- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

Mansingh’s future

Political leaders in India are courting Indian Ambassador Lalit Mansingh to run for Parliament, but the dapper envoy is being coy about his political future as he nears the end of his tour in Washington.

News media reports in India say leaders of the Biju Janata Dal party (BJD), part of the country’s ruling coalition, want Mr. Mansingh to run for a seat in the upper house of Parliament from the eastern Indian state of Orissa in elections next year.

Mr. Mansingh, on a home visit last week, met with party chief Naveen Patnaik for a “preliminary discussion on the matter,” the Deccan Herald newspaper reported.

The ambassador, whose tour is slated to end in March, deflected a reporter’s question when asked whether he will be a candidate.

“I would love to serve the people of my state in any capacity,” he told the Herald.

Mr. Patnaik said the party’s political affairs and election committees will make a final decision on nominees.

However, he added, “We are definitely proud of Mister Mansingh’s achievements.”

The Herald quoted other BJD officials as saying that Mr. Mansingh would help improve the party’s “credibility and image.”

Mr. Mansingh, ambassador here since June 2001, is a former foreign secretary and the son of Mayadhar Mansingh, a famous writer and poet.

The ambassador is being encouraged to run for one of three seats in Orissa that are expected to become vacant with the retirement of the three incumbents from the opposition Congress party, which is not expected to hold the seats.

Meanwhile, speculation already has begun about Mr. Mansingh’s replacement in Washington. The front-runner is Kanwal Sibal, the current foreign secretary whose term is to end in November. He is also a former deputy chief of mission at the Indian Embassy here.

Another candidate is N.K. Singh, described as a veteran bureaucratic insider, who currently heads India’s Planning Commission.

Pakistanis returned

Another group of Pakistanis who overstayed their welcome was deported earlier this week, the Pakistan Embassy said.

Mohammad Sadiq, the deputy chief of mission, said 48 Pakistanis boarded a chartered plane for Islamabad on Wednesday. That brought the number of Pakistanis deported since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to 1,400, he said.

Twenty-two members of the group had exhausted their appeals of deportation orders from the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he said. Five had overstayed their visas, and the others had been convicted of crimes such as “forgery, marriage fraud, credit-card irregularities, drugs, arson, theft and domestic violence or assault,” Mr. Sadiq said.

“On average, most of the detainees had spent about two months in prison after their convictions, which is the shortest postconviction period for prisoners from Asia,” he added.

Mr. Sadiq said the embassy provided consular services to the detainees and paid their travel expenses to their hometowns.

The deportation was the sixth since August 2002.

Hot line in Croatia

The U.S. Embassy in Croatia is offering a reward of up to $5 million for tips that lead to the arrest of Croatia’s top war crimes fugitive.

The embassy said informants can call a special hot line established to hunt for Ante Gotovina, a former general accused of killing at least 150 ethnic Serbs in the 1995 Croatian conflict.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has been hunting for Gen. Gotovina since he went into hiding in 2001 after being indicted.

The bounty is being offered as part of the State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” program, the embassy said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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