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Afghan government’s peace offer to Taliban

China and the European Union believe the Taliban should accept Ghani’s offer to recognize the movement as a legitimate political group.

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Ashraf Ghani

US is concerned over the increasing number of high-profile attacks in Kabul orchestrated by Taliban that is aimed at undermining the Afghan government and international resolve to bring peace to war-torn Afghanistan after 16 years of war as Jakarta is preparing to host a trilateral conference where religious scholars from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia would seek to establish peace and security, and the end of terrorism.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has assured unconditional talks to the Taliban and offered to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate political party as part of a potential ceasefire agreement with the Islamist militant group.The president also offered to provide passports to Taliban members and their families, along with an office in Kabul, but the Afghan Taliban remains skeptical about the Indonesia conference.

The Taliban has been waging a bitter fight in Afghanistan with the ultimate goal of ruling the country and imposing its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The group controlled Afghanistan until 2001, when it was overthrown by the US-led coalition that invaded the country following the 9/11 attacks.

Afghanistan’s Taliban agreed to discuss peace and reconciliation with the leaders of Afghan jihadi organizations opposed to the U.S.-led “foreign occupation” of the country but maintained its silence over Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s recent offer of a reconciliation dialogue.

Kabul is our main effort. To harden Kabul, to protect the people of Kabul and the international community that are here,” US General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan stated.

To defeat ISIS and Taliban, Washington has shifted resources from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan by adopting the regional approach, Considering the complexities of political realities in Afghanistan, US is working to achieve a reconciliation, a political reconciliation, not a military victory.

As regards with strategic framework of U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s South Asia strategy unveiled in August 2017, it was hoped that Ghani would embark on a path toward more inclusive politics by shaping a broad-based consensus to prepare the grounds for the success of the new U.S. strategy.

General John Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan said the United States held a series of private talks with Pakistani officials about the elimination of insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan.

US asserted that the recent pressure applied to Pakistan has not resulted in the reduction of violence in Afghanistan and reiterated that Washington will take steps to cut the aid coming from Pakistan to the Taliban and other groups.

Meanwhile, Head of Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has called on the Taliban to accept government’s peace offer.Hekmatyar said he has sent a peace outline to government and to the Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada and asked him to use the opportunity and join the peace process.

According to Hekmatyar, war is of no benefit to anyone and only the Afghan people are victims of the ongoing conflict. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirmed NATO’s support of an Afghan-led peace deal. “I commend President Ghani for his courageous leadership. His offer to the Taliban is the clearest invitation to peace yet. So I call on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. There is an opportunity now to end the conflict”, he added.

China and the European Union believe that Taliban should accept Ghani’s offer to recognize the movement as a legitimate political group.Where as US President Donald Trump’s foreign policy priorities include clamping down on the Taliban and Haqqani network  for stabilizing  Afghanistan.

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Arti Bali

Sr Journalist

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India’s Q3 GDP expected to inch-up above 4.5%

India Ratings and Research gave a forecast of 4.7 per cent for Q3 GDP.

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slowdown in global economic growth

New Delhi, Feb 27 : India’s third quarter 2019-20 GDP growth rate is expected to inch up on the back of rising inflation, along with a modest uptick in the momentum of services and industry.

Several economists polled by IANS said that GDP growth rate is seen in the range of 4.6-4.8 per cent for the third quarter from 4.5 per cent reported for the second quarter of the current fiscal.

Various indicators like air passenger traffic, railways’ freight revenue and commercial vehicles’ sales have shown improvement in Q3FY20 against weak performance in Q2FY20.

The macro-economic data point of the national income and the GDP will be released on Friday.

“We expect the GDP Q3 number to be 4.8 per cent. Since no major improvement was observed among leading indicators, market expectations remain subdued,” said Karan Mehrishi, Lead Economist at Acuite Ratings and Research.

“Generally, Q3 is one of the strongest quarters in a financial year because the inclusion of festive seasons sales and kharif harvest-driven rural consumption, this time, however, nothing noteworthy is foreseen.”

Besides, he pointed out that capacity utilisation levels have also fallen.

“Fresh capex looks unlikely and investments will be moderate driven by the public sector. We are however mindful of the inflation trajectory moving forward,” Mehrishi said.

India Ratings and Research gave a forecast of 4.7 per cent for Q3 GDP.

Edelweiss Securities’ Economist Madhavi Arora said: “We expect a marginal shallow pick up in 3Q, amid still-sluggish corporate earnings and weak industrial sector.”

“While government spending has been a respite for the services sector, its’ contribution to growth will also decline marginally. We expect 3Q GDP to print around 4.6-4.7 per cent.”

Meanwhile, ICRA expects the GDP and the gross value added (GVA) growth at basic prices to rise mildly to 4.7 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively, in Q3FY20, from 4.5 per cent and 4.3 per cent, respectively, in Q2FY20.

“Some industrial and service sectors displayed a pickup in YoY volume growth in Q3FY20 relative to the previous quarter, while the output of kharif crops displayed a mixed trend,” its principal economist Aditi Nayar said.

“Lower raw material costs, high growth of the government’s non-interest revenue expenditure and the stable profitability metrics revealed by the earnings of some banks would provide a cushion to the pace of economic growth,” she said.

However, the extent and duration of coronavirus outbreak would test the sustainability of the nascent upturn in growth in the ongoing quarter.

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Cannabis use rises among the elderly, finds study

Women, and individuals who were married, had a college degree, or had higher income also significantly increased their cannabis use.

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Cannabis

New Delhi, Feb 26 : Cannabis use continues to increase in popularity among adults of 65 years of age and older in the United States, according to a new study.

Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the study from NYU Grossman School of Medicine estimates that cannabis use in adults aged 65 and older increased from 2.4 percent to 4.2 percent in the United States — a significant increase of 75 percent — between 2015 and 2018.

With the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes in many states in the US, medical professionals are studying its use in treating a number of chronic health conditions. Since 1996, 31 states have legalized medical marijuana, while 11 states and Washington DC have legalized recreational use.

The survey categorized cannabis use by asking whether marijuana, hashish, pot, grass, or hash oil was either smoked or ingested.

Researchers observed trends in prevalence of past-year cannabis use, broken down by sociodemographic background, chronic disease, healthcare utilization, and other substance use among adults age 65 and older, in the United States, between 2015 and 2018.

Certain subsets of this population saw an even higher rise in prevalence. For example, researchers estimated that past-year use more than doubled by older adults with diabetes, among those who have received mental health treatment, and those reporting past-year alcohol use.

Women, and individuals who were married, had a college degree, or had higher income also significantly increased their cannabis use.

Researchers say they next plan to acquire more detailed information about how medical marijuana affects older populations, its risks and side effects.

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Ground Zero: A dangerous mix of politics and police inaction?

Eyewitness say when the pro and anti-CAA protesters clashed, the police remained a mute spectator.

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Maujpur anti CAA Violence

New Delhi, Feb 24 : After all, the sudden quiet at Shaheen Bagh, on the boil for over two months, was deeply deceptive, if you look at the way how the protest — for and against the new citizenship law — spilled out to north-east of Delhi, with the police yet again failing to read the situation.

Many locals say the violence at Maujpur-Jafrabad in north-east Delhi erupted soon after BJP leader Kapil Mishra took out a march on Sunday in support of the Controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as well as against the anti-CAA women protesters who had blocked the road at Jafrabad metro station.

The police stepped in when Kapil Mishra addressed the crowd, sources said. He was flanked by the Deputy Commissioner of Police clad in full riot gear. Some people cite a video clip that shows the BJP leader giving an “ultimatum” to the police, saying “he will come back after the visiting US President leaves India”.

“But the DCP did not act,” said a local resident.

Stone-pelting soon started on the crowd protesting against CAA at Jafrabad.

But how does Kapil Mishra get into the picture? The Karawal Nagar (another north-east Delhi locality) politician was in the AAm AAdmi Party and had switched to the BJP just days before the Delhi polls. He contested from Karawal Nagar, but lost.

A few days back, scores of Jafrabad residents had let it be known that on Saturday (February 22), they would start a march to Rajghat. They were responding to an appeal by Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad who had called for ‘Bharat bandh’ on Sunday. On saturday, the women protesters were stopped midway, but soon they were at Jafrabad Metro station, blocking the road and the metro station.

Eyewitness say when the pro and anti-CAA protesters clashed, the police remained a mute spectator.

The situation turned uglier: On Monday the violence reached the lanes and by-lanes of some localities where passers-by were beaten up if they did not tell their names to aggressive groups of men.

Many pictures and videos of violence have gone viral where unidentified people have been seen brandishing guns as policemen look on. A head constable, Ratan Lal, lost his life on Monday after being hit by rioters.

The violence has spread to Chand Bagh, Khureji in east Delhi and Hauz Rani in south Delhi and fear stalks the roads. Yet no one knows how it all started and when and how it will end.

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