Pervez-in-peril line from US
Doctors behind convicted duo
Kashmir wants polls, not war
PM takes Pak case to President
Fresh clashes in Godhra
Calcutta Weather

Washington, May 30: 
Unspoken in public and behind the scenes, peacemakers between India and Pakistan have been fighting a losing battle with New Delhi all of this week to ensure Pervez Musharraf’s longevity as the supremo in Islamabad.

At the same time, they have been telling Musharraf that if New Delhi were to be persuaded, it was his responsibility to prepare the ground for it. Announcing the despatch of defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld to the subcontinent next week, President George W. Bush today joined top administration officials in pressing Pakistan to stop infiltration.

“We are a part of an international coalition applying pressure to both parties, particularly to President Musharraf… He must stop the incursions across the Line of Control. He must do so. He said he would do so. We and others are making it clear to him that he must live up to his word,” Bush said.

While the public focus in New Delhi has been on efforts by leaders and envoys from Japan in the East to America in the West to avert war, these interlocutors by phone and in person have been telling the Indian leadership that Musharraf risked losing his job if there was a war.

This, the peacemakers argue, would be against the interests of the international community in its global war against terrorism. Their reasoning runs on the following lines.

Musharraf is serious about wanting to stop infiltration, at least to the point where he wants to avoid an armed conflict with New Delhi. But he is not in full control and is, therefore, unable to do so.

His extremist enemies, who had hoped to vanquish him by using Islamabad’s support for the war in Afghanistan to stir up a revolt, now see a conflict with India as the only hope to achieve their aim of overthrowing the General.

While all this has so far been told to the Indians behind closed doors, the Bush administration yesterday let slip some elements in this argument at the state department’s daily briefing.

“There is a danger that as tensions escalate, the leaders (of India and Pakistan) could find themselves in a situation in which irresponsible elements could spark a conflict,” spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Boucher admitted that this line by the Bush administration was somewhat new. Also, for the first time, the spokesman said there was possibility of a “serious conflagration” in South Asia “if events spiral out of control”.

The assessment here that a conflict between India and Pakistan was a distinct possibility today resulted in a flurry of reports about contingency plans for the evacuation of US nationals, including army personnel from India and Pakistan.

Although the US embassy in New Delhi today denied a report in USA Today that an American team was in New Delhi to plan the evacuation of 63,000 citizens and 1,100 defence personnel in the two countries, the denial is seen here as an exercise in semantics.

Boucher said yesterday: “In any particular circumstance, it is necessary to look at how we might take care of resident Americans as well as official Americans who are there. So, yes, the embassies are looking at that as part of prudent planning.... So as we look at the situation for our personnel, as we look at the situation for resident Americans, obviously we are concerned about making sure that we work in tandem to make sure that resident Americans of all types are taken care of under any circumstances that might arise.”

Bush himself admitted today of plans for evacuation.


Calcutta, May 30: 
Doctors and members of the Indian Medical Association, Calcutta branch, have decided to oppose Wednesday’s judgment of the chief judicial magistrate, Alipore, which convicted two physicians for rash and negligent treatment of a patient, Anuradha Saha, leading to her death.

They described it as “unfortunate, unscientific and of far-reaching consequence in the medical care delivery in our country”.

The IMA has decided to become a party in any future litigation connected with the case, its president Sudipto Roy said after a marathon meeting attended by nearly 100 doctors. Sukumar Mukherjee, one of the two sentenced, is a senior member of the Calcutta branch. Both parties in the case have said they would appeal in higher courts.

The meeting also decided to hold a convention on Monday at which doctors, medical students and all interested will discuss the developments. A call was given for a doctors’ strike to protest against the judgment. The date and extent of the strike will be decided at the convention, to be held at Calcutta Medical College. “We shall ask all doctors to wear a black badge that day,” Roy said.

Mukherjee, a senior consultant in medicine, and Baidyanath Haldar, senior consultant dermatologist, were sentenced to three months’ rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 3,000 after being found guilty of negligence by chief judicial magistrate Ananda Raha. They were granted bail.

In opposing the ruling, the meeting cited the Medical Council Act of 1956. Under Section 20A (Medical practitioner —standard of care to be taken), the Act says: “A doctor will not be guilty of negligence if he has acted in accordance with the practice accepted as proper by a responsible body of medical men skilled in that particular art. If he has acted in accordance merely because there is a body of opinion that takes a contrary view will not make him liable for negligence.”

Based on this, the meeting issued a statement: “We doctors consider the Medical Council to be the supreme body to judge matters related to medical negligence by doctors.”

After several sittings that elicited expert opinion, the West Bengal Medical Council found the three doctors “not guilty of any negligence”. The council’s ruling, however, was kept in abeyance by the court on the grounds that neither complainant Kunal Saha nor his representative was present.

The statement said the members of the association were “aggrieved and anguished to hear about the judgment”.

“Doctors will, henceforth, feel apprehensive to take risks during treatment of patients. In our country, medical treatment is based on strong mutual trust between doctors and patients, which is being gradually destroyed by some vested interests.”


London, May 30: 
As the war clouds gather over the subcontinent, a survey conducted in Jammu and Kashmir suggests the vast majori through elections, felt 71 per cent of the people and 28 per cent disagreed.

At least 75 per cent in each of the three regions of the state agreed that economic development, free and fair elections, direct talks between Delhi and representatives of Kashmiris, an end to violence and stopping infiltration would help bring peace.

The results of the poll from Jammu and Leh should come as no surprise.

But what should gladden policymakers in Delhi is that despite the widespread cynicism about the way polls have been conducted in the past, 52 per cent in and around Srinagar still believe in its peacemaking power.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government appears determined to press ahead with elections, scheduled in September, no matter what the provocation by way of militant violence.

Opinion brought out by the survey, however, shows that 65 per cent did not believe free and fair elections can be held if the violence continued, while 34 per cent thought it was possible.

Sixty-one per cent would prefer to remain Indian citizens while 33 per cent said they did not know. Only 6 per cent wanted to be Pakistani citizens. That is cold comfort for the Indian government because in Srinagar as many as 78 per cent of the people said they did not know if they would be better off, politically and economically, under India.

Another worrying factor for Delhi is the stand on Pakistan, the popular mood in the Valley clearly reflecting what many Kashmiri groups, like the Hurriyat Conference, have been saying: that a solution is not possible without Islamabad’s involvement. Only 23 per cent thought Pakistan’s involvement in the region has been bad, 35 per cent felt it to be good and 41 per cent believed it has made no real difference.

Asked whether a new political party was needed to bring about a permanent solution, 53 per cent agreed, while 46 per cent did not. Support for preserving the region’s cultural identity — Kashmiriyat — in any long-term solution was overwhelming at 81 per cent. In tune with this mood, 80 per cent felt that the return of Pandits would help peace.

The majority, 53 per cent, wanted the role of security forces to be scaled down. But perceptions differed on the behaviour of the forces. No one in Leh or Jammu believed human rights violations by the security forces were widespread, whereas in Srinagar 64 per cent of the population thought they were.

Again, on whether there were human rights violations by militant groups, the opinion was divided. In Srinagar, 33 per cent believed these were non-existent, while 96 per cent in Jammu thought otherwise.

The poll was commissioned by Lord Avebury, chairman of the Friends of Kashmir and widely seen to be a Pakistan sympathiser. All the 850 people interviewed were over the age of 16. They were from 22 localities in Jammu city, 20 in Srinagar and six in Leh.


May 30: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today briefed President K.R. Narayanan on the standoff with Pakistan, explaining to him the steps taken by Delhi both at the diplomatic and military levels.

The 45-minute meeting gathered importance in the face of the Indian stand that though it is willing to wait for a few more weeks to see whether there has been an improvement in the ground situation, it has not foreclosed its military option against Pakistan.

The global diplomatic initiative gained momentum today with Japan’s senior vice-minister for foreign affairs Seiken Sugiura reaching Delhi. Sugiura held talks with national security adviser Brajesh Mishra.

Japan, one of the biggest aid donors to Pakistan, has threatened to withhold Islamabad’s economic package if it fails to take immediate steps to end cross-border-terrorism. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had hinted at such a step when he spoke to Vajpayee last night.

The Japanese move to tighten the purse-strings to pressure the Musharraf regime is being seen in Delhi as growing consensus among the global powers, particularly the US, that it could be an effective tool to de-escalate the tension.

The Indian foreign ministry concentrated its firepower today on a statement by Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN last night. The ambassador, Munir Akram, had defended Pakistan’s refusal to rule out a nuclear strike against India.

“We have to rely on our own means to deter Indian aggression. We have that means and we will not neutralise it by any doctrine of no first-use,” he said at the UN.

But India brushed aside the comment as a ruse to deflect attention from cross-border terrorism. Foreign secretary Chokila Iyer briefed the ambassadors of China, Nepal, and Bangladesh today and said the world community should focus on the central issue of terrorism.

In Islamabad, Musharraf tried to tone down the rhetoric today, saying that it would be his “utmost endeavour to avoid conflict”.

“It will be my utmost endeavour to avoid conflict. It will take place only if it is initiated by India. We will not be the initiators, this is my guarantee,” he said.

Troop pullout

Musharraf said he was considering withdrawing some troops from the Afghan border to reinforce the tense boundary with India, but they had not yet been moved. “We are very seriously contemplating on moving some elements... on to the east if at all the tension remain as high as they are now. But the movement has not yet started,” he said.

Musharraf’s comments were a partial retraction of a state television broadcast and a military spokesman’s remarks that said the pullback had begun from the Afghan border, where Pakistan had deployed thousands of troops to help the US-led coalition.

Musharraf said Pakistan had “actually stalled” the induction of Pakistani troops into the interior of the western borders but said the movement to the east had not yet begun.

A British military official visiting Afghanistan said today that Indo-Pakistan tensions had affected the campaign against Islamic militants in the country.


Ahmedabad, May 30: 
Godhra erupted again today during a break in the curfew imposed since Friday. Arson and violence was reported from Bharuch and Mehsana, too, since last night.

Four days after two women were stabbed in the epicentre of Gujarat’s bloody upheaval, a 35-year-old Muslim youth met the same fate in Godhra today. Miscreants seized the four-hour break in curfew from 10 am to 2 pm to lob crude bombs at CRPF jawans patrolling the Makankuwa area, one of the trouble spots. The two bombs went off near them, but left the jawans unhurt.

Bharuch today witnessed fresh disturbance with three shops being torched. Two persons were killed and one injured as violence broke out in Kadi taluka town of Mehsana district last night. Two persons hurled a bomb at a kiosk, killing one person and injuring its owner. As tension mounted in the town, a mob gathered in Kundal village near Kadi. The frenzied crowd dragged out a conductor from a state transport bus and burned him alive. Curfew was clamped in the town.

Police had to open fire in Baroda when mobs fought a pitched battle late last night in Panigate. Two persons were injured in the clashes and four two-wheelers went up in flames. Indefinite curfew was clamped and police arrested 50 people during a combing operation.

The situation was peaceful elsewhere in the state, including Ahmedabad that was rocked by a series of blasts yesterday. No arrest has been made yet but police claimed to have found vital clues.

Snap poll signal

Playing down the simmering discontent between a section of the Cabinet and party leaders over chief minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Jana Krishnamurthi today asked partymen to be ready for early Assembly elections and be vigilant against Islamic militants and the ISI.

The BJP chief, who was here to attend the party’s state executive committee meeting, asserted that the Assembly polls would be held under Modi’s leadership. “There is no resentment against him. At least nobody has complained to me about Modi’s style of functioning. He is going to stay and lead the party in the coming elections,” he said.




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