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Donald Rumsfeld arrives in India

NEW DELHI, Dec 8: In his first major foreign trip after the re-election of President George Bush, US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld arrived here on Wednesday for talks with top Indian leadership, during which New Delhi is likely to express concern over resumption of arms supplies to Pakistan. Though on top of Rumsfeld's agenda would be measures to enhance defence and security co-operation between the two countries, India has made it clear that supply of arms to Pakistan when Indo-Pak dialogue is at a sensitive stage, would have a negative impact.

Rumsfeld's tight schedule on Thursday includes one-to-one talks with Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and a meeting with External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh. He may also call on the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "We have conveyed that US arms supplies to Pakistan would also have a negative impact on the goodwill the US in India, particularly as a sister democracy," Singh said in Parliament today.

However, on the possible supply of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan, the Minister said Washington had conveyed that no decision had been taken and none was imminent. US has evinced keen interest and held negotiations on sale of Maritime Spy Plane P3C Orion's as well Hercules C130 giant transport aircrafts to India. The two sides are also close to firming up an agreement on US help in case of Indian Naval Submarines being in distress in high seas.

US for strong relationship with India

WASHINGTON, Dec 3: The US has transformed ties with New Delhi on the conviction that American interests require a strong relationship with India and differences could be best addressed by a partnership, an official document has said. The two countries are the largest democracies, committed to political freedom protected by representative government. India is also moving towards greater economic freedom. They also share an interest in fighting terrorism and in creating a strategically stable Asia, it said.

"Differences remain, including over India's nuclear weapons programmes and over the pace of India's economic reforms. But while in the past, these concerns may have dominated US thinking about India, today the US starts with a view of India as a growing world power with which it shares common strategic interests," the US State Department said in its profile of India, just updated.

"In September 2001, President (George W) Bush lifted the sanctions that were imposed under the terms of the 1994 Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act following India's nuclear tests in May 1998. The non-proliferation dialogue initiated after the 1998 nuclear tests has bridged many of the gaps in understanding between the countries."

"President Bush met (then Prime Minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee in November 2001, and the two leaders expressed a strong interest in transforming the US-India bilateral relationship. High-level meetings and concrete cooperation between the two countries increased during 2002 and 2003."
The US and India announced on January 12, 2004, the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP), a milestone in transformation of the bilateral relationship and a blueprint for its further progress, it said.

Indo-US ties set to grow under Rice's stewardship

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Nov 17: Indo-US ties are expected to get further impetus under Condoleeza Rice who has succeeded Colin Powell as the Secretary of State. A close confidant of US President George Bush, Rice as National Security Adviser had established good equations with Indian leaders.

National Security Adviser J N Dixit held parleys with her soon after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's first meeting with Bush in New York in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. Dixit's predecessor Brajesh Mishra has had a series of meetings with her.

Rice would carry forward the policies of Bush who has expressed his personal commitment for strong ties with India. This was evident when the White House spokesman Scott McClellan on Monday stressed that there will be no looking back on ties with India. He said that the White House does not expect any policy changes towards New Delhi after the exit of Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was "instrumental" in helping to address the situation between India and Pakistan.

"We certainly have a strong relationship with India and we will continue to build on that relationship with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as we move forward," said the spokesman. Powell, who resigned from his post after serving President Bush in his first term in office, has been "working to resolve regional conflicts, such as in India and Liberia and Haiti and other places as well," said McClellan.

Saying that that he expects no policy changes as a result of Powell's departure, McClellan noted that "the agenda is set by President of the United States and he is the one who sets the policy, and the Cabinet is there to help the President implement the agenda and the policy decisions that he makes."

He said "Secretary Powell has been instrumental in helping to address the situation between India, Pakistan and the Kashmir region. And we will continue to work on those efforts and encourage dialogue between the parties. There has been some good progress made in that respect."
He said Powell has been "working to address conflicts across the world, whether they are in Afghanistan and Iraq or elsewhere... He has also been instrumental in working to advance the Broader Middle East Initiative."

"Powell came to a decision that now is the time for him to resign and move on with other things in life," McCllan said. Rice, who turned 50 on Sunday, has been Bush's most trusted adviser on national security and foreign policy matters. Unlike Powell, who had a tough time battling hardliners like Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Rice is expected to have smooth sailing.

Analysts believe that Rice, as secretary of state, will continue to promote the President's views rather than her own. They consider her to be a pragmatist rather than an ideologue. A staunch supporter of Bush's decision to invade Iraq, Rice has fiercely defended the controversial policy that came in for widespread criticism at home and abroad.

Democrats have indicated that Rice's record on Iraq in terms of faulty intelligence and poor post-war planning will be closely scrutinised during the Senate confirmation hearing. Born during the waning years of racial segregation in Alabama, Rice will only be the second African-American (after Powell) and the second woman (after Clinton nominee Madeleine Albright) to become the country's top diplomat. She is an accomplished figure skater and a trained pianist.

In recent weeks, political circles were abuzz with talk that Rice's preference was either to return to the academic world (she has been a provost and professor of political science at Stanford University) or to run the Pentagon in case Rumsfeld planned to leave.

Stephan Hadley is tipped to succeed Rice as National Security Advisor. He has held a foreign policy post under Bush Sr. He has served as Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Policy. During that stint, he was responsible for defence policy towards NATO and Western Europe, and on nuclear weapons and missile defence.

India is a 'World Power': Kissinger

NEW DELHI, Nov 6: The former US Secretary of State, Mr Henry Kissinger, a critic of India during Cold War era, today eulogised the country as a global power and backed its candidature for a permanent membership of expanded UN Security Council. "I first saw India for the first time in 1962. There is a change in India, physically and in attitude," the veteran diplomat who worked with two US Presidents as Secretary of State and National Security Adviser told newsmen here.

Kissinger, who earlier addressed the Hindustan Times Leadership Initiative Conference, recalled that Washington had sent its Naval flotilla to Bay of Bengal during the 1971 Indo-Pak war because of "strategic considerations" as it felt Pakistan's existence was threatened. "We did what we were required to do in those circumstances. The US had nothing to do with formation of Bangladesh," the then Secretary of State said, adding "it was purely a strategic decision for a short duration of time."

The Nobel Peace Prize winner dispelled the impression that the US had been comfortable with military dictatorships like in Pakistan and asserted that Washington was "more comfortable with the Indian system."

Describing India as a "world power" and Pakistan as a "regional player", he strongly advocated New Delhi's claim for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, saying the present set-up of the world body did not reflect the "actual distribution of power".

India confident of more substance in ties with US

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday welcomed and congratulated the US President, Mr George Bush, on his re-election and expressed confidence that Indo-US ties would continue to gain in substance and dynamism and global war against terrorism would also gain momentum. In his message, the President, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, congratulated Bush on his re-election and expressed confidence that Indo-US ties would continue to gain in substance and dynamism in the coming years.

"On behalf of the Government and the people of India, I express my best wishes for further successes in your second term. We are confident that under your strong leadership, our ties would continue to gain in substance and dynamism," he said. Dr Kalam said “during your first term, relations between the two countries had expanded significantly across a broad agenda. Growing warmth between our people has added to steady convergence of interests. Initiatives taken by your Administration, including in high technology, have a strong resonace in my country," the President said.

Congratulation Mr Bush, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, invited the US President to visit India, saying it would be a "milestone" in bilateral ties. "I hope that we will have the opportunity to welcome you in India very soon," he said in a letter to Mr Bush. "My good wishes as well as those of the government and the people of India are with you as you prepare to lead your great nation, drawing on a strong mandate, in the years ahead," said Dr Singh.

One major goal of the two countries' policies, he said, "must be to continue to deny any comfort or encouragement to religious extremism or terrorism, and resolve to ensure their complete elimination as an acceptable instrument of state policy.” Dr Singh said "we are confident that the United States and India are on the same side in this effort".

He also underlined the need for charting out an economic roadmap that would be an integral element of broader relationship between the two countries. Recalling his discussions with Bush in New York in September that focused on the overriding priority of making the future more secure, the Prime Minister said: "As partners against terrorism and WMD proliferation, we will stand by the United States in strengthening international peace and stability.

"The global war against terrorism and efforts to combat WMD proliferation will benefit enormously from your steadfast resolve and leadership," he said. The prime minister referred to the "successful" holding of presidential elections in Afghanistan and said this was in consonance with the vital interests of both India and the US.

About Iraq, he said: "We all have a stake in the early return of Iraq to the international mainstream as a democratic country. India is ready to contribute to the electoral process early next year."

Meanwhile, the return of the Bush administration is being seen positively by both strategic and industry experts in India. In the last four years, the growth in bilateral trade, a renewed interest in the region, and declaration of India as a strategic partner—is seen as a promising foundation for improvement in Indo-US ties.

The former foreign secretary and Indian Ambassador the US, Mr Lalit Mansingh, said "Our bilateral trade has grown by 25 per cent each year. Bush has met our Prime Ministers six times in three years."

India's National Association for Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) president, Mr Kiran Karnik, said "the US is a powerhouse of the global economy and the Indian IT industry is delighted in being a partner to US corporations, helping to make them more competitive." Of the total Indian software exports, the outflow to US accounts for 68 per cent and has been growing at around 30 per cent a year.

Mr Karnik, in a statement, said that Bush's re-election would add to the momentum of growth in the industry. "Bush's track record during his presidential tenure has proven that he is a proponent of free trade. We are confident that President Bush will continue with his pro-trade stance during his second term," he said.

Quoting findings of various research reports, Mr Karnik said the US economy only stands to gain by off-shoring work, and job loss, if any, due to outsourcing was very small. The NASSCOM chief also hoped that the Bush administration would be supportive of visa issues, enabling unhindered movement of IT professionals who he said play a key role in contributing to the growth and development of the US economy. He said "we are convinced that President Bush will continue to work towards building an enhanced and comprehensive trade relationship with India."

Bush wins re-election as Kerry concedes

WASHINGTON, Nov 3: President Bush won four more years in the White House on Wednesday, pocketing a quiet concession from Democrat John Kerry that closed out a loud and long campaign fought over the war on terror and the economy. "Congratulations, Mr. President," the Massachusetts senator said simply in a call that lasted less than five minutes and followed Kerry's decision not to contest Bush's lead in make-or-break Ohio.

The victory gave Bush a new term to pursue the war in Iraq and a conservative, tax-cutting agenda - and probably the chance to name one or more justices to an aging Supreme Court. He also will preside alongside expanded Republican majorities in Congress. The GOP gained four Senate seats and led for a fifth. The party bolstered its majority in the House by at least two.

His re-election secure, Bush made a midafternoon appearance before supporters in Washington. By pre-arrangement, Kerry spoke first to a hometown crowd in Boston to conclude a campaign that came achingly close to success.

Ohio's 20 electoral votes gave Bush 274 in the Associated Press count, four more than the 270 needed for victory. Kerry had 252 electoral votes, with Iowa (7) and New Mexico (5) unsettled. Bush was winning 51 percent of the popular vote to 48 percent for his rival. He led by more than 3 million ballots.

A Democratic source said Bush called Kerry a worthy, tough and honorable opponent. Kerry told Bush the country was too divided, the source said, and Bush agreed. "We really have to do something about it," Kerry said, according to the official. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush told Kerry, "I think you were an admirable, honorable opponent."

Kerry placed his call after weighing unattractive options overnight. With Bush holding fast to a six-figure lead in make-or-break Ohio, Kerry could give up or trigger a struggle that would have stirred memories of the bitter recount in Florida that propelled Bush to the White House in 2000. Kerry's call was the last bit of drama in a campaign full of it. While Bush remains in the White House, he returns to the Senate, part of the shrunken Democratic minority.

He acted, hours after White House chief of staff Andy Card declared Bush the winner and White House aides said the president was giving Kerry time to consider his next step. One senior Democrat familiar with the discussions in Boston said Kerry's running mate, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, was suggesting that he shouldn't concede.

The official said Edwards, a trial lawyer, wanted to make sure all options were explored and that Democrats pursued them as thoroughly as Republicans would if the positions were reversed. Advisers said the campaign just wanted one last look for uncounted ballots that might close the 136,000-vote advantage Bush held in Ohio.
An Associated Press survey of the state's 88 counties found there were about 150,000 uncounted provisional ballots and an unspecified number of absentee votes still to be counted.

Ohio aside, New Mexico and Iowa remained too close to call in a race for the White House framed by a worldwide war against terror and economic worries at home.
But those two states were for the record - Ohio alone had the electoral votes to swing the election to the man in the White House or his Democratic challenger.

Republicans already were celebrating election gains in Congress. They picked up at least three seats in the Senate, and a fourth was within their grasp, in Alaska. And they drove Democratic leader Tom Daschle from office. That will be the state of play on Capitol Hill for the next two years, with the chance of a Supreme Court nomination fight looming along with legislative battles. Republicans also re-enforced their majority in the House.

Bush's relentless effort to wrest Pennsylvania from the Democratic column fell short. He had visited the state 44 times, more than any other. Kerry picked up New Hampshire in perhaps the election's only turnover. In Ohio, Kerry won among young adults, but lost in every other age group. One-fourth of Ohio voters identified themselves as born-again Christians and they backed Bush by a 3-to-1 margin.

In Senate contests, Rep. John Thune's victory over Daschle represented the first defeat of a Senate party leader in a re-election race in more than a half century.

Indian-born Bobby Jindal makes it to US House

Republican Bobby Jindal has made history with a landslide win to the US Congress. The 33-year-old political whizkid is the first Indian American to enter the House of Representatives after a gap of nearly 50 years. For long regarded as a shoo-in from Louisiana's first congressional district, Jindal effectively avenged his narrow defeat in last year's gubernatorial race. Jindal, who had been handpicked by President Bush for a key slot in his administration earlier on, romped home with an astounding 78 per cent of the vote.

Two other Indian Americans came out with flying colours in state elections. Democrat Swati Dandekar was re-elected as state representative from Iowa, while Republican Nikki Randhawa Haley was elected to the South Carolina assembly. Yet another woman of Indian stock, Republican Jay Rao, put up a spirited fight in the race for North Carolina's secretary of state before losing to Democratic incumbent Elaine Marshall. Rao garnered 1,374,110 votes (43.12 per cent) as against Marshall's 1,812,271 votes (56.88 per cent).

This is the first time that Indian Americans from the Republican fold have achieved success. All the four serving Indian legislators have been Democrats --Kumar Barve of Maryland House of Delegates, Satveer Chaudhary of Minnesota Senate, Upendra Chivkula of New Jersey Assembly and Dandekar. The icing on the cake was really Jindal's massive victory from his home state of Louisiana. The only other Indian American to have been elected to the House of Representatives was the late Dalip Singh Saund, a Democrat from California, way back in 1956.

Jindal's victory was never in doubt. With a head start in the race, he ran a spirited campaign for which he had raised $ 2 million. The Democrats never had a chance but they had put up five candidates in a bid to force a run-off election by denying Jindal the requisite 50.1 per cent for an outright win. But Jindal, a Rhodes scholar and former president of the University of Louisiana system, upset those calculations by polling 209,652 votes. His nearest Democratic opponent Roy Armstrong managed a mere 18,032 votes.

Having served the Bush administration as assistant secretary of health and human services, Jindal is expected to be actively involved in key House committee assignments.

In South Carolina, Nikki Randhawa Haley's victory was a foregone conclusion. The decks had been cleared last June when the young Sikh woman had pipped a fellow Republican in the party primaries. Her name was the only on the ballot after a bid by an Independent had fallen by the wayside. The Democrats chose not to put up a candidate in the heavily Republican segment.

In Iowa, Nagpur-born Swati Dandekar had a smooth sailing in her re-election bid to the state assembly, defeating her Republican opponent by 10 percentage points. The 53-year-old Dandekar, who has lived in Iowa for the last 30 years, overcame a fierce campaign. She has been closely involved with John Kerry's campaign in Iowa.

Another interesting contest involving an Indian American was witnessed in New Jersey -- Republican Sylvester Fernandes who sought to take on the popular India Caucus founder Frank Pallone for the US Congress. But Pallone, who enjoys the community's backing, scored a handsome win (67.78 per cent) as against Fernandes's 30.25 per cent votes

India, US discuss cyber-security cooperation

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 12: Indian and US information technology experts and senior government officials have begun talks on strengthening cyber-security in a world that is becoming "always connected, always networked". Delivering the keynote address on "Cyber security: A key to US-India Trade" at India-US Information Security Summit here on Tuesday, the visiting US Under Secretary of Commerce, Mr Kenneth Juster, said the US welcomed India as a vital partner in addressing global cyber security issues.

"Our two economies are becoming increasingly interconnected with the growth of computer software development in both countries, as well as the growing trend in utilizing information technology-related services in each other's country." Favouring a public-private partnership in combating cyber crimes, Mr Juster said the industry was in the best position to identify threats and vulnerabilities, articulate the need for security and protection of assets, and share ideas and best practices for the development of cyber security technologies, policies, and programmes.

"The cornerstone of our national cybersecurity strategy, as well as our cyber security initiatives with India, is an effective partnership with industry." He recommended a comprehensive legal framework and effective enforcement capability as part of a nation's strategy to secure cyberspace.

Mr Juster said "we hope that our two governments can establish 24/7 watch and warning capabilities in order to help prevent and, if necessary, recover from incidents in which security is compromised," he said, adding that "these and other topics will be open for discussion at the next meeting of the US-India Cybersecurity Forum in November in Washington."

He said the US, through the framework of Cybersecurity Forum, sought to work with India to develop appropriate standards for cyber security and to strengthen national laws and enforcement capabilities. " While we favour a regulatory approach that is not excessive or burdensome on legitimate businesses and consumers, we also believe it is important that natioanl laws on cyber crime be harmonised, so that hackers and others do not move from country to country in search of lax enforcement and non-existent penalities."

Saying that the Council of Europe's Convention of Cybercrime provided a useful modelto follow, Mr Juster said it set forth principles for strengthening national laws concerning cyber crimes and encouraging international cooperation on the investigation of such crimes. In this context, he urged India to adhere to the principles in this Convention.

The two-day meeting that focused on how India and the United States can jointly tackle threats to their information infrastructure, as American companies shift more software jobs to India. Senior officials from the US State Department and the Department of Homeland Security were also at the meeting, organised by the Information Technology Association of America and National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM).

The meeting aimed to share best practices and explore possible joint US-India programmes and initiatives to strengthen information security and establish global standards for secure sourcing.

"Protecting critical information infrastructure has become imperative in this emerging, always connected, always networked, environment. Our objective is to position India as a trusted sourcing destination," according to Kiran Karnik, NASSCOM President. He said industry poll showed 82 per cent of customers of Indian technology companies are more concerned about data security than ever before. The poll, conducted by NASSCOM and its US counterpart, also showed that security practices are a critical selling point for Indian outsourcing companies who sell their services to US firms.

Officials from Microsoft Corp, Chase Bank and CISCO Systems were among those involved in the discussions as India and the United States venture into new areas of advanced technology cooperation.

Indo-US talks on high tech trade move forward

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 11: The United States will post a Commerce Department official here later this month to help coordinate high technology trade and ensure that technologies transferred to India are used in the manner they are licensed for, according to Ken Juster, US Under Secretary for Commerce.

Speaking to newsmen here, Mr Juster, who is here to review the meeting of the Indo-US High Technology Cooperation Group this morning, "we will be posting someone from the Commerce Department later this month in India who will be here on a permanent basis." He said "the official will help US companies understand the opportunities in high technology sector in India and also help Indian companies understand US export control systems and requirements so that US technologies that are transferred are used in the manner they are licensed for."

Mr Juster said, as it was done the world over, "periodic end use checks on a spot basis" would be carried out to ensure that technology and hardware goes where it should be used for. A spokesman of the External Affairs Ministry, Mr Navtej Sarna, said the Indian delegation was led by the Foreign Secretary, Mr Shyam Saran and the US delegation by Mr Ken Juster.

Mr Sarna said this was the first meeting between the two sides after the successful conclusion of the First Phase of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) in Washington on September 17, 2004. It was decided that the US Assistant Secretary of State, Ms Christina Rocca, will be visiting New Delhi from October 20 for the first meeting of the NSSP Phase - I Implementation Group. The Group will be headed by Mr S. Jaishankar, Joint Secretary (Americas) on the Indian side.

This Group will also prepare the ground for the commencement of negotiations on Phase - II of the NSSP, which will have a broader scope and application and will discuss steps for implementing the understandings of NSSP-I. The spokesman said the review meeting also discussed action already taken on several pending items and identified new ideas for collaboration in bio-technology, nanotechnology, Advanced Information Technology and defence technology especially in view of the more liberalized licensing regime envisaged under the NSSP process.

He said the co-chairmen of the High Technology Cooperation Group (HTCG) will together address a FICCI-sponsored Round Table in High Technology Commerce between India and the US tomorrow. "The objective is to reach out to industry and business circles in India in order to familiarize them with both the procedures and the potential of high technology commerce between India and the US."

Mr Sarna said the review meeting also expressed satisfaction at the increased volume of exports of dual use technologies and products from the US to India during the past three years. This data reveals that this is a process that is working well. The next High Technology Cooperation Group meeting will be held in November 2004 in Washington.

Giving figures, the spokesman said the export data revealed that for financial year 2002, total US exports were at US $ 3.8 billion. During financial year 2003 it was at US $ 4.8 billion and 2004 it was already at US $ 4.6 billion. These are figures up to July 31, 2004. The figures for dual use exports were US $ 26 million for 2002 and US $ 90 million up to July 31, 2004. There are still two months left before the end of US financial year, he added.

On the issue of sanctions against the two Indian scientists, he said he was not aware weather this issue had come up come up in today's meeting. He, however, added that India has already taken it up with the US government.

US may open strategic dialogue with Iran

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, July 24: Iran has reemerged as a major U.S. foreign policy topic with recommendations from the Council of Foreign Relations that Washington open a strategic dialogue with Tehran. The council's recommendations for rapprochement come in contrast to a statement from President Bush that Iran is being investigated for ties with al-Qaida terrorists.

The Council's recommendations for a US-Iran rapprochement were presented July 19 by Zbigniew Brezinski, former President Jimmy Carter's National security adviser, and Robert Gates, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency under the first President Bush. Brezinski and Gates were the co-chairs of the council's task force that drafted the recommendations.

Brezinski said that opening a dialogue with Iran, similar to former President Richard Nixon's rapprochement with China in 1972, would contribute to US efforts to stabilize the Middle East and Southwest Asia. "It is in this context that we are urging a policy of cautious, selected, probing, national interest-oriented engagement with Iran to see if it is possible to begin to address some of the issues in the relationship between us," Brezinski said. "You might remember that the statement of principles between the United States and China in 1972 did not resolve any of the major issues, but pointed a way towards the resolution," he said.

Gates said that US actions in Iraq, Iran's western neighbor, and in Afghanistan, its eastern neighbor, have dramatically changed the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East and Southwest Asia and may have created new opportunities for engagement with Iran. "The task force also devoted considerable time to Iran's involvement in the conflicts of the region, particularly in Afghanistan, Iraq, and between Israelis and Palestinians," Gates said. "We believe that Iran has considerable influence in all three arenas and can play an important role in either assisting or impeding U.S. objectives."

Gates said the authors of the recommendations had no illusions about Iran's nuclear ambitions, its support for terrorist groups, its ambiguous behavior in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its violations of human rights. But he said that efforts to bring about regime change in Iran are unlikely to succeed and the use of US force against Iran is a remote possibility. Under those circumstances, Gates said, "it is better to see whether it is possible to draw Iran into contributing to regional stability rather than to be attracted by the idea of undermining the region and combating our efforts to stabilize it."

On the same day that the council released its recommendations, President Bush said the United States is investigating links between the Iranian government and al-Qaida, including intelligence indicating that Iran may have offered safe passage to terrorists who later carried out the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. Bush said that US investigators have found "no direct connection between Iran and the attack of September 11," but he added, "we will continue to look and see if the Iranians were involved."

The commission investigating the 9/11 attacks has obtained intelligence showing that Iran had allowed as many as 10 of the terrorists to pass through border stations in late 1990 and early 1991 without having their passports stamped, making it easier for them to enter the United States without raising suspicions. "I have long expressed my concerns about Iran. After all, it's a totalitarian society where free people are not allowed to, you know, exercise their rights as human beings," Bush said.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said Iran has been high on President Bush's priorities since early in his administration. The spokesman said the 9/11 attacks taught the United States that it cannot wait for terrorist threats to build and fully materialize. "That's why he's been working with the international community to get Iran to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons and to abide by the international obligations Iran agreed to. That's why we are pressing Iran to turn over those al-Qaida members in their country to their country of origin. That's why we are continuing to urge the unelected few in Iran to heed the aspirations of the Iranian people," McClellan added.

A State Department official stated that U.S. policy towards Iran has not changed and the United States continues to have well-known, long-standing policy differences with Iran. The official said the U.S. government has "grave concerns" about Iran's support for terrorism, its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and its "appalling human rights record."

"Our policy remains that we are willing to engage with Iran on specific issues of mutual concern, in an appropriate manner, if and when the president determines it is in our interest to do so," the official said.

India remains close friend, partner: US

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, July 15: The United States has said that the Deputy Secretary of State, Mr Richard Armitage's meetings in New Delhi with the new Indian dispensation reflected the "warm and collaborative nature" of the relationship between the two countries. "The United States and India remain close friends and partners. All of Armitage's meetings reflected the warm and collaborative nature of our relationship with India and they are indicative of the direction we want the relationship to proceed," according to Mr Richard Boucher, US State Department spokesman.

Mr Boucher said Mr Armitage was the highest-ranking US government official to visit India after the new Congress-led UPA government came to power. Asked whether Armitage found any disposition "in that region" for contribution of troops to Iraq, Mr Boucher said in Washington on Wednesday "there is not anything to report at this point. Obviously, other governments will have to give their positions on this. This was not a major topic in India. I think the Indian Government has already been quite clear on what its position is."

During his brief visit, Mr Armitage had meetings with the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, the External Affairs Minister, Mr Natwar Singh, the Defence Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, the National Security Advisor, Mr J N Dixit, and the Foreign Secretary, Mr Shashank. He also met the leader of the Opposition.

He briefed the leaders on the Iraq situation, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir besides other regional issues.
The US has not made any request for contribution of troops to Iraq, he said, adding India had, however, indicated ways in which it may be helpful in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the war-ravaged country.

Meanwhile, India has reiterated its willingness to reconstruct Iraq in line with the views of the people and Parliament of India. New Delhi wanted the early restoration of security, stability and the way of life of the Iraqi people, according to a spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs. Welcoming the transfer of power as a first step towards full sovereignty, India stated its concerns about the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Iraq.

On whether there was any difference of approach between the previous and present Governments in India, Mr Armitage had told newsmen in New Delhi "I must say that there seems to be no difference between the Opposition and the Government in power on the desirability of enhanced India-U.S. relations."

"We have absolute confidence that the U.S.-India relationship will grow in all its aspects," Mr Armitage said. Foreign policy itself was not a major area of disagreement between the Opposition and the United Progressive Alliance. On whether Pakistan had dismantled the infrastructure of terrorism on its soil, he said all of it had not been dismantled. Referring to infiltration, he said "any level" of infiltration was too much.

The point, he said, was not to have any infiltration at all. Asked what he thought of Pakistani actions against the Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists on its border with Afghanistan, the US official said the Pakistani friends were engaged in "full force" in the battle against the Al-Qaeda. The whole question of Pakistan and the Taliban was more complicated, he said, adding that they wanted the Pakistanis to be "more muscular" on this issue.

Denying that the US was getting increasingly isolated in Iraq, Mr Armitage said the Iraqi people had accepted the new "government" with alacrity. In his view, Iraqis today were not fighting Americans, but other Iraqis.

India, US to increase cooperation in biotechnology sector

By Sushma Arora

NEW DELHI, June 29: India and United States have decided to increase cooperation in agricultural biotechnology research and development. The Minister for Science and Technology and Ocean Development, Mr Kapil Sibal, and the US Ambassador, Mr. David C Mulford, signed a Letter of Intent to this effect here today. The Department of Biotechnology of the Government of India and the United States Agency for International Development of the United States of America are the coordinators of the two countries respectively.

The programme will encourage the creation of partnership to bring together India and US institutions to pursue agricultural biotechnology research projects of mutual interest including technology development, technology diffusion, biosafety and related policy activities.

The programme is also expected to include joint workshops, conferences, scientific exchanges and training of the scientists. Collaborative activities shall be subject to the laws and regulations of each country and funding may come from a variety of sources on both sides.

The overcharging objective of the programme is to increase the range of safe and environmentally sound technological options available to the producers and consumers of agricultural products. The focus of this collaborative effort will be on improving productivity as well as nutritional quality of our crops.

Currently drought salinity and extreme temperature conditions are experienced by crops grown in arid and semi-arid regions and these are some of the most critical factors affecting agricultural production. Specific research projects to address these issues will be developed. The technologies to be used to achieve the goals will be an appropriate mix of traditional plant breeding approaches and modern biotechnologies.

It is envisaged that the specific programmes to be developed will be guided by the policies and practices recommended by the National Agriculture Biotechnology policies of the partner countries with emphasis on the interest of farmers, consumers and the environment.

Mr Sibal said that the main objective of this agreement is to develop pest resistant agricultural produce and to improve food production in the country. The critical focus will be on the production of rice and wheat. Mr. Mulford highlighted the relationship between the two countries and said that this comprehensive agreement will go a long way in helping India to increase its food production.

Every Child from 5 to 20 in New Jersey
Has the Right to Attend Public School Regardless of Immigration or
Visa Status

By Seema M. Singh

The first day of school can be a difficult time for children, especially if they are starting at an entirely new school after their family has moved to a new community.

But it can be especially upsetting for the children of immigrants if school officials bar them from enrolling because of their visa or immigration status. Every year in New Jersey, children of immigrant parents are unfairly prevented by local officials from attending public schools because of their status.

Parents who have come to America from another country should know that both United States and New Jersey laws say that local school officials in your town cannot refuse to enroll your children in public schools because of their immigration or visa status.

All children older than 5 years and younger than 20 years are entitled to a public school education in the appropriate school in the school district in which they reside.

In fact, the law specifically says that school officials, as well as local municipal authorities (and that includes the police), are not even permitted to ask you questions or require any documents regarding citizenship, immigration or visa status in order to enroll children in school. The law also states that officials are not allowed to ask questions about or require income tax returns or the family’s social security numbers.

Parents only need to show local school officials proof that they live in the school district and the district will assign your child to the appropriate school for the area in which your child resides. If there are several elementary schools in your community, then your child will attend the school whose area includes your residence. That is usually the school that is closest to you. If there is only one high school in your town, then your children attends that school.

The proof of eligibility that school officials can require to enroll children includes, among others, copies of a lease or mortgage, a signed letter from a landlord that proves residence, a property tax bill, voter registration card, driver’s license, a canceled rent or mortgage check, or a utility bill.

Once the parents present proof of eligibility, enrollment should take place immediately.

If the information is incomplete, unclear or questionable, enrollment of children must take place immediately, but parents have to provide the missing information. School officials cannot send children home until the application is completed. Children go to school while the enrollment application is completed.

If a child is denied enrollment, the school district must provide a written notice of ineligibility. The school district must also explain your right to appeal the decision to the Commissioner of Education in Trenton. If you then tell school officials that you disagree with their decision and that you plan to appeal their decision, your child is enrolled for a limited period of time. You have up to 21 days to file the petition of appeal with the Commissioner of Education.

Remember: Even if the school district tells you that your child cannot go to school in that district, school officials have to admit your child if you tell the officials right then that you disagree with their decision and that you plan to appeal to the Commissioner of Education. Under the law, they have to admit your child to school.

There is only one exception. Students holding an F-1 visa, which is issued specifically for the purpose of studying on a tuition basis in the United States at public secondary schools, must obtain permission from the school in order to obtain the visa and are not entitled to a free public education. However, in these cases, school officials are already aware of the student’s intent to enroll in the school.

A new school in a new town in a new country can be an exciting time for a child. Let’s make sure that the first day of school will always be a positive memory.

(Seema M. Singh, is the Ratepayer Advocate for the State of New Jersey in the USA and, was appointed by Governor James E. McGreevey to be his Public Advocate when the Department of the Public Advocate is established. As a member of the Governor’s Cabinet, she is the most senior Asian Indian in state government. The Governor also appointed Ms. Singh to serve as a member of the State Executive Commission on the Ethical Standards and his Asian American Commission. She is a founder of the Hindu International Council Against Defamation and is a member of the Legal Committee of the Federation of Indian Associations.)




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