Delhi to US: thus far and no further
Kalamity for Congress
Cabinet shuffle clock ticks
Mother & daughter stabbed in city
Tango trips, passion rolls on
Nirupam lays down disinvestment roadmap
Pak warns of loose cannon
US offers border police package with sensors
Net tightens around Hurriyat
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, June 12: 
India today politely told US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld that it was difficult to initiate any further steps towards reducing tension in South Asia, unless Pakistan takes “urgent and visible” measures to end terrorism originating from its territory.

India also tried to scotch speculation that it was exploring the possibility of deploying foreign forces to monitor infiltration across the Line of Control. But Delhi indicated that it was not averse to getting sensors and radars from the Americans to keep a watch on the LoC.

Confusion over plans to monitor the LoC threatened to engulf Rumsfeld’s tour when he referred to the possibility of the presence of members of al Qaida near Kashmir. “I have seen indications that al Qaida is operating in areas near the LoC,” he said. “I don’t have any hard evidence of who, how many or where.”

A news agency later quoted Rumsfeld as saying — asked whether the two sides discussed deployment of foreign forces: “We discussed a whole range of subjects and I guess the honest answer is yes, that subject did come up. We reached no conclusions. It is a subject that needs to be discussed and thought about.”

A US embassy spokesman later said Rumsfeld’s remarks related only to the sensors, not foreign forces. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office also insisted that the issue of forces was not discussed.

Delhi has maintained that the best way to monitor the LoC was through joint patrolling by Indian and Pakistani forces. Politically, it will be suicidal for the Vajpayee government to accept any proposal which involves foreign forces on its soil.

But accepting a system with American radars and censors to monitor the LoC is not a difficult proposal as it does not involve the physical presence of any foreign forces.

Rumsfeld, the senior-most and latest US official to land in the subcontinent on a peace mission, suggested that the troops of the two sides be pulled back from the eyeball-to-eyeball position.

The constant shelling between the two sides, in which heavy artillery is often used, has not only added to the tension but has also affected the lives of people living close to the borders.

But India maintained that both the troop deployment and the heavy shelling are part of its fight against terrorism. The US official was told that unless Pakistan stops infiltration, disbands the terrorist groups and dismantles their infrastructure both within the country and in Pakistan- occupied Kashmir, there is little Delhi can do.

The US defence secretary met a host of Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and defence minister George Fernandes. Rumsfeld also held discussions on the situation along the border and the current state of India-Pakistan relations with foreign minister Jaswant Singh, who hosted a lunch for him.

In the evening, Rumsfeld left for Islamabad where he is scheduled to hold talks with the Pakistani leadership, including President Pervez Musharraf.

Rumsfeld said the situation along the Line of Control “ continues to be tense”. But he added that “we recognise the fact that India has very recently taken a series of steps that have been useful”.


New Delhi, June 12: 
An outmanoeuvred Congress leadership has begun distancing itself from the Left and started having second thoughts about fielding a candidate against the NDA’s presidential nominee, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

The Congress’ dilemma deepened during the day with several chief ministers of states ruled by the party, led by Kerala’s A.K. Antony, favouring Kalam’s appointment.

The day also saw the formal burial of the People’s Front, at the forefront of the shrinking ranks of Kalam’s opponents, but the Left refused to give up and indicated that it would try to persuade former Chief Justice A.S. Ahmadi to contest against Kalam.

Sonia Gandhi deferred a decision on the issue after some Congress Working Committee members, led by Natwar Singh and Manmohan Singh, expressed reservations about the party backing Kalam, while Pranab Mukherjee supported him.

Sources close to Sonia said the real problem was not about supporting or opposing Kalam but about wriggling out of a situation in which Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had decisively outsmarted the Congress chief. “It is in this context that some of her loyalists want her to force a contest to retrieve some ground before her own party cadre,” said a source.

Manmohan and Natwar have had several rounds of talks with the CPM’s Harkishen Singh Surjeet but could not find a suitable nominee. Ahmadi’s consent could not be taken as he had left for Canada.

Sonia telephoned 14 chief ministers of the party and a majority of them favoured Kalam. The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, too, welcomed Kalam’s likely elevation, saying “his achievements have made every Indian proud”.

A member of the personal law board, Kamal Farooqui, questioned the Congress-Left resistance to Kalam, wondering why they chose to accept Shiv Sena member Manohar Joshi as Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

Sharp divisions cropped up within the CWC with a member frowning on the Left’s role in shaping the Congress response. He cautioned that the main Opposition party should not be seen as a “B-team” of the CPM.

At the political level, Sonia’s managers admitted it was a grim battle. “We really cannot challenge Kalam’s achievements. Nor can we find another member of a minority community who can match Kalam’s stature,” a CWC member said.

The Congress and the Left have developed some differences on forcing a contest. Congress sources said the Left is insisting on finding a candidate preferably with a minority background.

Some Congress leaders tried to sound Najma Heptullah and P.M. Sayeed. But both leaders seemed reluctant to take on Kalam.


New Delhi, June 12: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is expected to shuffle the Cabinet before the mid-July presidential poll, sources close to him said.

The sources did not say whether it would be a large-scale chop-and-change exercise or a small-scale filling up of vacancies left behind by Ram Vilas Paswan and Manohar Joshi at the Cabinet level and minister of state Sripad Naik. “So far, the indications are that the Prime Minister may just restrict himself to filling up the vacancies. There is, however, pressure on him to go for something big,” a source said.

Vajpayee and L.K. Advani might meet over the weekend to exchange views and share inputs on the reshuffle, the sources added. “It appears that individually, the Big Two have done their spadework.”

With the government into its fourth year, the buzz in the BJP office is that this is the “most opportune” moment to make “sweeping” changes in the Cabinet and position the party for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

“After the coup the Prime Minister has pulled off with A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, he is in an unassailable position. He can make whatever changes he wants to without looking over his shoulder to see what the RSS or the BJP or the allies for that matter think,” said a BJP leader.

The party also believes that now is the time for Vajpayee to size up his Cabinet ministers. “There will broadly be two criteria. One, to see which minister mattered electorally because next year, we will have to fight several Assembly elections. The other would be to see who was performing,” explained a source.

Considering that most of the states due for polls were either in the north (Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi) or the west (Gujarat and possibly Maharashtra), the sources said more inductions could be made from these states.

As news of the impending reshuffle trickled out, there was fresh speculation on finance minister Yashwant Sinha’s fate. The sources said the RSS was keen on Murli Manohar Joshi, but Advani was reportedly against the idea.

Jaswant Singh’s name was also mentioned but a surprising third name has started doing the rounds — T.N. Chaturvedi.

BJP sources claimed that Vajpayee was interested in Chaturvedi because of his “clean image and proven administrative experience” when he was the Comptroller and Auditor General.

At the Goa national executive in April, Chaturvedi was the only member to share Vajpayee’s view that the meeting should discuss Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s “surprise” offer to resign, instead of rejecting it outright as others insisted.

The proposed shuffle would also pave the way for the induction of Trinamul Congress and PMK members, who have been waiting in the wings.


Calcutta, June 12: 
Death came calling at the Samsukhas’ in the garb of a distant relative when Sushila, 40, and daughter Pragati, 9, were stabbed by two men who visited them at their south Calcutta residence this afternoon.

Sushila’s son Modit, 14, escaped a bloody end as he had gone out to play with friends while the killers sat chatting with his mother. His elder sister, Monica, had left for tuition a little after noon.

The killers took about an hour to execute their grisly plan. They then locked the apartment and walked off with gold ornaments worth Rs 3 lakh and Rs 80,000 in cash without raising any suspicion.

Sushila’s husband Uttam, 46, a businessman, had left for work at 8 am, clueless about the calamity that lay in wait.

After Monica left for tuition, the family had lunch and turned in for a nap. At 3.30 pm, guard Phatik Sardar of Sukriti Apartments on 4, Park Side Road off Deshapriya Park — which the Samsukhas have called home for seven years — buzzed the intercom to inform that a middle-aged man claiming to be a close relative was waiting.

“He was wearing a check shirt and brown trousers. There was another man with him and both were conversing in Hindi. Sushila Devi asked for the name and he mentioned Chandan to me. She then asked me to send them up,’’ said Sardar, who has been detained for interrogation.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Soumen Mitra said the visitor has been identified as Chandan Bermecha, 35, from Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh. He had met Sushila at a relative’s place in Guwahati last month.

Modit returned at 5.30 to find the third-floor flat locked. He went to a neighbour’s apartment to wait. Monica joined him 45 minutes later. When Uttam came at 7.30 pm, they told him the flat had been locked for two hours. “I smelled something wrong and asked Sardar whether he had seen memsaab go out,’’ Uttam said.

Sardar said he hadn’t. Uttam then saw light filter through a window of his apartment. He grew suspicious and got the duplicate keys kept at a relative’s place nearby. “I went inside and saw a ghastly sight. Sushila was lying in a pool of blood near the kitchen. Pragati was lying near the bathroom,’’ he said.

“They repeatedly stabbed Sushila in the back as she was going to the kitchen. Pragati was stabbed all over her body. Both died on the spot,’’ deputy commissioner, south, Kuldeep Singh said.

The killers used a kitchen knife and a razor they were carrying, Mitra said.


Osaka, June 12: 
Argentina has gone now along with France, the two pre-finals favourites, and Italy might even follow them into the World Cup waste bin tomorrow.

But England is still alive, entirely appropriately in what is turning into a traditional Northern Hemisphere World Cup. Forget — with the perennial exception of Brazil — the unpredictable vagaries of flair and magical technique. This is developing into a World Cup to reward endeavour and effort, passion and pragmatism.

Nine teams out of the last 16 are known and no fewer than six are European, five from northern Europe, including England whose goalless draw against Nigeria secured second place in the Group of Death.

The overwhelming majority of the 44,864 fans in Osaka today were cheering for England and the vast majority of those supporters were, of course, Japanese who had adopted David Beckham and Co as their “other” favourites after their own national team.

That has made for a fascinating reversal in attitude. One year ago, for example, Japanese politicians, policemen and people in general were hoping England would not be here. Their qualifying campaign had started badly and the shock 5-1 win in Germany, which turned the group on its head, was still in the future.

At that point, the focus in Korea and Japan was not on what England might bring to the World Cup in football terms, but what they might threaten via those notorious hooligan supporters.

What a difference a year and two weeks have made. The balance now is a positive one on all counts. England’s footballers will face Denmark in the second round of the finals on Saturday and the feared invasion of the Far East by thousands of hooligan morons has not materialised. This is fortunate since local police and other officials appear to have had only a hazy idea of what to expect.

In the early hours of today I travelled back on the bullet train from Shizuoka in the company of German fans celebrating victory over Cameroon. At Tokyo central station, they crossed paths with Irish fans, also with second round qualification to celebrate after their own team’s despatch of Saudi Arabia.

As the two groups happily sang and chanted their way down through the environs of the station, the ticket collectors and porters froze to their spots. Were these the dreaded hooligan hordes descending, chanting their blood-curdling war songs before launching a fullscale, all-out assault on the bastion of the wonderful Japanese railway system?

Nothing of the sort, of course. These were just tired, happy fans on their way back to their hotels with nothing more in their minds than the anticipation of a very happy night’s sleep. They duly sang their way off into the Tokyo night and the Japan Rail network breathed a corporate sigh of relief.

In fact, in the spring of last year, the deputy head of Britain’s National Criminal Intelligence Service had reassured security symposiums in both Tokyo and Seoul that the sort of marauding mob violence, which had scarred the 2000 European Championship, was unlikely at this World Cup.

For one thing, the Pacific Rim was too far distant, for another, travelling to and around Korea and Japan would be prohibitively expensive. So far he has been proved right on each and every count.

Of course, happy reality does have its downside. The financial intimidation, which scared off the hooligans is one of the reasons why organisers in Japan and Korea have been left with more tickets on their hands than they expected. Thus far, Fifa’s late sale provisions have proved utterly inadequate.

Hopefully, everything will be sorted out in the next few days — in time, at least, for England’s new-found fans to cheer them on against Denmark. By then, of course, eliminated Argentina will be facing the music back in Buenos Aires. And it won’t be the tango, either.


Calcutta, June 12: 
Bengal’s ruling communists, a strident critic of the BJP led-Centre’s privatisation policy, today unveiled their own disinvestment programme, signalling privatisation and closing of sick industrial units in the near future.

State commerce and industries minister Nirupam Sen, a one-time orthodox Marxist who has been charged with shaping the market-orientation of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s New Left, presented the disinvestment programme. He offered to take the private sector as a partner into six hitherto state-run-units and close down two terminally sick ones.

“We have to keep tabs on other states as well as take note of the various central policies while charting out our own industrial policy,” Sen said amid protests from the Opposition, which walked out towards the end of his speech.

The government’s announcement concerning eight units in a way defined the contours of the disinvestment programme. The exact shape of this would be visible in the days ahead when the government is expected to put on view the larger plans in respect with a large number of units involving a vast workforce.

In specific terms, the workers on the rolls of the eight units, depending upon their age, would either be redeployed or retrained and repurposed in other units, Sen said. He, however, gave no indication whether, like the Centre, the state would look at the hard option of retrenchment at any point in time.

Commencing his reply during a debate on the demands for grants for his department on a gloomy note, Sen said Bengal’s industrial growth had been bogged down by the policies of the Centre.

“The new economic policy of 1991 and the present WTO regime, characterised by the unprecedented downturn in the global economy, has made it difficult for the state government to pursue and implement a policy for industrial progress,” he said.

He quoted from the Unctad 2000 report, which pointed out that globalisation had led to an increase in the volume of trade, but without any corresponding increase in incomes. He also quoted former RBI governor S. Venkitaramanan’s article in The Telegraph, which explained how developed countries were following unfair policies that were hindering anti-poverty programmes.

The minister then mentioned a few positive aspects of industrial growth in Bengal, relying heavily on the success of Haldia Petrochemicals, some industrial units in Howrah (especially mini steel and sponge iron plants) and the stable power situation.

Referring to the charges made by Opposition members, Sen admitted that the industrial scenario was not good. “But the government is blamed for every failure. You ask, what has the government done?

“The liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation tenets of the new economic policy proved disastrous to the traditional indigenous industries and domestic industrial companies, whether in the state’s public or private sector. The pre-eminent position that Bengal once held in the overall industrial scenario of the country was shaken by a variety of factors, chief among them being the huge influx of refugees from across the border,” Sen claimed.

He said the government was not in a position to run two public sector units and had decided to close them down. They are the Sunderbans Sugarbeat Processing Company and the Indian Pulp and Paper Ltd. “We were not ready to meet several restrictions and requirements of the pollution control board and other statutory bodies,” he explained.

The minister also said the government had decided to transfer six PSUs to the joint sector. They are the West Bengal Plywood, Lily Biscuits, Shalimar Works Ltd, Neo Pipes and Tubes, Caterpillar Engineering, and West Bengal Chemicals.

He said a rehabilitation scheme for factory workers above a certain age had been chalked out. On the other hand, younger workers would undergo “re-training and re-scheming” under the revival scheme.

“We have realised that some industries have to be revamped. We will have to take several measures for this, including allocation of funds.”

But the minister’s words were drowned out by protests from Trinamul and Congress members. “The decision to close two public sector units and disinvest six others smacks of the government’s failure in the industrial sector. Why will investors come to the state?” asked Saugata Roy as he and leader of Opposition Pankaj Banerjee led the members out of the House.


Islamabad, June 12: 
Pakistan today did not rule out infiltration of militants into Jammu and Kashmir despite Islamabad’s firm commitment to prevent incursions saying there were elements on whom the government had not much hold.

“Some (militant groups) are not entirely subservient to to the wishes of the Pakistani government and inclined to volatility,” special envoy to Kuala Lumpur Najmuddin Shaikh said.

“There must be a realistic assessment that if India with all its formidable forces and all the obstacles that it has put forward has not been able to seal it completely, Pak effort notwithstanding, some leakages may continue to occur,” he added.

Pakistan has scoffed at a suggestion made by home minister L.K. Advani about the possibility of a confederation between Pakistan and India.

A Pakistan foreign office spokesman said such a suggestion, viewed in the context of Advani’s Hindu fundamentalist agenda, his role in the destruction of the Babri Masjid, the reign of terror let loose by the Indian government in Jammu and Kashmir and the ongoing anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in which more than 2,000 Muslim have been killed since March this year, “could only have emerged from a fevered mind which remains irreconciled to an independent and sovereign Pakistan”.

The spokesman called upon the Indian government to agree to the immediate resumption of a serious and result-oriented dialogue with Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute and the return of forces to their peacetime locations, instead of gestures that carry little substance.

“In a situation where the Indian forces are massed on Pakistan’s borders in a dangerous posture of confrontation, the Indian decisions do not address the main causes of tension,” he said.

The Pakistan government had taken note of the decisions conveyed by the Indian government to the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi, which included the sailing back of Indian naval ships patrolling in the Arabian Sea, the proposal to appoint Harsh Kumar Bhasin as India’s high commissioner to Pakistan and lifting the ban on the use of Indian air space by Pakistan International Airlines, he said.

“We trust that the Indian government will soon announce further steps leading to the resumption of a meaningful dialogue on disputes between the two countries, especially the core issue of Kashmir,” the spokesman said, adding that Pakistan had noted with grave concern that India had intensified repression in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

The assassination of Abdul Gani Lone and the arrest of Hurriyat leaders represented a most dangerous trend in India’s oppressive policies in Kashmir, he said. Instead of taking the path of reason, India seems bent upon eliminating the Kashmiri resistance to India’s illegal occupation of their land, he added.


New Delhi, June 12: 
US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his team are understood to have sounded the Indian security establishment on involvement of third parties to check cross-border infiltration.

Rumsfeld also offered help to monitor activity across the Line of Control and said such cooperation can begin with sharing technology and intelligence.

But New Delhi has claimed that there is no change in its position that there should not be involvement of foreign personnel on the Indian side of the LoC.

“Our stand has not changed,” a defence ministry spokesman said. “It has been known all along that the US will talk about this.” India has sought an institutionalised mechanism to share intelligence and information with the US.

The US team offered to supply ground sensors to monitor activity across the LoC. It was suggested that to get these working, officials of India, Pakistan and the US could meet and sort out the modalities.

Rumsfeld met defence minister George Fernandes for a one-on-one meeting that lasted an hour. After that, the US delegation that included its deputy assistant secretary of defence William J. Lutti, principal deputy under secretary of state Stephen Cambourne and American ambassador in India Robert Blackwill met defence secretary Yogendra Narain, additional secretary Ajay Prasad and vice-chief of army staff N.C. Vij.

The Indian side was said to have welcomed US offers to exchange intelligence and sought an institutionalised mechanism to share information. The US is understood to have insisted that it was particularly keen on New Delhi taking steps to militarily de-escalate in tandem with some steps that Musharraf is expected to take in Pakistan in the short term.

Rumsfeld emphasised that disengaging on the border was very important. It would also help Musharraf in acting against militants.

Among the steps the US is most interested in seeing is the Indian Army relocating some of its more crucial units such as mechanised elements and strike forces to peace stations.

Rumsfeld met all the leaders responsible for running India’s security establishment, beginning with national security adviser Brajesh Mishra with whom he breakfasted this morning.

Defence ministry sources said Fernandes insisted that Pakistan’s action against militants needs to be demonstrative, visible to everyone, because that will make it possible for Delhi to de-escalate rapidly.

Fernandes conveyed the point that action taken by Musharraf needs to buttress his assurance that the measures are “permanent” in nature. Clearly, India is seeking the arrest and detention of militant leaders, a clampdown on their camps and offices and on their sources of funds.

It is understood that India agreed to intensify intelligence sharing on Kashmir with the US and has sought a mechanism to institutionalise the arrangement. Fernandes also said India’s steps will be “calibrated”.

Fernandes later told journalists that he did not want to go into the specifics of the “understandings” reached in his talks. He said the “understandings” were on steps to deal with immediate issues.

“The discussions we have and the understandings reached on how to deal with some of the immediate problems we are facing will help in creating a better atmosphere in the subcontinent,” said the defence minister.

Rumsfeld is the highest-ranking US official to visit the subcontinent since the military standoff on the borders.

“We feel that there are steps being taken which are constructive. The leadership in India has demonstrated their concern and interest in seeing that things are resolved in an appropriate way,” Rumsfeld said, adding that the talks had been “cordial and constructive”. Both Fernandes and Rumsfeld refused to take questions.


Srinagar, June 12: 
The Jammu and Kashmir government has asked law enforcement agencies to widen the crackdown that began with the arrest of pro-Pakistan leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Evidence against other Hurriyat leaders is also being gathered, raising the possibility of more arrests under the new anti-terrorism law. According to highly-placed sources, income tax officials have joined the police in gathering evidence that could clear the ground for their arrest.

A top police official, on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the Hurriyat’s movement and that of other separatist leaders is being closely monitored. He claimed that the authorities had incriminating data to book some of the leaders under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The officer added that steps were being taken to locate the bank accounts of these leaders. “Their phones are being tapped and persons meeting them are being scanned,” he said.

This time round, sources said, the charges would be substantial to ensure that the guilty don’t get away with light sentences. Predicting the imminent arrest of several leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, including chairman Abdul Gani Bhat, they said the detainees would be shifted to prisons outside the Valley. Known for his hardline stance, Bhat is reported to be high on the list of possible detainees.

The Hurriyat leadership’s stubborn refusal to participate in the forthcoming Assembly elections has forced the administration’s hand, say sources. Despite pressure from the US and UK, the Hurriyat steadfastly opposed the democratic process, maintaining that “election is no solution to the Kashmir dispute”.

Geelani case

The Hurriyat today dismissed the government’s claim that “classified documents” relating to deployment of army and para-military forces were recovered from Geelani’s residence.

The allegation is “highly fictitious and false”, the Hurriyat said in a statement.

The government and its “lackeys” in Jammu and Kashmir have launched a campaign of character assassination against Hurriyat leaders, the statement added.




Maximum: 27.6°C (-6)
Minimum: 24.6°C (-2)


74.2 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 98%,
Minimum: 84%

Sunrise: 4.54 am

Sunset: 6.19 pm


A few spells of rain or thundershowers, with one or two heavy showers

Maintained by Web Development Company