Advani pulls Kargil gun on Pakistan
General mulls referendum figleaf
Watch puts Patel deal on watchlist
Orissa govt snaps relief lifeline
Sunrise session after nuclear darkness
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Nov. 23 
Home minister L.K. Advani today threatened to strike Islamabad with a Kargil-like response if it did not stop cross-border terrorism.

??If Pakistan does not refrain from creating disturbances, a befitting reply would be given to it like that in Kargil,?? Advani said in Varanasi.

The salvo, fired during his visit to Sarnath near the temple town, comes a day after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said India was prepared to negotiate with the military regime in Islamabad. Vajpayee was, however, quick to clarify that the talks could resume only if Pakistan stopped sending mercenaries into Kashmir.

Advani?s statement, therefore, complements what Vajpayee said. Though the BJP-led government has toned down its initial hostile stance towards the army rulers, it does not want to sit down for talks now. Vajpayee had set the conditions for conducive atmosphere. Advani emphasised that the atmosphere was far from conducive.

Advani?s statement suggests extreme measures, including combating forces across the border and chasing away militants beyond the LoC, which implies stepping across it. Home ministry sources, however, brushed aside such speculation, saying what the minister probably meant was a response as ??effective?? as Kargil.

The last time Advani stirred a hornet?s nest over Pakistan was shortly after the Pokhran blasts. The home minister had lashed out at the then Nawaz Sharif government, saying the ??geo-political realities?? had changed and Islamabad should immediately end the proxy war. Emboldened by the nuclear tests, Advani had drawn up a ??pro-active?? security policy for Kashmir.

Unlike previous years, the recent spate of attacks on security forces by terrorist outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba has continued well into the winter. Today?s blast outside the National Conference headquarters suggests the kind of momentum militants have gathered in the valley.

By his tough talk, Advani wants to send a warning to the Pervez Musharraf regime that India is capable of giving Pakistan a dose of its own medicine.

The Centre, as part of its revamped counter-terrorism policy, has drawn up a ??winter offensive?? plan to pre-empt fresh intrusions. After the end of the Kargil war, the home ministry had proposed that intelligence agencies should focus on some key areas in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The army has moved in to reoccupy posts it had vacated before the Kargil war broke out.    

Islamabad, Nov. 23 
Pakistan chief executive Pervez Musharraf plans to hold a referendum in the second half of January to give political legitimacy to his military government.

The referendum, which could help Musharraf blunt some of the western criticism, will probably be held after the end of Ramzan.

In another move against deposed premier Nawaz Sharif?s family, the army regime has formally arrested his father, son and brother. They are likely to be booked under a new accountability law, media reports said.

Encouraged by the lack of public resistance to the October 12 coup, Musharraf has started consulting legal experts on the referendum, leading daily Jang reported today.

The referendum on whether the military government should continue will be conducted by the election commission of Pakistan.

Political observers, however, do not expect the general to lay his government open to a direct vote. He is most likely to seek a mandate for his economic agenda which includes weeding out corruption and putting the ailing economy back on tracks.

The military government?s initial drive to recover defaulted loans from some of the biggest names in Pakistani politics and business generated considerable enthusiasm among the masses, the observers pointed out.

The referendum plan indicates that Musharraf is in no hurry to restore democracy, they said. He has already declared he will not relinquish power till all his objectives are achieved.

The government yesterday took the first step to impose media censorship, requesting the trial court hearing the cases against Sharif to restrain the media from publishing political statements of the accused.

Trial judge Rehmat Hussain Jafri observed that as far as the court was allowed, the media had been given access to cover the case.

The prosecution said it had no objection to the presence of the media, but they should be restrained from publishing political statements ?under the garb of covering the case?.

The male members of the Sharif family were all arrested after cases were registered against them under various provisions of the accountability law, which came into effect by an Ordinance promulgated by President Rafiq Tarar. Apart from Sharif?s direct family, a nephew and another relative has also been held. It is not known when the arrests were made.

However, women of the Sharif family, who had been in protective custody since the coup, have been released on ?humanitarian grounds?.

Haidar visit

Pakistan denied that the military regime was pursuing Track II diplomacy with India. It scotched speculation that former Indian foreign secretary Salman Haidar, who was in Pakistan recently, had come for back-channel talks.    

Bangalore, Nov. 23 
A lost-and-found diamond-studded watch in the house of former chief minister J.H. Patel has raised questions about a multi-crore deal his government sanctioned to a Malaysian company just a few days before laying down office.

Patel, who continues to reside in the official residence ?Cauvery?, had verbally complained to the police two weeks ago that his expensive watch (valued around Rs 10 lakh) had been stolen.

Police suspected the involvement of his personal staff and began investigation, though there was no written complaint. They zeroed in on his cooks, Prasanna and Shekhar, but the two denied having taken the watch. But suddenly Prasanna left.

Two days ago, Prasanna handed over the watch to Shekhar in Cauvery and fled. The watch was returned to Patel, who told the police not to book the offender as he had confessed to his crime and returned the watch.

But when the news reached the new Congress government, it raised questions about the origin of the watch. It transpired that the watch had been ?gifted? by Malaysian minister of Indian origin, Swamivelu, when Patel attended his daughter?s wedding at Kuala Lumpur a year ago.

It also came to be known that Swamivelu had played host to several ministers in the Patel Cabinet, including Anant Nag, M.P. Prakash and K.N. Nage Gowda. Patel?s principal secretary B.S. Patil had close links with the Malaysian minister.

Information minister B.K. Chandrashekhar said the government was trying to ascertain whether it was a ?personal gift? or an ?official gift? or a gift in anticipation of some favour.

Curiously enough, the Patel government approved the Rs 1200-crore water supply project to Malaysia-based Biwater consortium four days before resigning after a resounding defeat in the Assembly elections. Swamivelu is reportedly connected to the consortium.

Swamivelu, who visited Bangalore in 1997, had been pushing for the water supply and a super highway project.

The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewarage Board, an autonomous body, consistently opposed the project being given to Biwater. The board said it had the necessary expertise to take the project up on its own.

Even as the S.M. Krishna government has committed to reviewing the sanction, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board last week gave its go-ahead.

The information minister, however, clarified that FIPB clearance did not mean much as the chief minister had asked officials to examine the Biwater proposal and submit a report to him. ?We will not clear the project keeping our eyes closed,? he added.    

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 23 
Thousands of cyclone victims have been left to fend for themselves after the Orissa government ?curtailed? its relief operations and stopped supplying food to the affected areas.

Special relief commissioner D.N. Padhi confirmed today that the government had stopped distributing chura and rice after the 15-day relief period ended on Thursday. The worst-hit district, Jagatsinghpur, was the last to receive the free rice.

Padhi said the situation had improved considerably, prompting the government to stop the supplies. ?The government made it clear at the outset that the relief would continue for 15 days from the day it started in a particular area,? the IAS officer said. ?The period was not extended because the situation had improved and almost all the cut-off areas were reconnected.?

Padhi said the government, however, had ordered district collectors to keep running the free kitchen for another 15 days, but only ?in areas where conditions are still very critical?.

With their homes and belongings lost to the October 29 cyclone, tens of thousands people in the devastated coastal districts, especially Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara, have been surviving on a meagre diet of watery rice given as relief. But the government decision has left them in the cold.

An adult got 500 gm and a child 250 gm rice per day for 15 days from the government. But they were not given any dal or edible oil to cook. ?The dal was supplied only to the state-run free kitchens,? Padhi said.

Two senior officials engaged in relief operations said the government should not have stopped supplying the foodstuff without starting a ?food-for-work? programme.

?The cyclone has left the survivors out of work. What will they eat? They have no money or source of income to buy even 1 kg of rice,? one of them said.

Another official said the survivors, mostly homeless and penniless, were left to the mercy of non-governmental organisations supplying foodstuff or running free kitchen in some areas. ?But the NGOs cannot feed so many hungry mouths.?

An acute shortage of polythene sheets and blankets has added to the plight of the survivors camping out in the open. With winter setting in, they live in tents made from branches and roofed with coconut leaves, but the shelters keep them shivering throughout the night.

The relief commissioner said the government had received only 50,000 rolls of polythene sheets as against 2.60 lakh rolls needed for roofs of makeshift shelters. He said the government was scouring for the sheets all over the country.

Padhi said the government suffered a setback after Unicef failed to provide 10 million metres of polythene sheets it had promised. ?We do not want to join issue with Unicef, but it has so far supplied only two lakh sheets of polythene.?    

Tokyo, Nov. 23 
Foreign minister Jaswant Singh begins his three-day visit to Japan tomorrow morning with a t?te-?-t?te with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

Though the meeting has been officially dubbed a courtesy call, it could well exceed the scheduled one hour and set the tone for the foreign minister?s trip, aimed at normalising relations marred after India?s nuclear tests.

After Pokhran II, it was the Japanese Premier who had taken the initiative of isolating India and adopted a tough stance against it at all international fora. It was his hard line which prevented others from softening their position on the Pokhran tests and resume lending from agencies like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to India.

Obuchi suspended his country?s official development assistance to India and put on hold all bilateral meetings.

Singh is also to meet T. Kawara, his host and director-general of the Japanese defence agency, a rank equivalent to minister of state for defence, foreign minister Yohei Kono and officials from the ministry of trade. But his agenda of talks with these leaders will probably be decided by the meeting with Obuchi.

The thrust of Singh?s discussion with the Japanese leadership will be to make them understand and appreciate India?s security concerns. He will also try to get Tokyo to lift sanctions and defreeze its billion-dollar loan.

?You cannot have a normal relationship if sanctions continue to be there,? a senior official of the Indian embassy here said. But the question is, what does Japan get in return.

There are indications that Tokyo, which had been insisting that Indian sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and also dismantle its nuclear programme, has now softened its stand. But it may still look for a face-saver that will convince its domestic audience that by resuming loans to India it has got something in return. Japan is keen that India at least sign the CTBT, though it can keep the ratification for later. Delhi has so far maintained that it wants to build up a ?broad national consensus? on the issue.

But Singh may have to go beyond this stated position. He may have to assure the Japanese that the present government will make a statement in Parliament before long, clarifying its intention to sign the treaty.

The very fact that Singh was invited to visit Japan and that he accepted is a sign that the two sides are keen on better relations.

?The stress will be on finding ways to manage differences on the nuclear issue while taking bilateral relations forward in other areas,? an Indian embassy official said.    

Temperature: Maximum: 28.5?C (0) Minimum: 17.4?C (0) Rainfall: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum:88%, Minimum:45% Today: The weatherman says the sky will stay partly cloudy all day but clear at night. Not much change likely in night temperature. Sunset: 4.46 pm Sunrise: 6.01 am    

Maintained by Web Development Company