THE KARGIL FUND Set up by The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika
More than a hundred soldiers have already died in the undeclared war in Kargil. Many more are lying injured in hospitals. No assistance is compensation enough for the mother who has lost her son or the wife her husband. But we, the citizens of this country, need to help, in however small a way. The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika are setting up a fund with that modest aim in mind. The fund is being started with an intial contribution of Rs 5 Lakh from the ABP Group. If every reader of The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika donates a small sum, we can raise a huge amount for the families of the soldiers killed or injured in action. As a token of appreciation, both papers will publish the names of donors contributing Rs 500 or more. This is a time to ask yourself what can you do for the nation.   Only account payee cheques and drafts - payable to 'ABP Kargil Fund' - will be accepted. Put the cheque/draft in an envelope with your name and address. Write 'ABP Kargil Fund' and mail it to or deliver (between 10 am and 6 pm except on Sundays) at  
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street 
Calcutta 700001 
Death stalks Kargil minefield
Albright seeks total Pak recall
Bhai-bhai on Everest
Akram, two others barred from team
Rise of smarter-than-Sangh Atal
Basu in bowout signal
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, July 25 
Clawing its way to the last posts of resistance on the Line of Control, the army said today it cleared the entire Drass sector of intruders, but lost several lives as booby-traps began to take their toll.

As many as 21 soldiers have died in operations in Batalik and Drass in the last 48 hours. Unofficial reports put the toll at 25. Land mine blasts account for most of the casualties. Pakistan has suffered at least 60 casualties during the last 24 hours, according to information from wireless intercepts across the border.

The intruders had been holding on to a peak to the north of Tiger Hill and resisting Indian efforts to push them back. After a non-stop artillery and mortar barrage lasting several days, a cautious, slow-moving infantry finally made it to the top this morning.

Apart from regaining the peak in Drass which is almost on the Line of Control (LoC), Indian ground troops made significant progress in the two other sectors of Kargil where Pakistani regulars are holding on to their positions and bringing in reinforcements. In both Batalik and Mushkoh, the army said it has gained enough ground and fierce fighting was now going on near the LoC .

The official toll is seven killed in Drass and 14 in Kargil. Unconfirmed reports, however, put the number of casualties at 10 in Drass alone. The Pakistani army is covering its retreat with land mines and booby traps to slow down the Indian advance, leading to the high Indian casualties. In Batalik, Indian forces were very close to intruder positions and the war here had reached the ?hand-to-hand? combat stage.

There is clear indication that the army does not want to waste time and prolong the war. Pakistan is showing no sign of keeping its commitment 15 days after it pledged to withdraw beyond the LoC. Several rounds of directors-general of military operations-level talks have failed to break ice. The Pakistanis are insisting that they have retreated beyond the LoC and the Indians should have no further reason for complaint.

Last week, the Prime Minister had expressed concern over Pakistan holding on to key positions within Indian territory. The army had promised to drive out the intruders at the earliest.

There is, of course, the difficulty of waging war close to the line that demarcates the two sides on the map. The closer one gets to the LoC, the easier it becomes for Pakistan to bring in reinforcements and fight a bloodier war.

For the government, there are political compulsions at this stage because it would prefer to have every inch of territory freed by the first week of August, well in time for Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee?s Independence Day address from Red Fort.

An army spokesman said the intruders who had stayed back were Pakistani army regulars who were trying to drive home the point that the Indians were the ones reinterpreting the LoC by entering Pakistani territory. He said the Pakistanis were bent on altering the LoC to derive some satisfaction from a war that had turned out to be a misadventure.

What is still not clear even after Drass has been cleared of intruders is whether Pakistan will stick to its pledge of keeping troops a km away from the LoC. At the meeting of directors-general of military operations on July 9, it was decided that the two sides would maintain the safe distance of a km from the LoC to reduce tension and avoid any chance of a confrontation.

In Mushkoh, where Pakistan has the largest number of intruders, the Indians are finding it difficult to recapture two crucial areas, Point 5353 and the Zulu Spur. The air force has come into play again. Though it is not carrying out strike sorties in the area, initial reconnaissance surveys are being done to enable the army to plan deployment and artillery attacks.    

Singapore, July 25 
The US today asked Pakistan to ?follow through? on its commitment to pull back all the intruders from Kargil, but felt that there was need for ?positive thinking? on some movement on the Kashmir issue.

US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who held hour-long talks with foreign minister Jaswant Singh this morning, also reiterated the importance of renewing the Lahore peace process, but did not set any timeframe.

India said it was committed to the peace process it had initiated, but made it clear that bilateral talks could not resume unless Islamabad took concrete steps to ?restore the trust and confidence? it breached through the intrusion.

Pakistan, however, urged the world community to pressure India to come to the talks table, warning that any delay could spark more ?Kargil-type? problems. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had yesterday called for unconditional talks.

Albright?s remark on Kashmir is being seen as a gesture aimed at helping Sharif save face and did not perturb the Indian camp. Sharif is under mounting domestic pressure for having committed to withdraw from Kargil.

?The remarks are, perhaps, a realisation on the US? part that there is a need to change its thinking and attitude to Kashmir, taking into account the recent developments,? an Indian official said.

Singh said his talks with Albright had been ?very purposeful, friendly and productive?. His meeting with Albright included a 20-minute one-to-one session. Kargil was the focus of the discussions and the bonhomie after the talks suggested they had gone off well.

Non-proliferation and disarmament were also discussed, but in ?very general? terms. Singh said India stood by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee?s statement in Parliament last year, but added that no decision on signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty could be taken until elections were over.

Albright referred to President Bill Clinton?s eagerness to visit India early next year. She also invited Delhi to take part in a US initiative to set up a community of democracies. India accepted the invitation, but said the idea needed to be fleshed out further.

Singh dwelt on Pakistan-sponsored terrorist activities in India. He said the developments in Kargil were a spillover from the Afghan problem, and had implications for the whole world.

?Albright was more forthright and showed better understanding of our stand on the threat posed by cross-border terrorism than earlier,? Singh said.

He said both the US and India had realised that for ?far too long we have been prisoners of our prejudices?.    

Singapore, July 25 
After breaking the diplomatic ice, India and China have set out to conquer the Great Wall of Ice. Come April, a joint expedition of the two nations will head for Mount Everest.

The Everest diplomacy decision ? signalling that the frost of the nuclear winter of Pokhran II has formally melted ? was taken during foreign minister Jaswant Singh?s talks with his Chinese counterpart Tang Jiaxuan this afternoon. If anyone thought the neighbours are venturing into too cool a terrain, Singh did not forget to add a touch of warmth. He has invited Tang to his home state Rajasthan.

Singh took care to stay away from thin ice, too. Asked who will head the joint expedition to the Everest, he said with a smile: ?Perhaps we will agree on two leaders.?

Keeping up the interaction, China will send a diplomatic-military delegation to India in October-November for talks on border disputes between the two sides.

Beijing, which stood by the sanctity of the Line of Control during the Kargil conflict, reiterated today that New Delhi and Islamabad should settle problems bilaterally and peacefully.

But the thrust was on normalisation of Delhi?s ties with Beijing which had been hampered after last May?s nuclear tests.

The thaw set in last month when Singh visited China for the first time after Delhi cited Beijing as one of the main reasons for the nuclear explosions. In Tang?s words, the visit was ?a big step? towards better relations.

The highlights of that trip were a consensus on a dialogue to sort out security concerns and a commitment not to view each other as a threat. Today?s meeting indicated that neither country wanted to let the pace of recovery slacken. Tang described the talks as ?very good? as the two sides agreed to co-ordinate their responses at various fora.

India has suggested a joint celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. As part of this, the countries will exchange cultural troupes and organise photography shows. There is also a pact for more interaction in media and academics to encourage people-to-people contact.

Since the main aim of today?s meeting was to reaffirm the return of bilateral ties to ?normality?, contentious issues were kept at bay. ?Not a single issue of difference between the two sides came up for discussion,? Singh said.    

Islamabad, July 25 
Pakistan cricket captain Wasim Akram and two of his team-mates, Salim Malik and Ijaz Ahmed, were today temporarily suspended from playing for the country following match-fixing and betting allegations.

Announcing the suspension, Pakistan Cricket Board?s (PCB) ad hoc committee chairman Mujib-ur Rehman said: ?We are not going to consider Akram, Malik and Ijaz for selection till they prove themselves innocent.?

While Akram, now in England, refuted the charges, Malik and Ijaz could not be reached.

The Ehtesab (accountability) Bureau of Pakistan, which had ordered framing of charges against Akram and seven others yesterday, said it had gathered proof of ?immoral? conduct by the players during the World Cup.

?We have concrete evidence that the players were involved in immoral and unethical activities. The report is almost finalised and will be submitted to the judicial commission,? Ehtesab Bureau chairman Saifur Rehman said.

He said a judicial commission constituted by the government last September had asked his bureau to conduct investigations.

No date, however, has been set for submitting the report to President Rafiq Tarar, PCB?s patron.

The PCB ad hoc committee indicated no immediate action against the five other players ? vice-captain Moin Khan, Inzamam-ul Haq, Saqlain Mushtaq, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed ? who had also been found guilty in an internal inquiry by the PCB last August.

Rehman said the agency yesterday made public the PCB probe committee?s interim report submitted a year ago which contained specific match-fixing and betting charges against Akram, Malik and Ijaz. It also recommended issuing of showcause notices to the players, asking why they should not be ?disqualified for life? from playing for Pakistan.

The three-member PCB panel had based its report on the allegations made by three former players ? ex-captains Aamer Sohail and Rashid Latif besides bowler Ata-ur Rehman. It had also questioned Basit Ali, Saeed Anwar, Aaqib Javed, Rameez Raja and former manager Intikhab Alam, among others.

The PCB report charged Akram with ?purposely losing a 1994 Sharjah Cup match to India with bad field placement and conspiring with Salim Malik to lose against New Zealand the same year by asking Ata-ur Rehman to bowl against the field?.    

New Delhi, July 25 
A rumour doing the rounds at 11 Ashoka Road in the past two weeks says the RSS has been persuading home minister L.K. Advani not to contest the elections but concentrate wholly on campaigning.

The ostensible reasons were: one, BJP president Kushabhau Thakre was ?uncharismatic and out of sync with electoral politics?; two, the Congress might field former BJP heavyweight Shankersinh Vaghela from Advani?s Gandhinagar constituency.

It was feared that Vaghela?s presence might demand that Advani devote his energies only to Gandhinagar, leaving star campaigner Atal Behari Vajpayee without a credible back-up.

However, the bosses, including a senior Cabinet minister reportedly close to the Prime Minister, firmly denied the rumour. ?Advaniji will fight the polls, he will win and he will be home minister again,? the minister said.

A Sangh observer had a different interpretation. He said: ?The RSS is anxious about the way in which the BJP has been marginalised by the government and the Prime Minister?s personality. Thakre?s tenure comes to an end in April 2000 and he is unlikely to be re-nominated. Maybe Advani is seen as Thakre?s successor. Running a party is his forte. Besides, he is the only BJP leader who can complement and, at the same time, stand up to Vajpayee?s charisma and growing clout. That is the Sangh?s problem: how to rein in Vajpayee.?BJP sources said Advani, his followers and the RSS are ?baffled? at the way Vajpayee ? casually declared the prime ministerial candidate in 1995 and then dismissed as a mukhauta (mask) ? has come into his own in just 13 months. ?Nothing succeeds like success,? a strategist said.

This ?success? was won against formidable odds, coming as much from Vajpayee?s personality as the conditions around him. Vajpayee?s confidants concede his attention span does not exceed two minutes, he couldn?t care less about the nuts and bolts of party politics and organisational niceties, and his experience in governance is a brief stint as foreign minister in the Janata Party dispensation.

The RSS and BJP were never comfortable with his ?liberal? politics, even if it arose from expediency. But they thought he would be putty in their hands as they believed he owed his gaddi to them, especially Advani, who fashioned the party?s rise through Ayodhya.

At the beginning of Vajpayee?s second spell, the RSS was almost proved right. It tied him down when it came to ministry-making, and it seemed the swadeshi lobby would scupper economic reforms. The VHP also seemed set to teach the Christians a lesson and bare the Sangh?s rabid face. Problems were compounded by allies like Jayalalitha and the Shiv Sena.

Moreover, the BJP came up with a resolution at the May 1998 Gandhinagar conclave asserting the party?s ?supremacy? over the government and arrogating to itself the role of a ?watchdog?.

BJP sources said the Pokhran blasts were Vajpayee?s way of silencing the Sangh, which dedicated an entire issue of the Organiser to the event.

The ?gains?, if any, of the bomb were almost nullified by the BJP?s defeat in the November Assembly polls in three states. The knives were promptly out. It was whispered that the ?Vajpayee magic? had waned and it was time for him to ?gracefully retire? and make way for a more ?dynamic? leader. Advani loyalists even circulated a blueprint by which George Fernandes would take over as Prime Minister in a ?silent? coup, bide time and then pave way for the home minister.

Vajpayee torpedoed these schemes with a series of moves, turning ?a disadvantage into an advantage?.

The Bangalore party executive last January was the turning point: Vajpayee had an important resolution amended to proclaim that the BJP must support the government?s agenda. This was more than a hint that opposition to the insurance and patents Bills and Christian-bashing would not be tolerated.

Vajpayee conveyed his message to the Sangh through a person who had fallen foul of Advani: former Delhi chief minister M.L. Khurana. The economic resolution, too, was watered down, scrapping even token references to swadeshi.

?The occasion proved that the BJP had come of age. Vajpayee signalled to the Sangh that the BJP was its equal and its unsolicited advice was no longer welcome,? said a party vice-president.

After that, it was relatively smooth sailing. When Yashwant Sinha ? the swadeshi lobby?s nominee for finance minister ? read out his second, please-industry budget, there was not a murmur of disapproval from the Sangh. Vajpayee had become the boss of the show.    

Calcutta, July 25 
Chief minister Jyoti Basu today rekindled speculation about his departure from active politics, saying in New Delhi he could not continue ?for long?.

?It should not be very long. I cannot say I can continue for long because of age and health factors,? Basu told PTI.

Basu added that he would not campaign outside Bengal for the elections. ?I can walk about and function as chief minister. But, it is not possible for me to go for election meetings outside the state,? he said. Even within the state, his campaigning may be restricted to a few key seats.

Asked if home (police) minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya would succeed him, Basu said only the party could take a decision on this.

Since the Calcutta CPM congress last year, Basu has, time and again, said he would have to retire sooner or later but has refrained from setting a timeframe.

He also highlighted the need for the ?young? to come forward and take charge. ?Renewal is necessary. Young people should come forward (to take the mantle) and my party should think about it,? he said.

Asked if he was open to Sonia Gandhi?s candidature for Prime Minister, Basu said: ?Of course. She is an Indian citizen.?

On Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, Basu said: ?I know him very well... But all our criticism about him are political.?

Basu said he had told Vajpayee during his visit to Calcutta that ?you are with them (the Sangh parivar) and they are with you... You cannot come out of that.?

Basu iterated that the CPM?s decision against participating in the United Front government was a ?historic blunder? and added that ?I don?t think there can be another such opportunity?.    

Today?s forecast: One or two showers or thunder showers

Temperature: Maximum 34.1?C (2?C above normal)
Minimum 26.7?C (1?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 97%
Minimum 58%

Rainfall: 4.2 mm

Sunset: 6.20 pm
Sunrise: 5.07 am

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