US balm on Kashmir wound
Rattled BJP tells vigilance chief to mind his word
Queues lengthen at Rao�s door
Jyoti Basu springs to Orissa relief
Padlock on freedom history
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Feb. 17 
As President Bill Clinton made it clear India�s �sensitivity� on Kashmir must be respected, France, the country�s new-found friend in the West, struck a jarring note by asking Delhi to settle its dispute with Islamabad.

�Negotiated conflict resolution is one of the responsibilities of the powers of today and the poles of tomorrow,� French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine said at a seminar on multipolarity at the India International Centre here this afternoon.

France is keen on forging a multipolar world order to check US domination. By identifying India as one of the poles, France is trying to indicate what role it expects from its partners in the future. �Another pre-requisite is that India be a full participant. If a multipolar system is built, I am convinced that India will be and must be one of its poles,� Vedrine said.

Clinton, who had recently described the subcontinent as the �most dangerous place in the world�, said in Washington that the region had the potential to be �the great success of the next 50 years� if the Kashmir deadlock could be broken.

The President repeated he wants the US to be �more involved� in resolving the Kashmir dispute as a possible conflict between the nuclear twins was a �very real danger� posing grave security threat to American interests.

He, however, emphasised that India and Pakistan �will have to work out this business of Kashmir� between themselves and the US will get involved only if both countries accepted its role as peacemaker. �But if they do not want us, it won�t do any good. We would just be out there talking into the air, and I am not in for that,� Clinton added.

India has made it clear that it will not allow mediation on Kashmir. By respecting India�s �sensitivity�, Clinton�s wants to ensure that no misunderstandings mar his visit to the country next month.

The US President�s statement coincided with Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh�s assertion that Washington�s approach of imposing its own values and standards on nuclear and multilateral trade issues was regrettable.

Speaking at the seminar on multipolarity, he added that it was not possible for the US to find solutions to all major problems, whether on security-related issues or on economics. �Since there is a perception, also perhaps reality, that the US action is often driven by its own, short-term, domestic agenda and interest, its approach gets to be perceived by other countries as an attempt at imposition of its values and standards � whether on human rights, nuclear and missile proliferation, multilateral trade issues and intellectual property rights,� he said.

Referring to the US action in Kosovo and Iraq, Singh argued that peace was a product of justice and could not be conferred by any �supra-national authority�.

�The world would be poorer if globalisation became a synonym for de-culturisation or of the imposition of one dimension alone,� he said. �Today, not only do we have new challenges, we also have asymmetries which demand a coalition of interests among equals, rather than alliances, built around a hegemony.�

Signalling the growing friendship between India and France, Vedrine endorsed Delhi�s stand on Security Council reforms and hinted that it would be a likely candidate in the expanded and restructured security policy-making world body to �provide a link between the multipolar world and the multilateral system�.

Pak terror blow

US secretary of state Madeleine Albright has said Pakistan has become a transit point for terrorists.    

New Delhi, Feb. 17 
The BJP today gave a veiled warning to Chief Vigilance Commissioner N. Vittal, asking him to be mindful of �every word he uttered and every action he took�, as his initiative to reopen the hawala case threatens to become an embarrassment for the ruling coalition.

Vittal has passed on to the CBI a �complaint note� urging a probe into the income-tax angle of the Jain hawala scam. The note mentioned the names of four Union ministers discharged in the case.

While admitting that the BJP was not �fully informed� of the case, party spokesman M. Venkaiah Naidu said neither L.K. Advani nor Yashwant Sinha was mentioned in Vittal�s note.

But he warned Vittal that the government was planning to make the CVC a statutory body and the matter was under the consideration of a joint select committee of Parliament.

�It is, therefore, expected that being such a responsible organisation, every word that is uttered (by the CVC), every action the CVC takes is persuaded by a sense of responsibility,� he added.

Naidu also reminded the commissioner that in his crusade against graft he had included some dead people on the list of �corrupt� officers posted on the Net.

�The sanctity of the CVC will get diminished� by such action, Naidu claimed. �You saw an episode where certain officers� names were put out on the web and the CVC had to regret it later. We hope the CVC will be more responsible in his action and utterances,� the BJP spokesman said.

Naidu also sought a clarification from Vittal on his note and maintained that the CVC had been �misled� on the case by a �certain� story appearing in the press.

The BJP�s attack on Vittal is marked by the same aggression with which it defended Advani when he was charged by the CBI in 1996 in the hawala scam. Advani was then the BJP president and continued in the post even after the charge was levelled, although he quit the Lok Sabha and did not contest the 1996 election. The case against him and others was later discharged for want of clinching evidence.

The BJP had stressed that the case was �politically motivated� since it was initiated by the Narasimha Rao government.

The only difference is that in 1996, the BJP went into the demerits of the charge, while today it ignored Vittal�s complaint and focused entirely on his office and person.

The party also tried to turn the tables on the Congress and the Left in the Indian Council of Historical Research controversy.

The dispute involves around the �temporary withdrawal� of the 1940 and 1946 Towards Freedom volumes by historians K.N. Pannikar and Sumit Sarkar.

Naidu alleged that earlier volumes in the Towards Freedom series written by P.N. Chopra had been withdrawn because the writings did not �suit a particular ideology�. �Instead of making charges at others, what is their (Left and Congress) response to this?� he asked.

Naidu, however, could not retort when told that the ICHR itself had not withdrawn Chopra�s books, neither could it have prohibited their sale.

He charged Left historians with reducing Mahatma Gandhi�s role in the freedom struggle to a �mere footnote� in their works and �highlighting out of proportion� the part played by the communists.    

New Delhi, Feb. 17 
The Chanakya is back. Coming out of a four-year exile, former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao is now testing the ground for a second stint in active politics.

Congress dissidents and fence-sitters are queuing up outside 9, Motilal Nehru Marg. Interestingly, so are even Sonia loyalists, perhaps to gauge Rao�s mood.

Prominent among them are Manmohan Singh and K. Natwar Singh.

Jitendra Prasada, Pranab Mukherjee, Vijay Bhaskar Reddy, R.K. Dhawan and Sushil Kumar Shinde are among the wily leader�s visitors these days.

Rao, the �cerebral politician�, is keeping everyone guessing, enjoying the attention. So far, he has not spoken against Sonia Gandhi or her advisers, but at the same time, avoided praising her leadership qualities.

The former Prime Minister was in the limelight twice recently. First, when he addressed Assocham asking for a review of the economic reforms. Second, when he was given a warm welcome in Maharashtra and Karnataka by Congress workers.

Rao-baiters in the party, namely Arjun Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmad Patel, Ambika Soni, Narain Dutt Tiwari and Rajesh Pilot are, however, totally dismissive about his �next innings�.

They feel Rao will not be acceptable to the party cadre in view of his failure to protect the Babri Masjid, his inability to draw crowds and image among Muslims.

Each party faction has some expectations from Rao. Dissidents want him to take on Sonia and her coterie. Sonia loyalists want him to utilise his experience and �bless� Rajiv Gandhi�s widow, particularly on matters of national interest, without getting into �politicking�. His opponents want him to retire altogether.

Some party members feel Sonia should create a new post for Rao or bring back Tamil Maanila Congress chief G.K. Moopanar as vice-president or working president.

�Loser Sonia taking all will not lead the party far. A time has come to set aside personal likes and dislikes and pick the best,� said a CWC member.

�What the BJP and the Sangh are doing needs to be countered by all those who are opposed to them.�

Congress leaders said the outcome of Assembly polls in Haryana, Bihar, Orissa and Manipur would determine a lot of things in the party.

If it failed to win in any state, Sonia would become vulnerable, but a mixed bag would maintain status quo, they said.    

Feb. 17 
The West Bengal government has decided to write off as �donation� Rs 6.13 crore it spent on supplying Orissa with relief material following the October killer cyclone.

Quoting West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, finance minister Asim Dasgupta said in Calcutta: �The chief minister today categorically stated the relief material we provided to Orissa will be considered as a donation. This has been our position from the beginning. We are also prepared to return Rs 2 crore we received as advance from the Centre as donation.�

Dasgupta said there had been a �misunderstanding� about the bill which his government had asked the Centre, and not Orissa, to reimburse.

The move follows a report in today�s edition of The Telegraph that the Bengal government had asked Orissa to pick up the tab for the humanitarian assistance. In contrast, the Andhra Pradesh government had waived the Rs 6.56 crore it spent on relief.

Prasanna Kumar Hota, principal resident commissioner of Orissa in Delhi, said Bengal relief commissioner P.S. Ingty met him today and conveyed the decision.

Thanking the Bengal government, Hota said: �It is generous of them to decide to return Rs 2 crore we advanced through the Centre to purchase relief material on October 31. Andhra has promised to return us Rs 2 crore we paid as advance.�    

New Delhi, Feb. 17 
Basudev Chatterjee, co-ordinator and an editor of �Towards Freedom�, an Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) project, found himself locked out of his office today by the institute chairperson.

With Chatterjee�s �dismissal�, the ICHR sinks deeper into the controversy triggered by the withdrawal of two volumes of modern history edited by Sumit Sarkar and K.N. Panikkar.

�ICHR chairman B.R. Grover asked the durwan to lock Chatterjee�s room on the ground that his job is finished since the volume on freedom struggle he has edited has already been published. But Chatterjee is still project co-ordinator,� a colleague said.

The ICHR, however, said Chatterjee�s service was discontinued because of erratic attendance.

Tension mounted at the council this evening as academics, students and teachers gathered outside to protest against the �arbitrary, fascist� activities of the government.

This morning, Chatterjee went up to his room to find it padlocked. He wrote a strong protest letter to the chairman and got his room opened. But, in the afternoon, after Chatterjee had left the room, it was bolted again. �Once again there is a lock on the door,� said a friend.

Chatterjee has edited a volume on the 1937 Congress ministries. �It is a monumental work,� said a historian. But the ICHR has ignored the volume, which has not been released officially, in contrast with the way the ICHR had released some earlier volumes.

�The volume edited by Parthasarathi Gupta was released in a proper fashion in Parliament Annexe,� a historian said.

The ICHR is caught between the saffron lobby led by Grover, close to the Sangh parivar, and liberal historians.

Left-wing historians hit the ceiling after the council asked the Oxford University Press to stop publication of the volumes on the freedom struggle edited by Sumit Sarkar and K.N. Panikkar, two stalwart modern historians. The volumes are part of the 20-year-long �Towards Freedom� project started in the late seventies with S. Gopal as general editor.

The Oxford University Press will now have to await the verdict of a three-member review commission, about which historians harbour reservations, before it can proceed with the publishing.

�The members on the commission have nothing to do with modern history. How can they judge our work?� asks Sumit Sarkar.

The faculty had smelled a rat the minute human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi installed Grover as ICHR chairperson.

A �mediocre� historian, Grover had served the Sangh parivar well during the Babri Masjid dispute and had continued to defend the demolition at least as late as 1997 at the World Archaeology Congress in Croatia. �Joshi brought him to ICHR as his stooge,� said an academic.

Grover in now passing the buck to the review commission which said it was yet to read the volumes.

Joshi maintains the Centre has nothing to do with the decision to withdraw the two volumes.

�This is how the Sangh parivar functions � through a whisper campaign,� a historian said.    

Temperature: Maximum: 27.4�C (-4) Minimum: 16.6�C (0) RAINFALL: 39.1mm Relative humidity: Maximum: 92%, Minimum: 52% Today: Mainly cloudy sky with possibility of light to moderate rain, accompanied by thunder, in some areas. Not much change in minimum temperature. Sunset: 5.29 pm Sunrise: 6.13 AM    

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