Published : Apr 29, 2000 00:00 IST

The predicament of Sonia Gandhi ("A challenge to the leadership", April 28) is neither a new problem nor one of her own making. She lacks both charisma and leadership qualities, at least one of which is vital to turn round the moribund Congress(I) party.

The Congress(I)'s troubles started when Indira Gandhi and her courtiers, including some people who take the high moral ground today, brazenly violated the letter and spirit of the constitution, not only of their party but also of the country. Indira Gand hi was the first Indian Prime Minister and Congress president who allowed herself to be surrounded by a band of politicians who indulged in activities that tarnished the image of the party. That group of spineless minions even went to the extent of equat ing India with Indira.

The coterie around the current leader seems to be keen on regaining those "glorious days" of sycophancy. Until such time that the Congress(I) president moves to strengthen inner-party democracy and the right people are chosen for the right posts, the par ty has no hope of revitalising itself. As a first step, Sonia Gandhi should step down and confine herself to activities that rather suit her personality and abilities, leaving the reins of the party in more capable hands.

Sri Sridharan JeddahChattisinghpora massacre

In "The massacre at Chattisinghpora" (April 14), Arvind Singh is quoted as saying: "Terrorists used to come to the village regularly. The Army used to patrol the village but had never carried out searches or interrogations. So the terrorists often used t o stay here."

The Army - representing India - trusted the people of Chattisinghpora to be loyal citizens and perhaps therefore did not initiate routine operations such as cordon and search there. Was it not the duty of the people of Chattisinghpora - as law-abiding an d patriotic Indians - to report the presence of terrorists to the authorities? Instead, they cosied up to the militants and let their "sisters and wives serve them food and tea at all hours of the day and night", as admitted by Babu Singh. I wonder if su ch elementary courtesy was ever extended to Army patrols, who strain to improve things in Kashmir, of which they are a part. The militants did not betray Chattisinghpora; they merely acted in support of their cause. On the contrary, Chattisinghporans hav e been found wanting in their loyalty to their country.

B.A. Shahane SrinagarClinton's visit

There was much hype associated with President Clinton's visit to India (April 14). There was hot air, pomp and pageantry but little substance. Everyone in government, from A.B. Vajpayee to N. Chandrababu Naidu, bent over backwards to please Clinton. Only President K.R. Narayanan's bold banquet speech came as a breath of fresh air. He should be congratulated on calling a spade a spade.

Why was so much importance given to the U.S. President's visit? Were we expecting greenbacks to flow in torrents? Did we expect the U.S. to support us on Kashmir? Or did we want to worm our way into the good books of the U.S.? One has to understand that Clinton is coming close to the end of his term. Moreover, he is in no position to announce anything dramatic, in view of a Republican Party-controlled Senate and House of Representatives. It was at best a visit designed to bolster Clinton's sagging image in his not-so-successful second term.

We have to keep in mind the fact that the U.S' foreign policy is governed by that country's interests and domestic compulsions. India matters little to that country, given the former's lack of strategic importance in the U.S. scheme of things. To expect the U.S. to give up its old faithful ally, Pakistan, is wishful thinking by our decision-makers. The fact that Clinton delivered a tough, no-nonsense message to Pakistan may not mean much: it was only a public posture struck to satisfy India. As Madelein e Albright stated in a clarification, the U.S.' position vis-a-vis Pakistan or Kashmir has not changed one bit.

D.B.N. Murthy Bangalore* * *

In "A reality check" (April 14), Arjun Dirghanghi has rightly pointed to the hype in the Indian media over Clinton's visit. Some people may term it appropriate on the grounds that the U.S. plays an important role in the world economy and some others may do so because they want India to stand by its "Adithi devo bhavah" doctrine. Whatever the case, the Indian media could not but do it. There are a large number of television channels and newspapers and magazines, and they would not let go such an opportunity.

There was no windfall for India. The U.S. has its own interests in improving trade relations with India, and it had to vindicate its stand on international terrorism. Therefore it had to ask Gen. Pervez Musharraf to stop cross-border terrorism and restor e democracy. The visit, as the author says, was more of a public relations exercise by an outgoing American President who wanted to make up for his tarnished image.

Taking an altogether cynical view would also be wrong. Americans cannot ignore India, neither can India ignore the U.S. The relations have certainly improved, but we really have to learn to give due importance to things. Scenes such as the one witnessed in Parliament House, where MPs were eager to rub shoulders with Clinton, do not leave a good impression. The dignity of the country has to be maintained by all.

Ravinder Saini HissarGandhi

Professor Vivek Pinto of Tokyo has in his letter (April 14) commented upon my article "The missing laureate" (March 3). He has ended up writing: "I hope I have raised enough doubts to question the veracity of Tonnesson's statement: 'Thus it seems that th e hypothesis that the Committee's omission of Gandhi was due to its members' not wanting to provoke British authorities, may be rejected'." I find the whole letter very strange, but I shall concentrate on this final remark.

The point of my article was to present answers to the question why Gandhi was never awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On the basis of the available sources, I have presented my conclusions as to why he was not awarded the prize in 1937, 1947 or 1948, the th ree years his name was included on the Norwegian Nobel Committee's short-list. In the first year, it is not very likely that his name was on the table when the final decision was to be made. In 1947, there was, among other things, doubt as to whether he was about to take up a more militant stance towards Pakistan. In 1948, he was murdered before the closing date for nominations. The committee then considered a posthumous award and asked a lawyer and the other Nobel committees to give their opinions. In the end, the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to make no award because there was "no suitable living candidate".

The sources used have only recently become available. They give absolutely no indication that the committee at any time considered a possible adverse reaction from the British authorities in case they made an award to the Indian nationalist leader, but t hey do give evidence that the committee and its advisors considered many other possible questions related to the candidate.

One might possibly assume - as I suspect that Professor Pinto is doing - that the Nobel Committee's real concern would never be expressed in written sources but is to remain a matter of speculation - that the advisors' reports, the private unpublished di ary of the Committee Chairman and so on have no value as historical evidence but were made in order to mislead future generations. Only then it is also possible to ask Professor Pinto's question: "Why then was Gandhi not actively considered and awarded t he prize?" In my opinion, that question is the most peculiar part of Pinto's letter. Read my article once more and ask yourself: Is it really true that Gandhi was "not actively considered"?

However, Professor Pinto also refers to the historian who has done the most extensive research into the history of the Nobel Peace Prize, Professor Irwin Abrams. In his book The Nobel Peace Prize and the Laureates (1988), Abrams observes that in 1 961 the Nobel Committee "had no hesitation in granting Dag Hammarskjold (Swede, U.N. Secretary-General who died on a U.N. mission in Africa), the award". Whereas Gandhi died before the closing date for nominations, Hammarskjold died only days before the critical committee meeting; but it is clearly an interesting paradox that, hopefully, may be solved when sources become available in 10 years' time. The question then must be: How could the Norwegian Nobel Committee make a posthumous award in 1961 when t hey were unable to do so 13 years earlier? Professor Pinto may believe he has got the answer already. I don't.

Oyvind Tonnesson OsloA clarification

With reference to John Cherian's article, "Bilateral thrust", published in the Frontline issue of April 14, 2000, a U.S. diplomat provides the following clarification:

The first Federal Bureau of Investigation office to be opened abroad was not, in fact, "in Hungary in late February". By 1950, the FBI had already four Legal Attache Offices in four countries outside the U.S. The FBI now has 35 Legal Attache Offices in c ountries around the globe.

FBI Special Agents who staff these Legal Attache Offices outside the U.S. generally do not have authority to make arrests without the consent of the host country and specific extraterritorial jurisdiction granted them by the United States Congress.

There is no question of the FBI making arrests on its own in India; it will seek to act through the Indian police authorities.

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