The United States has put Lashkar-e-Toiba founder chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, India’s most wanted terrorist and mastermind of the 26/11 terror attacks, on its own “most wanted” list and announced a $ 10 million reward for information leading to his arrest, a decision that India welcomed with External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and Home Minister P Chidambaram saying on Tuesday that the move would bring the much-needed pressure on Pakistan-based terror machines. The US bounty on Saeed puts him on par with Taliban Chief Mulla Omar and only al Qaida’s new Chief Aymman al-Zawahiri above him with a higher bounty of $ 25 million.
Late on Monday night, the US government announced an award of ten million US dollars for information leading to arrest and conviction of Saeed and $ two million for his deputy Hafiz Adbul Rahman Makki under the Rewards for Justice programme. The US maintains both LeT and Jamaat ul Dawa as foreign terrorist organisations and has also individually designated Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Abdul Rahman Makki for terrorist activities under its law. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who is coming here on an official visit later this week, conveyed the news to Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai on Monday night. She told Mathai that the Obama administration would announce the new measure later in the day. Mathai expressed India’s sincere appreciation for the additional U.S. step to target Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed and Abdul Rahman Makki as well as LeT.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said “India welcomes the notification under the Rewards for Justice Programme. It reflects the commitment of India and the United States to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack to justice and continuing efforts to combat terrorism. It also sends a strong signal to LeT as also its members and patrons that the international community remains united in combating terrorism. “Akbaruddin said in a statement that India and the US had in recent years deepened mutual understanding on the nature of terrorism challenges emanating from India’s neighbourhood. The two sides agree that all terrorist organisations, including LeT, should be defeated and have called for elimination of terrorist safe havens and infrastructure inside Pakistan and Afghanistan.
SM Krishna, External Affairs Minister: India welcomes this move to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to book. It sends a strong message to the Lashkar, its members and patrons that the international community is together in combating terrorism. This is a message to terrorists all over the world. I always insisted that he (Saeed) was the brain behind the terror attack in Mumbai.
P Chidambaram, Union Home Minister: What this announcement will do is to put pressure on Pakistan. I sincerely hope this will make them take action. Pakistan is in denial and continues to be in denial. We think there is enough material to detain him and interrogate him. Pakistan government is not doing its duty.
UPA bows on NCTC issue, calls CMs' meet on May 5
Under fire from allies and the Opposition alike on the issue of NCTC, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has finally bowed to the strident demand of several states’ chief ministers and agreed to hold a stand-alone meeting to discuss the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). The special meeting for discussing NCTC exclusively will be held on May 5, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram announced recently.
Significantly, there will be no decision on NCTC before the meeting of the chief ministers on May 5. Already the UPA government was facing a lot of pressure on the NCTC issue from its single largest ally Trinamool Congress (TMC) whose supremo Mamata Banerjee warned the Centre against interfering in matters which are the preserve of the states. During her last meeting with the Prime Minister here a fortnight back she had urged him not to go ahead with the proposed NCTC without discussing it first with all states and the PM had agreed to do so, Banerjee had claimed.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa’s recent letter to the PM asking him to put NCTC on hold till all the apprehensions raised by the state governments are addressed proved to be the last straw for the UPA government. Jayalalithaa is one of the nine chief ministers, mostly from the non-UPA ruled states who have objected to the NCTC claiming that the proposed anti-terror body infringes on the rights of states. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi too have vociferously opposed the NCTC, the pet project of Chidambaram. (FOC)
PM puts on hold Commerce Secretary’s diplomatic assignment
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ‘Man Friday’ Union Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar is now not going to Brussels on a diplomatic assignment, but would continue in his present job on instructions of the PM, sources said.
There are indications that more secretary level changes will take place later this month as at least four senior IAS officers are retiring.
In a major reversal, the government has put the appointment of Rahul Khullar as India's Ambassador to the European Union on hold. Khullar who is known to be in the Prime Minister’s core team of bureaucrats, has been holding this charge for quite sometime. Khullar, who is an IAS officer of the 1975 batch, will continue to be secretary in the Ministry. Certain lobbies were working hard to displace him by giving him a plum post.
Khullar was earlier tipped to be the secretary in the Finance Ministry. But Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee showed no inclination for Khullar. Speculations that he would move to the de facto EU Headquarters at Brussels have now been set to rest and the possibility that new Secretary will don the mantle of this crucial Ministry is ruled out.
It is also learnt that Rahul Khullar’s wife and IAS batch-mate Sindhushree Khullar, who was Secretary in the Sports and Youth Welfare Ministry, is being moved as Secretary Planning for a period of three years. Sindhushree Khullar will succeed Sudha Pillai who superannuated on March 31.
Meanwhile, a search is on for the new Secretary of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion with Pradeep Kumar Chaudhery having moved to Haryana as Chief Secretary. (FOC)
India protests to US over high rejection of HIB, LI visas
Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on April 2 expressed concern over the high rejection of visa applications of Indian professionals during his meeting with US Commerce Secretary John Bryson in New Delhi and bluntly told him that the Obama administration should not resort to such protectionist tendencies.
Shri Sharma made it clear to Bryson that India is concerned over the rejection of visas in both H1B and L1 categories. H1B is work permit for temporary workers, while L1 visa refers to intra-company transfer. It allows companies to relocate qualified employees to US offices.
“There have been concerns over the high rate of rejection. Last year visa