Centre on CTBT concord chase
Triple-B bridge test for Viren
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Dec. 4 
Once the contentious financial Bills are taken care of by the end of next week, the government will elicit opinion from political parties on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The government feels this is the ideal time to sign the CTBT and wants to build a national consensus on it. Foreign minister Jaswant Singh has made it clear that India is in favour of ?de-segregating? the process of accepting the treaty. This means though Delhi intends to sign the treaty now, it wants to put off till later ratification and deposit of the instrument of ratification.

Spacing the three stages will help the Centre in not only convincing its domestic audience that it can continue to delay the treaty if needed, but also give Delhi leverage while negotiating with the West on nuclear and disarmament issues.

India has so far said that though it was not against signing the CTBT, it would have to build the ?broadest possible? consensus on the issue. This argument had worked well till the general elections. With a new government in place for over two months, Delhi has to prove that that the process of consensus-building has begun.

As part of this process, a seminar was held at India International Centre this afternoon. The participants felt the government should sign the CTBT now. They argued that with the US Senate?s refusal to ratify the treaty, Washington had lost its moral authority.

If India signs the treaty now, it is less likely to be accused of buckling under US pressure. Moreover, it would send a signal that Delhi is acting from a position of strength and is willing to join the mainstream in dealing with nuclear security and non-proliferation issues.

Though the hectoring tone of nations who are keen to see India sign the CTBT has softened, the underlying message is quite clear: the longer Delhi takes in signing the treaty, the longer it will take for lifting of sanctions and increased foreign investment.

Delhi?s willingness to sign the CTBT would also mark a watershed in Indo-US relations. It is likely to have a favourable impact on Delhi?s requests for access to dual-use and sophisticated technology.

Political parties are, however, divided on the CTBT. Though Delhi?s attitude towards the treaty has undergone a fundamental change since last year?s nuclear tests, the government does not want to ink it without consulting the Opposition.

The problem stems from the position taken by India in 1996, when it described the CTBT as an ?unequal? treaty and refused to sign it. The demonising of the treaty is one of the major problems that the government faces in rallying support for it.

The Congress does not have a problem in supporting a decision to sign the CTBT, but so far it has refrained from airing its views. Barring the Left parties, which are openly opposed to the treaty, the third front has also remained silent on the issue.    

Calcutta, Dec. 4 
Personal friend Jyoti Basu was in the right row. Political partner Pramod Mahajan and corporate comrades Rahul Bajaj and Anil Ambani were in the left.

And the big question at the Throne Room in Raj Bhavan: Can the just-coronated Governor, Viren Shah, build bridges between Bengal, business and the BJP?

No bets were placed on a possible BJP-Basu bonhomie. But, on business, diehard optimists drew sustenance from the guest list studded with ?CIPs? (commercially important persons). They insisted that Shah had come not merely as a Governor but as an ambassador for business and industry.

?With Shah as Governor, the fear psychosis among investors about Bengal would largely be removed,? said Bajaj.

Industrialist Sudhir Jalan was cautiously optimistic. ?He is an extremely capable person. But as Governor, his role will be restricted by the Constitution. Still, he should inspire industrialists to come to Bengal.?

Mahajan saw the emergence of a ?great combination?. ?Proper coordination between an industrialist Governor and a communist chief minister could be a great combination and benefit to the people,? the Union minister said.

But Somnath Chatterjee went one up. ?It is a dynamic world and ours is a dynamic state. People will soon realise that Bengal is the only state for industry and for everything civilised,? the veteran MP said. But he did not say whether his comments had anything to do with Jyoti Basu?s description of the BJP regime as ?barbaric and uncivilised?.

Ambani reserved his comment saying that he had come purely on a private invitation.

West Bengal finance minister, Asim Dasgupta did not sound too exuberant. ?I am happy at Shah?s appointment. As a whole, we are optimistic,? said Dasgupta.

At the swearing-in, Shah read out the oath in faltering but grammatically correct Bengali. Immediately on his arrival in Calcutta yesterday, he had said he wanted to learn the language.

Shah wore a dhoti and punjabi, befitting the occasion. The acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, S.B. Sinha, administered the oath of office.

The seating arrangement at the Throne Room mirrored the ideological divide among the guests. While Basu shared the right row with deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya and Dasgupta, the left one was occupied by Mahajan, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, Tapan Sikdar and Ajit Panja. ?At one level, it is symbolic,? said a bureaucrat. ?Shah will have to act as a bridge between the two.?

After the swearing-in, Basu and Shah met briefly. The chief minister left soon and skipped the lunch hosted by the Governor.

Among others who attended the ceremony were UTI chairman P.S.Subramanyam, HDFC?s Deepak Parekh, K.V. Kamath of ICICI, Essar?s Sashi Ruia and Laxmi Mittal of Ispat Group. Najma Heptullah, deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, was also present.    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. Mainly clear night. Not much change in night temperature. Max. temperature: 28.6?C (+1?C) Min. temperature: 18.3?C (+3?C) Maximum humidity: 96% Minimum humidity: 53% Rainfall: Nil Sunset: 4.47 pm Sunrise: 6.07 am    

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