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Himalayan quakes: Water-loading plays a role, say geophysicist

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Seasonal variations in the “hydrological load” in the Indo-Gangetic plains play a key role in the genesis of Himalayan earthquakes, a team of geophysicists from India and the US have reported.

The Himalayas block the northward monsoonal winds from the Indian Ocean during June to September, resulting in extreme precipitation on the southern slopes that fills up rivers of the Ganges basin, increasing the pressure bearing down on the region.

While it is known that strain built up by the continually converging tectonic plates beneath the Himalayas is responsible for unleashing the earthquakes, the tectonic deformation along this plate boundary “can be significantly influenced by hydrological loading cycles centered in the Indo-Gangetic plains”, the geophysicists report.

The exact interaction between this seasonal (non-tectonic) deformation induced by hydrological load and tectonic deformation along the Himalayan plate boundary has implications for the seismic hazard, but has so far remained elusive.

“We focus on this important issue, and this paper demonstrates how the hydrological load-induced deformation influences the tectonic deformation in the Himalayas and the seismogenesis,” Vineet Gahalaut, Director, National Centre for Seismology, New Delhi, and a co-author, told this correspondent.

Precipitation patterns and associated seasonal water-mass accumulation and mass redistribution by the Himalayan river system dominates regional surface loading along the Himalayan arc and in the adjoining Indo-Gangetic plains. Also, during the winter, snow accumulates in glaciers on the high peaks of the Himalayas.

The researchers explored the seasonal mass oscillations by water storage in Southeast Asia and Himalayan arc region using Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements and data obtained from NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite.

“Our study demonstrates how the deformation induced by hydrological load influences the tectonic deformation of the crust and the uppermost mantle and possibly impacts tectonic processes in the Central Himalaya and adjacent regions,” says the report.

The researchers analysed the seasonal variations in GPS sites and found that these sites are located “close to the “downdip edge” of Main Himalayan Thrust (MHT) — which is the fault that separates the under-thrusting Indian plate from the overlying Himalayan wedge and is the seat of major earthquakes in the Himalayas.

“Thus the influence of hydrological load gets amplified here and leads to seasonal tectonic deformation in the region,” says the report.

According to the authors, GRACE satellite data on water level, regional rainfall and “micro-seismicity” suggest that the non-tectonic seasonal stress perturbations “ultimately influences the timing of central Himalayan earthquakes”.

Besides Gahalaut, scientists from Rourkela’s National Institute of Technology (NIT); University of California, Berkeley; University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur; and the National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad, were involved in the study, led by NIT’s Bhaskar Kundu.

“Non-tectonic hydrological load over Southeast Asia is the second-largest one in the world, after the Amazon basin, and it significantly influences the tectonic processes in the Himalayan plate boundary,” Kundu told this correspondent in an email.

“These non-tectonic signals need to be identified and taken into account in order to improve our understanding of tectonic processes,” Kundu added.

(K.S. Jayaraman is a veteran science journalist. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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Kashmir insurgency: Need to win hearts and minds

From Syria to Afghanistan/Pakistan to Kashmir, the jehadi mindset is primed among the youth by the mythical Islamic Caliphate’s war against the kafirs (infidels).

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One of the most disturbing aspects of the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama was that the suicide bomber was a local, Adil Ahmad Dar, who lived in a village near the Jammu-Srinagar highway where the attack took place.

Although indoctrinated as a fidayeen by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, Dar’s act as a jehadi underlines the vulnerability of impressionable Kashmiri youths to insidious anti-India propaganda by Pakistani terror groups nurtured by the Deep State comprising the country’s army and an espionage agency.

In this particular instance, Dar was apparently “inspired” to kill himself by the Taliban’s “victory” signified by American withdrawal from Afghanistan. If anything, the tragedy emphasises the inter-linked international dimensions of Islamic terrorism.

From Syria to Afghanistan/Pakistan to Kashmir, the jehadi mindset is primed among the youth by the mythical Islamic Caliphate’s war against the kafirs (infidels).

Unlike West Asia and even in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Indian democracy provides a safeguard against a Messianic struggle, which is why an overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims, including those in Kashmir, remain committed to the democratic system.

As much is evident from the recent panchayat and municipal elections in the state even if the polling percentages in the Valley were low.

However, it is undeniable that a section of Muslims in the valley continue to remain alienated notwithstanding the government’s attempts to reach out to them via the negotiations carried out by the Centre’s representative, Dineshwar Sharma.

But if his efforts have failed to defuse the situation, the reason perhaps is the government’s reluctance to implement some of the recommendations to improve the conditions made by the Dileep Padgaonkar Committee.

These included reducing the army’s visibility, addressing human rights violations, reviewing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and lifting the Disturbed Areas Act.

In essence, what these initiatives were expected to do was to reach out to the hearts and minds of the ordinary people whose commitment to the Indian state cannot be doubted as the continuing relevance of the mainstream parties like the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party show.

What is required to defang the terrorists and wean away the misguided youth from their self-destructive path is a gesture which will have a major impact.

One of them is to consider freezing the AFSPA (former Congress minister P. Chidambaram wanted it to be scrapped altogether) and to give a cast-iron guarantee that neither Article 370 nor Article 35A will be touched. The former confers a special status on Kashmir and the latter relates to citizenship rights.

It is only such “big ticket” reforms which can end the sense of alienation among the youths who are cynically exploited by Pakistan’s Deep State.

An outreach of this nature will confirm that the government does not regard Kashmir merely as a law and order problem, where all that is needed is a harsh crackdown on the malcontents.

Arguably, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may not find it easy to change its longstanding stance favouring dispensing with Article 370. But it has to be remembered that Atal Behari Vajpayee did put Article 370 in cold storage in 1996 along with his party’s demand for building a Ram temple and introducing a uniform civil code when he was looking for allies to form a government.

Vajpayee had also called for looking at the Kashmir issue within the parameters of insaniyat (humanity) rather than of the Constitution.

Such broadmindedness is the need of the hour to dissuade deluded young men like Dar from the path of nihilism. Otherwise, more and more of such brainwashed youths will leave their kith and kin to court untimely death.

Equally, scores of security personnel will be in danger of losing their lives because official policies have failed to assure the discontented people of a state with a distinct cultural ambience that they are the nation’s cherished citizens.

It is only when the Kashmiris are visibly mollified that Pakistan’s “isolation”, which the Centre is currently seeking, will be complete, for a fully integrated Kashmir will negate Pakistan’s hope of avenging its Bangladesh defeat and recovering the “K” in the country’s name.

India has dealt with rebellious outbreaks in different parts of the country from the Northeast to the Maoist belts in central and western areas with a fair amount of success. There is no reason why it cannot achieve the same in Kashmir with a patient understanding of the grievances affecting the state, especially when it has national-level leaders like Farooq and Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti with their political and administrative experience.

True, the jehadi factor makes it difficult for a government to adopt a sane attitude because of the irrational pseudo-religious fervour of the militants. But an overt demonstration of being sensitive can enable the government to enlist the overall support of Kashmiri society and enable the elders to rein in the rebels.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])

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Deep State-II: The European angle to Rafale

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New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) It is no surprise that Europe becomes a fiery battleground every time a big aerospace deal is floated — as happened when the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition was announced by the Indian Air Force in 2007. The French company Dassault Aviation is to deliver 36 fully-loaded Rafale fighters to India. However, Airbus Industrie, which manufactures the Eurofighter, has pitched itself in the game and wants to have a share of the pie through the ‘Make in India’ programme.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Saab, which manufactures the Gripen and had been an initial favourite before being edged out by the French companies, believes it can still stay in the hunt if it finds an entry through the ‘Make in India’ programme. And then there are the Russians. It is a high-stakes game that is also complicated.

For some, there is also an interest in keeping things complicated. Mahmut Turker, a Turkish-origin former German politician and a member of Germany’s Freedom Democratic Party, has met Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other critics of the Narendra Modi government in New Delhi to make out a case for Airbus — he is now its sales director, Combat Aircraft Campaigns.

Turker provided the raw material to prepare Rahul Gandhi for the charge against the Modi government. He first met the Congress President in Hamburg in September last year. Then, in tandem with controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, he helped to prepare the strategy for the attack on the government for the Rafale purchases. Congress leaders evidently believe they are onto something, which is why they have gone beyond characteristic political bluster to directly target the Prime Minister.

Later, when Turker met Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha, lawyer Prashant Bhushan — who are behind the PIL in the Rafale case — and Congressman Ranjeet Surjewala, he brought his savvy political skills along to drive holes into the Rafale deal and suggest that it be scrapped. He is believed to have supplied them with dossiers on Rafale to burnish his argument.

There is a back story to this. During the MMRCA negotiations, Airbus/BAE which makes the Eurofighter had lost out to Rafale. The government has said that the earlier deal with Rafale during UPA rule was based on L1 or lowest bidder criterion and the new one for 36 fully-loaded fighters has different specs and there can be no equivalence between them. However, it considers itself to be still in the race for a fighter jet contract, which is why, apart from trying to getting Turker to use the more circuitous route to scupper the deal by providing cue notes to well-placed dissidents, Airbus/BAE sent proposals to the government highlighting why the Rafale deal is bad.

Meanwhile, Turker decided to cast the net wider. He met retired Indian Air Force officials, people with credibility in the system who could help his company, or failing that at least beat down Dassault’s case. He is also believed to have met IAS officer Rajeev Verma, who wrote a dissenting note on the Rafale deal as a member of the contract negotiation committee. There is no evidence that the note helped Airbus/BAE but it certainly did not help Verma. His career took a tumble thereafter.

Could the Congress party be pinning its entire strategy on the basis of inputs from a recently-met aerospace company official and a controversial arms dealer? The game gets bigger, more complicated, as it progresses. Indeed, it mirrors Indian politics where there are no permanent enemies. Enter, the son-in-law of a Modi acolyte who is with BAE.

Using old connections with the Gandhis, this man with deep links in the government has reportedly been able to provide a gist of what the naysayers in officialdom have to say of the Rafale purchase. That has added to the Congress party’s ammo against the government.

Then, the head of a private bank, who is also a key figure in BAE, is working in tandem with a prominent Congress politician in Mumbai. This too is about providing documents and information on the fighter jet deal. For the record, the Congress politician who is known to accompany the Congress President on foreign trips, had earlier been a key figure in an all-party young MPs forum that would meet regularly to identify issues on which they could work together beyond partisan divisions.

The Congress is playing the perception game and believes that the pushback on corruption is happening and the wheels of fortune have altered since 2014.

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Just 2 companies control 50% of India’s smartphone market

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New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) The year 2018 ended with just two companies together controlling around 50 per cent share of the India smartphone market – Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi and South Korean giant Samsung, according to latest data released by International Data Corporation (IDC).

Xiaomi surpassed Samsung to become the market leader in 2018 with 28.9 per cent share in the Indian smartphone market which shipped 142.3 million units last year, according to IDC’s Asia/Pacific Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report. Samsung came second with 22.4 per cent share.

In 2017, Xiaomi had 20.9 per cent market share, compared to 24.7 per cent share of Samsung.

In 2018, Vivo (14.2 per cent), OPPO (10.2 per cent) and Transsion (6.4 per cent) were the other three brands that found a place in the list of top five smartphone brands in the country.

Except Samsung, four of the five smartphone brands are based in China.

“Amongst the big highlights of 2018 were the online-focused brands that drove the share of the online channel to an all-time high of 38.4 per cent in 2018,” Upasana Joshi, Associate Research Manager, Client Devices, IDC India, said in a statement.

Responding to the report, Xiaomi India Managing Director Manu Kumar Jain on Tuesday credited the stunning show by the company to “100 per cent team work” and love from “Mi Fans”.

“Mi Fans! Thank you for your love and support,” Jain tweeted, adding that in the fourth quarter of 2018, the company emrged as 54 per cent bigger than the second brand.

The results show that Apple, which experienced lower than expected sales of iPhones in some emerging markets in recent times, especially in China, has not been able to make much of an impact in the Indian smartphone market as well.

The premium smartphone segment (above Rs 35,000) constitutes a meagre three per cent share of the overall India smartphone market, despite outgrowing all other price segments in 2018 with 43.9 per cent year-over-year (YoY) growth, according to IDC.

“OnePlus emerged as the leader in $500-$700 segment on the back of the OnePlus 6 and the newly-launched OnePlus 6T. However, in the super premium segment of $700+, Samsung surpassed Apple for the top position with its Galaxy S9 series,” Joshi added.

With the government initiative to push local manufacturing in India, 2018 witnessed further duty hikes on mobile phone components, IDC said, adding that weakened rupee further added to the challenges of the long tail of brands outside the top five.

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