Assam demands Bengal haul
Washington frowns on Delhi nuclear doctrine
Sonia heads south for safe seat
Calcutta weather

Aug. 17 
The Assam government today formally asked the Bengal administration to return the RDX and other explosives which it said were recovered during a joint raid by the police of both states last Saturday.

Assam chief minister Prafulla Mahanta today spoke to his West Bengal counterpart Jyoti Basu asking him to let the case proceed by the book. He also asked Basu to ensure that the RDX is returned to the Assam police. Basu, however, could not be contacted.

Assam DGP P.V. Sumant told The Telegraph: ?The requisition has been routed through proper channels. Once West Bengal is through with its formalities, the seized consignment should come back to us.??

Assam chief secretary P.K. Borah said late tonight that Sumant had contacted his West Bengal counterpart Deepak Sanyal and insisted that the consignment be returned to Assam.

On Sunday, Mahanta had revealed in his Independence Day address that a combined team of Bengal and Assam police had recovered 30 kg of RDX from an ISI hideout in Rajshahi, Bangladesh.

The next day, the West Bengal police claimed to have recovered 20 kg of explosives, including RDX and ammonium nitrate in fuel oil (ANFO), from Sealdah station and two other places in the state.

Home (police) minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya, however, claimed he knew nothing of the joint raid.

Mahanta?s revelation and the sudden haul on the Bengal side gave rise to speculation that Bengal did not want to admit crossing the international border illegally.

Today, Bhattacharya said: ?It will not be proper for me to comment on what the Assam chief minister has said. This is not the right time to divulge anything.??

Four ISI agents were arrested in Guwahati on August 7 and the joint raid was carried out on the basis of information provided by them. Assam IGP N. Ramachandran said the state police wanted to book them under the Explosives Act. The seized RDX would be used as evidence.

Sanyal said: ?All I can tell you is that a team of officers from Bengal had gone to Assam to interrogate the ISI agents.??

Ramachandran, while reaffirming that the RDX consignment had been recovered during a joint raid, emphasised that once legal formalities are completed in Bengal, it would be ?re-seized?.?

?We will obtain the consignment from the Bengal police on the plea that the original case, on the basis of which the recovery had been made, is being tried in Assam,?? he added.

Ramachandran pointed out that since the original case is registered in Guwahati, it is the responsibility of the Assam police to send the explosives for forensic tests.

Bangladesh today continued to deny any knowledge of the raid. Foreign secretary Shafi Sami said in Dhaka that Bangladesh does not shelter Pakistan-backed terrorists.

The Calcutta police today arrested a Bangladeshi national near Sealdah railway station. The 27-year-old, identified as Mushtaque, is from Karimnagar in Sylhet district bordering Assam.

He came to the city yesterday morning a few hours before the ANFO was recovered and checked into a hotel near the Sealdah station. Mushtaque, who said he had come as a tourist, told interrogators that he had crossed over through the porous North Bengal border.    

New Delhi, Aug. 17 
India today released the draft of its nuclear doctrine, assuring the domestic audience that the country retains retaliatory capability and telling the international community that it would keep the nuclear option under civilian command with transparency and restraint.

In a swift reaction, the US said the draft ?would lead India into wrong direction?, adds PTI.

?We do not think it is in the national or security interest of these two countries to develop a nuclear weapon capability, to develop an elaborate doctrine, and then encourage an arms race by both India and Pakistan,? state department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington.)

?The objective of the draft document is to generate a debate which will help the government take a final decision on it,? said K. Subramaniam, convenor of the national security advisory board.

The doctrine mentions India?s commitment to a no-first-strike policy and outlines a pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states. ?Minimum nuclear deterrence is the watchword of the doctrine,? said national security advisor Brajesh Mishra. He said the Kargil conflict did not spread because both India and Pakistan had nuclear weapons. He, however, said India would not have used a nuclear weapon even if it had been on the defensive during the conflict.

The document said India?s nuclear forces will be based on a triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based assets with the objectives of being ?effective, enduring, diverse, flexible and responsive? to the requirements in line with the concept of credible minimum deterrence.

?The doctrine envisages assured capability to shift from peacetime deployment to fully employable forces in the shortest possible time and the ability to retain effectively even in a case of significant degradation by hostile strikes,? Mishra said.

India believed global security will be enhanced with the elimination of nuclear weapons. ?But in the absence of global nuclear disarmament, India?s strategic interests require effective, credible nuclear deterrence and adequate retaliatory capability,? he added.

The document, released just before the polls, says the nuclear structure will be organised for very high survivability against surprise attacks. What may interest the electorate is the reassurance that India has the capability of a ?rapid punitive response?.

The document?s release is a signal to the world that Delhi now wants to be part of the international system that most of the responsible nuclear weapons powers have. India hopes that the transparency, restraint and responsibility of a nuclear weapons power outlined by the draft will help it make headway in attempts to gain the status of a nuclear state.

The detailing of the Indian nuclear doctrine may put pressure on Pakistan to come out with a similar document. The release of the draft may also help India discuss steps towards nuclear risk reduction and confidence-building measures with Pakistan, China and other nuclear powers.

Mishra said the decision to use nuclear weapons will be taken by the Prime Minister. Asked whether the Prime Minister will henceforth carry a nuclear briefcase, Mishra replied: ?There are other sophisticated methods available now.?    

New Delhi, Aug. 17 
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has opted for the safety of two Lok Sabha seats, like her late mother-in-law, one from the North and another from the South. She left quietly for Hyderabad tonight and will file papers from Bellary in Karnataka tomorrow.

Sonia is likely to go to Bellary via Tirupati, where she is expected to seek the blessings of Lord Venkateshwara ?Balaji?. The AICC general secretary in charge of Karnataka, Ghulam Nabi Azad, is accompanying her. Sources in Tirupati confirmed they had been informed about Sonia?s visit.

There were also indications from the Bellary administration that security arrangements were being made ahead of the Congress president?s arrival. The party has never lost the Bellary seat in any general election since Independence.

Tomorrow is the last date for filing nominations in Bellary, which goes to the polls on September 5. In the absence of any formal announcement, there was speculation that the Congress president may contest from Cuddapah in Andhra Pradesh, but party sources here said her choice would most likely be Bellary.

Cuddapah and Bellary were among five constituencies Sonia Gandhi had got surveyed to make her debut in the Lok Sabha.

She left for Hyderabad by an Indian Airlines flight after discussions with son Rahul and daughter Priyanka, her main advisors.

Party leaders said Sonia is expected to contest from Amethi, too, where elections will take place on October 3. Although some partymen are not sure of her contesting from Amethi, she is unlikely to drop out as Uttar Pradesh leaders are hoping to hitch their wagon to her fortune.

AICC functionaries tried to put up a brave face and said the party chief would contest from two places, one in the South and one in the North, presumably, Amethi.

But there is a flip side to the decision to fight from two seats. Some AICC leaders had earlier argued that this would send a wrong signal on the eve of elections.

However, it appears the Congress high command is not entirely confident of Sonia having a cakewalk in Amethi.

The Congress central election committee has already announced candidates for both Bellary and Cuddapah.

Cuddapah, a stronghold of Andhra Pradesh Congress chief Y. Rajshekhar Reddy, was allotted to his brother Vivekanand Reddy while K.C. Kondiah was given the Bellary ticket yesterday.

There was high drama before Sonia left Delhi as very few persons in the party were informed about it. Many Congress Working Committee members and AICC office-bearers were taken by surprise but sources close to 10 Janpath said Sonia firmed up her decision to contest after the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance election manifesto made her foreign origin the central theme of its campaign.

?Soniaji has now decided to go to the people?s court to seek justice. If she wins from the South as well as the North, she will have proved that the BJP?s foreigner campaign is a non-issue. Moreover, it will bolster Congress prospects in both the regions,? a CWC member said.

Sonia?s think-tank felt if she did not contest this time, the BJP might go ahead and introduce a constitutional amendment to ban foreign-born persons from holding high office.

?It is the best time to take on the BJP and get Sonia Gandhi elected,? an AICC office-bearer said.    

Today?s forecast: One or two spells of light rain.

Temperature: Maximum 31.6?C (Normal)
Minimum 25.4?C (1?C below normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 97%
Minimum 73%

Rainfall: 1.2 mm

Sunset: 6.06 pm
Sunrise: 5.16 am

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