India, China shed threat phobia
Curtain of silence drawn on theatre of war
Clinton tells Sharif to clear out
Police indicted in Bhikari case
Big donors to turn heat on Pak
Calcutta weather

 
 
INDIA, CHINA SHED THREAT PHOBIA 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA IN NEW DELHI AND ASHOK K. MEHTA IN BEIJING
 
June 15 
Signalling their intention to end the post-Pokhran II cold war, India and China today agreed not to regard each other as the primary security threat.

The two sides have concurred to enhance political, economic and cultural interaction that will strengthen the basis of Sino-Indian relations to a point where one will not doubt the intentions of the other.

The realisation that both countries can play a much more meaningful role in creating a multi-polar world is being seen as the primary reason behind the search for a new beginning.

?China and India do not regard each other as threats and both seek good neighbourly relations,? Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji was quoted as telling visiting Indian external affairs minister Jaswant Singh.

?We are happy to see that the relations have entered the process of improvement and development and hope that the two sides can strengthen the exchanges and visits in order to further eliminate doubts,? Zhu said.

Singh, too, expressed satisfaction with his visit, saying: ?India and China now want to turn a new leaf in their relations.?

China has sponsored an initiative to take up the Line of Actual Control (LAC) issue. The effort will be addressed sectorally, beginning with the least controversial central sector.

The Chinese said Beijing has resolved its border disputes with all others, except New Delhi. The new initiative is not a leap, but an important step forward.

During the day, Singh had a detailed discussion with Zhu, who made it clear that China was looking at a relationship that had a ?long-term vision and approach?.

Singh?s talks with Zhu focused on economy and trade. Both agreed that this was the key factor in enhancing relations while adjusting to globalisation.

?Significant new initiatives between the two sides are on the anvil,? Singh said later. Though he did not elaborate what they were, the hints were clear about the steps and mechanism the two sides have agreed to in order to make their relationship more secure, cooperative and meaningful.

The Indian foreign minister?s visit was primarily aimed at normalising relations which soured after New Delhi cited Beijing as one of the main threats to its security, forcing it to conduct the five nuclear tests. The remarks raised the hackles of the Chinese, but over the past year there have been indications that they were now keen on breaking the ice. The invitation to Singh was part of this new thinking.

Singh delivered a lecture on the evolving world scenario at the Chinese Institute for Foreign Affairs where members of the local thinktank and opinion-makers were present. He advocated Panchsheel as the new code of conduct, challenging hegemony and unilateralism with multilateralism and a balance in relations.

There were hints from Chinese intellectuals that India and China should forge an identity of views and actions to make the world a safer place in the post-Kosovo era.

Though the ?threat? label has been taken off and Beijing has adopted a neutral stand on the Kargil issue, sideshows during the day emitted signals that old perceptions die hard.

In an interaction with some delegates of Singh?s team, members of a Chinese thinktank displayed a marked tilt towards the Pakistani line on Kashmir. Similarly, their understanding of the Kargil situation was highly distorted.

The Indian side vigorously clarified the position, but the magnitude of the disinformation and misconception stood out. There was little doubt, too, that China?s relations with Pakistan were comprehensive and all-weather.    


 
 
CURTAIN OF SILENCE DRAWN ON THEATRE OF WAR 
 
 
FROM SANKARSHAN THAKUR
 
Batalik, June 15 
This is a story about the end of the story. For the past 45 minutes, we have been waiting at the checkpost of the Batalik army command, watching a crisply attired military police sentry preen in the morning sun and the Indus rush down the deep gorge into Pakistan. An army helicopter has just flown past carrying a wounded soldier to the military hospital in Kargil. More wounded are being carried back from the battlelines in an ambulance high above the craggy cliffs that face the army encampment, fighter jets are flying sorties, roaring in the sky but invisible.

More than a month after fighting broke out to evict Pakistan-backed intruders from Indian territory, Batalik remains a busy warfront but its tales cannot be told because its raconteurs have been ordered to silence.

The sentry sent in our request for a meeting with the commanding officer a long, long time back but there has been no reply. He would rather offer tea than hope. ?It?s not likely you will be allowed in. He is busy. He is not meeting anyone,? the sentry says. A while later, when he gets his orders on the field phone, he can barely disguise his sense of vindication. ?Commander saheb can?t meet you. He has orders from higher up not to speak to the press. He says Batalik is out of bounds for you. Please leave quickly.?

Over the last week, the authors of Operation Vijay have slowly shut the media?s window on this raging undeclared war, even though they themselves opened it, authorising journalists into the combat zone for ?covering the situation?. Army bosses have told their officers to tell off the media and those who were too polite to turn them down have been told off by their bosses. Suddenly, senior personnel who were happy to brief the press on operations have made themselves scarce.

Shy of cancelling its permits to mediapersons and asking them to pack up and leave ? that would perhaps be poor for PR ? the army has resorted to a slow burnout operation. In addition to putting a squeeze on news resources, it has stopped honouring its own authority letters. So journalists who left Kargil, the media HQ of this military campaign, suddenly found that they could not return even though they had valid papers. The army decided to shut the Srinagar-Kargil road for ?security reasons? and that was the end of it. Those who tried to take a chance got up to Sonemarg and were sent back; the clever ones did get a picnic on the enchanting Sonemarg meadow but not much else.

The Leh route to Kargil remains open but it is rather a farcical entry point for anyone wanting to cover the battle zone for they are not issuing permits in Leh. You get to Kargil but you don?t get anywhere else. The best you can do reaching Kargil from Leh is to have a picnic in Kargil, which is a more avoidable prospect than a picnic in Sonemarg. What do you get in Kargil but rancid tea and coarse boiled rice with stale mutton stew?

Not that things are much better now for those who are in Kargil with Indian army permits. A few days back, our car was flagged down by the army at a gun position near Kharbu on the Kargil-Drass road and covered by AK-47-carrying soldiers. A lieutenant approached us and told the Associated Press photographer to surrender his cameras and equipment. ?We have permission to seize your cameras,? he said. Upon verifying our papers, he did let us proceed but the message was clear. The army was not cooperating even with personnel it had authorised to ?cover the situation? and would like the media out of the region. Apart from blanking out information, senior army officers have even spoken of putting military intelligence (MI) tails on journalists, if only to discourage them from being too venturesome.

The local police seem to have added to the army?s efforts from the flanks. Suddenly, plainclothesmen have begun visiting Kargil?s Hotel Siachen, the media?s only bed-and-nothing place, to get details of journalists staying. Purpose unspecified. They take very little time on their mission, though, for there are few journalists now left.    


 
 
CLINTON TELLS SHARIF TO CLEAR OUT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 15 
Pakistan today suffered a stunning diplomatic setback with the US, its principal ally, asking it to vacate all armed intruders to resolve the Kargil conflict.

In a 20-minute telephone conversation, President Bill Clinton told Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that his refusal to pull back intruders from Kargil was blocking efforts to ease the escalating tension with India along the Line of Control (LoC).

?The President basically indicated he did not see how progress could be made on this issue until those forces are withdrawn,? White House spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington.

Clinton?s message is almost an echo of the statement by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee yesterday that he had told Sharif that Pakistan must withdraw the infiltrators before further talks could take place. Crowley also admitted that Pakistani forces ?have crossed over the LoC?.

The development indicates the extent of Pakistan?s international isolation for what is being described by the Indians as its ?misadventure? in Kargil.

A statement issued in Islamabad after the talks said Sharif told Clinton he remained committed to dialogue. But he stuck to Pakistan?s position that the Kargil conflict was ?one aspect of the larger issue of Kashmir, which cannot be isolated from the need for a just and final settlement of the Kashmir dispute.?

A senior Indian official said: ?We would like to see how Pakistan reacts to the US suggestion before giving our reaction.? Clinton?s remarks establish that Washington, along with other major powers, are in no mood to buy Islamabad?s story.

Pakistan?s political leaders and military generals have been trying to raise the spectre of war with India to invite third-party intervention. India has maintained that de-escalation along the LoC is possible if Pakistan withdraws the intruders. Clinton appears to agree with this view.

In another blow to Pakistan?s efforts to internationalise Kashmir, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan said in New York that though he was monitoring the Kargil situation, he does not envisage any ?active role? for himself in the crisis. Only a fortnight ago, he had expressed his desire to mediate.

Contrasting signals came from Pakistan itself. After a meeting between Sharif and President Rafiq Tarar, a Pakistani official said in Islamabad that both leaders felt the issue should be resolved peacefully.

This, however, did not stop the generals in Pakistan from accusing India of striking ?threatening poses?. The Pakistan army accused the Indian Air Force of activating forward operation bases.    


 
 
POLICE INDICTED IN BHIKARI CASE 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 15 
Three senior police officials, including an IPS officer, were today held responsible for the mysterious disappearance of Bhikari Paswan. Delivering the verdict, chief judicial magistrate (CJM) of Alipore, Gopal Chandra Mitra, ruled that chargesheets be filed against them for kidnap and murder.

Paswan, a mill worker, had been picked up from his home in Telenipara, Hooghly, by the police in 1993 in connection with an agitation at the Victoria Jute Mills. He never returned, nor has his body been traced.

His family charged that he had been killed by the police and his body dumped. The police denied this, saying they had neither picked up Paswan nor were they aware of his whereabouts.

Paswan?s family then filed a habeas corpus petition in the high court, demanding a CBI inquiry. The CBI?s findings were reflected in the trial judge?s verdict today. The CJM said the court was convinced that the police had picked up Paswan from his home on the night of November 30, 1993, and it may be presumed that he had then been tortured to death.

The court ordered that chargesheets be filed against Harmanprit Singh, an IPS officer who was then additional superintendent of police, S.P. Banerjee, then officer-in-charge of Bhadreswar police station, sub-inspector Samar Dutta and constable Swapan Nahata for kidnap, murder and criminal conspiracy.

The CJM observed: ?In consideration of the entire matter on record, I think that the police personnel acted far beyond the limit of discharging their official duties and are responsible for the fact that the whereabouts of Bhikari Paswan are still unknown.?

He also directed the accused to appear before the court on August 17, the next date of hearing.

The high court had directed the CJM?s court to take up the matter after the state government had challenged the findings of the CBI. In its report, the CBI had said the Hooghly police had picked up Paswan from his home and was responsible for his disappearance.

The CJM had then questioned several witnesses as well as CBI officials before passing its order.

Paswan?s counsel Bimal Banerjee said that during the investigation by the court, the CJM had interrogated 13 persons, including superintendent of police, CBI, Sharad Kumar.

Paswan?s wife Lalti Devi and his father Lakhichand Paswan were present in the packed courtroom today.    


 
 
BIG DONORS TO TURN HEAT ON PAK 
 
 
FROM SEEMA SIROHI
 
Washington, June 15 
Having dealt with the Kosovo crisis, the world?s most powerful leaders assembling in Germany for their annual summit are likely to focus on the Kargil conflict and devise ways to persuade Pakistan to return to the Line of Control.

Pakistan can expect more international condemnation from the summit in Cologne on Friday when the leaders of the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, Canada and Spain meet to take stock of the world situation. They are also Pakistan?s biggest aid donors.

It is unclear whether the Group of Eight leaders will go public with their condemnation but private diplomacy is expected to accelerate after Cologne.

Joe Steinberg, the deputy national security adviser, said at a briefing that the tradition for the summit?s opening night dinner on Friday is to have a broad-ranging discussion ?typically focusing on political issues?.

He reminded reporters that last year?s dinner discussed the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan. ?And so, particularly in that context, I would not be surprised if that topic came up but there is no agreement one way or another.? It is up to the leaders themselves, he added.

Given the background of last year?s nuclear tests and Pakistan?s recent sabre-rattling on using ?any weapon? in its arsenal, it is only logical that world leaders are seized of the issue. President Bill Clinton, who is taking a personal interest in the situation in south Asia, apparently is ?very focused? on the Kargil problem, officials said.

Within the last 10 days he has written to the two prime ministers and called them up to urge caution. He ?saluted? Vajpayee for exercising restraint in the face of aggression, officials familiar with the exchange said.

US officials are trying to figure out ways to get Pakistan to respond but with little success. There is mystification about how Sharif?s hand-picked army chief, Pervez Musharraf, could launch such an audacious operation without his knowledge. But many believe that Sharif knew about the Kargil intrusion.

A senior US official in charge of south Asia said Washington ?will keep at it with Pakistan? and will not relent until the Line of Control is restored. US officials privately agree that the battle for the ridges in Kargil could be a long one and with many casualties for India.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Today?s forecast: Generally cloudy sky. Possibility of one or two showers or thundershower in some parts.

Temperature: Maximum 34.2?C (Normal)
Minimum 27.9?C (1?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 94%
Minimum 63%

Rainfall: Nil

Sunset: 6.19 pm
Sunrise: 4.54 am
   
 

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