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 
Peace in sight as Pak surrenders
Onward to Kaksar after Tiger Hill
?We?re wrapping it up?
Power dues recovery
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, July 5 
Pakistan?s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made a beginning to end the Kargil conflict by promising to recall the intruders during his meeting with US President Bill Clinton in Washington yesterday.

Clinton spoke with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and told him about Sharif?s pledge to defuse tension along the Line of Control. However, no timeframe has been fixed for the withdrawal of forces. Though India appears to have approved the arrangement, New Delhi made it clear it will ??watch the developments on the ground?? and will continue military action until there are definite signs of a pullout.

A joint statement issued after the Clinton-Sharif meeting said Pakistan had agreed to take ??concrete steps?? to restore the LoC as per the Simla Agreement. Elaborating on the statement, administration officials indicated Sharif had pledged to abandon the strategic peaks seized in Kargil and to do so very soon. The talks produced a sequencing of events that the US wants for resolving the conflict: withdrawal of forces, cessation of all hostilities and a return to the negotiations table.

Delhi believes the Kargil operation was planned to force the Kashmir dispute into an international forum like the United Nations. While Clinton gave no sign that he would favour UN consideration, he did pledge to become more involved in fostering direct talks between India and Pakistan. The joint statement included a sentence saying that once the ??sanctity?? of the LoC has been restored, Clinton ??would take a personal interest in encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification of?? the talks between the neighbours. It also said that Clinton, who called off his visit to India and Pakistan last year after they conducted nuclear tests, intends to pay ??an early visit to south Asia??.

The foreign office here said India had noted the sequencing of steps agreed to in the statement: that only after a total withdrawal will other steps be initiated. ??Our US interlocutors have informed us that ?concrete steps? means withdrawal by Pakistan of their forces from our side of the LoC in the Kargil sector,?? foreign ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said. ??We hope Pakistan will heed this call immediately. We will be watching developments on the ground,?? he added.

But Sharif?s tricky political situation at home, where the public and military are likely to resist backing down, has raised doubts whether he will be able to guarantee withdrawal of the forces in Kargil. Further, it remains unclear whether Sharif has full control over the Mujahideen or even his own military command. ??Our understanding is that there will be a withdrawal of the forces now,?? a US administration official said. But, he added, ??we cannot say how he will pursue?? the pullout.

Adding to the uncertainty, Pakistan?s foreign minister Sartaj Aziz has again sought to link withdrawal to the Kashmir dispute. ?If the Mujahideen are going to be persuaded to withdraw, some attention has to be paid to their concerns and their right of self-determination,?? he said. But there has been no reaction yet from the army. The Kargil operation is believed to have been masterminded by a select group of generals in Rawalpindi. That the army has been silent indicates that either it is part of the deal with the US or it is assessing public mood before plotting its next move.

Speculation that Sharif has been able to turn around the army gained ground after he held a meeting with the military top brass hours before his US visit. The possibility of a pullout brightened as soon as Sharif?s meeting with Clinton was announced. Already under mounting international pressure, the Indian army?s string of successes left Sharif with little option but to look for an escape hatch. His decision to visit Washington is being seen as an attempt to gain political cover from Clinton for the decision to pull out. Moreover, by getting the US to be involved, Sharif feels he can sell the third-party-mediation line to the Pakistani people.

Aware of Delhi?s apathy to third-party involvement in its dispute with Islamabad, US officials have clarified that Clinton?s role in resolving the crisis should not be seen as mediation. Clinton and Sharif talked for about three hours at Blair House, the official guest residence across the street from the White House. Midway through the meeting, Clinton broke away to phone Vajpayee, who had turned down an invitation the day before to visit Washington.    

Kargil, July 5 
This is where 265 soldiers have died. This is where the guns are booming, day and night, nearly as ferociously as they were yesterday, or the day before. And here news of Pakistan?s promise to pull out was greeted with a volley of scepticism.

?Woh log to jayenge nahi bhai,? said an officer, eager to find out more than the sketchy details he has of the meeting between Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Bill Clinton. Few here expect the desperado Mujahideen to simply up and leave because Sharif is asking them to.

Not without reason. They know that in a statement broadcast on Pakistan Television, the Mujahideen have said the Indian military operations made little difference to them. They declared that they would continue to man positions they have occupied.

No one is being lulled into believing that the end of the war is near by the marked reduction in the intensity of shelling from the other side in the Drass sector. Shelling is not of the same intensity in all the sectors every night in any case.

One military intelligence officer said the reason Pakistan might have appealed to the intruders to withdraw was the ferocity with which the assault on Tiger Hill was launched.

Given the features of the height, said the officer, it would not have been unreasonable to expect that the intruders at higher positions would have been able to hold out for longer.

The officer said the assault on Tiger Hill may have proved catalytic but it is unlikely that the army will factor in the Pakistani appeal to the intruders in the battles for the heights.

Since the conflict started, the army has found that the intruders are not beyond carrying out suicide missions.

For three nights, Indian artillery let loose everything in its arsenal. While much of the firing was aimed at Tiger Hill, Indian Bofors howitzers, multi-barrel rocket launchers and other artillery fire also targeted Pakistani gun positions that were providing covering fire to the intruders.

Even this evening, Indian artillery was intensively shelling positions in Batalik and Kaksar.

At Kaksar, the intruders hold Bajrang Post, a 16,000-ft height that is one of 47 positions in the area. Bajrang Post is crucial as it overlooks NH1A. But the army has laid siege to it for a fortnight.

After the victory at Tiger Hill, the assault on Kaksar seems imminent. Though the intruders are reported to be well stocked, it has been assessed that they could run out of water. Bajrang Post is snowcovered even in summer, but constant artillery pounding has made the snow-melted water poisonous. The position is about 10 km from Tiger Hill as the crow flies.

The air force has been concentrating on Kaksar with what Delhi claims to be ?effective? result.

In Batalik, however, the Indian army faces a tougher task. Few details are available on the area because the army has closed the approach roads to it.

But the casualties tell their own tale. Since Thursday, the toll has risen by nearly 50. Army sources said in Delhi that it is not just the fight for Tiger Hill, but also the battle in Batalik where India has lost a number of men.    

An action station near Tiger Hill, July 5 
?Congratulations, Colonel.?

?Thank you, thank you...?

?Is it over yet??

?Nearly. We are just wrapping it up.?

?And how are your men and Lieutenant Colonel Paugham??

?They are okay. I will convey your regards. We are happy that you?re happy. Please pass on my best wishes to The Telegraph.?

Colonel Kaushal Thakur?s quiet pride shone through in that conversation on the field telephone. The tall and balding officer was a couple of thousand feet above us, commanding 18th Grenadiers in the mopping-up stages after securing the heights. Minutes ago, he had called this action station. He was asking after arrangements for casualties.

Since we barged into a luncheon meeting in a bunker here on Friday afternoon ? two hours before the assault was launched ? we have been careful not to identify the colonel, his second-in-command, Lt. Col. Paugham or any of their officers by name, rank or regiment.

Today, these men are the tallest figures in this war.

Col. Kaushal Thakur is a Kulu from Himachal Pradesh. His family lives in Delhi.

Lt. Col. Paugham, an alumnus of the Indian Military Academy, is from Jaipur. He was on deputation to the Rashtriya Rifles till Lt. Col. Vishwanathan was killed while leading a charge to capture a Tololing height.

Captain Sachin Nimbalkar, all of 24 years, is from Maharashtra. He led his company in executing a brilliant flanking move last morning to scale the summit of Tiger Hill under heavy fire.

Lieutenant Balwan Singh, injured ? he was shot through the right thigh ? but now out of danger, led a commando group of the 18th Grenadiers known as ?Ghatak?.

They were pinned down at a feature known as ?Collar? east of the point from which runs the southern spur of Tiger Hill. They distracted the enemy just enough to let Captain Nimbalkar and his company clamber over.

Major Rajeev Kumar from Patna was in charge of reserves and logistics. This afternoon, he borrowed our satellite phone to first call his commander?s wife in Delhi and then Lt. Col. Paugham?s wife in Jaipur. Only after that did he speak to his wife and four-and-a-half-year-old daughter in Patna.

Not enough details are available yet on the exploits of the other soldiers of the 18th Grenadiers. This morning, the first men down were two stretcher-bearers with the body of Naik Ravi Karan of Mathura. Then came the injured: a jawan with a bullet through his right shin, another with a splinter through his chest.

Col. Thakur is not expected back at this action station in a hurry. ?He was the first man atop Tololing and the last man down,? recalls Subedar Brahm Singh.    

Calcutta, July 5 
CESC Ltd will halve the monthly fuel surcharge from 46 paise to 23 paise and stagger its recovery over more months.

The reduction in the fuel surcharge, which is being collected to recover provisional arrears for the years 1997-98 and 1998-99, will come into effect from July 1. For these two years, it is now collecting arrears at the rate of 14 paise per unit.

The collection of arrears for the period April 1997-March 1998 began in February 1999 and was to have been completed in 12 instalments. Under the new arrangement, the collections will continue till September 2000 instead of January 2000.

The collection of fuel surcharge arrears for April 1998-January 1999 began in the bill for May this year. The dues were scheduled to be recovered in four monthly instalments; this will now be completed in October this year instead of August.    

Today?s forecast: Cloudy sky with one or two shower or thundershower.

Temperature: Maximum 34.1?C (2?C below normal)
Minimum 26.4 ?C (Normal)

Relative humidity:
Maximum 95%
Minimum 61%

Rainfall: 26.6 mm

Sunset: 6.22 pm
Sunrise: 5 am

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