22 US Senators to join Friends of India Caucus
NRI family’s search for kidnapped father
Delay in advance payment could affect MiG delivery
No bowing to Laden’s blackmail: US
Play vital role in Iraq, Powell asks UN
USA orders diplomats to leave Saudi Arabia
Japanese communications satellite put into orbit
22 US Senators to join Friends of India Caucus
New York, April 16
Republican Senator John Cornyn and Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton will co-chair the caucus, president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) Sharad Lakhanpal has said.
The launch would make history as this would be the First time that country-specific caucus had been formed in the Senate, Lakhanpal said in a letter to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, informing him of the senators’ decision.
Besides, he said, the Indian caucus in the Congress has grown to a membership of 184, thus making it the largest caucus.
AAPI with a country-wide membership of over 50,000 doctors is considered one of the most powerful and influential Indian-American organisations.
Replying to questions, he said AAPI, along with several other Indian American organisations, had vigorously taken up the task of lobbying on behalf of the country because of Prime Minister’s “serious and sincere” effort to involve non- resident Indians (NRIs) in the country’s development.
That was the reason the Prime Minister thought of appointing Ambassador B.K. Agnihotri solely to interact with the NRIs, he added.
It was the Prime Minister’s initiative that led to 35 Indian American organisations joining hands and jointly presenting a “solidarity plaque” to Vajpayee during his visit in September last pledging to work together for enhancing Indo-US relations and finding ways to help India become a developed nation by 2020, Lakhanpal said.
Asked whether hundreds of Indian-American organisations have been able to achieve unity, Lakhanpal said much needs to be done, but at least “we were talking to each other” and working jointly on some of the issues of interest to India.
He said Agnihotri has been holding meetings among various organisations and the results have been encouraging.
London, April 16
Pratul Deb (67) was snatched by gunmen posing as soldiers nearly a month ago during a visit to Assam and is believed to have been kidnapped by a militant group belonging to the Bru National Liberation Front, fighting for an autonomous state for the Reang people.
But despite pleas from his wife and daughters, the British and Indian authorities have failed to help them, the Evening Standard said.
Now the family has mortgaged their home and taken their life savings to the region to bargain with the captors.
According to the report, they have already handed over £ 10,000 but the gunmen have failed to release Deb, who suffers from a serious heart condition.
His youngest daughter, 28-year-old lawyer Deepa Deb told the newspaper: “The longer the silence, the more we fear the worst.
“Nobody will help us, neither the Indian nor British governments, and the Red Cross say they can’t help so we are left to go it alone.”
Ms Deb, who has stayed at home in London, said: “A frail old man grabbed at gunpoint has been missing for a month and there is no trail, no clues as to his whereabouts or proof he is all right. We just want somebody to find him before it’s too late.”
Deb, who moved to Britain with his family in 1985, made frequent trips to his home village in Assam to see his elderly mother.
He had also invested in local timber projects to help find work for members of the Reang tribe.
Deb was with his driver on the way to visit a factory on March 17 when he ran into what looked like an Indian army roadblock. Three gunmen in combat gear abducted the men and two witnesses. They were taken to a hilltop camp where five more gunmen were waiting. Within hours the witnesses and the driver, with a ransom note for £ 60,000 were freed.
“The driver was told to make sure relatives in Britain should be told, so they knew who my father was and presumed he must be wealthy,” Ms Deb told the newspaper.
Although Scotland Yard warned Deb’s family not to attempt a rescue, his wife Shibani and eldest daughter Sipra, a 31-year-old PhD student at Leeds University, hired a UK private security firm to travel with them to Assam.
In telephone calls with intermediaries, the kidnappers reduced their demand to £ 10,000, payable in two installments. When £ 5,000 was handed over at a bus stop on March 29, they reneged on a pledge to prove Deb was alive.
Then, after arranging a face-to-face meeting, the captor
snatched a further £ 5,000 at gunpoint and fled. Since then, the Deb
family has heard nothing. — PTI
Moscow, April 16
“After the signing of the contract in January, we have yet to receive the official confirmation of the Indian side along with advance payments. We need the advance payments to launch the production and every day is very precious and could affect the beginning of deliveries,” Director General of Russian Aircraft Corporation (RAC) MiG, Valery Toryanin, told PTI.
RAC MiG is to deliver first of 16 MiG-29K fighters to the Indian Navy beginning from 36 months after signing of the contract and complete them after 52 months when upgraded and modernised aircraft carrier would be ready for commissioning.
According to the Indian embassy sources the delay in the payment was caused due to the late submission of invoice by MiG, a charge denied by the RAC MiG officials.
“We have confirmed our commitment to honour the contract and arrangements are being made to make advance payments to RAC MiG at the earliest. The delay was caused because RAC MiG invoice was sent after the end of financial year on March 31,” a senior Indian Embassy official said speaking on condition of anonymity.
RAC MiG is under heavy pressure because of cash crunch caused due to policies of its previous management.
Toryanin, who was appointed RAC MiG chief in November 2003, said that with “portfolio full of orders” he has no money to execute them.
Washington, April 16
“Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, the Japanese Government and many other governments have stated clearly that they will not submit to this kind of blackmail”, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday.
Such offers, Mr Boucher said, only “increase our determination to succeed in the fight against terror.”
He said Al-Qaida “has been associated with attacks in any number of countries. It has attacked Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, just about everybody, every religion — people in countries that were part of the coalition, not part of the coalition, people in Arab countries and members of government”.
To a question on the US military’s orders of “capture or kill” Iraq’s Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr, Mr Boucher said “I suppose one can surrender voluntarily and if you don’t, you run the risk of being killed”.
He said “our vision continues to be that he
(Sadr) is under charges from the Iraqi justice system and that he needs
to face those charges”. — PTI
The UN Special Envoy Lakdhar Brahimi has “made an important statement about the political process moving forward” in Iraq and “it shows, that we wanted to receive information and guidance and suggestions from the United Nations”, he said in an interview to Italian TV yesterday.
Mr Powel said that he
expected “we will be seeking a new UN resolution” with respect to Iraq.
“The US Government has received recent and credible information indicating that extremists are planning further attacks against US and Western interests,” the State Department said yesterday.
“The Department of State has, therefore, ordered the departure of family members and non-emergency personnel from the US Embassy and consulates in Saudi Arabia,” it said in a statement.
The department also warned US citizens to defer all travel
to the country and added that “private US citizens currently in Saudi
Arabia are strongly urged to depart.” — AFP
Cape Canaveral, April 16
The Boeing-built satellite, dubbed Superbird-6, is to provide business communications throughout Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Hawaii.
Space Communications Corporation’s Superbird-6 Programme manager Kazuhiko Aoki said the satellite would replace an older model. That satellite, the Superbird-A, is expected to last a few more years and Aoki said the company was looking for a way to continue using it.
The new satellite would join a network of four others that currently provide services to 15 million households, Aoki said. Once in its proper orbit, the satellite would be renamed Superbird-A2. — AP
An Atlas 2AS rocket lifts off carrying the Japanese Superbird 6 spacecraft from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Thursday. — Reuters photo
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