Atal strikes down UN mission
Hero?s pyre lit amid rage
Back from the brink and onward to Lord?s
Kargil shadow
Calcutta Weather

 
 
ATAL STRIKES DOWN UN MISSION 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, May 30 
Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee has snubbed United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan for suggesting last night that he could send special envoys to India and Pakistan to broker peace in Kargil.

Turning down the offer, Vajpayee told Annan if he had to send an envoy on a peace mission, he should send one to Pakistan.

?Annan rang me up last night to propose that he could send a special envoy to India and Pakistan to sort out the matter between both countries but I told him firmly, if at all such an envoy had to be sent, he should go to Pakistan and not India,? he told a gathering at his residence today.

Vajpayee said a third of Kashmir was under unauthorised occupation. ?We want to take back the areas under Pakistan?s unauthorised occupation,? he said.

The Prime Minister had reason to be confident yesterday. The army had moved into a ?position of control? in Kargil though there still remained zones occupied by insurgents. The defence forces expect serious resistance to any attempt to vacate these areas for at least some more time.

The army forced infiltrators out of an isolated pocket in the Batalik area after a fierce battle yesterday in which a Major was killed. Leading his team, Major M. Sarvanand of 1 Bihar crept upon the infiltrators from behind and in a hand-to-hand combat, killed all five of them. But he himself went down to a volley of bullets.

The post had earlier been identified as a vital position from where infiltrators had been conducting a major offensive. It was crucial also because the army could not have reached the Line of Control without clearing it.

Acknowledging Major Sarvanand?s supreme sacrifice, Major General J.J. Singh told reporters here it would soon be possible to wrest back all the positions from the infiltrators. ?We are moving upwards in the mountainous terrain and our operations will continue till the sanctity of the LoC is restored,? he said.

India has so far lost 33 army and five air force personnel. Twelve armymen are missing. The wounded total 130. Bodies of all the four air force personnel who died after a helicopter was shot down on Friday have been found and have been flown to Srinagar. From there, they will be taken to the Sarsawa air base where the men were posted.

Air Vice-Marshal S.K. Malik said the airstrikes continued today despite bad, cloudy weather. Asked about the statement of defence minister George Fernandes, who was in Kargil today, that air operations had been suspended, he clarified that the strikes were kept on hold yesterday to allow reconnaissance but restarted today.

Srinagar airport, closed to civilian traffic since May 26, was re-opened today.    


 
 
HERO?S PYRE LIT AMID RAGE 
 
 
OUR BUREAU & AGENCIES
 
May 30 
As teammates vowed revenge for Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja?s ?cold-blooded murder? by Pakistani troops, his five-year-old son lit his pyre at a village near Bhatinda a week after the officer?s 36th birthday.

A post mortem report established that Sq. Ldr Ahuja had been shot dead. Pakistan has been claiming the officer died when his MiG 21 crashed after being hit by a missile.

Air Vice-Marshal S.K. Malik described the killing as an ?act of cowardice? and said the dead pilot?s teammates ?are now even more determined to avenge his death and carry out attacks? against the Pakistan-backed infiltrators. He said the officer was killed after he ejected and landed on the Pakistani side, a charge Islamabad denied.

?The Indian claim is false, malicious, concocted and a move to mislead public opinion,? an Inter Services public relations officer said. Pakistani foreign minister Sartaj Aziz said his country was willing to work for defusing tension but would not apologise for shooting down the Indian fighter aircraft.

India summoned Pakistani deputy high commissioner Akbar Zeb today to lodge a strong protest against the ?brutal shooting?. ?New Delhi expects that those who are guilty of shooting Ahuja in cold blood will be prosecuted by the government of Pakistan for murder and punished,? the envoy was told.

Sq. Ldr Ahuja was shot twice, with one bullet going through his right ear and the other piercing his chest. The post mortem report showed ?a penetrating gunshot wound: entry near right ear, exit near the external orifice of left ear. Second gunshot wound: entry 2 cm medial to right nipple, exit near left iliac crest damaging internal viscera like liver, intestine and peritonium.?

The officer was cremated with full military honours at Killa Nihalsinghwala village near the Bisiana air force base where he had been posted. His son, Ankush, lit the pyre in the scorching sun with help from relatives.

The cremation ground was brimming over with air force personnel and villagers from the neighbourhood when the body was brought in on a flower-bedecked vehicle. Army personnel sounded the last post and reversed arms as a mark of respect to the officer, who was killed when he flew out to rescue a teammate stranded in Pakistani territory.

Sq. Ldr Ahuja?s grieving parents and brother Vijay said they were proud he had sacrificed his life for the country. His widow, Alka, has not spoken since she heard of his death.

Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal said a statue of the martyr would be installed at Bisiana Chowk and the government school at Killa Nihalsinghwala would be renamed after him. Badal had earlier gone to the airport to receive the body, flown in from Srinagar this morning.

The body was taken to the Ahuja home at the air force base, where his family bid him goodbye for the last time.

While there was gloom in Bhatinda, there was a glimmer of hope in Adampur where the family of the pilot Sq. Ldr Ahuja had set out to rescue awaited his release.

Flight Lieutenant K. Nachiketa, who is being held as a prisoner of war by Pakistan, turned 26 today. His sister Sandhya and her husband Mukund left New Delhi for the Adampur air force base in Punjab, where her parents are staying.

The sudden departure sparked speculation that the family was expecting Flt Lt Nachiketa to be released soon.

Home minister L.K. Advani sent greetings to the pilot?s family on his birthday and wished him a speedy return.    


 
 
BACK FROM THE BRINK AND ONWARD TO LORD?S 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Birmingham, May 30 
The bhangra and dandiya on the field complemented the wild hooting of car horns off it, up-and-down Edgbaston Road. And the common tri-coloured thread through it all was an overwhelming sentiment: Now, on to Lord?s.

Lord?s and a June 20 date with the World Cup final is still some way off but, having made the super-six (No. 2 from Group A) after being threatened with a first-round exit, Mohammed Azharuddin?s team is on song. Of course, out of the tournament are the hosts, England.

It?s a painful first for England as all six previous World Cups saw them go past the first-round, at least. This time, they tied with India and Zimbabwe on points (six each), but failed the cut owing to an inferior net run rate.

For England, it?s heartbreak time and dozens of post mortems can be expected. Yet, captain Alec Stewart insisted ?it wasn?t a time of crisis... It would all have been so different had South Africa beaten Zimbabwe?.

Stewart will continue, but today?s 63-run defeat certainly ended one innings ? it became David Lloyd?s last day as England coach. Lloyd didn?t get the send-off he would have liked, but few in sport can choose their manner of exit.

Azhar, for a change, was all smiles. ?I?m very proud of the boys,? he remarked emotionally. Perhaps for the first time in the tournament, he was actually given a huge ovation by fans.

Even more emotional was his father, Azizuddin, who has been around from Day-I of the World Cup (as is Azhar?s wife, Ayesha). ?Main jeetane ke liye aya hoon. Aap dekh lena, Cup India hi jayega,? he told The Telegraph.

To put it mildly, that was the ultimate in optimism after defeat at Zimbabwe?s hands in Leicester, 11 days ago. But the comeback-from-the-brink was set in motion at Bristol (vs Kenya), exactly a week ago. On Wednesday came that awesome win over Sri Lanka (Taunton).

Call it peaking at the right time ? as Man of the Match Sourav Ganguly preferred to put it ? or give it another label, but India have got their act right three matches on-the-trot. All saw crushing victories. Only, it will be life-or-death in the super-six, too.

As India don?t carry forward a single point, winning all three games will be imperative for a semi-final berth. Ironically Zimbabwe, third in Group A take to the next round with the maximum possible four points (wins against India and South Africa), with toppers South Africa taking just two (victory over India).

Match No. 1 is at The Oval against the Group B runners-up on June 4; the second vs toppers Pakistan at Old Trafford ? Wasim Akram?s second ?home? ground after the Gaddafi ? on June 8 and the third against Group B?s team No. 3 at Trent Bridge on June 12.

This morning, play began 30 minutes behind schedule, all due to ?senior? umpire Darrell Hair?s whim and not because of rain.

Apparently, till somebody sensible took him off his high horse, Hair?s position had been to wait till he was ?sure? there wouldn?t be any interruption! That was ridiculous, to say the least, and so incensed was Ian Botham, for one, that he caustically asked Sky colleagues: ?Is he God??

With conditions tailormade for movers of the ball and pressure to qualify more than merely choking, the odds were against England. It didn?t help that Javed Akhtar gave an atrocious leg-before verdict against the in-form Graham Thorpe.

Akhtar?s probably done his bit to defuse Indo-Pak tension, but many in the England camp will be happy to lynch him.

England still had batsmen to mount a challenge but the Anil Kumbles and Souravs not only got wickets, they dried the runs as well. ?We were too soft,? acknowledged Lloyd. The Indians, though, aren?t complaining.

Indeed, most happy should be Lalit Man Singh, India?s high commissioner to the UK, who hosts a reception at India House in London tomorrow evening. It?s bound to be a super hit.    


 
 
KARGIL SHADOW 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY
 
London, May 30 
Fears are growing that Indian and Pakistani supporters may cause trouble when the two sides meet at Old Trafford on June 8 against the backdrop of the Kargil tension.

?We would not be doing our job if we didn?t take advice from all the appropriate sources. We are aware of the situation in the subcontinent,? PTI quoted World Cup events manager Michael Browning as saying.

But diplomats remain more optimistic. ?Pakistanis and Indians have been living harmoniously in this country. The two have cricketing rivalry but it is an honest one and we don?t expect any problems,? Pakistan high commissioner Riaz Samee said tonight.

Samee is expected to attend his counterpart Lalit Man Singh?s reception tomorrow. Man Singh had gone to a similar party thrown by Samee for the Pakistan team before the start of the Cup.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky.
Temperature: Maximum 36.1?C (1?C above normal)
Minimum 26.7?C (Normal)
Relative humidity: Maximum 87% Minimum 62%
Rainfall: Nil
Sunset: 6.13 pm Sunrise: 4.55 am    
 

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