New look, but in numbers
Mamata smells twin split plots
12-year wait for bail hearing
The commitment Atal could not break
Hindutva eclipse in govt: Cong
More responsibilities for Advani: PM
Rousing return of birthday boy
BJP shows Mamata her place in Delhi
North to South, Sinha carries many firsts
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, July 1: 
Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha swapped places and jaded glamour got a look-in as two has-been actors, Shatrughan Sinha and Vinod Khanna, entered Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s team in ministerial changes the Prime Minister had touted as “major”.

If the finance-external affairs exchange was as expected, surprise lay in store in Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee not coming into the Cabinet amid what appeared to be murky developments around her party. She did not attend the swearing-in either.

Vajpayee’s eighth shuffle since October 1999, when this government came to power, involved 13 ministers — four of Cabinet rank, one minister of state with independent charge and eight ministers of state. A number of ministers of state have had their portfolios changed.

After handing over charge to M. Venkaiah Naidu at a ceremony complete with sweets and a makeshift crown in the form of a colourful pagri, BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthi, a lawyer, slips into the chair vacated by Arun Jaitley in the law ministry.

Talking of pacifiers, a long-standing malcontent — Delhi BJP leader Sahib Singh Verma — received the fruit of his labours when he was rewarded with the labour ministry, from which Sharad Yadav shuffles out to consumer affairs, food and public distribution, held so far by Shanta Kumar who moves to rural development.

Shatrughan Sinha did not campaign in Uttar Pradesh because he was not given a place in the political limelight, a grievance that has been redressed by handing him charge of the nation’s health and family welfare. His Bollywood mate Vinod Khanna hasn’t been as lucky and gets only minister of state status in tourism and culture, befittingly for a party that equates the last with the Mumbai film world.

The Shiv Sena’s Balasaheb Vikhe Patil is the fourth minister to be bestowed Cabinet rank, but his was a case of promotion from minister of state to full charge in the heavy industry department vacated by Manohar Joshi who became the Speaker.

Tamil Nadu’s PMK party re-entered the ministry with N.T. Shanmugham and A.K. Murthy.

After today’s changes, the strength of the council of ministers goes up to 78.

No other Cabinet shuffle in recent memory has provoked such high tension as the one carried out today. As speculation raged for the last three weeks, the interplay of pressures and counter-pressures and open bargaining were there for all to see.

What gave it an extra dimension was the Prime Minister’s declaration that the BJP organisation, too, would be subject to an overhaul. But even this exercise had its share of unseemly moments when the incumbent party chief fought his ouster tooth and nail and there was a tug-of-war among the prospective successors.

What did the exercise achieve? Apart from reasserting L.K. Advani’s supremacy in the BJP and making his position as the number two in the government formal, it did little to encourage the idea that the Cabinet was being given a new look.

Krishnamurthi was elbowed out because he was not good enough to run the party, but was found competent to head a crucial ministry like law. Verma was blamed widely for the BJP’s debacle in the Delhi civic polls.

The labour department has had two ministers, Satya Narain Jatiya and Sharad Yadav, who were shown the door for not being “committed” enough to labour reforms. Verma’s preference for populist politics is well known. Would the leadership expect him to do a volte-face and fall in with the reforms proposed in labour laws, with the Assembly polls round the corner?

The shuffle was to prune Bihar’s “over-representation”, but the opposite happened. The external affairs ministry will now have two Bihar ministers, Yashwant and Digvijay Singh. Omar Abdullah continues as the second minister of state.

The only Cabinet minister from Bihar to be dropped, C.P. Thakur, was replaced with Shatrughan. At the level of minister of state, the loss of one Bihar minister, Munni Lal, was made up with two inductions — Nikhil Choudhary and Sanjay Paswan.

If anything, there was apprehension in the BJP that the “positive” spin-offs of foreign policy could get undermined with Jaswant’s shift. There was an undercurrent of resentment that Yashwant, held responsible by a large section of the BJP for alienating its middle-class support with his taxation measures, was “rewarded” with an equally weighty portfolio for his alleged incompetence and bungling.


New Delhi, July 1: 
Derailed by railway minister Nitish Kumar, a furious Mamata Banerjee today spoiled A.B. Vajpayee’s show by her absence from the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

With Kumar going ahead with plans to bifurcate Eastern Railway, Mamata insisted that the railway portfolio be taken out of the hands of the Samata Party.

She was also miffed with NDA convener George Fernandes, her one-time mentor, for siding with his party colleague from Bihar.

“George behaved as parallel Prime Minister, while Kumar thought he was the home minister,” a source close to Mamata quoted her as saying.

Mamata’s grouse was not just that she did not get the railway portfolio. She also felt that the BJP was trying to split her party.

Sources said she was peeved with parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan. The Mamata camp believed that Mahajan had tried to offer a berth to party spokesperson Sudip Bandopadhyay in an attempt to split the Trinamul Congress. Bandopadhyay reported the matter to Mamata.

Sources said Mamata was “livid” at Mahajan’s offer and snapped at him with a blunt poser: “Who are you to decide?”

However, both Prime Minister Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani said efforts will be made to persuade Mamata to join the government.

Sources close to Advani said the ministry of coal and mines, vacated by Ram Vilas Paswan and now with Advani, will be kept warm for Mamata. However, she had rejected both coal and mines and rural development.

At Rashtrapati Bhavan, Vajpayee did not rule out the possibility of Trinamul leader rejoining the Cabinet. Asked if Mamata will be inducted, Vajpayee said: “Everything is possible. Let us see.” But he added that there would be no major shuffle in the near future.

Mamata is understood to have told the Prime Minister that if he could not give her the railway ministry, she would have no problem in joining the Cabinet as a minister without portfolio. But at no cost should the railways remain with the Samata Party, she said.

Trinamul, however, debunked suggestions that Mamata insisted on becoming the railway minister. According to the party, her main concern was the move to bifurcate Eastern Railway.

She wrote to the Prime Minister this evening, urging him to stop Kumar. Vajpayee, the sources said, assured her that he would look into her demand.

“It is incorrect to state that she was adamant on getting the railway portfolio. She had spoken to the Prime Minister and Fernandes on several occasions since yesterday to stop the bifurcation,” Bandopadhyay said.


Calcutta, July 1: 
And then there were two.

The first died in jail, the second lost his senses and the lucky third convinced the court to let him go. Only two of the five now languish behind bars, waiting for justice.

It has been a long wait of 12 years. And not even once in this period has their appeal come up for hearing before the high court.

Today, as their plea for bail came up in the court, judges S.B. Roy and G.C. Dey finally decided to set a date for their case to be heard.

It all started one night in February 1988 when six friends in the Maniktola area decided to go on a binge. As one drink led to another, the jovial flow of conversation turned to arguments. Then somewhere along the night, a fight broke out.

According to police records, Betai Mahato, Uttam Mahato, Narayan Saw, Kishore and Prince decided that their common enemy for the night was Rajesh Jaiswal, their buddy till a few hours back.

Jaiswal, the records say, was beaten black and blue and left to his own fate while the rest staggered away.

A few hours later, Jaiswal died. The police say he succumbed to the injuries he had suffered.

Jaiswal’s five friends were traced and arrested. The case went before the city sessions court which, in 1990, sentenced all of them to life imprisonment.

The five then appealed against the judgment in the high court, saying they were innocent.

Their appeal stated that Jaiswal was a heart patient and had possibly died because of excessive drinking. They denied involvement in his death and said there was no attempt to kill him.

But since that day in 1990 when their advocates filed their appeal, the high court has not heard their appeal even once. Their bail prayers have come up for hearing several times —Kishore even managed to convince the court that he could be let out — but never their appeal.

Even as justice continued to elude them, Betai Mahato died in jail two years ago while Uttam Mahato turned insane.

Uttam is now spending time in a mental asylum, oblivious of the fate of the appeal that he had filed.

The judges today admitted they were unaware of these “circumstances” when advocate Ravishankar Chatterjee pointed these out to them while moving the bail application.

Both the judges agreed that it was time their appeal was heard and fixed a date two weeks from today.

Recently, the Supreme Court had ruled that a court should be liberal in granting bail to those who have been rotting in jail for many years, waiting for their appeals to be heard.


New Delhi, July 1: 
Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s decision to formally appoint his long-time colleague L.K. Advani deputy Prime Minister was a direct fallout of the Gujarat riots when the Prime Minister was under attack from hardliners in the BJP.

For all practical purposes Advani has been No. 2 in the government since the NDA came to power. The elevation merely gives the formal stamp of recognition to the home minister.

Nobody in the government is quite sure how the experiment will work. Does it mean Advani will look into the working of the Prime Minister’s Office or will all PMO files also go to North Block for the deputy Prime Minister?

Most officials do not think so. They say Vajpayee has always consulted Advani and Jaswant Singh on all important issues and will continue to do so. Advani also discusses party matters with Vajpayee.

Bureaucrats say Vajpayee’s position will not be affected. “After all, the Prime Minister will remain the first among equals. The final decision will be his. When he is out of the country, Advani will preside over Cabinet meetings,” they say.

Officials think it is unlikely that Advani will interfere with the everyday working of the PMO. Perhaps, on important issues, he may want to be briefed by PMO officials or may ask for a file here and there. But nobody is anticipating any big change. Advani, according to the officials, already has his hands full with the home ministry.

“Going by recent experience, I don’t think there will be any dramatic change in the way the government functions. Morarji Desai, Devi Lal and Charan Singh were all deputy Prime Ministers and did not leave any stamp on the job,” a bureaucrat, who had observed all three in action, told The Telegraph.

Vajpayee’s decision to elevate Advani was taken from a position of weakness when he was under attack from both the Opposition and his own party over Gujarat.

By the time the BJP held its national executive in Goa, a team shake-up was already in Vajpayee’s mind.

A shrewd politician, he decided to act as soon as he gauged the party’s mood and give a clear message to the hardliners that Advani was solidly behind him. It was also to tell them that his association with the home minister went much further back than Advani’s current crop of supporters.

Vajpayee sounded Advani on his proposal soon after. He knew it would go down well with the home minister’s supporters and take the sting out of their attack.

Always a smart tactician, the Prime Minister did not stop there. He would have personally liked to sack Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for his failure to control the riots, but changed tune once he realised the support Modi enjoyed and echoed party sentiments in a speech at Goa that shocked the country.

But Vajpayee, perhaps, spoke to Advani too soon. The terrorist strike on the Kaluchak camp, where women and children of army men were killed, angered the entire nation. The attack turned the focus on Pakistan and the pressure on Vajpayee subsided.

The country’s attention now was riveted on the India-Pakistan standoff.

The mobilisation of the army to the border, New Delhi’s diplomatic offensive against Islamabad and the fact that there was sympathy and support for India’s position helped erase the memory of Gujarat. The Prime Minister’s position also improved.

Vajpayee no longer needed a prop to bolster his position. But having given his word, the Prime Minister was reluctant to go back on his promise to Advani.


New Delhi, July 1: 
Claiming that “non-Hindutva” political parties in the NDA regime were being reduced to “bonded labour,” the Congress today said the Cabinet reshuffle has completely eclipsed the coalition.

“Now it is the government of the BJP, by the BJP and for the BJP,” AICC spokesman Jaipal Reddy said. The “non-Hindutva” parties are themselves to be blamed for the situation, he added.

“The BJP has used them as a ladder,” the Congress spokesman said, adding that it engineered splits and created schisms to deny parties like the Trinamul Congress their “legitimate due”.

Reddy said it was a pity that two “non-Hindutva” leaders (Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar) ended up asking for the same portfolio, thereby increasing the BJP’s clout.

The Congress leader targeted defence minister George Fernandes, who is also the NDA convener, for failing to assert himself. “The so-called inbuilt, secular stabiliser of the NDA of 1998 has become a pliable, servile, subordinate of the BJP in 2002,” Reddy rued.

The BJP was now brazenly reverting to its Hindutva agenda, he alleged, adding that the party was using this “tactical method in political madness” as it was losing one state after another.

“The shifting of gears in the reverse direction will not revive the sinking fortunes of the BJP as a political party,” the Congress spokesman warned.

Paswan, Amar hit out

Lok Janashakti Party chief Ramvilas Paswan and Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh today criticised the NDA allies for silently agreeing to the appointment of L.K. Advani as deputy Prime Minister and said this would signal trouble for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Ridiculing the allies’ “helpless existence”, Paswan said important decisions are taken by the BJP and they merely stamp their approval.

“Though it is an internal affair of the government, whenever a deputy Prime Minister is appointed it means trouble for the Prime Minister as two power centres tend to clash,” Paswan said, adding that there was bound to be mistrust between Vajpayee and Advani.

He said the BJP’s election slogan, ab ki bari Atal Bihari, will now assume a different meaning — this time it will be Vajpayee’s turn to be toppled.

Singh also lambasted the Opposition for being disunited. A “fragmented Opposition, a confused Congress, a self-appointed Left and defeated and depressed secular parties” are responsible for the coalition run at the Centre, he said.

Paswan said in the background of the Time magazine article on the Prime Minister’s declining health, a deputy may give rise to speculation on Vajpayee’s health. Some people may also wonder whether Advani was appointed under pressure from the RSS, he added.

Singh charged the BJP with “aggressively” following the VHP-RSS hardline policy, taking advantage of the “helplessness” of its allies. The Samajwadi leader appealed to the Opposition parties to shun their fragmented image to defeat the communal forces.

“It is no longer a coalition government at the Centre,” he said, referring to the appointment of Advani as deputy Prime Minister and former Bajrang Dal leader Vinay Katiyar as chief of the Uttar Pradesh BJP unit.


New Delhi, July 1: 
The real gainer in the changes in the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance government is L.K. Advani.

He will spend time in the party headquarters at least twice a week to “facilitate interaction between the government and the party,” sources said. Advani’s increased presence at 11 Ashoka Road was felt necessary to crank up the organisation before the next round of state and parliamentary elections and ensure that the team he is attempting to build through new BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu works in a focused way and according to plan, as it had in the elections before 1996 and 1998.

In his address at the BJP headquarters today, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee also spoke of how important Advani was.

“I wish to congratulate the deputy Prime Minister. As home minister, he cooperated without any formality with me and we worked together. Now he will have to shoulder more responsibilities. Our objective is to strengthen the party and also run the government more efficiently. It is with this in mind the changes were made and I am confident we will benefit,” Vajpayee said.

Government-party interaction virtually ceased after K. Jana Krishnamurthi became the BJP president. Sources said among the priorities of Naidu would be to revive “live” contact between the two organs and in this process, Advani and Naidu are expected to play a big role.

“What is happening in the party will be made known to the government and what the party expects of the government will also be conveyed,” said sources.

Of the three presidents the BJP had once it came to power, Kushabhau Thakre was the only one who was in touch with the government with Naidu chipping in as general secretary. When Bangaru Laxman took over, Naidu was inducted into the government as the two were not on the best of terms.

Vajpayee’s choice Laxman had a hotline to the Prime Minister and in that sense the BJP-government link continued. The communication collapsed once Krishnamurthi took over as he was perceived by Vajpayee and Advani as “too independent-minded”.

On a number of occasions, Krishnamurthi had indicated that he would be guided by his political instinct and assessment in making decisions and not be dictated by the Big Two.

Naidu, on the contrary, said that for him, the party and the government had an embryonic link and neither was exclusive of the other. “If the mantra for government is development, for the party it is expansion,” he said.

He is expected to start consultations to put together his team of office-bearers after a brief visit to Andhra. Sources close to him said he had almost finalised the names of four of the five-member team of general secretaries who constitute the second layer of power in the BJP after the president.

They are Arun Jaitley (who will also be the spokesman), former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Rajnath Singh, Sanjay Joshi (who will be retained as the organising secretary) and Rajya Sabha MP Balasaheb Apte. Like Naidu, these four are from the RSS’ student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. The fifth post will go to a woman and the indications are Maya Singh will continue.

Party-government connection formed the theme of the speeches that were delivered today after Naidu took over. Advani said: “We were simultaneously thinking of the party and government. We are happy that ministers who held high posts and successfully discharged their responsibilities offered to return to the party and from the party, individuals who strengthened the organisation will be taken into the government.”

Naidu declared: “I will hold the BJP flag in one hand and the NDA agenda in the other.”


New Delhi, July 1: 
Two years ago, a dejected man had left the BJP’s central office as its chief spokesman. Today, he returned as party president to a welcome that seemed straight out of a Delhi marriage baraat.

Dholaks played out a rhythmic beat to the spitfire of cracker-bursts as M. Venkaiah Naidu returned home under a shower of petals to 11 Ashoka Road. The choice of the day could not have been more perfect — Naidu turned 51 today.

Only, he did not arrive on horseback but in an unpretentious Ambassador with former law minister Arun Jaitley in tow.

His return was not just an occasion for fun and feast. Present at Naidu’s anointment was the top brass — from the troika of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi to most other BJP ministers, including Pramod Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj, Uma Bharti and Vasundhara Raje.

Even a rare bird at the headquarters like disinvestment minister Arun Shourie was spotted carrying a basket of carnations. The other ministers greeted him with a single rose or lotus, the party’s symbol.

The message implicit in the power-packed turnout was that the role of the party apparatus would become sharper in the days to come, which does not necessarily mean it will compete with the government for attention. It signalled the BJP is gearing up for the next round of Assembly and the Lok Sabha polls in 2004 and could, therefore, be expected to chart a course independent of the government without being antagonistic.

The change involved in passing the baton from veterans like Kushabhau Thakre and K. Jana Krishnamurthi to a “younger” Naidu implied that BJP front organisations like the youth wing, defunct during the time of the earlier presidents, would again come into their own. Little wonder then that activists of the Yuva Morcha, which Naidu had once headed, feted him so enthusiastically.

In contrast to the low-key anointment of Naidu’s predecessor, Krishnamurthi, the new BJP chief was honoured with a red bandhini pagdi that was placed on his head by Vajpayee and Joshi. It was an indication that the leaders would treat him seriously and the cadre would be expected to do so.

There was also a handy explanation as to why Krishnamurthi got no such rousing welcome when he took over. “His succession took place under the Tehelka cloud, so everyone’s spirits were low,” said M.P. Jaiswal, an MP from Bihar. Krishnamurthi was hastily sworn in after Bangaru Laxman was forced to quit following the Tehelka exposé.

So well orchestrated was Naidu’s projection that even Krishnamurthi — who made no bones about his suspicion that Naidu was behind the negative publicity he got in the press — gracefully “made” up with him.

In front of the cameras, the outgoing chief garlanded his successor and asked him to take over the reins of the BJP. Bharti promptly embraced Krishnamurthi, as if to console him for the suddenness of his exit.

However, the verve on display seemed misdirected. There was no trace of the organisational efficiency that normally marks BJP shows. Chairs and water were in short supply and senior leaders like Mahajan and Sushma were left standing when Vajpayee and Advani addressed the gathering in the press room, where half the air-conditioners were not working.

Petroleum minister Ram Naik was seen trying to balance himself atop a chair to catch Vajpayee’s eye. It appeared as though the organisers, too, were intent on registering their presence on those that mattered instead of getting the nuts and bolts in place.


Calcutta, July 1: 
Today’s Cabinet reshuffle makes it clear that Mamata Banerjee now has to contend with two drastic changes from the scenario that catapulted her into national politics after the general elections in 1998.

First, she does not have the bargaining power she enjoyed in the early — and uncertain — days of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Second, the new-look BJP leadership may not have the patience that the Prime Minister had earlier shown in dealing with her capricious politics.

No one can fault her, though, for the hard bargains she attempted this time, too, because contrary pulls and pressures are part of all coalition governments. Her problem was that she had not quite come to terms with her increasingly diminished importance, unlike that of other partners like the Telugu Desam Party, the Shiv Sena and the Samata Party, in the NDA government and the BJP’s unfolding scheme of things.

Not that she hadn’t realised her relative unimportance at all. After a few days of futile bargaining, she did realise that she would not get back the railway portfolio.

As a last-ditch face-saver, she floated the idea that she would not mind any portfolio if the Prime Minister stalls railway minister Nitish Kumar’s proposal to truncate the Eastern Railway. A pathetic attempt to claim victory out of defeat — as if Kumar’s loss would not only cover her’s but turn it into her gain.

The fact remains that she may not even get this consolation prize because Kumar’s state, Bihar, is more important to the BJP now than Bengal, where Mamata lost the Assembly elections last year.

It is also her all-too-familiar story of projecting a fighter image. If she manages to get the bifurcation of the Eastern Railway stalled, she will have something to show to her constituency in Bengal to redeem the loss of her desired ministry.

Even if she eventually stays out of the Cabinet, it can be held up as the cause for which she sacrificed power.

The problem is that the compulsions that prompted the BJP to go simultaneously for the revamp of the Cabinet and the party have little room for Mamata. Bengal is not among the 12 states going to polls next year. And the new BJP leadership would like to look for fresh opportunities to strengthen the party in Bengal and not leave it any more as an adjunct of the Trinamul Congress.

The growing hold of L.K. Advani on the government and the party cannot but bode ill for her because the deputy Prime Minister has never been half as indulgent to her as Vajpayee. Advani’s attitude to her is believed to have hardened further after she left the Cabinet on the Tehelka issue and joined hands with the Congress before the Bengal polls.

It is unlikely that Bengal will remain unrepresented in the Cabinet. Mamata needs a berth desperately to add fire to her much-dampened anti-CPM fight and also to keep her flock together. It may be a matter of time before she gets her place in the Cabinet. But the BJP leadership has left her in no doubt that she must henceforth know her place in the NDA.


Washington, July 1: 
The transfer of Yashwant Sinha from North Block to South Block marks a turning point in the history of Indian bureaucracy, which has implications that go beyond the routine shifting of a politician from a ministry to another.

Never before has the elite Indian Foreign Service been led by someone from its arch rival in bureaucratic turf battles in New Delhi, the Indian Administrative Service.

The new external affairs minister belonged to the 1960 batch of the IAS. Eighteen years after leaving the service, Sinha still wears his association with the IAS like a badge on his sleeve.

At the level of policy formulation and implementation, Sinha’s transfer to South Block is certain to provide a shot in the arm for India’s most important external link — the relationship with the US.

For the first time in the history of India’s relations with the US, the external affairs minister will have sweeping personal influence which goes beyond the horizons of American foreign and security policies.

An official of the Bush administration dealing with economic affairs said on condition of anonymity that also for the first time, India’s foreign minister will have more contacts in treasury and commerce departments here than its finance minister.

During his visits to the US once a year — sometimes twice — in the past four years as finance minister, Sinha has quietly built up a reservoir of personal goodwill for the way he has conducted himself here. And he has received professional appreciation for reasoning out the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s economic policies with impatient American entrepreneurs.

America’s powerful insurance lobby is in eternal debt to Sinha for having opened up India’s insurance sector to them, something he promised to do on his very first visit to the US as finance minister. He is seen here as a rare Indian politician who keeps his word for having fulfilled that promise.

Howsoever misplaced the assessment may be, Americans think Sinha is a close confidante of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and it will reflect on their dealings with him. This assessment dates back to Autumn 1999, when Sinha came here for a World Bank meeting.

While there were doubts in India on whether Sinha would be retained as finance minister in the post-1999 poll Cabinet, he sent out a message here that he would remain at his post, having obtained a verbal commitment from Vajpayee before leaving for Washington. It left the Americans mighty impressed.

Though Sinha was not required to do so, he has made an effort during each of his visits to make himself available to American legislators.

Congressmen and Senators, who are at the pivot of Indian lobbying efforts in the US have appreciated this and it will stand him in good stead as foreign minister. It also represents a refreshing change from Jaswant Singh, who usually had no time for Capitol Hill. Relations between Singh and American legislators were, at best, polite. No more.

Singh invested heavily in his nine rounds of talks with President Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott. Though the talks yielded rich benefits in the year after India’s nuclear tests, Singh became a prisoner of sorts of the intense and personalised dialogue.

He missed a partner like Talbott in the Bush administration. His relations with secretary of state Colin Powell were frosty.

Sinha shares with former US ambassador to India Frank Wisner the same rapport that Singh had with Talbott. Though Wisner is no longer in the administration, he is still a formidable figure here because of the years he spent in the defence and state departments.

Besides, Wisner has an impressive lineage that counts: his father was one of the pillars of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time of its founding.

A sobering element in whatever baggage Sinha may bring to South Block as a former IAS officer is an IFS element in his own home. Sinha’s son-in-law, Ashok K. Kantha, belongs to the IFS and is now consul-general in Hong Kong.

The Chinese, who are adept at looking for unusual opportunities in diplomacy, will certainly use their potential for proximity with the new external affairs minister in steering the course of their relations with India at a time when Beijing has many worries about the US role in South Asia and other issues.




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Relative humidity

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