Flare-up in discord with Dhaka
Bloodstain on Pak nuke nexus
Jaya draws shawl over Sonia snub
Mumbai masala on India Talkies menu
60-day admission code for colleges
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Aug. 24 
Signalling a further downswing in the already strained Delhi-Dhaka ties, India today lodged a strong protest with Bangladesh over the cross-border firing in Tripura and demanded that it ensure there is no repeat of the incident in future.

South Block officials summoned acting Bangladesh high commissioner Alimul Haque and demanded that Dhaka take immediate steps to defuse tension. But Bangladesh insisted the Border Security Force had provoked the clash by first opening fire on the Bangladesh Rifles.

Additional BSF personnel were rushed to Muhurichar as cross-border firing continued for the third day today. But the firing stopped around 1.30 this afternoon following diplomatic intervention. Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, who visited the spot, urged the Centre to take up the matter with Bangladesh.

The BSF and BDR personnel have agreed to amicably resolve their dispute over the 144 acres of land along the border. A flag-meeting is scheduled for tomorrow morning.

Diplomatic ties soured after Assam chief minister Prafulla Mahanta said in his Independence Day speech that Indian security forces had seized huge quantities of RDX from ISI agents holed up in Rajshahi.

A few days later, Dhaka evened the score by claiming that 300 kg of Indian sulphur, an ingredient in bombs, had been seized in Benapole.

Officials have begun to wonder whether Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee?s Calcutta-Dhaka bus bonhomie is going the same way as the Delhi-Lahore one. High-level technical experts of the two countries were scheduled to meet in Delhi this weekend to discuss bilateral issues. But the meeting may have to be called off if relations continue to slide.

Bangladeshi officials have described the developments as ?extremely unfortunate?. They feel the BJP-led government is trying to make internal security its prime poll plank by zeroing in on ISI activities in Bangladesh. ?We understand their compulsion but why is Bangladesh being made a pawn in this political game??? a senior official asked.

There have been several ups and downs in Indo-Bangla ties. But after the Ganga water pact was signed in December 1996, relations improved. When the BJP came to power at the Centre last year, there were fears that the countries might fall out over the infiltration issue. But Vajpayee said efforts would be made to strengthen relations.

Accordingly, when he visited Bangladesh two months ago for the inaugural run of the Calcutta-Dhaka bus, he promised to remove tariffs on essential items, revive border trade and restore trans-shipment facilities between Bangladesh and Nepal.    

Islamabad, Aug. 24 
Soon after Pakistan?s nuclear tests last year, the wife of a shadowy North Korean diplomat here was shot dead.

The police filed no reports. The newspapers were silent. The husband, believed to be a key figure in North Korea?s secretive missile programme, left the country.

Today, more than a year after the incident, the few Pakistani officials who will talk about the case say Kim Sanae was killed by mistake, when a neighbour?s cook accidentally fired a shotgun.

?I spoke with our intelligence agencies. They said it was an accident,? said Abdul Qadir Khan, head of Pakistan?s nuclear weapons programme. ?You Americans always try to put the blame on us.?

Others say the truth is more sinister. Some say Kim was killed on purpose ? probably by her own government ? because she was spilling secrets about North Korea?s missile and nuclear programmes or because she was planning to defect. ?She was murdered,? said one official.

Kim?s death has thrown new light on the military connection between Pakistan and North Korea at a time when the Stalinist regime is reportedly planning to launch a long-range missile capable of hitting Alaska.

While the US believes North Korea has provided crucial help to Pakistan?s missile programme, the chief worry now is that cash-strapped Islamabad may be tempted to pay for that help with its nuclear weapon secrets.

Some experts believe North Korean scientists may soon be able to assemble a nuclear bomb, and they are troubled by the country?s relationship with nuclear-capable ? and nearly bankrupt ? Pakistan.

?Pakistan has the bomb, wants North Korea?s missiles and doesn?t have any money,? said Henry Sokolski, an arms control expert in Washington. ?North Korea has missiles and wants the bomb. That?s a prescription for trouble.?

US officials believe that North Korea?s relationship with Pakistan has helped aggravate the confrontation on the subcontinent. In June, Indian officials seized a North Korean cargo ship that they said was bound for a Pakistani port. Inside the ship, the officials said, they discovered 177 crates of blueprints, manuals, parts and machine tools for Scud missiles. Pakistan said the ship was headed somewhere else.

US officials believe the Pakistani missile, the Ghauri, was a carbon copy of a North Korean rocket, the Nodong. Ghauri was test-fired in April 1998. A month later, the nuclear arms race in South Asia had begun in earnest with tit-for-tat tests.

A week after the last Pakistani test, on June 8 last year, Kim was killed in Islamabad.

The night she was killed, neighbours reported hearing shots and seeing uniformed Pakistani officials around her house afterwards. When diplomats inquired about the killing in Islamabad, they were stonewalled.

?I don?t know what you are talking about,? Altaf Hussain, Islamabad?s senior superintendent of police, said when asked about Kim?s death.

Kim?s husband, Kang Thae Yun, is believed to be one of North Korea?s busiest arms dealers. In 1997, while living in Islamabad, Kang brokered a deal with an unidentified Russian company to bring ?maraging steel? to Pakistan and North Korea, western experts say. Maraging steel is a key component of missile bodies and nose cones.

Khan, Pakistan?s nuclear weapons chief, lived in the same neighbourhood. He says he did just one deal with Kang: the purchase of 200 SA-16 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in the mid-1990s. The missiles are not capable of carrying nuclear warheads, and Khan says North Korea has provided no assistance to Pakistan?s missile programme.


Chennai, Aug. 24 
After delivering a full-blooded snub to Sonia Gandhi by playing truant at her Villupuram rally, Jayalalitha today made half-hearted placatory gestures, sending two minions with a shawl and bouquets to greet the Congress chief at the Meenambakam airport here.

The ADMK chief sent deputy treasurer Sedapatti Muthaiah and party secretary V. Sathiamoorthy twice ? once in the morning and again in the evening ? to greet and see off Sonia at the airport. Sathiamoorthy is a little-known party functionary and Muthaiah, although a former Union minister, no longer enjoys Jayalalitha?s confidence. He has even been denied a Lok Sabha ticket.

The ADMK chief, who was in the city, did not bother going to the airport to meet Sonia and clarify matters. The Congress president was passing through Chennai on her way to Andhra Pradesh.

In her first remarks on Jayalalitha?s failure to show up at Villupuram, Sonia told reporters: ?There is no confusion about it. The alliance is there.? Muthaiah said he was ?very happy? to meet the Congress chief and that the Villupuram fiasco did not come up during his courtesy call.

Although state Congress president T. Ramamurthy requested Sonia to return for campaigning in Tamil Nadu, there were no promises by the ADMK that Jayalalitha would share a platform with the Congress chief.

Jayalalitha has been campaigning for Congress candidates in the state. But by skipping the joint rally with Sonia, she wanted to send out the signal that in Tamil Nadu, she was calling the shots and that the Congress needed her more than she needed it.

The Janata Party, headed by Jayalalitha?s estranged ally Subramanian Swamy, said the ADMK chief?s snub to Sonia was prompted by the ?Mannargudi mafia? headed by Sasikala.

Sasikala, a close friend of Jayalalitha, is from Mannargudi and has been a closet opponent of ADMK-Congress ties because she feels the Congress is less likely to bail her out in corruption cases.

Janata Party state president Chandralekha said Sasikala had ?secret links? with the BJP and was cut up with Swamy for holding a tea party to bring Jayalalitha and Sonia together.

?There is no hope for stable politics with ADMK as long as the Mannargudi mafia physically and mentally controls Jayalalitha,? she said.    

Mumbai, Aug. 24 
It sounds like Bombay Talkies in a new avatar, has enough star power to light up a dark night and thinks it can make Planet Hollywood look like its clone.

So what exactly is India Talkies?

With some of the biggest draws in Bollywood lending it their names, India Talkies is a theme restaurant chain, blending cuisine, cinema and Indian culture and with plans of opening restaurants across India within a year.

The latest showcase offering from Bollywood comes packaged with as much glitz and glamour as tinseltown can muster. Last night, the groundbreaking party for the first outlet? to be located over 9,000 square feet of prime real estate in lower Parel in central Mumbai ? had almost everybody who was anybody in the film industry: Sunjay Dutt, Salman Khan, Karisma Kapoor, Govinda and Mahima Chaudhary to name a few.

The next stop is Delhi in about a couple of months, followed by Lucknow, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. The restaurants will be franchised. Delhi?s 32nd Milestone is interested in becoming a franchisee, as is Priya Paul of Park Hotel in Calcutta. Paul could not be contacted because she was away.

?We had one round of preliminary discussions with Paul,? said Andre Timmins of Wizcraft, an event management company which has a stake in the chain of restaurants and was responsible for organising Michael Jackson?s tour of India. The chain plans to promote Indian cuisine worldwide through its franchise operations.

Timmins said India Talkies would go one better than Planet Hollywood, the chain of theme restaurants owned by Hollywood icons like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Demi Moore. ?We are going to rock the world. We are going to set up the international restaurant chain of the next millennium for Indian food. And that is going to be very different from what Planet Hollywood did,? said Timmins.

One difference between India Talkies and its Hollywood cousin is already clear. The stars had stakes in the US restaurants. Here, they will only be lending their names to promote the chain. The promoters of India Talkies are producers Bharat Shah and Smita Thackeray (daughter-in-law of Bal Thackeray) and film production company GS Entertainment. The stars will have contractual commitments to patronise the restaurants frequently and participate in shows.

Caps, T-shirts, and jackets and key chains autographed by the stars will be on sale, as will India Talkies tattoos.

The hunt for the right place to set up the first India Talkies restaurant took a while. ?We had to look at about 200-300 places before deciding on this. That delayed the project by one-and-a-half years,? Timmins said.

But now that it is finally taking off, everyone has high hopes for it. At the party at the Phoenix Mill compound last night, Sunjay Dutt told the crowd: ?This is going to be the most exciting and happening place in the history of Indian cinema.? ?It?s great, it?s lovely. I hope it does well,? gushed Karisma Kapoor.

The interiors of the restaurant will have 3-D blowups of the stars. ?Once you are inside, you will see the unfolding of Indian cinema in 3-D. Get nostalgic about Sholay, Deewar and Mother India,? Timmins said.

And oh, what about the food? ?Genuine Indian cuisine, not fast food. We are going to do to Indian food what Daler Mehndi did to Indian music,? Timmins said.

If internationalising Indian cuisine is what Timmins means, he could take note of the fact that chicken tikka masala has already replaced fish and chips as the most popular dish in Britain.    

Calcutta, Aug. 24 
With the University Grants Commission (UGC) pressing for more teach-ing days in undergraduate colleges, Calcutta University today urged all affiliated institutions to begin their first year classes early.

At a marathon meeting, university authorities asked nearly 200 colleges to begin their academic sessions within 60 days of the publication of Class XII examination results.

?We are going to ensure that these institutions do away with the open-ended practice of student admissions to first year courses,? an official said.

?There are teachers in many colleges who cite continuing admissions as a reason for not taking classes regularly. They will be told to make themselves available for classes after the admission cut-off date,? the official added.

Many colleges stretch admission to first year classes over a long period, delaying the beginning of their academic sessions.

A recent UGC directive has made it compulsory for every college teacher to work a minimum of 40 hours a week. A senior university official said affiliated colleges had a maximum of 180 teaching days a year.

?It would be impossible for the colleges to allot 40 hours of work to all teachers if there are only 180 teaching days a year. To implement the UGC directive, the number of teaching days will also have to be increased,? the official said.

Sources in the higher education department said the West Bengal government had directed Calcutta University, which has the largest number of affiliated undergraduate colleges, to ensure that classes began early.

Initially, the government had not shown much interest in implementing the UGC directive on 40 hours of teaching a week.

But then the UGC had threatened to stop funds for colleges if teaching hours were not increased, education department officials said.

Manindranath Ray, joint secretary of the West Bengal College and University Teachers? Association, welcomed the move to increase teaching hours.

However, he said most colleges faced acute space problems, which would make it difficult for the authorities to accommodate teachers for longer hours.

B.Com results Results of the 1999 B.Com Pass examinations of Calcutta University will be published on Thursday, A.K. Chakraborty, controller of examinations of the university said on Tuesday.

The examinations were held in April. More than 19,000 examinees had appeared.    

Today?s forecast:Possibility of light rain in some areas..

Temperature: Maximum 32?C (normal)
Minimum 27.5?C (1?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 92%
Minimum 70%

Rainfall: Nil

Sunset: 6 pm
Sunrise: 5.19 am

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