Diplomat departures take off
Parting gift in garage sale
New chapter in Bengal reform
Runner Putin on Tashkent track
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, June 1: 
A batch of 50 non-essential staff and diplomats of the US embassy today left for home along with their families, setting in motion a trend that could catch on if tension escalates in the subcontinent. Many more, including family members of staff in the Calcutta consulate, are expected to leave in the next few days.

The British high commission also began evacuating its members and indicated that about 250 people, most of them dependants of diplomats and “non-essential” officials, would leave the country soon.

The departure of foreigners gathered momentum with the United Nations, France, Japan and some other smaller countries following America’s example in advising non-essential mission staff to pack their bags. So have Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Netherlands and Belgium, too, joined the list.

“More non-emergency staff members of the US embassy and their dependants are expected to leave in the next few days,” a US embassy spokesman said.

A UN official pointed out that though there was no deadline, several hundred staffers and family members would leave India in the next few days. However, the situation has not reached a stage where embassies have to fly in their own aircraft to evacuate their staff.

Neither the UN nor the French government or the other smaller western nations were willing to admit that their decision was a reflection of the deteriorating situation. They argued that the “precautionary measures” have become vital in the face of the military build-up along the border.

Though Japan has not asked its diplomatic staff to leave, Tokyo has made it clear to family members of embassy officials and other Japanese nationals visiting or working in India that it may be advisable to leave.

India refused to react officially to the exodus, saying it was the “sovereign” decision of individual nations. Some feel that this could be an attempt by Washington to pressure Delhi into de-escalating.

But South Block officials differed, pointing out that if America was planning to do so, it was a weak strategy as Delhi was firm in its stand that the Pervez Musharraf regime would first have to stop cross-border terrorism.

On the other hand, they said, if America and other western nations were seriously concerned about a war breaking out, it would mean more pressure on Pakistan to deliver.

Washington, however, continued to be hopeful of a diplomatic breakthrough. Deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage will reach Pakistan on June 5 and will be in India the next day for talks with the leadership of the two countries. He will be followed by defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Musharraf also tried to allay growing fears of a nuclear war. “I don’t think either side is that irresponsible to go to that limit,” he told CNN. “I would even go to the extent of saying one shouldn’t even be discussing these things, because any sane individual cannot even think of going into this unconventional war, whatever the pressures.”

However, the potential for regular tit-for-tat events to add to the tension was on display today when an Indian high commission employee in Islamabad was abducted by suspected ISI operatives. Yesterday, a Pakistan high commission official was detained here on spying charges.

A release from the Lok Sabha secretariat today said the Japanese ambassador told Speaker Manohar Joshi that his country has asked Pakistan to allow international observers to “independently verify” if militant camps have been disbanded.


New Delhi, June 1: 
Diplomat leaving, must sell Olympus camera/lenses, Sony video camera, coffee tables, beds, wardrobes, deep freezer, electronic toys, crockery.

The season of strife has carried with it a baggage of spoils for the capital. Delhi woke up on Saturday morning to dailies packed with advertisements of garage sales by diplomats who are keeping their bags packed.

Some newspapers had whole columns of classifieds, advertising garage sales of household goods by departing families of diplomats.

Contact numbers of most of the advertisements were from Chanakyapuri, Delhi’s diplomatic enclave. Such sales, a favourite with Delhi’s bargain-hunters, usually gather momentum during spring-cleaning by the diplomats’ families.

But the number of advertisements has suddenly shot up after several western countries issued advisories that give families and non-essential staff the option of leaving India.

Diplomats are not taking any chances but several expatriate business executives working here said “it is work as usual”. “For an outsider who has not lived in India, the ‘tensions’ reported out of here have more effect than for those of us who live and work here. For me, it is work as usual,” said Sue Evans of the consulting firm, AT Kearney.

CII president Ashok Soota said: “It (the advisory) is an overreaction at this stage. Business is normal and has not been impacted.”

An official at automobile giant Suzuki, whose home country Japan on Saturday joined the advisory list, said: “Nobody is leaving. In fact, we may be getting more Japanese officials coming in.”

The foreign tourist, too, has yet to hit the panic button. Global airline offices in Delhi said there was no panic sale of tickets out of India and hotels ruled out any cancellations.

Debasish Chatterjee, head of CTI Travels, said he thought the travel advisories would mean a “nightmare for us. But really, it is business as usual”. He said most west-bound flights are flying quarter to half empty.

“I agree. There is no panic to get out,” said Air-India’s Rohita Jaidka. Incoming flights are, however, also not doing brisk business mainly “because of the hot weather”.


Calcutta, June 1: 
Setting aside its sabre-rattling with Ramakrishna Mission institutions and ushering in a new chapter of reforms in the education sector, the Left Front government is set to concede a long-standing demand of the school authorities: allow the institutions to recruit teachers from outside the school service commission without cutting financial assistance.

In effect, this could mark a new beginning: a loosening of the CPM’s grip on the appointment of teachers to state-assisted educational institutions, with the Ramakrishna Mission being the first beneficiary. Given the party’s hold on the school service commission, it is common knowledge that it wields considerable influence on the appointment process.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee himself set the ball rolling when he asked school education minister Kanti Biswas recently to work out a scheme to keep the Ramakrishna Mission appointments outside of the school service commission.

This followed a meeting between Bhattacharjee and the monks at a function organised by the mission in the city. At this meeting, the monks apparently succeeded in convincing the chief minister of the need to delink institutions of academic excellence, like the Ramakrishna Mission, from the school service commission and allow them to appoint teachers of their choice without the threat of financial cuts looming over them.

“The government has examined the request of the Ramakrishna Mission authorities and we are working out a scheme so that they can recruit teachers from outside the school service commission,” Biswas told The Telegraph.

The government’s decision will end a year-long standoff between the mission authorities and the education department which has been affecting the recruitment of teachers to the mission schools.

“At least 10 teaching posts at the secondary level are lying vacant since last year,” said an official of the Baranagore Ramakrishna Mission High School. “We are unable to fill up these posts as we do not know whether the government will pay the salaries of these teachers.”

Till last year, under a special set of government rules specifically for the mission schools, Ramakrishna Mission was allowed to appoint teachers on its own with their salaries being paid for by the state. This was unlike the other government-aided schools where it is mandatory to make the appointments through the school service commission.

However, in mid-2001, the state government informed the Ramakrishna mission authorities that it would pay the salaries of its teachers only if they were recruited through the school service commission. They were free to appoint teachers of their choice only if they provided for their salaries.

This move was largely seen as an effort by the government to gain a foothold in affairs of the mission schools. But this was not the first time that the government had carried out such an exercise. In 1998, the government had stopped paying salaries of primary section teachers of the Ramakrishna Schools at Rahara and Baranagore as they were going against the Left Front’s “no-English policy”.

At that time, the mission authorities decided not to bow to government pressure and instead pay the salaries of their teachers to be able to carry on teaching English at the primary level. It was another matter that later the government itself changed its policy and decided to introduce English at the primary level.

There is one other reason why the mission authorities have also been resisting teachers’ appointment through the school service commission: it would provide easy access to the CPM-controlled All Bengal Teachers Association which has been calling the shots in a large number of government aided schools.


Washington, June 1: 
Even as India asserts that there will be no Tashkent-II with Pakistan when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is in Kazakhstan, plans are being made in Almaty for a re-conditioned version of the Tashkent talks which took place in 1966.

These plans stem from a long telephone conversation yesterday between US secretary of state Colin Powell and his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov. Its immediate result has been a change in Vajpayee’s travel plans: he has now extended his stay in Almaty by a day to facilitate shuttle diplomacy by Russian president Vladimir Putin between Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf.

Since India is convinced that a wrong message will go to Pakistan about its military resolve if Vajpayee has a meeting with Musharraf in Almaty, Putin will now carry messages back and forth between Indian and Pakistani leaders after the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building in Asia (Cica).

China will pitch in with its own peace-making efforts in Alamaty by president Jiang Zemin, Li Hui, director general of Central Asian Affairs in the Chinese foreign ministry, confirmed in Beijing yesterday.

Musharraf, who had earlier been undecided about travelling to Almaty, made up his mind to attend the Cica summit after an emissary of Putin convinced him of the need to try for peace on the sidelines of the summit.

In practice, Almaty will now see a replay of the events in Kathmandu during the last South Asian summit, albeit with some differences.

India had then insisted that there were no substantive meetings of any kind with Pakistan: actually, the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers held several meetings in Kathmandu and the Saarc summit culminated in brief talks between Vajpayee and Musharraf.

At the state department here and in the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow, there are fond hopes that Putin’s shuttle diplomacy will lead to face-to-face talks between Indian and Pakistani leaders. But it seems unlikely.

Within the Bush administration, the minimum hope is that Putin’s shuttle diplomacy in the Kazakh capital will prepare the ground for a major peace push which the US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld is planning in Islamabad and New Delhi.

According to the timetable which has emerged from Powell’s phone conversation with Ivanov, the day after Vajpayee returns to New Delhi from Central Asia, US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage will meet the Prime Minister to build on whatever the Russians have been able to achieve through their shuttle diplomacy.

Sources here said Rumsfeld would be carrying with him a comprehensive report prepared by his department on the scenario which could result from a nuclear conflict — however unintented — in South Asia.

He will also carry proposals for nuclear confidence building measures between India and Pakistan in the event a war becomes unavoidable between the two countries.

Some of these proposals have already been discussed this weekend in Singapore between defence minister George Fernandes and Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. The two men are attending an international conference on security and terrorism in Singapore.

Powell asserted in an interview to BBC last night that “I have seen indications that instructions have been given (by Musharraf) to cease” infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC).

“I think it is still too early to say that it has stopped. And when and if it does stop, it must also stop permanently. It cannot be something where you turn a tap on or off; we will stop it for a while and get out of this problem, and then we’ll turn it on again. I think what we are expecting president Musharraf to do is to use all of the authority he has to stop it, and to keep it stopped, so that we can get this crisis behind us.”

In the most forthright criticism of Musharraf yet by the Bush administration, Powell said: “We were disappointed in the spring that some initial steps that we thought were being taken to shut down activity across the line of control did not continue, and we did not see the kind of cessation that we were expecting based on what president Musharraf said in his January 12th speech”.

He said Washington was, therefore, pressing Musharraf “very intensely” to act on his assurances. “I can’t go anywhere with that assurance. The only time I can go somewhere and make a case with the Indian side or to the world is when we see the action taking place, that (infiltration) has been stopped.”




Max: 36°C (+2)
Min: 26.9°C (0)

Relative humidity

Maximum: 92%
Minimum: 55%



Sunset: 6.14 pm

Sunrise: 4.55 am


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

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