SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Sharad still hopes to take up top job
Mumbai, March 30
Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar may have piped down on his demand that a candidate from Maharashtra (read himself) be considered for the post of Prime Minister after the Lok Sabha elections. But his lowered pitch hasn't dulled Pawar's ambition.

Advani not fit to become PM: Moily
Guwahati, March 30
The Congress doesn’t consider BJP leader LK Advani a designated prime ministerial candidate of the Opposition and has ruled out a live debate in the television between him and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Govt okays further pay hike for PSU officers
New Delhi, March 30
Just ahead of next round of general elections in the country the government today gave another windfall to about four lakh officers of central public sector enterprises approving an increase in salary and allowances, over and above the hikes announced last year.

NSA against Varun: CPM pats Mayawati
New Delhi, March 30
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) today appreciated Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati for booking BJP’s Pilibhit candidate Varun Gandhi under the National Security Act (NSA).

Cong supports Maya
New Delhi, March 30
The Congress party on Monday came out in support of BSP chief Mayawati by completely backing her government’s decision in Utter Pradesh to invoke NSA against BJP’s Pilibhit candidate Varun Gandhi.

NSA against Varun is ‘misuse of a serious law’: Maneka
Bareilly (UP), March 30
Terming invoking of stringent NSA against her son Varun as “misuse of a serious law”, BJP MP Maneka Gandhi today said such a practice could be very dangerous for the country. “What has happened with Varun is injustice to him and injustice to the country because misuse of such a serious law is, I think, very dangerous for the country.


Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama gestures as he arrives to attend a Tibetan art and culture exhibition in New Delhi on Monday.
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama gestures as he arrives to attend a Tibetan art and culture exhibition in New Delhi on Monday. The exhibition was organised to commemorate their 50 years in exile and to appreciate Indian support for their cause. 
Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

EARLIER STORIES

SC reserves verdict on Sanjay Dutt
New Delhi, March 30
The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict over Sanjay Dutt’s plea for a stay on his conviction and six-year sentence for illegal possession of arms after the CBI strongly pleaded against giving any relief to the film star thereby allowing him to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow. A three-Judge Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan heard the two-hour-long arguments by Harish Salve, counsel for Dutt, and Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Gopal Subramanium, who appeared for the CBI.
Sanjay Dutt with party general secretary Amar Singh at the latter’s residence in New Delhi on Monday. A Tribune photograph
Sanjay Dutt with party general secretary Amar Singh at the latter’s residence in New Delhi on Monday.

Rajasthan
Cong keen to woo back Muslims
May give them representation in poll
Jaipur, March 30
In an attempt to win back the support of Rajasthani Muslims ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has started making conciliatory moves towards the minority community, which constitutes 8.5 per cent of the state's total electorate.

Sunil Mittal on Carnegie Endowment board
Chandigarh, March 30
Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and managing director of the Bharti group, has joined the board of trustees of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

No Talibanisation of India: SC
New Delhi, March 30
Rejecting the plea of a Muslim student that he should be permitted to sport a beard in his convent school, the Supreme Court today observed that secularism cannot be overstretched and that “Talibanisation” of the country cannot be permitted.

Indian election officials demonstrate the working of an Electronic Voting Machine to polling officials in Guwahati on Monday.
Indian election officials demonstrate the working of an Electronic Voting Machine to polling officials in Guwahati on Monday. — AFP

‘No change in position on CTBT’
New Delhi, March 30
Will the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) be on the menu when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets US President Barack Obama in London on Thursday on the margins of the G-8 summit?

Ready to tackle terror ‘spillover’ from Pak: Army
New Delhi, March 30
Expressing serious concern over the latest terror attacks in neighbouring Pakistan, the Army today said the armed forces were well prepared to tackle “any spillover” of Pakistan’s problems on to India.

Our computer system is secure, says Army
New Delhi, March 30
With China-based hacker groups increasing their attacks on computer networks across the globe, the Army today said its information systems were “secure” and could not be “tampered” with.

Congress supporters participate in a motorcycle rally at Boko village in Kamrup district, some 50 km from Guwahati, on Monday. The rally was a part of the election campaigne organised by the Assam Pradesh Youth Congress.
Congress supporters participate in a motorcycle rally at Boko village in Kamrup district, some 50 km from Guwahati, on Monday. The rally was a part of the election campaigne organised by the Assam Pradesh Youth Congress. — AFP

26/11: Kasab gets lawyer
Mumbai, March 30
The Maharashtra government has appointed a lawyer from the state legal authority to represent Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman alias Kasab, the only terrorist to be caught alive following the terror attacks on November 26 last year.

Lankan Conflict
Karuna for referendum on separate Tamil homeland
Chennai, March 30
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who is facing harsh criticism from the Opposition on the Sri Lankan Tamils’ issue, today said he would support a referendum in Tamil areas of Sri Lanka for a separate homeland for island Tamils.

‘LTTE boat’: Kerala coast found safe
Thiruvananthapuram, March 30
After hours of high drama over reports of a group of suspected LTTE militants sneaking into Kerala’s Alappuzha coast, police late tonight said that the information has been proved wrong in an intense search of the area.

Actors Amitabh Bachchan and Kamal Haasan during a special ceremony for the unveiling of “The Seven Wonders of India” in New Delhi on Monday.
Actors Amitabh Bachchan and Kamal Haasan during a special ceremony for the unveiling of “The Seven Wonders of India” in New Delhi on Monday. — PTI

Visiting Deoband not wrong: Katiyar
Lucknow, March 30
Making it clear that the noted institution of Islamic studies Darul Uloom Deoband had invited him to visit it in the wake of his comments, the firebrand BJP leader Vinay Katiyar today said he saw nothing wrong in making a visit there.

Ex-minister found dead in train
Lucknow, March 30
Former Bihar Minister Prabunath Singh was found dead today under mysterious circumstances in a train in Uttar Pradesh, railway officials said.

Suryakiran team enthrals Jaipur
Jaipur, March 30
Shockwave, Phoenix, Yankee, Wedge, Tango were some of the mid-air formations by the IAF’s Suryakiran Formation Aerobatic Team which left the people of the pink city spellbound here today.





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Sharad still hopes to take up top job
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 30
Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar may have piped down on his demand that a candidate from Maharashtra (read himself) be considered for the post of Prime Minister after the Lok Sabha elections. But his lowered pitch hasn't dulled Pawar's ambition.

The calculating mind that propelled the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to the post of Maharashtra's Chief Minister at just 38 years of age is working out the permutations and combinations even while he goes through the motions of campaigning in Maharashtra.

At the heart of Pawar strategy lies the possibility of neither the BJP nor the Congress coming up with enough numbers to form a government on their own. In which case, Pawar would play for a coalition government headed by himself with the support of either of the two national parties.

“After the elections, the UPA will sit together and elect its leader,” Pawar tells firmly even while his ally, the Congress insists that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was thecandidate of the alliance.

To the seasoned political observer, Pawar's remarks at the start of the joint campaigning by the two parties symbolises yet another turnaround after accepting the leadership of Singh just a week ago.

The fact is Pawar has never hidden his ambitions to take a crack at the top job. Shortly after the Congress returned to power following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, Pawar then in that party, shifted base to New Delhi in the hope of succeeding ailing PV Narasimha Rao. But Rao proved to be far more resilient than Pawar expected and shortly after the 1992-93 riots, the Maratha leader found himself back on home grounds.

It was this personal ambition that caused Pawar to rake up Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins in 1999 and break away from the Congress effectively extending the Congress exile in power by another five years.

On the face of it, the odds do not seem to favour Pawar. His NCP is contesting just 22 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra. Of these in 13 seats the NCP faces the Shiv Sena, the only party outside his own that has so far backed the idea of Pawar as the Prime Minister. The NCP may end up contesting another 20-25 seats across the country, but it has hardly any base outside Maharashtra.

Not surprisingly, Pawar made headlines when he kicked off his campaign by undertaking religious rituals at various temples in the state.

Hailing from a leftist background, Pawar has so far abjured religious rituals in public and is known to stay away from godmen and astrologers in public.

But no one really thought Deve Gowda or IK Gujral would hit the jackpot.

The Congress in Maharashtra is understandably wary of Pawar's Machiavellian moves.

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Advani not fit to become PM: Moily
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, March 30
The Congress doesn’t consider BJP leader LK Advani a designated prime ministerial candidate of the Opposition and has ruled out a live debate in the television between him and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Senior Congress leader and chief of the AICC’s media committee, M Veerappa Moily today said, “How can Advani assume that he is the only prime ministerial candidate of the Opposition? There are so many others like Mayawati, Prakash Karat, Deve Gowda in the race. We don’t consider Advani a prime ministerial candidate of the Opposition, hence there is no question of live television debate between him and Dr Manmohan Singh.

“Who wants a debate between LK Advani and Dr Manmohan Singh ? This is not a presidential type election that two candidates meet at a presidential debate. In Indian democracy, voters don’t even elect the Prime Minister who is later elected by the MPs of the party that is voted to power. There is no situation where we can have two prime ministerial candidates,” Moily said.

He also hit out at Advani saying that the BJP veteran was not fit to be the PM of the country given his track record as a very weak Home Minister in the NDA regime, who surrendered in the Kandahar episode.

Moily accused the BJP of vitiating the election atmosphere in the country by communalising things through Varun Gandhi. “The BJP can’t match us on issues concerning development, security and hence wants to vitiate the election atmosphere on a communal agenda.”

He lauded young Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his statement saying, “ The National flag is my religion.”

Moily was, however, found groping for answers when drawn to certain burning issues concerning Assam. When asked about the party’s stand on over 40,000 Bangladeshi nationals who had been declared ‘absconders’ by he Foreigners Tribunal in Assam as there was apprehension that their names had found way into the state’s voters’ list, Moily said, It was for the Election Commission to find out.

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Govt okays further pay hike for PSU officers
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 30
Just ahead of next round of general elections in the country the government today gave another windfall to about four lakh officers of central public sector enterprises approving an increase in salary and allowances, over and above the hikes announced last year.

The decision to improve the salary structure of officers at board level and below, along with supervisory staff, was taken at the meeting of the Union Cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In another decision, the government also approved restructuring of state-owned United Bank of India’s capital, which includes reduction in paid-up equity by over 80 per cent to improve its financial parameters.

The windfall for the central public sector enterprises will include improved pay packages with increase in house rent allowance and retirement benefits.

The decisions are based on the recommendations of the committee of ministers headed by Home Minister P Chidambaram, which went into the revised salary and allowances notified earlier in November last year by the government.

Briefing reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Chidambaram said the revision in the pay structure would vary from company to company.

PSU officers, particularly in the oil sector, forced the government to revisit their revised pay scales when they went on strike in January this year.

In the other decision, the government will also infuse a sum of Rs 800 crore into the bank to enable it to provide more capital to productive sectors.

The paid-up equity capital of the bank will be reduced to Rs 266.43 crore, Chidambaram said.

The government will take back excess paid-up capital of Rs 1,266 crore and simultaneously will infuse this amount in the capital reserves of the bank.

Earlier in 2006, the Cabinet allowed United Bank to write off its accumulated losses of Rs 278.44 crore against the capital of Rs 1,810.87 crore.

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NSA against Varun: CPM pats Mayawati
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 30
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) today appreciated Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati for booking BJP’s Pilibhit candidate Varun Gandhi under the National Security Act (NSA).

“A strong message against virulent hate campaigns needed to be sent out and it has been sent,” said CPM’s Politburo member Brinda Karat, reacting to the invocation of the NSA by Chief Minister Mayawati. The Marxists justified the invocation, saying it depended on the state’s perception of whether the danger of communal violence was there.

“The UP CM thought the danger was there and invoked the Act. It’s a good sign because a signal has been sent out that no hate speech will be tolerated in this country,” said the CPM leader, pitching for women, minority and Dalit rights to seek the seat to power at the Centre.

Lambasting the government they supported for four years for failing to secure Dalit and tribal rights, the Marxists said 170,000 posts for the SCs and the STs were lying vacant in the railways alone.

They rushed to take credit for “not allowing” the UPA to pass the Bill exempting 47 institutes from reserving the SC/ST positions in their faculty and termed “a betrayal” UPA’s failure to pass the Women’s Reservation and Prevention of Sexual harassment at Workplace Bill.

The CPM further became the first party today to publicly raise the issue of disability rights, promising a separate department for disability issues if voted to power. Karat mocked at the failure of former Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s scheme that offers Rs 1,800 crore to companies that employ differently abled.

“Not a single recruitment has taken place. Moreover, whereas the Persons with Disability Act provides 3 per cent job reservation for the disabled, their actual share is just 0.44 per cent as against their estimated population of 6 percent of the total,” the CPM leader said.

Earlier, the party distributed election material that runs down the government for neglecting SCs and STs. The booklets mention that the promised allocation of 16 per cent of the expenditure to SCs never happened.

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Cong supports Maya
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 30
The Congress party on Monday came out in support of BSP chief Mayawati by completely backing her government’s decision in Utter Pradesh to invoke NSA against BJP’s Pilibhit candidate Varun Gandhi.

Interestingly, though the Congress denies having any role in the state government’s decision, but the very fact that it was supporting Mayawati on the issue has given rise to speculations that the party was trying to keep the BSP in good humour and keep its post-poll options varied, especially after the SP-RJD-LJP turn of events.

Speaking on the party’s position on the issue, Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said law and order was an exclusive domain of the state government. “If the state government is of the opinion that invoking the law is necessary to maintain law and order, it has every right to do so. Those who foment decisive politics should be ready to face consequences. They (BJP and Varun) took a calculated risk and should not complaint now,” he added.

The BJP has said invoking the NSA against Varun was a conspiracy of a tacit understanding between Congress and the BSP government in UP to stop him from contesting the Lok Sabha elections. “Without the tacit understanding with the Centre, the state (BSP-ruled Uttar Pradesh) would not have dared to misuse such an important piece of legislation,” BJP party leader M Venkaiah Naidu has said.

The BJP leader contended that the Act was designed to be used against anti-nationals, terrorists and people who were harming the nation and had instead been used against an upcoming young political activist.

Political observers, however, have a reason to believe that after situation went the way it did with the Samajwadi Party in UP, followed by RJD and LJP let-down, the party was left with no other option but score a brownie point with Mayawati by supporting her government’s decision. An opinion that supports this belief is that the NSA could not have been used against Varun without the knowledge of the Center.

However, the Congress denies having any hand in it. It also denies charges of trying to get “electoral gains” by supporting the Mayawati government on the issue. “The BSP is more close to the BJP that it will ever be to the Congress. The current situation in Plilibhit with polarised votes will only help Varun and the BSP candidate but not the Congress candidate. But it will be a short term gain for the BJP.

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NSA against Varun is ‘misuse of a serious law’: Maneka

Bareilly (UP), March 30
Terming invoking of stringent NSA against her son Varun as “misuse of a serious law”, BJP MP Maneka Gandhi today said such a practice could be very dangerous for the country.

“What has happened with Varun is injustice to him and injustice to the country because misuse of such a serious law is, I think, very dangerous for the country. Let us see what happens now,” Maneka told reporters in Bareilly after meeting Varun who was sent to judicial custody on Saturday.

Stating that she would take this battle to the courts and also to the masses, Maneka said, “There is a clamour for votes between the Congress and the BSP.” She was referring to the Congress government at the Centre and BSP rule in Uttar Pradesh.

Maneka claimed Varun surrendered peacefully and accused the administration of invoking serious charges against him under pressure from higher-ups.

“He surrendered at 1.25 pm but the case was filed only at 3 pm (on Saturday). Cases were filed not only against him but also those people who were not present there. I feel the administration was put under pressure,” she said.

The Uttar Pradesh government slapped NSA against Varun for his alleged hate speech in Pilibhit early this month. CDs of these speeches, which the BJP maintains are doctored, were submitted to the Election Commission. The poll panel found Varun guilty and advised the BJP not to field him as its candidate. — PTI

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SC reserves verdict on Sanjay Dutt
R.Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 30
The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict over Sanjay Dutt’s plea for a stay on his conviction and six-year sentence for illegal possession of arms after the CBI strongly pleaded against giving any relief to the film star thereby allowing him to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow.

A three-Judge Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan heard the two-hour-long arguments by Harish Salve, counsel for Dutt, and Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Gopal Subramanium, who appeared for the CBI.

Salve cited the instance of cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was allowed by the apex court to contest the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat despite his three-year sentence in a road rage killing case.

The senior counsel said the trial court had given a clean chit to his client on the charges of conspiracy in the Mumbai serial blasts and nexus with terrorists. Sanjay was convicted only for possession of arms and the court verdict was solely based on his confession.

Further, Sanjay had acquired the weapons for protecting his family, which was facing threat to life in the wake of the Mumbai riots, Salve contended. The ASG, however, said the conviction was also based on corroboration by co-accused and the recovery of weapons. Also, under Section 389 of the CrPC, the court had powers only to suspend the execution of the sentence, not to stay the conviction. The merits of the case, under appeal before the court, could not be gone into.

Further, while the trial court had acquitted Sidhu, Sanjay was found guilty, he reasoned. The ASG sought to draw another distinction: Sidhu had already been an MP, while Sanjay was seeking to make his electoral debut.

Contesting election was not a fundamental right and not allowing him to enter the poll fray would not cause any “irretrievable or irreparable” damage to him. This was not the case with Sidhu.

The Bench also consisted of Justices P Sathasivam and RM Lodha. Senior counsel Soli Sorabjee, representing an “elected representative” from Lucknow, and Prashant Bhushan, appearing for two former DIGs and two other prominent citizens from that city, also objected to allowing Sanjay to contest.

The apex court is expected to deliver its verdict in a day or two, much ahead of the deadline for filing of nominations for the Lucknow seat.

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Rajasthan
Cong keen to woo back Muslims
May give them representation in poll
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, March 30
In an attempt to win back the support of Rajasthani Muslims ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has started making conciliatory moves towards the minority community, which constitutes 8.5 per cent of the state's total electorate.

Over the past few years, Muslims, who were earlier seen as traditional supporters of the Congress, have distanced themselves from the party. The Congress didn't find favour among Muslims in the last two Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. However, at a time when the BJP is turning the elections into "Vasundhara Raje's five years v/s Ashok Gehlot's 100 days" affair, the Congress cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the Muslim electorate anymore.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot recently held a meeting with the state's prominent Muslim leaders and reportedly discussed the community's representation in the Lok Sabha elections. The Muslim leaders conveyed to the state Congress leadership that they were expecting representation on at least two Lok Sabha seats in the state.

The names of Muslim-dominated Tonk-Sawai Madhopur and Churu Lok Sabha seats figured in the discussion.

Meanwhile, what has come as a reprieve for the minority community is the news that former cricketer Mohd Azharuddin is contesting from Moradabad in UP.

Earlier, his name was doing rounds from Tonk-Sawai Madhopur seat, which was opposed by a section of minority community, stating that there was no dearth of leaders among the local Muslim population.

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Sunil Mittal on Carnegie Endowment board
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 30
Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and managing director of the Bharti group, has joined the board of trustees of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Welcoming the announcement, the president of the Endowment, Jessica T. Mathews, said: “We are honoured to welcome Sunil Mittal to the Carnegie Endowment’s Board of Trustees. As we transform the Endowment into the first multinational - and ultimately global - think tank to find solutions to increasingly global problems, I can think of few better people than Sunil to help us achieve that goal”.

Hailing from Ludhiana, Mittal started his first business in 1976 and is one of the first Indian entrepreneurs to identify the potential of the mobile telecom business. In just 10 years he along with a highly professinal team of managers, including his two siblings, built the Bharti Group, including the country’s largest mobile phone company, Airtel.

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No Talibanisation of India: SC

New Delhi, March 30
Rejecting the plea of a Muslim student that he should be permitted to sport a beard in his convent school, the Supreme Court today observed that secularism cannot be overstretched and that “Talibanisation” of the country cannot be permitted.

“We don’t want to have Talibans in the country. Tomorrow a girl student may come and say that she wants to wear a burqa, can we allow it,” Justice Markandeya Katju speaking for a Bench headed by Justice Raveendran observed.

Asserting that he was a secularist to the core, Justice Katju, however, said religious beliefs could not be overstretched. “I am secularist. We should strike a balance between rights and personal beliefs. We cannot overstretch secularism,” the Judge said.

Justice Katju passed the observation while dismissing the petition of the student. Mohammad Salim of Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School, a government-recognised minority institution in MP, has sought quashing of the school regulation requiring students to be clean-shaven.

Challenging a MP HC verdict that had earlier dismissed his plea, Salim submitted that every citizen was entitled to follow his religious principles and that no one should restrain him from doing so in a secular country like India. — PTI

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‘No change in position on CTBT’
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 30
Will the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) be on the menu when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets US President Barack Obama in London on Thursday on the margins of the G-8 summit?

On the eve of the much-awaited meeting, India today made it clear that there was no change in its position that it would not sign the CTBT in its present form.

“We won’t stand in the way of a test ban treaty which contributes to a global nuclear disarmament. However, we are not sure if it does in its present form,’’ Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said.

The CTBT is an issue that has been seen as potentially a contentious in New Delhi’s ties with Washington as the new administration sees its ratification as its top non-proliferation priority.

President Obama has also promised to launch a diplomatic effort to bring on board other states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force.

Describing the Indo-US engagement as ‘true, strategic stand-alone relationship’, Menon said India’s expectations were that the ongoing economic crisis, bilateral relations and regional issues.

On President Obama’s proposal for pursuing ‘constructive diplomacy’ between India and Pakistan, the Foreign Secretary was of the view that any mediation by a third party between the two South Asian neighbours would not yield any result.

“We have seen in the past that the India-Pakistan process is successful when it is bilateral,’’ he said, pointing out that the two countries had achieved considerable progress before the dialogue process was paused in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.

“It was hard for any external source to replace the bilateral process…We need two hands to clap. Third hand will not be helpful,” Menon said.

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Ready to tackle terror ‘spillover’ from Pak: Army

New Delhi, March 30
Expressing serious concern over the latest terror attacks in neighbouring Pakistan, the Army today said the armed forces were well prepared to tackle “any spillover” of Pakistan’s problems on to India.

“The armed forces are prepared at all times should there be a spillover of any kind of problems on to our side,” Vice-Chief of Army Staff Noble Thamburaj said, responding to queries in the wake of the attack on the Lahore police training centre this morning, leaving several dead.

Maintaining that India wanted stability in the entire South Asia neighbourhood, he said the region would attain the much-needed prosperity only if peace prevailed.

Noting that certain developments in the region in the last few years had caused instability, Thamburaj said: “Definitely, any kind of instability in the region...impinges on our security concerns...because we are neighbours and it is a cause for concern.” India was “watching and monitoring the situation very carefully,” Thamburaj said. The training is constantly there.”

Meanwhile, Army’s Signal Officer-in-Chief Lt Gen P Mohapatra told reporters at another defence event here the armed forces were “alive” to the security threats to the country whenever there was a terror attack in the neighbourhood. — PTI

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Our computer system is secure, says Army

New Delhi, March 30
With China-based hacker groups increasing their attacks on computer networks across the globe, the Army today said its information systems were “secure” and could not be “tampered” with.

“We have put in place a very secure network and I can confidently say that it cannot be tampered with,” Army’s Signal Officer-in-Chief Lieutenant General P Mohapatra told reporters here.

Talking about the security features of the armed forces’ network, he said, “It’s exclusive, there are various cryptographic controls that we have put in place and there are training activities to ensure that no loss of information takes place.”

Mohapatra’s statement came in the wake of New York-based media reports that a vast cyber spy network controlled from China has hacked into nearly 1,300 government and private computers across 103 countries, including those of Indian embassy in Washington and the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Commenting on the hacking of the Dalai Lama’s computers, Mohapatra said systems of the spiritual leader and others could be hacked as they were connected to the Internet.

“It is not a new phenomenon. This has been happening since the inception of internet and vulnerabilities are there in that system,” he added.

On the progress made by Army in networking its weapons and sensors, Mohapatra said: “Network centricity is an ongoing process and therefore as technology evolves, we have to get newer technologies into the fold and evolve according to what facilities or powers that network-centric technologies can offer us.” — PTI

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26/11: Kasab gets lawyer
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 30
The Maharashtra government has appointed a lawyer from the state legal authority to represent Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman alias Kasab, the only terrorist to be caught alive following the terror attacks on November 26 last year.

The name of the lawyer, Anjali Waghmare, was announced today by Judge ML Tahilyani of the special court that has fixed April 6 as the date for the trial to begin.

The government will also appoint another lawyer to assist Waghmare. Kasab would remain in the high security cell at the Arthur Road Central Jail and will participate via video-conferencing.

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Lankan Conflict
Karuna for referendum on separate Tamil homeland
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 30
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, who is facing harsh criticism from the Opposition on the Sri Lankan Tamils’ issue, today said he would support a referendum in Tamil areas of Sri Lanka for a separate homeland for island Tamils.

The DMK leader, non-committal on the solution to the island Tamils issue for more than a decade, said he would be very happy if Tamil Eelam (a separate homeland for Tamils) was formed after a democratic process of referendum in the island nation.

Going a step further than AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa, who had declared her support for equal rights for Tamils within the Sri Lankan constitution, Karunanidhi said the DMK was not opposed to a separate homeland for Tamils, as accused by some parties.

Charging the Opposition with using the Sri Lankan Tamils’ issue to divert people’s attention from basic issues and trying to portray the DMK and Congress as “anti-Tamil parties”, he asked his party workers to explain the steps taken by the DMK for the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils.

Speaking at a party meeting here, Karunanidhi said the DMK functionaries should defeat the propaganda of the Opposition that the DMK and Congress were acting against the interests of Sri Lankan Tamils.

After assuming power at the Centre in 1996, the DMK had been non-committal in the Sri Lankan Tamils and had not supported the demand for a separate Tamil homeland in the island nation. The party’s stand on the issue had drawn flak from its traditional pro-Tamil groups and Tamil scholars.

The Chief Minister’s remarks follows a resolution by the Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, strongly supporting the DMK in the Sethu Samudram Canal issue, to support the AIADMK alliance in the forthcoming Parliament elections. The party said it had taken the stand due to the “betrayal of the DMK and Congress” on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue.

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‘LTTE boat’: Kerala coast found safe

Thiruvananthapuram, March 30
After hours of high drama over reports of a group of suspected LTTE militants sneaking into Kerala’s Alappuzha coast, police late tonight said that the information has been proved wrong in an intense search of the area.

After a vigorous search jointly carried out by police, Navy and Coast Guard for about five hours, Alappuzha District Superintendent of Police E Divakaran said it had been confirmed that no alien vessel with militants aboard had come to the state’s coast.

“Some fishermen in Thyckal beach near Cherthala town who claimed to have sighted strangers approaching the coast were misled by transfer of fishing implements like net from a bigger vessel to smaller one,” he said.

“We are clearly convinced that the area is safe. There is no threat to the state’s coast”, he said.

“Whom the local people earlier suspected to be outsiders were Keralite fishermen only,” police sources said.

A section of the local media, meanwhile, reported what had happened for several hours was part of a “mock-drill” by the security forces to ensure their preparedness to meet any challenge. But top police officials refused to confirm that. — PTI

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Visiting Deoband not wrong: Katiyar

Lucknow, March 30
Making it clear that the noted institution of Islamic studies Darul Uloom Deoband had invited him to visit it in the wake of his comments, the firebrand BJP leader Vinay Katiyar today said he saw nothing wrong in making a visit there.

Maulana Margubur Rahman, the Rector of Darul Uloom, had invited Katiyar to Deoband to see its functioning. — UNI

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Ex-minister found dead in train

Lucknow, March 30
Former Bihar Minister Prabunath Singh was found dead today under mysterious circumstances in a train in Uttar Pradesh, railway officials said.

“Singh was found dead in the Vaishali Express at the Basti railway station in Uttar Pradesh,” Government Railway Police (GRP) inspector SK Rai said.

Rai did not rule out the possibility of foul play behind the death, but said the exact cause behind it would need to be ascertained.

“We have sent the body for a post-mortem examination,” Rai said.

Prabunath Singh, a leader of the Congress party and a former finance minister in the Jagannath Mishra Ministry in the ‘80s, was found dead on his berth.

The train was going to Bihar from Delhi, the police said. — IANS

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Suryakiran team enthrals Jaipur

Jaipur, March 30
Shockwave, Phoenix, Yankee, Wedge, Tango were some of the mid-air formations by the IAF’s Suryakiran Formation Aerobatic Team which left the people of the pink city spellbound here today.

The team lead by its Commanding Officer Wing Commander Joy Thomas Kurien performed the formations by six Kiran MK II aircrafts in a duration of about 20 minutes.

The show was organised by the state tourism to mark the Rajasthan Day.

The fleet took off this morning from Sanganer airport and formed the Indian Tricolour over the sports ground of the Rajasthan University.

Thousands of spectators were present at the sports ground to enjoy the dynamic maneuvering with breath-taking loops by the team while many others had glimpse of the enthralling performance from rooftops. Three IAF commentators, including two lady officers, guided spectators about every loop and formation from the ground. Wing Commander VK Dubey, Vinay Pratap Singh, Arunaksha Nandy, Sumeet Malhotra and Anant Pujari were the team pilots. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

Sudanese national to be deported
PUNE:
A Sudanese national who came here on a student visa 19 years ago, will be deported on April 4 by the authorities who are questioning the college administration on his illegal stay and continued registration for the same course. The case of Hasan Mohammed, the 42-year-old “student” of a college here has baffled the Foreigners’ Registration Office (FRO) which has served a notice on him to leave the country, said Bhanupratap Barge, a police inspector attached to the FRO. A student’s visa is issued for one year and needs to be renewed with proper authentication during the period of education of the foreign national.

Call of Sikkim
GANGTOK:
The tourist inflow to the picturesque Sikkim has soared by 60 per cent in the first two months of this year for the corresponding period last year, with 60,925 visitors visiting the state. The state, famous for its pristine natural landscape like snow-capped mountains and lakes, received 27,834 and 33,091 tourists in January and February 2009, respectively, against 18,122 and 20,430 in the same months last year, as per the data made available by the state tourism department. Domestic tourists, mostly from West Bengal and Southern states, comprised the bulk of the tourists’ inflow.

186 crude bombs seized
GUNTUR:
The police seized about 186 crude bombs at Kunkanagunta village in Gunture District of Andhra Pradesh on Monday. The police said on a tip-off, a police team rushed to the village and recovered the country-made bombs concealed in a pitfall on the roadside near a polling booth. Efforts were on to nab the culprits behind the act, the police added. It may be recalled that the police had recovered more than 400 crude bombs during searches this month.

21 bikers arrested
MUMBAI:
The passion of riding cost 21 youths dearly as they ended up in lock-up for daredevil stunts they were doing on yet to be inaugurated Bandra-Worli sea link route in suburban Bandra here. The bikers, who usually race on newly constructed route on every weekend, were arrested on Sunday night following a tip off. The police have seized their bikes.
Source: Agencies

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