitration. The key message in Musharraf’s speech, many in the Indian government feel, was that he was willing to do whatever the US asked of him. but nothing on what India tells him.

India, too, has been appealing to the US to persuade Pakistan to mend its ways in Kashmir. Now, there is an attempt to get Russia to pressure India. Willy-nilly, the situation is moving towards international arbitration on its own momentum.

The question then: Is India going to play the US game by default or play it well and to its own advantage? Experts say there are no clear answers at this juncture.

   

 
 
SOFTLY GOES ON RECONVERSION 
 
 
FROM SUNANDO SARKAR AND ALAMGIR HOSSAIN
 
Pholsabag (Murshidabad), May 28: 
This tribal belt in one of the most backward and least arable regions of the district has now become the most fertile soil for the latest experiment in the reconversion efforts of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the RSS.

The surface would not betray any large reconversion drive aimed at bringing Christians back to the Hindu fold. But the slighest of scratches would reveal that the tribal areas in Murshidabad are now home to an effort much larger in effect than the widely-publicised reconversion melas of the past.

Instead of the days of building up to a grand fair in which whole villages formed the list of invitees, the Hindu revivalist cadre here are now working surreptitiously to bring tribal Christians, somehow left untouched by the “progress” promised when they converted from Hinduism some decades ago, back to the “original religion of the land”.

And the move is paying dividends. Without the glare of negative publicity, this programme — implemented throughout the year — has already made deep inroads into tribal villages where the sturdiest of vehicles refuse to go.

Unit by unit, family by family, a section of tribal Christians is responding to this appeal floated by their “Hindu brethren”. The dashed dreams of a better life now combine with the pressure — directed from many fronts — to convince the easily swayed, make fence-sitters of those convinced a little less easily and make even the rejectors a little less certain in their Christian faith.

The pressure from the “Hindu revivalist” clan, unlike in the past, is now refracted through agencies other than the VHP-RSS cadre who, nonetheless, play the most active role.

First, the village witch-doctor, who still retains a lot of influence over the Lord’s Prayer-chanting classes, is activated. Christian families already softened by disease or death in their midst are first told by these ojhas that their misfortune stems from their being “bidharmis (betrayers of their religion)”; poor Hindu neighbours — easily swayed by the lure of money or an extra drink — are then set on the potential comebacks to create more pressure at the social level; the VHP men are the last to make an appearance and enact the final brain-washing role.

This is what happened to Sanati Soren’s family in Pholsabag. The death of her husband, Dasu, in February this year made her the family head and set the ball rolling in a process that ended with the entire extended family becoming Hindu a few weeks ago.

“I was first told by our kabiraj (the ojha is also known by this name) that there would be more misfortune,” Sanati said. “After that, our neighbours started pestering us and told us we would again be considered a part of the village if we did as the ojha told,” she added.

The local VHP kingpin, Ashim Ghosh of neighbouring Polshonda, made an appearance much later. “He, through my son Bablu’s friends, approached us,” Sanati said. “Over time, his appearances in our village became more and more frequent and finally I decided that becoming Hindu would end our troubles.”

A simple ceremony with incense-sticks and regular visits to the local Kiriteshwari temple every Tuesday and Saturday, instead of the Sunday visits to the church at nearby Beniabari, have made them Hindus, their neighbours more affable and Ashim Ghosh a less frequent visitor to their home. The reconversion was not very smooth. First, Bablu’s immediate family became Hindus, then the other son (Sitaram) and the unmarried daughters (Mallika and Antana) followed and the last to become Hindus were the married daughter (Sohagi) and her family.

It’s now the turn of Dilip Murmu’s family, living in nearby Talapahar, to become Hindus again, feel their neighbours. The Murmus have admittedly stopped going to church — usually the first sign of a change of heart — at Azimganj but they say they still have not made up their minds. “We are still thinking,” Murmu said, admitting that his house was now the local VHP cadres’ destination on most evenings.

Though Ghosh said “at least he was not involved” in the reconversions, Christian neighbours Shyamal Kisku and Sagar Baski said he personally approached them. “But we told him we were not game,” they said but admitted that it was not enough to fob off Ghosh and his comrades.

   

 
 
SATI FINDS NOOK AND CORNER IN METROPOLIS 
 
 
FROM CHANDRIMA BHATTACHARYA
 
Mumbai, May 28: 
Call it the sati city.

The cult of Rani Sati — the presiding deity of widows burnt on their husbands’ pyres — is thriving in a prosperous suburb of cosmopolitan Mumbai.

One of the congested roads that branch off from the east of Malad station leads to a white temple that houses the goddess Rani Sati. The shrine, behind an iron door, is the seat of the goddess represented by a metal trishul. But just above the shrine is a framed picture of a woman going up in flames on a pyre with her husband’s corpse lying on her lap.

“There would be a problem if we had a Rani Sati idol in the mandir,” admits a pujari.

The temple attracts a huge number of devotees. The annual sati festival, held in the temple precincts on the amavasya (new moon night) in the month of Bhadra, is a huge crowd-puller.

The temple is the fulcrum around which an entire area inhabited mainly by Rajasthani residents and dedicated to the goddess has grown.

Rajasthan still reveres Rani Sati and is the same state from where Roop Kanwar hailed.

Not so long ago, a stretch of a flyover on the highway adjacent to the Rani Sati Marg was named Rani Sati Flyover. The road that leads to the temple is called Rani Sati Marg. The Rani Sati Janata Tripti Kendra, a free drinking water distribution centre, also enjoys pride of place in the locality. The two-storey building has a huge frieze of the ubiquitous widow burning with her husband on the façade of its second floor.

On Rani Sati Marg flourish housing societies named after the goddess. The police chowki there is also named after Rani Sati.

“The Rani Sati Marg was renamed about 20 years ago. But the flyover came up two years ago,” says Ram Barot, a BJP councillor from Malad.

Nobody in the area seems to mind. Nobody even seems to have remembered Roop Kanwar or even heard of her. All they know is that Rani Sati is a powerful goddess.

But Shanti Devi, whose father Dwarka Prasadji Nevatia founded the temple more than 50 years ago, is uncomfortable speaking to reporters, though she insists that Rani Sati has nothing to do with the actual sati practice.

“Rani Sati is actually Sulochana, wife of Abhimanyu. In Mahabharata, it is written that after Abhimanyu died, Sulochana decided to burn on the pyre. But Krishna asked her not to because she was pregnant,” she says.

“Sulochana was reborn as Narayani, who came to be worshiped as Rani Sati. My father, after coming here from Rajasthan about 50 years ago, founded this temple. Our priest is from Rajasthan, too. All Rajasthanis from the area come to worship at the temple.

“After a woman died in rural Rajasthan some years ago, we had some problem. Since then, we have been careful,” she adds.

The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987, framed after Roop Kanwar was burned with her husband’s body in Deorala, Rajasthan, prohibits temples glorifying a woman who committed or was made to commit sati, though not temples dedicated to a goddess. But the Act adds that “glorification” of sati extends to: “The supporting, justifying or propagating the practice of sati in any manner…”

The powers that be have no problem, however. “People from the locality believe in the goddess,” says Barot, third time councillor from the area.

“It is a question of faith.”

   

 
 
ISLAMABAD SHIFTS FOCUS TO ALMATY 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR
 
Islamabad, May 28: 
As world leaders joined Vladimir Putin in their effort to nudge India and Pakistan to the negotiating table, Islamabad pushed for direct talks with Delhi or discussions in the presence of a third party.

“We are going there with a hope that first of all India will hold direct dialogue with us,” information minister Nisar Memon said, referring to the forthcoming summit in Almaty, Kazakhstan. “But, if India does not want direct dialogue, then possibly it may involve (a) third party.”

On Saturday, the Russian President had said that he expected to meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf in the Kazakhstan commercial capital.

Memon’s words coincided with Commonwealth secretary-general Don McKinnon’s appeal to the estranged neighbours to utilise the Russian President’s invitation to come to Almaty for talks if it could help avoid a conflict.

According to a report, McKinnon told a news conference in London that he hoped Musharraf and Vajpayee would take this opportunity to begin dialogue.

“You have to take the opportunity if it can avoid military clash or conflict,” he said and added that despite internal pressures on the two countries, none of them should “forget what the international community is thinking and analysing”.

Vajpayee and Musharraf have expressed their readiness to separately meet Putin in Almaty, Russian deputy foreign minister Alexander Losyukov said today, according to a PTI report.

McKinnon said he had talked to both foreign minister Abdus Sattar and his Indian counterpart Jaswant Singh last week but refused to divulge details. He, however, said “there is a need to take demonstrable action on either side to suggest that we do not wish to go to war”. “There is a need to pull back and start dialogue,” he added.

Closer home, British foreign secretary Jack Straw, who was in Islamabad, emphasised that the Kashmir problem could not be solved by war and asked Pakistan to create an environment to resume dialogue with India to resolve the standoff.

Straw, who held talks with both Musharraf and Sattar today on the current situation on the border, urged both India and Pakistan to defuse tension.

Straw urged Musharraf to do more to crack down on militants as a first step towards easing the tension. “I don’t know if we can prevent war, but I know we have to try,” he said.

Asked if he was impressed by Musharraf’s declaration yesterday, the British foreign secretary said “the crux of the matter is what is seen on the ground”.

Straw also said the international community was concerned about the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir and said free and fair elections in the state were key to the present situation.

As these developments were taking place, Memon said Pakistan was implementing all the announcements made by Musharraf in his January 12 address to the nation. “But if still India says that cross-border terrorism is going on, then we have also offered them (the option) to appoint international observes,” he said. “Why are they not ready to appoint them. What do they want?” he asked.

(PTI, however, said Straw rejected Pakistan’s suggestion to deploy international observers along the Line of Control.)

Memon said there was more international pressure on India than Pakistan to come to the negotiating table, stop shelling across the LoC.

Kazakhstan said it was prepared to host a meeting between Pakistani and Indian leaders within the framework of the upcoming June 4 conference, a foreign ministry statement said.

“Kazakhstan supports the initiative of the Russian Federation and expresses the hope that the upcoming meeting will be of significant importance in regulating Indo-Pakistan relations,” the statement said.

   

 
 
CONGRESS TIP TO ATAL: STEP UP HEAT ON US 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi, May 28: 
Congress leader Salman Khurshid today said the Government of India would have been better off if it had considered sending back the US ambassador instead of turning the heat on Pakistan.

Khurshid, who served in the external affairs ministry during P.V. Narasimha Rao’s regime, told The Telegraph: “President Pervez Musharraf is drawing his strength from the US and other European powers who consider him as their trusted allies. Unless we clarify our equation with the US and other European powers, there will be no improvement in Indo-Pak ties.”

Khurshid said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee should take leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi along and tour all P-5 countries to present India’s case. “We are all one and we must tell the international community that when it comes to Kashmir and national security, there are no differences on political lines,” he said.

Criticising Musharraf for raking up Gujarat and atrocities against minorities in India in his address yesterday, he said it was unfortunate that “crazy elements in the Sangh parivar” provided him an opportunity to raise that issue. The former minister is special invitee to the Congress Working Committee and a member of the AICC’s core group on foreign policy issues.

Khurshid said Musharraf was playing a “dangerous game” with support from the US. “He (Musharraf) seems to think he is indispensable,” Khurshid said, adding that it was wrong on the part of India to have linked the issue of terrorism with Kashmir.

“We should have convinced the world that like the Afghanistan war, when the world unitedly fought against terrorism, our fight in Kashmir against terrorism should be fought by all,” he said.

Khurshid said he disagreed with external affairs minister Jaswant Singh’s opinion that terrorism in Kashmir was India’s war and it would have to be fought alone.

“As the whole world helped America fight against Afghanistan, they should help India,” he said.

AICC spokesman Jaipal Reddy termed Musharraf’s address as disappointing and said it belied expectations of his sincerity to de-escalate tension on the border. He said Musharraf had missed an opportunity to lower the temperature and pointed out that the general had not honoured any of the commitments that he had made in his January 12 address.

Muslim leaders have condemned and deplored Musharraf’s remarks about minorities in India.

Syed Shahabuddin, member of Muslim Personal Law Board and Babri Masjid action committee, said Musharraf’s remarks on Gujarat were uncalled for. “We are capable of solving our problems on our own. He has no business to interfere in internal affairs of India,” Shahabuddin said.

Shahabuddin’s sentiments were echoed by Kamal Farooqui, another member of the minority board and a functionary of the Milli Council. Farooqui urged Musharraf to stop dragging Islam into the Kashmir dispute. “The Kashmir problem can at best be described as a territorial dispute. Why is he dragging religion into it?” he asked.

Farooqui said Muslims in India had full faith in institutions like judiciary, media and bureaucracy.

“Gujarat was an aberration. Musharraf must look at status of minorities in Pakistan. What about the treatment meted out to Shias and Ahmadiyas?” Farooqui further asked.

   

 
 
TIME FOR MEN TO STAND UP AND BE STERILISED 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 28: 
Most men cringe at the notion of an injectible male contraceptive, preferring women to undergo sterilisation rather than suffer it themselves. But after over two decades of research and tests, an injectible male contraceptive is now on its way to the market.

The new contraceptive, Risug, is the result of the efforts of three premier institutions — the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). It is undergoing the third stage of tests and will be formally marketed in another couple of years.

Announcing the launch of the contraceptive, health minister C.P. Thakur today said: “In an attempt to widen the choices available to men, I dedicate to the nation a minimally invasive male contraceptive that is at present being developed. It has been tested to be safe and has a simple delivery system.”

There is already an injectible contraceptive for women in the market. Its introduction had triggered a huge outcry from women’s organisations and petitions were filed in court challenging the safety of the product.

However, the male devise involves a simple procedure, assured IIT’s Sujoy Guha, the man who pioneered the research.

“The injection releases a drug into the male tract. It will take only five to 10 minutes and ensure contraception for 10 years,” said Guha.

Risug , a non-hormonal, non-toxic compound, destroys the fertilising capability of the sperm. “The process can also be reversed any time,” Guha said. Trial I and II of the product have been completed and the third phase is underway.

Besides India, similar contraceptives for males are in various stages of trial in countries like Korea, China and Japan. But according to family welfare secretary A.R. Nanda, India started the trials much before and experiments in the area have already received international acclaim.

“Ideally, it could be dubbed as desi (national) science and technology with videshi (international) recognition,” said Nanda. Canada, Germany and the US have shown a lot of interest in India’s trials, he added.

“We have had a long stint of animal testing, toxicology. All our clinical trials have proven safe,” confirmed ICMR director-general N.K. Ganguly. However, it remains to be seen whether Indian men appreciate Risug. “From the gender point of view, a male injectible contraceptive is a wise move,” observed Ganguly.

But as the health minister said: “Over 97 per cent of sterilisations are tubectomies. Now, we need to focus on men in our information and education campaigns that seek to promote a small family norm.”

Risug is being seen as part of the government’s population stabilisation policy. At the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the government had stated that one of its main objectives was to “increase the participation and sharing of men in the actual practice of family planning.”

In keeping with that policy, ICMR chief said, “We will start working on how to make the contraceptive acceptable at a later stage.”

   

 
 
KING’S PARTY TO LEAVE DEUBA WITHOUT SUBJECTS 
 
 
FROM BHARAT BHUSHAN
 
New Delhi, May 28: 
The Prime Minister of Nepal, Sher Bahadur Deuba, may well emerge the loser in the ongoing power struggle in the country. If he persists with trying to form a “king’s party”, this could be the end of an important chapter in his political career.

The cadre of the Nepali Congress, it is becoming increasingly clear, is likely to stay with the party president, Girija Prasad Koirala. While 35 out of the 75 district presidents of the party have already issued statements of support for Koirala, the number is expected to go up to 60 in the coming days.

The various front organisations of the party — among the students, youth, workers, farmers and women — have already come out in favour of Koirala.

A meeting of Nepali Congress MPs of the dissolved Parliament, former party candidates for Parliament who had lost in the last General Election and other opinion leaders of the party had been called by Koirala last afternoon. They unanimously urged him to take action against the 33 ministers of the Deuba Cabinet who have not yet tendered their resignation. Only three ministers of the Cabinet out of a total of 36 have resigned protesting the dissolution of Parliament.

All indications, therefore, are that the party structure and the cadre will remain with Koirala. Only his ministers will stay with Deuba for the time being. Nepali political observers believe that Deuba will reconstitute his care-taker Cabinet to bring in specialists and technocrats. Those ministers who are left out by him at the time of the Cabinet reshuffle are also expected to make their way back to the Nepali Congress.

One of the founders of the Nepali Congress and a former Prime Minister, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, is trying for reconciliation. Referred to as the grand-old man of the Nepali Congress, Kishunji, as he is popularly known, would find it impossible to continue backing Deuba if it means abandoning the party. Many in Nepal believe that Deuba would have gone his separate way on Sunday itself when he was expelled from the party.

It was Bhattarai who asked him to wait for a week.

When Koirala went to meet Bhattarai last weekend, according to Nepali Congress insiders, he made it clear that there was no question of revoking the action against Deuba.

“We have fought for democracy for 57 years and now Sher Bahadur wants to end democracy. We have taken a policy stand against his actions and if that means separation from you also, I would be very sorry to see that happen,” Koirala is believed to have told his comrade of half a century.

Some other reconciliation attempts are also being made. Ramchandra Paudel, a member of the Central Working Committee of the party and Khumbahadur Khadka, the home minister, have floated a formula to bring the party together. They want the expulsion order against Deuba revoked, the entire Cabinet to tender its resignation and a three-member committee comprising Girija Prasad Koirala, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Sher Bahadur Deuba to help nominate a new caretaker Cabinet.

As of now there are no takers for the Paudel-Khadka proposal — not even Deuba. Paudel himself is widely expected to join the caretaker government of Deuba as the deputy Prime Minister. And Khadka is on record saying that if there is no compromise a split will be forced on the Deuba supporters. The new party is apparently to be called the Social democratic Party.

If there is no compromise, there is unlikely to be any love lost between Deuba and the party where he is not seen to enjoy any grass-roots support. Sher Bahadur Deuba came into the Nepali Congress through student politics.

During the most crucial phase of struggle in the recent history of the Nepali Congress, in the years 1986 to 1990 when the pro-democracy movement was engaging the monarchist forces on the streets, Deuba was in London.

The leadership and activists which the struggle for democracy in Nepal threw up, do not have any sympathy for Deuba. Nepalis have a predilection for believing conspiracy theories and Deuba’s detractors, not surprisingly, see the hand of the Palace in the present crisis.

Thus one of Deuba’s detractors said, “His wife Aarzu Deuba comes from the former ruling clan of the Ranas. She is the first cousin of King Gyanendra’s wife. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that if he now forms a party of his own, it will be close to the Palace.”

   

 
 
BRITISH JAGUARS FLY INTO INDIAN NUCLEAR STORM 
 
 
FROM SHRABANI BASU
 
London, May 28: 
The British government was yesterday struggling to explain why it was still exporting components for Jaguar aircraft to India as these were allegedly being converted for nuclear capability.

The row came at the end of a day when Britain denied it had imposed an embargo on arms sales to India and Pakistan. Several ministers and pressure groups immediately called for a ban saying that the situation on the subcontinent was not conducive to arms exports.

Many of the 700 export licences granted to British arms manufacturers last year were for Bae-made components used by India to build Jaguars.

According to the defence publication, Jane’s Defence Weekly, India had been getting help from Israeli firms in upgrading these aircraft to fire nuclear weapons.

However, trade minister Nigel Griffiths dismissed the reports as “pure speculation”. “There is no evidence that India is upgrading its Jaguar aircraft to carry a nuclear weapon or that it has any plans for doing so,” he told Tony Baldry, the former Tory minister in a letter earlier this month.

But the pressure is on the government from some quarters to stop the licences to India and Pakistan at this time of crisis. Martin O’Neill, the chairman of the Commons Select Committee, said: “There are very few countries with nuclear capability and given the situation between Pakistan and India we should not be pouring petrol on a fire. The nuclear factor requires that Britain had the utmost degree of transparency. The public are entitled to know what is happening here.”

Paul Eavis, the director of the Saferworld, a think-tank that campaigns against arms exports said yesterday: “We are particularly concerned about the export of Hawk jets and sale of Jaguar components, which may be used to build a system of delivering nuclear weapons. This shows why there should be an arms embargo against India and Pakistan.”

Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary and leader of the Commons, had laid out in 1997 — the year Labour came to power — that the government would not issue export licences “if there is a clearly identifiable risk” that the buyer would use the arms “aggressively against another country or to assert by force a territorial claim”.

MPs used this clause to demand that licences be withdrawn.

Ann Clwyd, Labour member of the Commons International Development Committee, said: “There clearly should be an arms embargo.”

Michael Moore, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, described the government’s policy on arms exports as “in a mess”.

Roger Berry, the chairman of four Commons select committees jointly investigating British arms exports, said the situation between India and Pakistan was “as clear a case you could get” for an arms ban and the government should explain its policy.

In 1997, UK exported arms worth £3.7 million to India, including components for air-to-surface missiles, components for aircraft machine gun, components for armoured personnel carriers and much more. In 2000, this figure had increased to £14.4 million.

In contrast, in 1997, UK arms exports to Pakistan were in the region of £6.54 million. In 2000 this had fallen to £0.31 million.

The £1-billion deal to supply 60 Hawk trainer jets has not yet been signed since India is still negotiating the price.

The deal leaves the government in the awkward position of saving British jobs (as many as 1,500 will be on the line if the deal falls through) and trying to balance its “ethical foreign policy” with regards to arms exports.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 33.2°C (-2)
Minimum: 23.2°C (-4)

Rainfall

5.5 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 95%,
Minimum: 60%

Sunrise: 4.55 am

Sunset: 6.12 pm

Today

Generally cloudy sky, with possibility of light rain, accompanied by thunder, in some parts
   
 

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