Letter war ahead of G8 summit
Ceasefire versus pullout at Cologne
BJP sees mid-July end to one war, start of another
Fresh clues in Oxytown deaths
Between two demons in Drass
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, June 18 
India has turned to Washington for help to convince the world?s richest and most powerful nations ? the Group of Eight ? of the need to send a strong signal to Pakistan to vacate the armed intrusion in Kargil.

New Delhi is trying to persuade world leaders to block all future loans to Islamabad from multilateral lending agencies unless it restores status quo ante.

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee has written to US President Bill Clinton spelling out India?s position on the Kargil conflict. The letter was handed over by national security advisor Brajesh Mishra to his US counterpart Sandy Berger in Geneva on Wednesday.

The Pakistanis have also shifted their focus to the G8 meet that begins in Cologne tomorrow. They will try and convince the leaders that it is Kashmir, and not Kargil, that is the source of dispute between the south Asian neighbours.

The Pakistani Prime Minister has written to all G8 members and sent a special envoy to Cologne to ensure Islamabad?s story is sold better than New Delhi?s.

?Kargil has underscored the centrality of the Kashmir dispute which has always been recognised as the root cause of tension and conflict in south Asia,? Sharif says in his letter.

Urging a fresh round of talks between India and Pakistan, he warns that support for New Delhi on Kargil ?could encourage India to justify its escalation and belligerence?.

?The G8 must instead adopt a constructive and solution-oriented approach that would contribute to preserving and promoting the cause of peace and stability in south Asia,? he says.

India, on its part, will try to persuade the G8 nations to deny Islamabad access to loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other multilateral lending agencies. This may be the most effective way of taming Pakistan whose economy is teetering on the brink and dependent for survival on external assistance.

New Delhi?s wish-list was rolled out by foreign minister Jaswant Singh today. ?It is our expectation that the international community, particularly the multilateral agencies, should take note of their declared purpose for the use of which these advances are to be made and review the use to which they are being put in Pakistan,? he told foreign correspondents in New Delhi.

India had protested last year when, after the nuclear tests, the US let Pakistan off lightly and allowed loans from multilateral lending agencies to flow.

Washington had then argued that it did not want the Pakistani economy to suffer. But following the Kargil aggression, India can tell the international community that loans extended to Pakistan are used, more often than not, for military purposes and New Delhi is its sole victim.

Encouraged by the US support for its stand on Kargil, New Delhi appears to be banking on Washington to press its case at the G8 meet. India has several friends in the G8, but it needs the support of all the member-countries to push through its agenda.

New Delhi is not sure how Britain and Japan will react. British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently said the Kargil conflict was related to the Kashmir dispute. Japan has voiced its doubts about whether the intruders were sent by Pakistan.    

New Delhi, June 18 
The world?s richest and most powerful leaders will go into their annual summit meeting in the German city of Cologne on Saturday, fully convinced that India and Pakistan are about to go to war.

India has embarked on a diplomatic blitzkrieg with the aim of ensuring that neither the Group of Eight (G8) developed countries nor any other international forum, such as the UN, presses for a ceasefire in Kargil before Pakistan vacates its aggression.

According to diplomatic sources, when the G8 leaders assemble in Cologne, they will have piles of telegrams from their embassies both in New Delhi and Islamabad which predict the inevitability of a second front opening up between India and Pakistan outside Kashmir.

Military analysts in several G8 countries have also reported to their leaders the belief ? on the basis of ground situation reports from the Line of Control (LoC) ? that India will have to cross the LoC if it is to carry out its promise to throw out the infiltrators.

Surprisingly, some Western countries are privately expressing the view that India deserves understanding if it crosses the LoC with the limited purpose of cutting off the Pakistani supply lines to the intruders and scaling the occupied heights from the other side.

But, despite this understanding, the G8 is unlikely to take such a collective view of the situation. This is because the G8 not only includes masters of realpolitik such as the US, Russia and France, but also perennial bleeding hearts like German foreign minister J. Fischer, a Green Party leader.

The Japanese, for instance, have taken the unacceptable view that although aggression has taken place, it should be overlooked at best, condoned at worst.

Since decisions at G8 summits have to be by consensus, there are fears that a call for a ceasefire may be the Cologne summit?s answer to the Kargil crisis. Pakistan is, in fact, hoping for a ceasefire.

It will enable the Pakistan army to hold on to the heights it has occupied in violation of the LoC, immobilise the Srinagar-Leh national highway at will and then proceed to the next stage of its operation: large-scale infiltration of Jammu and Kashmir through the newly-occupied positions.

National security advisor Brajesh Mishra?s talks with his US counterpart Sandy Berger in Paris and his meetings with French foreign ministry officials in the last two days are aimed not so much at explaining India?s already well-known position on Kargil, but to insist that the international community must demand a Pakistani pullout before talking about a ceasefire.

Mishra?s efforts are being supplemented by foreign secretary K. Raghunath who is seeking global support for what South Block sees as the second stage of an Indian diplomatic initiative.

Raghunath met all the South Asian envoys ? except Pakistan, of course ? on Wednesday evening and was relieved by the understanding in India?s neighbourhood over the Pakistani action in crossing the LoC.    

New Delhi, June 18 
The BJP is hoping the Kargil operation will be wrapped up by mid-July and the party will then be free to launch its poll offensive.

Bolstered by the army?s success in recapturing the Batalik Top, Tololing and other peaks in Drass over the past week, BJP sources claimed it is a matter of time ? ?latest by July 15? ? before all the intruders are thrown out.

?Our calculation is that the BJP can launch its propaganda offensive on Operation Vijay on August 15, when the Prime Minister will address the nation from the Red Fort ramparts,? a senior party office-bearer said.

But the party is divided on the extent to which it should politicise the Kargil issue, especially since its own leaders have been sermonising the Opposition against seeking mileage out of the conflict.

?If we break our own ground rule immediately after the offensive ends, there is a danger that we may be exposed for trying to draw electoral mileage from a self-inflicted crisis,? a moderate said.

But the hawks have taken the line that the BJP must pre-empt the Opposition?s campaign on the issue. The Congress has made it clear it is holding its horses only for the moment, in the ?interest of the nation?.

The BJP is aware the Opposition will take the government to task on its failure to anticipate the infiltration, for misreading Pakistan?s intentions after the hyped-up Lahore bus trip, the lack of war preparedness and the high casualties.

The BJP?s own cadre have raised disquieting questions, to which, a general secretary candidly admitted, ?We have no answers?.

The hawks insist the only way to fend off the criticism is to play up the army?s ?victory? and the fact that the war is being waged on heights never scaled before by any security force in the world.

?It is without precedent, and the army and the government must be applauded internationally for achieving the impossible once Operation Vijay ends,? a party source said.

The BJP, which was rattled by the failure of the Jaswant Singh-Sartaj Aziz talks, had started raising the spectre of war. It even suggested that the general elections might be delayed.

But following US President Bill Clinton?s call to Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif, Islamabad?s isolation in the diplomatic community and the army?s renewed offensive, the BJP is hoping Pakistan will pull out its forces and prevent the declaration of a full-fledged war.

Home minister L.K. Advani scotched speculation of a poll deferment at a press conference in Hyderabad today. ?The elections will be held on schedule. It does not matter if military strikes have to be continued for some time,? he said.

BJP spokesperson M. Venkaiah Naidu accused the Congress of ?doublespeak? because it had claimed it would usher in a ?single-party stable rule? but was ?covertly striking alliances with regional parties?.    

Calcutta, June 18 
Four youth, picked up for questioning in connection with the murder of four members of the Pal family in Oxytown, Thakurpukur, said they had helped set up meetings and phone calls between Sohini ? the Pals? eldest daughter ? and her tutor, with whom she was allegedly having an affair.

Police found the bodies of Sohini, her parents and sister at their home on Monday, at least three days after they were murdered. Sohini and her tutor are allegedly at the centre of the mystery.

The 21-year-old Sohini, the youth admitted, had been a frequent visitor to shady resorts on Diamond Harbour Road with her 40-year-old tutor. In spite of these trysts, there is growing belief that the affair turned bitter and Sohini insisted that her tutor get a divorce. There are also indications that Sohini had developed more than one relationship.

Police said the tutor?s wife stumbled upon her husband?s relationship with Sohini and had filed a petition for divorce.

The CPM?s Mahila Samity also found out about the affair and warned Sohini and her tutor to put an end to their affair. CPM activists said they had asked the Pals to pack up and leave the locality.    

Drass, June 18 
Yesterday?s report from the front came to you courtesy Associated Press (AP) photographer Saurabh Das. We had been watching the twilight assault on intruder positions around Peak 5140 from a little clearing in the Drass army camp ? he through his fascinating arsenal of lenses, I through wondrous wide eyes.

Perilous though they are, Drass offers the best spectator seats on the high voltage battle for supremacy over snowy mountains that run along the troubled India-Pakistan frontier. Looking left to right from the concave, shelled-out centre of Drass, you can see the three heights that hold the key to security on National Highway IA and to India?s territorial contiguity in upper Kashmir ? Tiger Hill stands to the extreme left, still streaked with snow, then comes Peak 5140, a lofty grey mountain with broad flanks, and then, Tololing, a craggy peak with down to earth contours, the kind schoolchildren etch in their drawing books.

Tololing was already taken by Indian troops, Tiger Hill was awaiting a final push for conquest and 5140, at the centre of Drass? panavision screen, was under fire.

Mortar strikes were ripping up its ridges with rapidfire ferocity and so many artillery shells were landing on the mountainhead, 5140 looked like a volcano spewing smoke, or, a demon being slowly put to death. Infantry contingents made noisy progress across the camp, arriving from battle or departing for action, and soldiers on camp skittered about to reach their bunkers before night descended. ?The action will begin now,? one helmeted jawan said as he hurried down the road to his muddy haven-in-the-ground, ?Get ready for the daily pounding.? But the attention last evening was already riveted on the drama on 5140.

It was dark all too soon and suddenly that other demon began to haunt us: deadline. The artillery fire was beginning to flash behind the smoke plumes on the mountain and embattled positions flickered with bursts of machinegun fire.

The recounting for the day was concluded on a laptop in a captain?s lamplit shed even as the fiery spectacle unfolded on the mountain. But the relaying we had to be out again into the open of the night.

Saurabh had been at work on establishing a surreal little transmission station in the middle of the battleground ? a phoneline and a laptop, the sparkle of its screen under the inky sky like a piece of the moon fallen on dark earth. The story was on its way. But suddenly the cold air crackled and a wave of splinters flew overhead like lightning. I was down in the cold dust and Saurabh was down but his hand was still clutching the laptop?s side, keeping it safe on an unsteady wall of sandbags. A few moments later came another burst of shell fire, zooming above the camp and disintegrating into the banks of the Drass river behind us. ?Send it across,? Saurabh urged, as I read on from the fluorescent screen, ?There?s time. Send it across quick. We?ll take a chance, go ahead.?

After a brief lull, the bombardment and counter-bombardment had resumed its high pitch and the pitter-patter had turned to rain. Artillery guns were belching fire from Drass valley?s dark belly and from behind 5140 rose recurrent flashes, lighten up the sky: Pakistani guns responding. They were landing all over the place, rustling up the darkness. But Saurabh held up the screen till the last line had been read out.

Around midnight, 5140 was lit up with a hail of flares; it was like a display of fireworks but this wasn?t anyone?s entertainment. Nobody was quite sure who was firing them: it could have been the Indian forces trying to expose Pakistani positions around the peak for the infantry to hit, but it could also have been the Pakistanis trying to locate Indian troops trying to close in. Each burst of flares was followed by rounds of machinegun fire, echoing eerily in the night.

From the pit of our dark bunker ? we were four in a four by four hole in the ground ? we heard the fire fly across and thud in the vicinity all night. There was a brief break in exchanges but by dawn, when the first supply convoys begin moving up to Leh via Drass, precision shell fire on National Highway 1A intensified again. The gaily coloured trucks, carrying essential commodities that sustain Kargil and Leh through their long isolation of winter, hurried past the camp in semi-darkness, riding their luck as much as their tyres, mulching on overnight rain.

Daybreak revealed more troops preparing to go up, fastening their snowboots and hitching their guns and sleeping bags and hauling themselves up into trucks. On 5140, the shells were still landing and the smoke still lifting. It hadn?t been taken yet. ?But,? assured a young captain, ?It will fall to us soon, we are now packing our punch in this contest.?

Saurabh Das of AP, more than just groggy from a night spent reclining on a pebbly wall in a dust-ridden bunker, was at it again in the lovely light of the morning, shooting this undeclared war with his own arsenal of lenses.    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. One or two spells of light rain.

Temperature: Maximum 32.1C (2?C below normal)
Minimum 26?C (1?C below normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 97%
Minimum 70%

Rainfall: 7.2mm

Sunset: 6.21 pm
Sunrise: 4.54 am

Maintained by Web Development Company