Japan nuclear ice melts in movie memory
Buddha swallows pride for Advani police tips
Prime Minister puts troops on junta alert
Politicians of all feathers flock to Mulayam son?s wedding
Innocence tainted by police fiction
Calcutta weather

Tokyo, Nov. 24 
Warm memories of a Hindi movie Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi saw 36 years ago set the stage for a thaw in Indo-Japanese ties after Pokhran II.

The two sides agreed to a security dialogue and set up a mechanism to exchange views on disarmament, non-proliferation and Asian developments.

The decision to start a security dialogue ? the details will be worked out later ? came after Japan made it clear to visiting Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh that it was now in a better position to ?understand the security environment? around India. Though it may not be an endorsement of Pokhran II, it shows that Japan is trying to come to terms with the Indian nuclear tests.

Singh started the day with a call on Obuchi who recalled his first visit to India in 1963 in which he had his brush with Bollywood, but missed the Taj Mahal because of rain. Singh seized the opportunity to assure Obuchi that during his next visit to India arrangements would be made for him to see the Taj.

Obuchi and foreign minister Yohei Kono will come to India ? the dates are yet to be finalised ? as part of a series of high-level tours, culminating in a visit by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to India in 2002 ? the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. This will be the first visit to India by a Japanese Emperor.

Defence minister George Fernandes will travel to Tokyo in January next year.

?There is a sense of satisfied fatigue,? said Singh, describing the back-to-back engagements he had with the Japanese leadership on the first day of his four-day visit to Tokyo.

Singh made it clear to the Japanese leadership that Tokyo and New Delhi do not share a history of dispute and that he was trying to ?work on widening the relationship and not on reducing it to a single-issue relationship?.

This was an indication that he was keen to push the bilateral relationship forward in other areas despite the differences over the nuclear issue. Warming to the idea, the Japanese suggested a security dialogue which will help them understand each other?s concerns better.

But it will be wrong to assume that the Japanese leadership will immediately resume economic aid to India, suspended as a protest to the nuclear tests.

Neither will it be correct to hope that Tokyo will quit pressuring New Delhi to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). However, what Singh seems to have achieved is to create an environment where the two sides appreciate each other?s concerns better and will try to sort out differences through talks, rather than opting to freeze bilateral ties.

Responding to questions about the possibility of Japan lifting the sanctions, Singh said: ?I am here as India?s foreign minister and not as its commerce minister. I carry a message from my government and it is my attempt to make the Japanese leadership understand our position.?

Business council revived

While the sanctions may be lifted gradually, there are signs of trade and economic cooperation picking up in the coming days. The two sides have decided to revive the Indo-Japan Business Cooperation Council. It will meet in New Delhi in January.

Japan has also agreed to appoint an economic commission which will visit India next spring to carry out a study and examine new areas of investments.    

New Delhi, Nov. 24 
The Centre will despatch an Intelligence Bureau team to train Bengal?s Criminal Investigation Department to tackle the threat from Pakistan?s Inter-Services Intelligence and check the influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The decision was taken in the ground-breaking meeting between Union home minister L.K. Advani and state home (police) minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya on Monday.

Sources said Bhattacharya had asked the home minister to ?help? the CPM-led government spruce up its security and police network.

The sources added that it will take a few days to finalise the composition of the IB team of security experts and the date when the officials would visit West Bengal. It will not be a one-time visit and several more batches will be sent as and when necessary. ?These details are being worked out and the first team will be in the state soon,? an official said.

The Advani-Bhattacharya talks also underscored the need to tone up the state police, considered highly politicised, and intelligence set-ups.

For the West Bengal government, accepting a proposal to allow an IB team to train and develop the CID?s intelligence and investigative skills is significant in more ways than one.

Early this year, the Left Front regime had refused to cooperate with the three-member home ministry team which had visited the state to assess law and order in the wake of alleged political killings.

Chief minister Jyoti Basu publicly asked his senior bureaucrats not to cooperate with the team. No state official received them and the team had a humiliating three-day stay.

The ISI, according to some reports, is operating nearly 10 ?modules? in the state, including at least four in Calcutta.

According to senior home ministry officials, the immediate task before the state government is to improve its policing system, especially because nine of the districts ? Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, Cooch Behar, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur, South 24-Parganas, North 24-Parganas and Jalpaiguri ? are on the porous Indo-Bangla border.

Other than these, the Darjeeling district is located on the equally porous and smuggling-prone Indo-Nepal border which, too, is used by ISI agents.

According to the sources, the problem is compounded by the fact that Bengal also borders insurgency-affected Assam. Several Ulfa militants were arrested in Calcutta during the nineties.

The other major concern is the large-scale influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. After neglecting the issue for years, Bhattacharya is learnt to have admitted to Advani the magnitude of the problem and has promised to cooperate with the Centre to check the inflow.    

New Delhi, Nov. 24 
Striking a loud note of warning against the Pakistan junta, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today asked defence forces to remain on high alert along the frontline through winter, saying that the army rulers could step up export of terror into Jammu and Kashmir.

He also assured the forces that the government would take steps to meet all their requirements in view of the hostile weather and treacherous terrain in Kargil.

?The country?s defence needs will be met and shortage of funds will not be allowed to come in the way of defence preparedness,? he said at the annual Central Commanders? Conference here.

The Prime Minister?s statement is significant as it comes within months of the end of the Kargil conflict. It aims at instilling confidence in the forces and promising them full support.

The conference was attended by command chiefs and commanders leading various army corps as well as heavyweights from the navy and air force establishments.

Defence minister, George Fernandes and several bureaucrats from his ministry were present. So was home minister L.K. Advani, in charge of supervising counter-insurgency operations.

Addressing the meet later, Fernandes echoed Vajpayee?s statement. Harping on the need to hike defence spending in light of the country?s security environment post-Kargil, Fernandes said this should be proportionate to the increase in gross domestic product. He vowed not to overlook defence requirements and said funds would be provided at all costs.

This is the first time that Vajpayee has addressed commanders of the three defence services jointly since the Kargil war.

His comments on the security environment in the subcontinent and in Southeast Asia are a pointer to the direction in which Indian diplomacy is likely to proceed.

The Prime Minister said relations with China were on the upswing though some old problems still needed sorting out.

Vajpayee also dwelt on developments in Pakistan, including the October 12 coup which pitchforked Pervez Musharraf into power.

Commenting on the growing role of Afghan fundamentalism, Vajpayee said it had wreaked much damage to the security environment in South Asia. He said the situation in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was such that it was breeding terrorism and extremism, and indirectly affecting India?s security environment. He said external interference in the affairs of Afghanistan must stop.

He said the country?s security concerns needed to be reviewed afresh and a comprehensive defence policy framed. He hoped it would be easier to draft such a policy as the National Security Council was in place.    

Lucknow, Nov. 24 
Marriages bring two together. In Uttar Pradesh, they do more: unite warring politicians.

For half-a-day at least, the bickering allies tossed aside their differences ? they even postponed a meeting on who-got-what-and-why ? put on their best galabandhs and headed for Etawah to bless Mulayam Singh Yadav?s son, Akhilesh.

The Samajwadi chief?s trusted lieutenant, Amar Singh, played master of ceremonies. Besides the entire Cabinet, two busloads of journalists and planes packed with politicians from Delhi descended on Mulayam?s native Sefai village this morning. Former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar was among the 20,000 guests present.

But Laloo Yadav was not. The Bihar chieftain broke off his daughter?s engagement to Mulayam?s son after their political ties snapped. He doesn?t forget in a hurry.

Akhilesh is an environmental engineer who completed his degree in Australia. He met his wife, the daughter of Lt Col. Chandrashekhar Singh Rawat, while studying there.

The stadium at Sefai was converted into a temporary storehouse for the raw material needed to feed the guests. The food, according to T.S. Mehta, Mulayam?s private secretary, was ??simple but delicious?? ? rice, dal, two types of vegetables, puris, missi roti and rasgollas.

??It was a grand wedding. So many people landed up and that, too, at 8 in the morning,?? gushed Naresh Aggarwal, state power minister.

The season for grand marriages is here. And for the state?s VIPs, it?s one big party, never mind that the government doesn?t even have money to pay salaries.

Chief minister Ram Prakash Gupta has taken the lead. He visited Kanpur three times last week to attend weddings. Unlike his counterparts in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Gupta does not believe it is necessary to instruct his Cabinet colleagues against splurging on family functions.

Kanpur seems to be the favourite venue. On November 19, labour minister Premlat Katyar?s daughter, Anupama, tied the knot. Eighty-four of the state?s 91 ministers turned up, protocol officers in tow.

The chief minister himself was there. So, mundane work like the allocation of portfolios, scheduled for the day, was deferred.

The Governor had a trying time though: he had rushed back from Ambala to sign the appointments, but had to proceed to Varanasi for his next engagement.

Protocol officers in Kanpur, too, found the going tough. Each minister had to be given one escort vehicle and four security guards. In addition, the ministers? respective departments provided vehicles to their families.

Those who returned to Lucknow the next day went back to Kanpur for the wedding of BJP legislator Tanveer Haider Usmani?s daughter. Though LCP ministers have decided to strike work to protest the portfolio allocation, they continue to avail of official facilities while travelling.

The government brushes aside talk of such spending. ??Marriages bring people together. I don?t think public money is being wasted,?? said Amarmani Tripathi, a minister of state. The state?s two planes, a six-seater and an eight-seater, are much in demand. Yesterday, the aircraft carried power minister Aggarwal to Delhi for an industrialist?s daughter?s wedding. He returned in a couple of hours for former chief minister V.B. Singh?s daughter?s marriage.

The next star marriage is that of the daughter of Congress leader Pramod Tiwari. Wedding watchers predict that will be the grandest of all.    

Calcutta, Nov. 24 
A week after claiming to have made a sensational breakthrough in the kidnap of cellphone dealer Sharad Nangia, evidence of another bungled police operation began to emerge today as it appeared that two of the three youth arrested in the case were innocent.

Barely a fortnight ago, city trader Jaiprakash Gupta was shot dead after the police botched up a rescue attempt.

DC (South) Ranjit Pachnanda, who was so far in-charge of the Nangia case, had said on Saturday that three youth, out to make ?some easy money?, had plotted the kidnapping. But with major discrepancies emerging from the account, joint commissioner Kiriti Sengupta was today told to review the case.

Sengupta, who questioned the youth at the Karaya police station, said two of the youth ?appeared innocent?.

Pachnanda had earlier said that Nangia had received a call on Thursday, asking him to come to the Ballygunj rail station if he wanted his family to remain ?safe and sound?. On arrival, Nangia was forced into an autorickshaw by two youth. Later, they were joined by another who held him at gunpoint. But Nangia managed to jump out of the vehicle.

Sengupta said the sequence of events was more or less correct, but there was no ransom demand. ?Two of the youth, Hridibrata Roy and Chandana Saha, were totally in the dark about Nangia,? Sengupta said. The third, Debjyoti Roy, had told his friends that he wanted to scare a person with whom he had some differences.

?They participated in this operation simply out of friendship,? said Sengupta.    

Maximum: 29.2?C (0)
Minimum: 17.8?C (+1)
Relative humidity:
Maximum: 86%, Minimum: 45%
Partly cloudy sky expected. Mainly clear night. Not much change in night temperature.
Sunset: 4.46 pm
Sunrise:6.01 am    

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