- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

India mourns astronaut
Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal personally felt the loss of an Indian-born American astronaut killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
Kalpana Chawla, one of the seven crew members, was from Mr. Sibal's home state of Haryana in central India, near the capital, New Delhi.
"It was a great shock in India," he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday.
Referring to India's own space program, he added, "We can relate easily to both successes and tragedies."
Meanwhile in India, U.S. Ambassador Robert Blackwill published a poem in her memory in yesterday's edition of the Indian newspaper, the Hindu.
It reads in part:
"Space shuttles whispered in her ear
And she answered head to feet.
We keep her smile in that last video.
Like Seneca, she thought
'The whole universe is my native land.'
Now more than ever, dear one.
We weep."

'Petty journalism'
On another issue involving Robert Blackwill, the Indian foreign secretary dismissed a newspaper report that accused the ambassador of offending Indian dignitaries at a recent national day celebration.
"That's just petty journalism," Secretary Kanwal Sibal said.
The Hindustan Times on Saturday said Mr. Blackwill snubbed Indian President Abdul Kalam by leaving the Jan. 26 reception before the Indian national anthem was played. The paper quoted unnamed sources as saying Mr. Blackwill breached protocol.
Mr. Sibal said the U.S. ambassador is a popular diplomat in India who has strongly supported Indian positions.
"He is very active. He is popular. He has very good relations with the Foreign Office," Mr. Sibal said.

'We watched you soar'
Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon had one last sad task to perform before leaving Houston, as he spoke at a memorial service for Col. Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut killed aboard the space shuttle.
Three weeks ago, Mr. Ayalon was in Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the Jan. 15 launch of Columbia, praising the success of Col. Ramon, a decorated Israeli air force fighter pilot and son of a Holocaust survivor. He had entered the NASA astronaut training program in 1997. He was Israel's first astronaut.
"I will never forget the sense of pride and happiness that I felt for the Jewish people and for all Israelis, as our bond of friendship with the United States was moved into the frontiers of space," Mr. Ayalon said at the service. "Today our heroes are no longer with us, and our nations are joined in grief."
He noted that an Israeli flag and two items from the Holocaust, a Torah scroll and a drawing, were among the few items Col. Ramon took with him on the flight. The last time he talked to his wife, Rona, the astronaut described the beauty of the universe.
"He said that he was at peace with himself. In those words we can find a small comfort," Mr. Ayalon said.
"Ilan, we watched you soar up to the sky, and your memory will be forever instilled in our hearts," he said.

Pakistanis not target
The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan is trying to quell mounting anger in Pakistan over new American immigration rules that require male Pakistanis to be photographed, fingerprinted and interviewed before entering the United States.
"I assure you that this in no way reflects a negative perception on the part of the U.S. government toward Pakistani citizens," Ambassador Nancy Powell wrote in a letter to Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid-e-Azam party.
"The events of September 11, however, made clear that the United States needs to take immediate steps to substantially improve its border controls."
Pakistani leaders have argued that Pakistan should be exempt from the regulations because of its cooperation in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. The immigration rules apply to male citizens over 16 from 24 predominantly Muslim nations and North Korea.

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