US raises hope of sanctions lift
Sourav, Sachin settle series
BJP clears ground for Thakre longer run
Ethnic touch to Clinton team

Washington, March 17 
The US is prepared to withdraw sanctions against India if New Delhi adheres to CTBT, strengthens export controls, negotiates a fissile material cut-off treaty and demonstrates restraint in the use of its nuclear programme.

Briefing reporters on President Bill Clinton’s South Asia visit starting in New Delhi on Sunday, the White House national security adviser, Samuel (Sandy) R. Berger, said America’s “ultimate goal” remains persuading India and Pakistan to give up their nuclear programmes.

He expressed satisfaction that neither India nor Pakistan had deployed nuclear weapons. “There are obviously further steps that could be taken to de-escalate the level of tension and put these weapons farther out of reach, so to speak, which we would like to see.”

Nuclear differences notwithstanding, Berger said Clinton’s trip is “fundamentally about trying to establish a new partnership with India — not to see India as a function of China or a function of the Soviet Union, but to see India as the world’s largest perhaps most vibrant ...... certainly one of the most promising democracies.”

Berger held out the possibility that some of the sanctions could be repealed during the visit. It all depended, he said, on progress made in areas of US concern. Besides, if sanctions came in the way of mutual interest, they would go. He hinted that in the areas of environment and energy, where cooperation is inhibited by the sanctions, the US would be flexible. “But to get at the heart of the sanctions .... that relate to anything that has any military application ..... we would like to see progress” in CTBT, fissile material cut-off etc.

Berger’s briefing threw unprecedented light on what Clinton plans to do in Islamabad. He will stay put at the official residence of President Rafiq Tarar: all Clinton’s meetings will be held there. “The President is the elected President of Pakistan, a holdover from the previous government. The President (Clinton) made his decision and we said we would like to go to the President’s (Tarar’s) house. We would like to do our events from there, our meetings there,” Berger said.

In his talks with General Pervez Musharraf, Clinton will demand that even if ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is convicted, he should not be executed, Berger revealed.

The highlight of the President’s stopover in Islamabad, however, will be a live telecast on TV addressing the people of Pakistan, “our long-time friends.”

Such an address could be disconcerting for Musharraf because Berger said Clinton would talk about “our concerns for things that are happening in Pakistan, because we are concerned about Pakistan’s future”.    

Vadodara, March 17 
One feels captaincy affects his batting while the other seems to revel in his new responsibility. The two combined today to author one of the most memorable cricketing triumphs India has had in recent times as Vadodara erupted like Vesuvius in the joy of defeating South Africa in the one-day series.

Being set an intimidating 283 to win, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar got India off to an electrifying start and raised visions of an emphatic victory before teammates crumbled for a while, but took India home with just a ball to spare. Things could have been different had Lance Klusener not floored an easy catch with India needing four from as many balls. It was an amateurish display towards the end and the captain was not amused.

“It’s good we won but we shouldn’t have made such a mess of it. It was ridiculous,” noted Sourav whose explosive elegance completely overshadowed the Little Master during the 153-run opening stand. Though Sachin went on to get a responsible hundred and left with victory in sight, Sourav’s early charge certainly put India on course.

“That exactly was my plan since Sachin wasn’t having a good series,” Sourav said. “I know it was risky at times, but in cricket, one has to be adventurous.”

No doubt one has to take risks to win matches but for a team which almost made losing a habit, it was remarkable. It was almost unbelievable that a side, known to choke while chasing, normally, would win after conceding 301 and 282, within a span of eight days. The new captain thinks there has been a change in attitude, which has caused this transformation and the team is more “positive” now. The transformation will be historic only if his team maintains this.

His predecessor did not say much but mentioned that his intention was to hang around for as long as possible and let Sourav do the scoring since he was going great guns. “I thought about six-and-half an over in the slog overs would be gettable,” Sachin said after receiving the Man of the Match trophy.

Hansie Cronje, whose team did little wrong in the two Test matches and till the first innings in the opening one-dayer in Kochi, said his team did seem to take it easy after rattling up 282.

“We did get a bit complacent after posting such a big total. It was perhaps not the right time to write off India and it proved costly,” said Cronje adding that they should have scored 20-25 more.

The South African skipper thought he was unlucky to run into Sachin in such a crucial match. “When you play against him, you know he’s going to get a 100 in three or four knocks.”

It’s difficult to keep him quiet for long.

“Even then we sensed we could win when they required 15 in two overs, but the ball didn’t roll our way. It doesn’t sometimes.” It was time to be philosophical for Cronje.    

New Delhi, March 17 
The BJP reversed its earlier decision, disqualifying the incumbent office-bearers, including the national president, from seeking another term of office, and clarified that all of them, including Kushabhau Thakre, would be eligible for another tenure of office.

The decision was taken in a meeting of BJP vice-presidents and general secretaries as well as its state unit chiefs, called to take stock of the progress made in conducting the organisational polls. It was chaired by Thakre.

BJP circles interpreted the re-amended rule as signifying another lease of life for the incumbent president, back in business at the 11 Ashoka Road headquarters after a long ailment, and stressed his name could not be ruled out for the top job. Sources added that Thakre himself seemed in two minds because of his “ill-health”.

“From the party’s side, the message of offer to Thakre is clear. The ball is in his court now,” sources said. Only a couple of months ago, it was apparent that Thakre was out of reckoning because of the amended rule and also because he was bed-ridden after a heart problem. But after a surgery and convalescence, he bounced back in the Central office and started chairing high-level meetings.

“With the clarification on the constitutional amendment, a major hurdle in the way of Thakre’s re-election has been removed,” sources added. If Thakre agrees to run a second term, it puts paid to the claim of other aspirants whose names were doing the rounds as his successor, notably those of Jana Krishnamurthy and M. Venkaiah Naidu.

Sources said Krishnamurthy, emerging as a front-runner, had spoiled his chances by reportedly demanding the taxation of farm income on the eve of the Haryana Assembly election. It was feared that, as the BJP president, he might end up embarrassing the Vajpayee-led government with similar “out-of-turn” pronouncements. Naidu was regarded as not “mature” enough for the top job.

Today’s clarification was meant to dispel the “confusion” that had arisen in the Chennai national council, held in December, when the BJP’s Constitution was amended to extend the tenure of all office-bearers, including the party president’s, from two to three years, but without giving them another term, as was the earlier norm.

While Krishnamurthy, who headed the sub-committee formed to review the Constitution, insisted the new provision would be enforced from the next organisational polls — the process of which had begun in January 2000 — other office-bearers said it would apply with prospective effect and not immediately in the elections that were to follow soon.

Naidu said no president, national or state, had served a three-year term. So, the new amendment would not bind them and they were free to contest the present round of elections.

The BJP hopes to be over and done with the organisational elections by mid-May and elect its new chief, who will be formally anointed in the national council, likely to be held in July.    

Washington, March 17 
White House has literally gone half way around the globe to find Americans of South Asian origin to be included in President Bill Clinton’s official delegation to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

As a result, Osman Siddique, a Bengali, now a US citizen, is hotfooting it from Suva, capital of distant Fiji, to Washington to join Clinton’s team before it leaves for New Delhi on Saturday.

Siddique, US ambassador to Fiji, the Republic of Nauru, the kingdom of Tonga and Tuvalu, is the only envoy of South Asian descent in the Clinton administration. He was born in Dhaka, but migrated to the US where he received an MBA from Indiana University.

He went into corporate travel business, but after Clinton’s election to White House, served on many presidential delegations. He was part of the commerce forum, the conference on first hemispheric trade and the White House conference on travel and tourism. He was made ambassador to Fiji in May last year.

The frantic search for South Asians of a desired stature within the administration yielded another find — A. Siddiqui, born in Haldwani, in Nainital district of Uttar Pradesh. A graduate from UP Agricultural University in Pantnagar and with MS and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology from the University of Illinois, he was appointed special assistant for trade issues at the US department of agriculture last year.

Unlike the official delegation which has only these two South Asians, the business delegation is teeming with Americans of Indian origin, a degree of deception in the composition of the team notwithstanding. Although the business team has an impressive Indo-American presence, the bulk of its members are actually Americans of Indian origin who are already working for US firms in India. Key members of Clinton’s official team are: secretary of state Madeleine Albright, national security adviser Sandy Berger, deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott, assistant secretary of state Karl Inderfurth and six congressmen.

In all more than a thousand persons will descend on the subcontinent as part of Clinton’s delegation. This will include nearly 200 media persons based in the US. Each of them has paid the US government $20,000 to travel with Clinton. Only a handful, mostly photographers, will travel by Air Force One. Others will travel by a chartered plane.

The thousand strong delegation is still much smaller than the team which accompanied Clinton to China. About 2,000 persons went with the President to Beijing.    


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