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Afghanistan: Russia, Pakistan, Iran stand for Taliban as legitimate actor

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Before India objects to the inclusion of Taliban in the political process of Afghanistan, the ground realities  and actual Geo politics should be studied   and analyzed carefully  prior preparing a comprehensive strategy for India’s influence in the region.

ISIS and Taliban

First of all,Taliban and Islamic State ideologies are different as Taliban  believes in enforcing  a strict interpretation of Sharia or Islamic Law based on Deobandi fundamentalism and are anti-modern ie against Western Education. while Ideology of Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant is based on jihadi-Salafism  focused on the restoration of the caliphate of early Islam and all Muslims  are required  to pledge allegiance to  it and will expand the influence globally  and wants the world with no borders. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi pledged to reconstitute the historical Wilayat khorasan (region comprising  AFghanistan, Pakistan and parts of neighbouring countries) starting  with uprooting the Taliban and the government of President Ashraf Ghani.

As Taliban had been much part of Afghanistan’s history therfore it is impossible to visualize stable Afghanistan without Taliban (Talibans cover more than 60% of Afghanistan’s territory) therefore Russia, Pakistan and Iran are reaching out to the Taliban  and holding secret talks with them.Islamic State or Daesh  has emerged as a grave threat  to Pakistan  and war-ravaged country  of Afghanistan which enables Taliban as an indispensable force in fighting ISIS or ISIL.

Russia is concerned about his backyard as many Central Asian jihadist groups like Jund al-Khilafah joined ISIS, some outfits like Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), Uighur-led Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) and Islamic jihad Union   are associated with  Al-Qaeda  and Taliban .

To secure a place for India  at the Russia led consultations on Afghanistan  is quite different from India watching its own interests viz a viz Afghanistan.For the first time India has been included in the six- nation meeting comprising Russia,China ,Pakistan, Afghanistan,Iran and India for peaceful and stable Afghanistan in which all countries accept New Delhi agreed to recognize Taliban as a legitimate political actor .

The outcome of the Moscow summit is that the Tripartite Partnership between Moscow, Beijing and Islamabad emerged to expand its conflict resolutions functions  to incorporate Tehran and New Delhi for stabilizing Afghanistan.With China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan negotiating with Taliban but US has blundered by bringing Central Asia including Afghanistan on the same desk as India  and Pakistan in the White HOuse National Security Council.

US President Donald Trump seems to be over burdened  with the 17-year military  operation in Afghanistan  also goes by the opinion that ISIS is the global threat and America alone should not take the entire expenditure of combating the brutal and jihadist outfit.

What should be India’s strategy

India is better advised to fine tune its foreign and strategic policy so as to secure its borders especially when the peaceful Kashmir has been totally transformed into a conflict zone  and  a cautious approach should be applied  not to invite more problems or players from the third country .The interests of India with respect to Afghanistan are totally different in view of the threats emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan to India

If  Prime Minister Narendra Modi desires to become a leader or an influencing person in the region  than India should  become an economic and military power(Naval,Air and ground forces) with  strong Foreign Policy  and convincing Diplomacy .Far from being expert in matters regarding strategic  and ground realities that are threatening India’s security interests he lacks understanding in such matters of administration  with experience of hardly two and a half years in power.

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By : Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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US, Russia and the Middle East

Taking into account the current dynamics, the strikes have given a jolt to any political negotiations to end the seven-year conflict in Syria.

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Trump-Putin-Basar

Warning by the Russian President Vladimir Putin that further Western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to the world affairs, it throws light on the prospect of a real possibility of a direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

There are enough factors involved that has led to the return of cold war era and as the UN chief stressed that “also with a vengence” and the world is at risk of ”full-blown military escalation”.

The tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats over the poisoning of a former spy in the UK and the sanctions by the United States, the European Union (EU) and other countries and international organisations against Russia over Ukraine and latest sanctions against 24 Russians by US over Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election have led to the hostility and the diplomatic channels are not working to reset the relations between Moscow and Washington.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has confimed that Moscow is considering to supply its most sophisticated S-300 missile defense system to protect Syria.

The recent intervention by President Donald Trump of halting the plan for new sanctions against Russian companies linked to Syria’s alleged chemical weapons points to the confusion and inconsistent policy of Trump towards Russia and Syria.

This move by Trump assumes importance as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has informed the Security Council that the US troops are “locked and loaded,” ready to launch another military strike if the Syrian government ever uses chemical weapons again,on the contrary, President Trump still wants a White House summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump is also in favour of pulling US troops from Syria within six months and replacing them with troops from Egypt, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. If the troops from Arab countries will be sent to Syria then the already perilously complicated Syria battle will be escalated into a full blown war.

A classified briefing to the Senate by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, suggests that Trump’s determination to withdraw has hardened despite lobbying by French President Emmanuel Macron and other proponents of a longer commitment in the war-torn country. But top Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, said that the decision will enhance Russian influence in the country and set the stage for a conflict between Israel and Saudi on one side and Iran on the other side.

The ongoing conflict in Syria and the intervention by Western powers in the strategic Middle East shows that the crisis will linger on for decades to come. Since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the U.S. entered into several ongoing overseas conflicts, beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan. The removal of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Muammer Gaddafi of Libya unsettled a traditional balance of power in the region.

The US launched military intervention to safeguard its strategic interests and to counter the rise of regional powers. After 2003 Iraq war, Arab power and its influence started diminishing as Iran expanded its influence in Iraq and the Middle East. Under Ahmadinejad, Iran asserted its supremacy in the wider region.

The Arab spring that began in 2011 in Middle East created a fluid situation and US supported pro-democracy movements that led to the removal of President Ben Ali in Tunisia and Muammar Gaddhafi in Libya. Saudi Arabia saw an opportunity for regime change in Syria where the Alawite regime of Basher al Assad had enjoyed Iranian support. US and its allies supported anti Assad forces with arms, imparting training to achieve their strategic interests of curtailing the Shiite Iranian influence and installing the pro-American and pro-Sunni leaders in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Russia started played an active role in challenging traditional domains of US influence and even emerged as a key player in Syria and in September 2015,the Russian military intervened in the Syrian Civil War for supplying military aid against rebel and jihadist groups.

Iraq’s descent into sectarian strife in 2006 reverberated into a number of states in the region, thus stoking social tensions.

Taking into account the current dynamics, the strikes have given a jolt to any political negotiations to end the seven-year conflict in Syria.

Russia is of the view that US must have waited for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspection before military strikes. Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a telephone conversation to stress the importance of thorough and impartial investigation to be conducted by the OPCW mission in Syria.

Thus, the civil wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq should be resolved peacefully otherwise terrorism in the form of ISIS would take recruits from refugees and the regional crisis will be escalated to a full blown global war among the competitive alliances led by US and Russia.

Blog : By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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The unexplored Indian paradise

While travelling through the North East, also experience a safari with a difference on yaks. Get a chance to explore the breathtaking beauty of Sikkim on one of the colourfully-adorned yaks, an experience definitely beyond compare!

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Sikkim Tourism

When you end up with some time for yourself, an escapist spirit awakens among many of us. Such is the chaos of our cities that we cherish even minor respites from it. One such respite is the Spiti Valley in the Himachal where the journey is just as blissful as the destination.

Once you hop onto your bike, you can choose between two routes to reach the scenic town of Spiti. The first option is entry from Manali via Rohtang and Kunzum La. Once you have passed Rohtang, it’s truly a heavenly experience, with the highest point being the snow-covered Kanzum pass with a breathtaking view of the Shigri Glacier. Alternatively, you can also opt for the more comfortable, yet longer, road from Shimla.

An absolutely breathtaking land, Spiti is a treat for all travellers, but especially bikers, with the majestic Himalayan landscape, amazing views, rich history and warm and friendly people. Also, be prepared for an overnight stay along the way preferably at Reckong Peo which is known to be a calm and serene stopover.

A ride through the beautiful barren landscapes of the Himalayas is the biggest draw of the valley. Another highlight of Spiti is the magnificently rich cultural past that is still alive in the ancient Gompas (monasteries) of the region and the enlightened monks that reside within them. Though they can be reserved initially, your curiosity for their culture and few smiles can win their hearts enough for them to offer you some refreshing cups of teas and insight into the Gompas like no other could. Amongst others that you might choose to visit, Key Gompa, Saskyagongmig Gompa and Dhankar Gompa are a must visit. If your curiosity for the local culture still refuses to subside, head over to the Tabo Monastery. 50 Kms from Kaza, it is one of the oldest functioning Buddhist monasteries in the world (est. 996 AD), with extremely well-preserved wall paintings and artifacts!

The Seven Sisters, as the North Eastern Indian states are commonly known, are where lush green forests, picturesque valleys and vibrant cultures come together to create magic. Each state has something special to offer and we are sure that these places will be the high points of your trip to the vibrant North-East.

Starting with Arunachal Pradesh, the Siang River is a must visit. A tributary of the mighty and ferocious Brahmaputra River, it’s a great spot for river rafting, an adventure that few can match up to in terms of thrills.

Moving on, situated in the valley of the Tawang River in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang Monastery is the largest monastery in India and second largest in the world after the Potala Palace in Tibet. Founded in 1680-1681 in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, it is known as in Tibetan as Galden Namgey Lhatse, which translates to ‘celestial paradise in a clear night’. Surrounded by lush green hills, the monastery provides a visually colourful contrast with the colour-rich murals on its walls, exquisite architecture and vibrant atmosphere. With peaceful serene atmosphere so strong, the monastery possesses an otherworldly quality to it that drives away all worries and stress you had.

From the ferocious avatar, we move on to Brahmaputra’s calmer side in Majuli. The biggest river island in the world, it is home to a number of tribes, each with a colourful vibrant culture that will enchant you on your visit here. While there, you can enjoy yourself with fun activities like pottery making, mask making or just soak in the natural beauty of its magnificent sunsets.

Talking of Meghalaya, you have your pick of nature with lush green hills and breathtaking views, quite a refreshing break from the city’s chaos. But look closer and you’ll find an experience that much richer. Littered among these hills are limestone deposits and a number of caves that will enthrall the explorer in you. Considering that many of these caves are some of the longest and deepest found in India, you are sure to feel all Indiana Jones during this once in a lifetime trek.

While travelling through the North East, also experience a safari with a difference on yaks. Get a chance to explore the breathtaking beauty of Sikkim on one of the colourfully-adorned yaks, an experience definitely beyond compare!

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Syria strikes: What Trump achieved in 70 minutes?

Trump will have to answer: whether the strikes was just a show of power that US is still having its supremacy in the Middle East and will obstruct influence of regional powers or it was a response of the chemical attack.

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Syrian Strike

The US and its allies fired more than 100 cruise missiles at Syria in just 70 minutes in response to a suspected chemical attack in Douma and the Syrian President Bashar al Assad slammed the Western airstrikes as an aggression in clear violation of international accords. President Trump later took to Twitter to describe the missile strikes as “perfectly executed.” “Mission accomplished!” he wrote.

Prime Minister Theresa May conceded by terming the strikes as ‘limited and targeted’justifying that it was to strike
chemical weapons with no intention of toppling Assad.

During a meeting with a delegation from the United Russia ruling political party of the Russian Federation, State Duma lawmaker Sergei Zheleznyak stated, Damascus has praised Soviet arms made in the 1970s, which were used to repel the missile attack, carried out by the US and its allies.

Assad also stated that the US-UK-French attack has not only “consolidated the peoples of Russia and Syria, but all the nations, which are guided by the norms of international law,” Another MP Sablin said. He said during a meeting with Russian lawmakers that the cooperation between Russia and Syria should resist the “aggressive policy of the West.

On On September 14, 2013, then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reached an agreement on a detailed plan for the accounting, inspection, control, and elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons after an alleged chemical weapons attacks were reported in Syria’s two main cities, the Khan al-Assel neighborhood of Aleppo and the Damascus suburb of al-Atebeh in 2013.

According to the plan Syria was required to provide a full declaration of its stockpile “within a week” and provide the OPCW and the UN access to all chemical weapons sites in Syria. The plan calls for the OPCW inspectors to complete their initial inspections by November and calls for the destruction of the stockpile of chemical weapons and chemical agents by the first half of 2014.

The Western powers must have waited for the inspectors of the organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to have traveled to Douma and confirmed which type of chemical was used Sarin or chlorine?

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iran and China condemned the attacks while Germany, Turkey and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg supported the limited strike.

According to the Syrian state media, President of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov considered the US-British-French tripartite aggression on Syria as a heinous crime and unjustifiable act.

Putin reiterated the Russian claim that the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma that killed dozens of civilians was fake: “Russian military experts, having visited the place of the alleged incident, did not find any traces of the use of chlorine or other poisonous substances. No local resident confirmed the chemical attack.”

But how effective the strikes were in targeting the chemical weapons facilities of the Assad regime is a question that needs to be answered and another issue if its the use of chlorine which is generally used by ISIS then it will have effects as it is yet to be confirmed after a proper international probe. Trump will have to answer: whether the strikes was just a show of power that US is still having its supremacy in the Middle East and will obstruct influence of regional powers or it was a response of the chemical attack.

Syria’s response to the “tripartite strikes” against the country may come in the form of “attacks against the aggressors’ bases” in the country via surface-to-surface missile attacks and with the help of local resistance groups, Brigadier General Mohammed Issa said.

Blog : By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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