Pervez lays third-party ambush
Stop infiltration, take dollars
Asia one, Rest of World two
Party for Pramod, not Shourie
Allies force floor test on Deshmukh
Battered mission man held back by Pak
Corporate cash falls silent
Fitness bug bites byte-minded Naidu
VSNL-stung Shourie blames corporate war
Calcutta Weather

Almaty, June 4: 

Bait in monitor and mediator

President Pervez Musharraf today indicated that he would be willing to accept US judgment whether infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir had indeed stopped rather than be accused by India of not curbing it.

This suggests that Pakistan is willing to do what the Americans tell it and be monitored by them.

At the end of an eventful day, Musharraf also claimed that the world was “disappointed by the denial of (a) meeting” between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpyee and him.

Musharraf announced that he had been invited by President Vladimir Putin of Russia to Moscow to discuss not only bilateral issues but also the India-Pakistan tension. He claimed that such an invitation had also been extended to Vajpayee.

National security adviser Brajesh Mishra immediately denied any such invitation. He said the next meeting between Putin and Vajpayee was today reconfirmed to take place at the end of the year in New Delhi.

Putin also rejected Musharraf’s suggestion for Moscow’s mediation and made it clear that he had not invited Vajpayee to Russia in connection with any such effort, a PTI report said.

It quoted Russian sources as saying that Putin had agreed to invite Musharraf to Moscow only on the Pakistan President’s request.

Mishra said that India did not want war and its policy was not to shy away from a dialogue with Pakistan. However, ruling out any trilateral talks in Moscow or elsewhere, he said: “Once cross-border terrorism ends, we can meet him (Musharraf) in Delhi or in Islamabad. There is no need to go around the world for such a meeting.”

Musharraf, who faced some hard questioning at his news conference, was asked if his claim that nothing was happening on the Line of Control (LoC) was correct, why had US secretary of state Colin Powell said infiltration had not fully stopped.

He described the two-day-old statement of Powell as “a statement of the past” and said he would wait and see what the US had to say after independently ascertaining the ground situation.

The Pakistan President said he would not trust Delhi to judge whether infiltration had really stopped or not as “we will not accept India both as the accuser and the judge”. He then suggested the use of UN monitors on the LoC.

Mishra rejected Musharraf’s claims on infiltration as well as any third party monitoring of the LoC. He said only Indian and Pakistani forces knew the terrain well. India also had adequate technology to monitor infiltration, he said.

Musharraf accused India of hypocrisy in not recognising that international mediation or facilitation between the two neighbours was already taking place.

Mishra reacted by saying that while he was not in favour of using harsh language against Pakistan or Musharraf, there was a need to analytically separate the attempt of the international community to defuse the present tension to prevent it from developing into a wider conflict and the Kashmir issue.

The national security adviser said India, like the rest of the world, also wanted to avoid a conflict but for that Pakistan had to stop cross-border terrorism. But on Kashmir, India supported the framework provided by the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.

“Our position is that on this issue a bilateral dialogue would be more productive. If General Musharraf calls it hypocrisy, that is up to him,” Mishra responded.

Asked about the conflicting signals from Pakistan on using nuclear weapons, Musharraf said the possession of such weapons meant that they would be used under some circumstances. However, he described such a prospect as “insane”.

He dismissed as “baseless and absurd” the claims of a former US national security council staffer that Pakistan had deployed missiles and nuclear weapons during the Kargil conflict.

The Pakistan President said he was not opposed to free and fair elections, but insisted that the Kashmiris themselves did not want any exercise under the Indian Constitution. Pakistan, he said, favoured a free and fair plebiscite in Kashmir.

India should “recognise that Kashmir is a dispute which cannot be ignored. Let us recognise that and then start talking,” he said.


Washington, June 4: 
The international community has put a price tag on General Pervez Musharraf’s willingness and ability to stop infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC) on a permanent basis.

The price tag carries an impressive figure of $4.5 billion: two-thirds of the amount in re-scheduling debt to the US and the remainder of $1.5 billion in debt owed to Germany, Canada and Finland.

In addition, the major powers, including Russia and China, are dangling the carrot of a $3-billion, 1,500-km gas pipeline from Daulatabad in Turkmenistan to Gwadar in Pakistan. It is estimated that Musharraf will get $500 million annually in royalty when the pipeline is completed.

An agreement to revive the landmark pipeline project, abandoned four years ago because of the Taliban’s policies, was signed last week in Islamabad at a trilateral summit of leaders from Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The agreements for loan rescheduling are to come up later this month, but there are indications that its signing will depend very much on steps by Pakistan to defuse the military situation in South Asia.

At his meeting with US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz in Singapore during the weekend, defence minister George Fernandes asked the Americans to turn off the tap of aid and loans to Pakistan to force Musharraf to prove his anti-terrorist credentials.

Pakistan’s total debt to 18 countries is $12.5 billion and the Paris Club, the umbrella group on assistance to Pakistan, has set September 30 as the deadline for signing agreements rescheduling the loans.

There is growing agreement here among those dealing with the political aspects of international aid that tightening the financial screws on Musharraf would contribute to avoiding a war in South Asia.

Russia and China have potentially important roles in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan pipeline project, which has a provision to be extended to India.

China is committed under a separate bilateral agreement to develop Gwadar port, which will be the loading terminal for Central Asian gas to large Asian markets such as Japan.

Russia’s importance in the project has gone up after the American oil company, Unocal, the original promoter of the project, announced last week that it is no longer keen to get involved in the pipeline.

The Russian oil and gas conglomerate, Gazprom, wants to step into the void left by Unocal, but Moscow is certain to extract a heavy political price from Musharraf in terms of regional stability if it is to bring the pipeline to fruition.

Moscow has also held out hopes in talks with Islamabad that it would persuade Delhi, with its involvement, to agree to an extension of the pipeline to India.


Busan, June 4: 
First China, then Japan followed by South Korea … Tuesday was Asia Day at the World Cup finals as the co-hosts set out on the more problematic challenge of their joint mission.

Organising a major sports event is one thing; providing on-pitch accomplishment to match is quite another.

Unfair as it may appear to politicians and sponsors who provide the funds, it is the players’ success or failure which will mark an event for the perspective of history. This time next year no one will care how quickly Japan and Korea built their new stadia, how many volunteers helped run the show or how much it all cost.

All that will matter is who won… plus how and when the losers lost. With honour or in disgrace. National pride being what it is in Korea and Japan, multiply every emotion by 10.

Stir into the Asian melting pot the earlier humiliation of Saudi Arabia and the World Cup debut of China and it was no wonder a significant chunk of the world’s population found the television screen such a magnetic attraction these past few hours.

Seeing all the high-profile Europeans and South Americans over the previous four days was fine as far as it went but a World Cup leans overbearingly on the success of the hosts. Indeed, for this World Cup it was even more than usually imperative that the co-hosts made significant progress; these are countries where football is not as immovably ingrained in the national psyche as in the game’s traditional homelands in the West.

It also matters that the two host nations progress in step. Japanese opinion would find it almost insupportable were they, say, to slip out in the first round while Korea progressed. The shadow of such an unthinkable outcome now hangs over the event after the Japanese were held 2-2 by Belgium in Saitama, north of Tokyo, and Korea defeated Poland 2-0 in the eastern port city of Busan.

To be fair, the footballing gods were with Korea. Colourless Poland was far inferior opening opposition compared with the athletic Belgians who might even have beaten Japan had they mustered just a little more confidence in their own potential and ability.

Oddly, the more significant long-term signal for Asian football in the wider world may not have been either of the co-hosts’ matches but the debut of China at the competitive pinnacle of international football.

The world’s most populous nation has punched far below its weight for too long in football terms. On the evidence of the 2-0 defeat by Costa Rica there is still a long way to go.

But the impetus of reaching the finals will make a vast difference to the game’s development within China as well as to the wealthier soccer nations’ interest in investing in the game behind the bamboo curtain.

In this case, by contrast with Korea and Japan, the true measure of coach Bora Milutinovic’s achievement will not lie in the short term which bears the probability of first-round elimination. Bora, the wandering gipsy of football management, will be long gone by the time his legacy is properly appreciated.

For the immediate short term, remembering Saudi Arabia’s eight-goal humbling by Germany, the continental scorecard reads Asia one, Rest of the World two with one match drawn. Not the best start but better than it threatened before the two co-hosts took the field.

Other issues were playing around the periphery today.

One was speculation over whether FIFA will suspend Brazil’s Rivaldo for his childish play-acting against Turkey on Monday. The disciplinary committee will meet tomorrow and review indisputable video evidence of an insult to the spirit of sportsmanship.

Beyond that, the second round of group matches begins tomorrow with Germany facing Ireland while the first stage is wrapped up with the Group D and H duels which, respectively, see injury-hit US face Portugal while Russia target Tunisia.

In political terms, America and Russia may know all about superpower status but at the World Cup, they rank among the country cousins. In football terms, Korea and Japan are where it’s at.


New Delhi, June 4: 
The BJP continued to back communications minister Pramod Mahajan in the VSNL-Tata disinvestment deal, despite a concerted effort by disinvestment minister Arun Shourie to give his version to the party bosses.

At a news conference, Shourie hinted at the hand of a corporate rival of the Tatas in the controversy. Stung by the BJP’s statement calling the VSNL disinvestment “most disappointing” and suggesting that the disinvestment ministry had erred in not inserting a clause in the deal to prevent the Tatas from “asset stripping”, Shourie reportedly called Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Almaty and home minister L.K. Advani. BJP sources said he also spoke to party president K. Jana Krishnamurthi.

Advani, known to be close to Shourie, asked Krishnamurthi if he had seen the press statement before it was released. The BJP chief said he had okayed it. The disinvestment minister also contacted Jagdish Shettigar, asking why he chose to attack the deal, according to sources close to Shourie. Shettigar, the convener of the BJP’s economic cell, told the media yesterday that the VSNL transfer “defeated the very spirit of disinvestment of the PSUs”. Another Cabinet minister backing Shourie also had a word with Shettigar.

Later in the day, Shettigar, accompanied by BJP general secretary and spokesman Sunil Shastri, met Shourie. The meeting triggered rumours that the duo would speak up for the disinvestment minister, but nothing of the sort happened. That the BJP threw its weight behind Mahajan was apparent from the fact that an unsigned note on the Rs 1,200-crore VSNL investment in Tata Teleservices was being circulated at the central headquarters. It roundly criticised the decision and virtually suggested that the Tatas have taken the government for a ride. The note was sourced to the government by a BJP functionary.

Its main points were:

VSNL held a national long distance licence which was given free of cost to the Tatas, though other operators paid Rs 100 crore as licence fee and another Rs 400 crore as bank guarantee.

It questioned the Tatas’ claim of integrating VSNL’s operation with a basic service provider as “illogical” as Tata Telecom had rolled out its services in only one circle, Andhra Pradesh, with a subscriber base of only 1.5 lakh.

It contended that VSNL was not an investment company and should, therefore, have stuck to its basic objective of being a service provider.

“As a major equity holder of 26 per cent, the government should have been consulted before taking such a major investment decision,” it pointed out and added that all major shareholders should have been taken into confidence.

VSNL’s cash reserves were earmarked for investment in national long distance telephony for which it had a licence and the balance was meant for redemption of the American depository receipts.


June 4: 

Minnows, NCP rebels pull plug

The Democratic Front government in Maharashtra was today reduced to a minority but got a breather after Governor P.C. Alexander granted chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s request for 10 days to prove his majority in the Assembly.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, desperate after losing Goa, personally supervised the fire-fighting mission to save the beleaguered government, calling for help from CPM leader Harkishen Singh Surjeet and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda.

Sonia dispatched general secretary Vayalar Ravi to Mumbai in the morning, telling him to negotiate with arch rival and Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar. She spoke to Deshmukh twice.

Congress leader Shivraj Patil also flew down from Delhi to stem the damage after the shocks started last night when seven MLAs withdrew support. Deshmukh and state Congress leader Murli Deora were locked in a meeting with Ravi and Patil till late in the evening.

The crisis began late yesterday when seven MLAs -- five from the Peasants and Workers Party and two from the CPM -- withdrew support. Today, three NCP legislators -- Narayan Pawar, Shivajirao Naik and Narsing Gurunath -- and Independent MLA Hitendra Thakur met Alexander and handed over the letter withdrawing support. NCP MLA Vinay Khore faxed his letter to the Governor.

The withdrawals reduced the strength of the government to 140 -- five short of majority in the 288-member House. Deshmukh had earlier inducted three Independents into his ministry today before the NCP legislators pulled the plug.

Naik said they were “hurt” by the government’s decision to induct three new ministers, including Harshavardhan Patil, against whom there had been a strong opposition right from the beginning.

“The Democratic Front government should have instead chosen to step down and be seated in the Opposition rather than resorting to such tactics to keep itself in power,” Naik added.

“The sand castle of the Democratic Front will soon collapse,” Pawar claimed.

The BJP-Shiv Sena Opposition has 137 members. But the four NCP legislators have not yet pledged allegiance to the combine.

Sonia urged Surjeet to prevent the Left MLAs from pulling out of the government. The CPM general secretary obliged. But Gowda expressed his inability, saying only one Janata Dal (S) MLA was willing to take his advice.

Sena leader and former chief minister Narayan Rane, who said he was confident of proving his majority, added that he would only divulge the number of MLAs on his side a few days later. Deshmukh, however, claimed he had the “magic number”.

The Opposition said it was equally confident. “I am certain that Deshmukh will have to resign,” said Rane, who met the Governor soon after the MLAs withdrew support and staked claim to form a government.

Deshmukh accused the Opposition of adopting unfair means to keep some of the MLAs at unknown places and using pressure tactics. “An inquiry would be ordered into it,” he said.

Declaring that the Opposition had no “moral right” to demand his resignation, the chief minister said the issue could be thrashed bare on the floor of the House, which alone was the forum to prove the majority of the government.

Chhaggan Bhujbal, NCP leader and deputy chief minister, who met the Governor with Deshmukh, also accused the BJP-Shiv Sena of adopting “unfair” means.

The government would initiate an inquiry into the “undemocratic means” used by the Opposition to trigger the chaos, he told reporters.

The state BJP issued a rejoinder to these claims, saying it had not adopted any unfair means, and that relatives of the MLAs allegedly “kidnapped” had no complaints.

Deshmukh also said he would ask the Speaker to disqualify the NCP members for withdrawing support without consulting the party. The chief minister said before meeting the Governor, the legislators should have first met him because he was the leader of the House.

The NCP has 61 MLAS and the rebels need the support of 17 more legislators to force a split, which appears to be a near impossible task.

Congress leaders in Delhi tried to dismiss the revolt against the Deshmukh government. They were confident that during the trial of strength Speaker Arun Gujarati would act in accordance with the provisions of the anti-defection law instead of accepting the votes of the rebel legislators.

Some senior Congress leaders blamed a section of the state Congress for the crisis. They claimed that some influential leaders within the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee and the Deshmukh government were plotting to bring down the government.

The needle of suspicion pointed towards MPCC chief Govind Rao Adik, a known Deshmukh-baiter.

While Deshmukh has been lobbying with Sonia to replace Adik, the MPCC chief has told the Congress president she should choose between reviving the party in the state or continuing with a rag-tag coalition.


New Delhi, June 4: 
Pakistan today stopped an injured staff of the Indian high commission in Islamabad from crossing over to India for treatment, further straining ties with its neighbour and signalling that it would take more than an offer to resume talks.

Kulwant Singh had been picked up near his residence in the Pakistan capital a few days back by intelligence officials and seriously beaten up. He was charged with spying and his captors said they caught him while he was receiving “sensitive documents” from a source.

Singh suffered serious injuries, particularly around the pelvic region, from the beating. As he could not get proper medical attention in Pakistan, he was being brought to India.

India has lodged a strong protest, condemning the incident both in New Delhi and Islamabad. In Delhi, Pakistani deputy high commissioner Jalil Abbas Jeelani was summoned to South Block. In Islamabad, a complaint was lodged with Kamran Niaz, director general (South Asia) in the Pakistani foreign ministry.

This afternoon’s incident occurred around the same time Pervez Musharraf was urging Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to return to the talks table to reduce tension in the subcontinent and settle outstanding issues. But more than anything, it clearly revealed the depth of hostility between the rivals that disregards common diplomatic ethics and practices.

South Block officials say Pakistani authorities stopped Singh from crossing over because his battered physical condition, which was likely to have been shown on television channels, could have put Islamabad in a spot.

A few days ago, India had arrested a retired Pakistani air force official here on charges of espionage. Singh was picked up the very next day. When he was released later in the day, with signs of serious injuries, he was charged with receiving sensitive documents from a source and asked to leave the country.

Indian officials claimed that Singh could not be given the treatment he needed in Islamabad because Pakistani intelligence officials interfered with the doctors and were present when x-rays were being done and he was being medically examined. It was then that the Indian high commission decided to bring him to Delhi.

This morning, a convoy of vehicles carrying Singh, his family members, an Indian doctor and some other officials from the high commission left Islamabad for the Wagah border. But about 50 km from the border check-post, Pakistani highway police stopped the convoy and prevented it from proceeding further, saying that Singh’s travel documents were not in place.

Indian officials said this was an excuse to prevent him from leaving the country. The officials, who were with Singh, tried to contact the Pakistani foreign office. After waiting for hours in the middle of the highway, they were told to return to Islamabad.

The Indian high commission and South Block are planning to fly Singh to Dubai before he could be brought to Delhi.

Visa services curtailed

The British and Australian high commissions today curtailed their visa services following staff reduction in the wake of tension between India and Pakistan.

The visa offices of the two high commissions will, however, continue to accept visa applications from visitors travelling on an emergency basis, their press releases said.

The Australian visa office in Mumbai is closed to the public from today until further notice. No new visa applications can be lodged there.


Ahmedabad, June 4: 
Minority leaders and businessmen in the city who had liberally donated money for relief and rehabilitation of quake-victims are hurt by the lack of concern shown by Gujarat-based corporate houses towards the riot-affected.

“We got assistance — medical and other material — from other states, but not from any Gujarat-based company,” said Safibhai Memon, who is in charge of the Shah-e-Alam relief camp.

The earthquake had seen a generous inflow of assistance from business houses, with many companies vying to adopt devastated villages, though that enthusiasm gradually waned. But initially, the response was so overwhelming that a pharmaceutical company, Cadila Pharmaceutical Limited, donated medicines worth Rs 45 lakh.

This time, though thousands of riot victims are still holed up in relief camps, the company has not provided medicine worth a single paisa. “No one turned up. No one asked for any help — neither any NGO nor the state government,” said deputy manager Bhavesh Upadhyay, when he was contacted.

Inamul Iraki, who had raised Rs 12 lakh after the quake, refuses to buy that. “You do not need formal request for humanitarian help,” said the businessman and minority leader. “No one had approached us when we raised money for quake victims. No one had asked for money. Yet we collected money to help people to rebuild their lives.”

To make his point, Memon said no one had issued an appeal for help this time. “Yet, we got medicine worth Rs 20 lakh from one Mumbai-based organisation and another Calcutta-based newspaper,” he told The Telegraph.

Sunil Parekh, senior director, Confederation of Indian Industry, tried to explain the apathy in terms of the scale of tragedy and requirement. He felt that one of the reasons why no corporate house has come forward to help the riot victims was that everything was being coordinated by the state government.

“Perhaps, medicine or any other assistance was not required because the riots that rendered over one lakh people homeless was not that big a calamity as the quake which devastated Gujarat on January 26, 2001,” he said.

Memon thinks it is a lame excuse. According to him, corporate houses have not come out with any assistance because of the fear that the government might not like it. There are also Hindu organisations that are openly asking Hindu businessmen not to have anything to do with Muslims, he said. “In such a situation, corporate houses are bound to think twice about the repercussions.”

Red Cross chief coordinator S.K. Sharma, who runs a pharmaceutical company, did not rule out “indirect pressure” on corporate houses and pharmaceutical companies. He, however, clarified that he did not contact any top pharmaceutical company for medicine or any other assistance because “there was no such requirement”. “Whatever we required, we were getting from doctors, distributors and stockists.”

Minority leaders running relief camps (there are 32 of them) say everyone knows about the conditions in which riot victims are living. “I do not think any one needs to be told what the victims require,” said Memon.

“With monsoon approaching, can any one guarantee that those living in camps will not be vulnerable to waterborne diseases?”


Hyderabad, June 4: 
Move over infotech and e-governance; fitness, aerobics and meditation are the latest buzzwords in Chandrababu Naidu’s sphere.

Every yoga expert and meditation guru worth his salt has been invited by Naidu to deliver lectures at important fora and train his legislators and mandarins. “Practice of yoga and meditation improves their decision making capabilities,” believes Naidu.

Ravi Shankar, who pioneered Art of Living, Shiv Khera, Chinmayananda and Ganapathi Satchidananda are Naidu’s favourites and regular visitors to the HRD centre of the state government.

The health-conscious chief minister has even had the MLAs and IAS officers patronise the naturecare hospital in Hyderabad. All of them have undergone thorough check-ups and overhauling of their systems.

Officials being put through the grind don’t have to look far for inspiration. The chief minister — who came to be called ‘Laptop Naidu’ as he was always seen with the gadget while trying hard to popularise computers among the administrators — rises early every morning for a session of yoga, aerobics and meditation. Naidu, who took to yoga in early 1996, also sticks to a strict diet of curd-rice and fruit salads.

Even Naidu’s family has not escaped his health zeal — wife Bhuvaneswari patronises Dinaz’s Fitness Studio. Such is his enthusiasm that he is ready to attend or inaugurate any event or facility that furthers fitness. Just days before the Telugu Desam Party Mahanadu (annual convention) at Warangal, Naidu was present at the closing ceremony of Dinaz’s summer camp on May 30.

Naidu also doesn’t believe in all work and no play. All Telugu Desam legislators and functionaries were told to turn up with their family for a dinner after the budget session.

Similarly, Naidu organised a family get-together for collectors and senior IAS officials after the recent collectors’ conference. “Such get-togethers helped resolve minor pin-pricks and differences in a conducive atmosphere,” he said.

Naidu, who never misses an opportunity for publicity, has also distributed among senior journalists in the state as well as Delhi a set of cassettes brought out by well-known exponents of yoga and meditation.

“I wish journalists, who put in such long hours of work, also discipline their mind and body for better performance,” Naidu keeps saying.


New Delhi, June 4: 
Taking the political fight over VSNL investing in a Tata company into “enemy territory”, disinvestment minister Arun Shourie today indirectly hit out at BJP functionaries and Cabinet colleague Pramod Mahajan.

He asked people to “beware of the corporate warfare which is casting a shadow on the disinvestment process”.

Shourie spoke to the media for the first time today since a controversy erupted over the Tatas, who have bought the formerly state-run global telephone service operator VSNL, taking out Rs 1,200 crore from the company to invest in another Tata venture.

Shourie got an endorsement of his statements from home minister L.K. Advani as well as party president Jana Krishnamurthi.

He said he had even spoken to party functionaries Jagdish Shettigar and Sunil Shastri, who had criticised the deal yesterday.

Sources said he had obtained permission from the two to explain his stand and correct wrong impressions that had been created about his complicity in drawing up a sale deed on VSNL that allowed the Tatas to dip into the company’s cash chest immediately after divestment.

“I have seen this kind of corporate war in the case of Air India, in the case of Maruti, in the case of IPCL. One side would get some politicians to write letters on a certain issue, I would then play the journalist by tipping the other side off and they would get back to me with letters from 10 others (politicians),” Shourie said.

But even as he took up the gauntlet against his rivals, he walked into a controversy that may dog his political career. In the middle of the news conference, he read out a hand-written statement suddenly brought to him by an aide, detailing year-wise Tata plans for investing the Rs 1,200 crore in its group venture, Tata Teleservices.

Reporters pointed out that the plans he was reading out were at variance with what the Tatas had filed with the Bombay Stock Exchange. Shourie sheepishly admitted that this had come from the Tata spokesperson, prompting a comment if he was holding a “Tata conference”.

Otherwise, Shourie presented an aggressive front and asserted that “what we did was absolutely right” and that such controversies would only hit the disinvestment process, something that even the BJP was anxious to avoid.

Indirectly criticising the telecom ministry, which Mahajan heads, for not letting VSNL use its spare cash earlier in investment projects, he read out from the minutes of inter-ministry meetings where the VSNL chairman had sought permission to use the company’s reserves to enter new areas like long-distance domestic telephony without success.

Referring to reports that Mahajan was angry as he was kept out of the deal struck with the Tatas, Shourie pointedly said the government had met the Tatas 10 times to work out the shareholders’ agreement and the telecom ministry had been represented at all these. But there were no objections from anyone.

Shourie said no specific clause giving the government veto power over investment decisions was incorporated as it was felt “you have to ensure flexibility in these issues” and that such a stand had been accepted by all present at the meetings.

He said there were clauses detailing penalties if the buyer started stripping away physical assets.




Maximum: 36.7°C (+2)
Minimum: 28.1°C (+1)


2.4 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 88%,
Minimum: 59%

Sunrise: 4.55 am

Sunset: 6.15 pm


Generally cloudy sky, with possibility of rain, accompanied by thunder

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