Friday, August 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

We will defeat terrorism: PM
Tribune News Service

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee addressing the nation from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort.

President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam being greeted by a child on the 55th Independence Day.

Schoolchildren wearing the colours of Tricolour in Delhi on Thursday.
— PTI photos

New Delhi, August 15
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today made a diplomatic move by not spewing venom against Pakistan in his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of Red Fort, though he minced no words in criticising Islamabad’s double-standards of terrorism and declaring that "we will defeat the forces of terrorism".

In a clear rebuff to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s reference to Jammu and Kashmir as "a core issue" in his Independence Day speech yesterday, Mr Vajpayee described Jammu and Kashmir as "an integral part" of India and "a symbol of Indian secularism".

While the Prime Minister chose not to stoop to the level of General Musharraf’s rhetoric he handed an apt response to the military dictator when he declared that nobody will be allowed to disrupt the Jammu and Kashmir elections which will be free and fair.

Mr Vajpayee also made it clear that terrorist incidents like Kaluchak and attacks on Amarnath yatris could not, by any logic, be a part of any freedom struggle.

General Musharraf had yesterday said that Pakistan would continue to give moral, political and diplomatic support to what he called "the freedom struggle" going on in Jammu and Kashmir. This was clearly the military ruler’s way of telling New Delhi that Islamabad would do its utmost in sabotaging and disrupting the J&K poll.

The Prime Minister asserted: "Kashmir is not a piece of land, it is a test case of sarva dharma samabhava — secularism... India has always stood the test of a secular nation. Jammu and Kashmir is a living example of this. And this itself is Kashmiriyat."

Mr Vajpayee favoured good neighbourly relations with Pakistan but made it clear that no talks can take place with Pakistan until Islamabad created a conducive atmosphere for this, giving the most clear signal yet that he would not be meeting Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf when they visit New York next month to attend the United Nations’ General Assembly session.

"How can any meaningful dialogue take place in this atmosphere?" Mr Vajpayee said while accusing Pakistan of adopting “double standards” on terrorism. In this context, he pointed out that the cross-border infiltration was continuing.

At the same time, the Prime Minister seemed to be on a soft note when he admitted that some mistakes might have been committed by the government but he assured that the Centre would make amends. “If any mistakes have occurred, we shall make amends. For this we shall talk to the Kashmiri people’s representatives and organisations.”

Significantly, in this context, he said discussions will also take place on the demand for more powers to the state but only after the elections. He made a fresh offer of a dialogue with the elected representatives in the state on devolution of greater powers and to rectify mistakes of the past.

He said Jammu and Kashmir elections were an opportunity to create a new future in the state and urged the people and their representatives to contest the poll in large numbers to thwart the designs of those sitting across the border.

The Prime Minister made sure to mention that the displaced Kashmiri Pandits would get justice and said the government would take steps to facilitate their return to their homes in the “new situation” after the poll.

Without specifying, Mr Vajpayee said India was prepared to take “some more” steps in this direction but added that for this, it was necessary to create a conducive environment.

On the Gujarat situation, he said the horrific explosion of communal violence in the state was one unfortunate example of how casteism and communalism divided the people. “There can be no place for such violence in a civilised society. It is the responsibility of the Government and the society alike to provide security and equal opportunities for minorities”.

Mr Vajpayee appealed to the militant groups in the North-East to come to the negotiating table and join the mainstream, saying that peace efforts in Nagaland were moving towards success. “Our efforts for permanent peace in Nagaland are progressing towards success... Through weapons, you can snatch away lives but cannot improve them.”

Today’s speech, the fifth in a row by Mr Vajpayee, was probably one of the shortest I-Day speech by an Indian Prime Minister and lasted barely 25 minutes. Though the Prime Minister’s speech evoked kudos from many observers for its being pithy, to-the-point and mercifully devoid of boring statistics, a cross-section of people criticised the Prime Minister for not thanking industrialists and entrepreneurs for their role in the development of the country.



Agni, Brahmos to be inducted
T-90 tanks, new copters to join forces
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 15
The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today announced the induction of ‘Agni’ class of ballistic missiles into the Army and supersonic ‘Brahmos’ missile, made with the Russian collaboration, into the defence services.

Giving a clear signal to Pakistan about India improving the weapons in its armoury the Prime Minister said the sophisticated T-90 battle tanks assembled from kits imported from Russia and delivery of 11 indigenously-made Advanced Light Helicopters to the armed forces would form part of the fresh steps to enhance defence capabilities.

The announcements, made on the occasion of 56th Independence Day, include supply of two LM-2500 engines for frigates of the Indian Navy and clearly indicate the government’s initiative to fully back the armed forces.

While ‘Agni’ will be produced and inducted into the Army, ‘Brahmos’, a supersonic missile capable of being launched from multiple platforms, will be given to the defence services, according to an official statement.

Since Brahmos can be launched from multiple platforms, it will be given to the three Services, reports said.

The Home Ministry will prepare a plan to issue multi-purpose machine-readable identity cards to all citizens.

For this, a pilot project will be launched in October to cover select districts in eight states, the statement said adding that this project will be completed within a year.

These identity cards will also facilitate the implementation of E-governance initiatives, it added.

The Prime Minister’s announcements came in pursuance of his statement on Kargil Vijay Divas last year.

As per the announcement, the Defence Ministry has finalised a scheme for medicare of ex-servicemen and their dependents. This scheme will be launched within three months.

Besides these steps, several other new initiatives have also been launched to strengthen national security, the statement said without elaborating.



In no mood to celebrate, villagers wear black badges
Our Correspondent

Talwandi Sabo, August 15
While people across the country were celebrating Independence Day with fervour and gaiety, residents of Lele Wala village, near here, celebrated it as “black day” as they were showing their resentment against the lack of drinking water by wearing black badges and waving black flags.

Villagers said that half of their village was not supplied with potable water from the water tank of the village and repeated requests to the authorities concerned had fallen on deaf ears. About a week ago, women of the village had protested against the lack of water supply and staged a demonstration at the water supply tank/office of the village.

The “gharha bhannh” (breaking the earthen pitcher is a symbol of the death of someone) demonstration of the women also failed to bring the desired results.

The Deputy Commissioner had gone to the spot in recent past but returned allegedly without listening to the grievances of the people. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta) had led the dharna and people from nearby villages were also called in.

Mr Jhanda Singh Jethuke, district president of the BKU(E), alleged that the government had failed to provide even basic facilities to the residents even after 55 years of independence.


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