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India can handle this triangle of conflict

General Suleimani was reportedly acting like an advisor to President Bashar al Assad — in parallel to Russian approach of friendship towards Syria.

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Soleimani

The elimination of General Qasem Suleimani heading Al Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps in an American drone attack at Baghdad, draws a parallel with the earlier killings of Abu Bakar al Baghdadi, the chief of ISIS in a raid by US Special Forces in Syria last year and of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a SEALs operation at Abottabad in Pakistan way back in 2011.

These three militant leaders termed by the US as ‘International Terrorists’ represented Islamic radicals who had declared the Americans as their sworn enemy and engaged in a no holds barred ‘proxy war’ against the US.

They belonged to the two different streams in Islam — Sunnis and Shias — that had produced extremists wedded to taking on the US-led West for political, ideological and historical reasons.

It began with the Emirate of Afghanistan under the Al Qaeda — Taliban leadership — installed by Pakistan in Kabul in 1996 — showing its fangs against the US — its subsequent ouster by the latter in fact laid the turf for the 9/11 attack.

In the ‘war on terror’ that followed under the US-led ‘world coalition’ against the global terror of Islamic radicals, the Pak-Afghan belt swayed by Al Qaeda-Taliban axis and the Syria-Iraq region dominated by Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) emerged as the battlegrounds of this combat.

The Sunni extremists of the Al Qaeda and IS carried the historical memory of the 19th century Jehad that the Wahhabis had carried out against the Western encroachment on ‘Muslim lands’. They had given a call for restoration of the Islamic fundamentals of the times of the Pious Caliphs which, they contended, had been allowed to get ‘diluted’ in the mix of un-Islamic practices.

In the post-revolution Shiite Iran, the Ayatollahs similarly enforced the values of Caliph Ali that among other things intrinsically glorified the ‘virtue’ of poverty and detested what would become the present day capitalism.

At the same time, however, the origin of Shiism in the Kharijite revolt against Ali had produced an irreversible mutual hatred between the extremists of the two sects that is reflected in their current political relationship as well. Sunni Islamic radicals are anti-West but they also go after the Shias wherever they can find them — reports coming in regularly of Taliban attacking Shias in Pak-Afghan region prove the point.

This all makes it easy to understand that the geo-politics of West Asia is largely conditioned by the ascendancy of radical Islam in the Muslim world in the post-Cold War era.

Pakistan’s collaboration with Taliban in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from that country, shelter provided to Al Qaeda leadership by Pakistan on its own soil and the dubious role of Pakistan in the ‘war on terror’ should be mentioned as the principal reasons why this rise of radical forces became possible in the first place.

The US attack on Saddam Hussain heading a Baathist dispensation in Iraq in 2003 made Syria-Iraq region — with its anti-US regimes — a second theatre of radicals where ISIS would come up under al-Zarkawi, who had earlier been active in Afghanistan. ISIS attracted many combatants from the Pak-Afghan belt of Al Qaeda as well.

Shiite Iran under Ayatollahs — bracketed by US President George Bush with Iraq in his ‘axis of evil’ statement — was independently rising as a force against both US and Israel with the militant Hazbollah under its patronage extending its wings in Lebanon and Iraq.

On the other hand a number of Muslim and Arab countries under the umbrella of Saudi-chaired Organisation of Islamic Conference(OIC) — though running a harsh Islamic regime — remained on the right side of the US.

The picture in the Muslim world thus presents a three-way divide with radical Shiites and Sunnis directing their guns against US and also against each other and a significant cluster of Muslim states politically aligning themselves with America.

India could be a mere watcher of the scene but for the fact that Pakistan — a prime mover of OIC — has been conducting a ‘proxy war’ against us using cross border terrorism as its instrument and mobilising both radicals and other Islamic outfits against India for that purpose.

India has stakes in the developments in West Asia, including the Gulf for both economic and security reasons. India’s foreign policy has been successful in getting US under President Donald Trump to abandon the artificial divide between ‘good terrorists’ and ‘bad terrorists’ that Americans earlier made at the cost of Indian interests.

The challenge for India is to keep Indo-US friendship at a level where the American policy does not hyphenate India with Pakistan again and to build bilateral relations further with countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel independently of one another — and also un-linked from the ascendant Indo-US friendship.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership India is following this policy to our advantage — what is helping in this is a certain confidence that the Prime Minister brings to bear on his projection of India as a promotor of international peace — the voice of sanity and a balancing power.

Today the broad picture is that even as the prospects of an open warfare receded post-Cold War, the world transited to an era of proxy wars, cross border conflicts and ‘covert’ offensives. Conventional battle has given way to the ‘asymmetric warfare’ in which terrorist attacks on military and non-military targets are resorted to as a cost-effective means of wearing down a superior enemy.

Gen Qasem Suleimani apparently had a free run in Iraq planning such operations against the US bases in that country and the drone strike to take him out was ordered by President Trump himself after pro-Iran militants tried to lay seize of the US Embassy in Baghdad.

It may be mentioned that terrorists are indoctrinated in the ’cause’ they were working for and a strong motivation for standing for the cause is provided by the war cry of Jehad that Islamic radicals and other extremists have raised — making the Muslim world a festering home ground for faith-based terror in the process.

India has been at the receiving end of terror attacks carried out by Pak ISI-instigated militant outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish e Mohammad and Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent(AQIS).

Indian diplomacy should work on the democratic world to get it to denounce the medievalism that used religion as a tool of war and should likewise, persuade OIC chaired by Saudi Arabia to take a clear stand against countries invoking Jehad for sorting out political disputes in today’s times.

India has the second largest Muslim population in the world and has to work for this outcome considering the fact that Pakistan had become a rogue state providing safe haven to terror outfits having linkages across the Islamic spectrum.

India cannot question the right of the US to neutralise leaders of terror outfits for America’s own security and defence but it can promote wise counsel for peaceful resolutions rooted in a declared rejection of terrorist violence as an instrument of combat.

Strategic analysts are looking, from their own angles, at the possible turn of events after the assassination of the Iranian General — carried out by the US in what was a security operation against a leading terrorist known to be the kingpin of covert attacks on Americans.

Iran has threatened retaliation on a big scale but has not gone beyond firing a few missiles on a US base in Iraq so far. It is cognisant of a crippling military response from the US — if it crossed a line.

It is significant that Iran is anti-US and pro-Syria politically — which is reminiscent of the Cold War divide — while it considers ISIS as an enemy in terms of religious contradiction.

General Suleimani was reportedly acting like an advisor to President Bashar al Assad — in parallel to Russian approach of friendship towards Syria.

Iran however, has a civilisational past and it should handle its ideological and political differences with others without getting entangled into a warfare that invoked religion for its sustenance.

India has to watch out for the impact of a deteriorating Iran-US relationship on the world at large and retrieve its own economic interests in the region.

India now has a say on the world stage and our diplomacy should be able to put into play India’s balancing role — helped by its non-aligned outlook.

(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau. The views expressed are personal.)

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Was late TV actor Samir Sharma battling depression, money crisis?

Many similar poems written in Hindi and English, with pain and heartbreak as themes, can be found in his social media accounts.

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Sameer Sharma

Mumbai: Television actor Samir Sharma allegedly ended his life by committing suicide in his Mumbai apartment. The 44-year-old actor was found hanging in his kitchen on Wednesday night. The police suspect that he probably died two days ago.

Recent social media posts of the late actor raise the question if he was battling depression.

On last Monday (July 27) Samir had shared a poem on his unverified Instagram account that reads:

“I built my pyre

And slept on it

And with my fire

It was lit

And all that was me

I burned in it

I killed my dream

To wake up from it

Now my dream is gone

And I with it

I woke up to ashes

And I was in it

I took what was left

And left it in a stream

And hoped my ashes

This time have a better dream.”

On July 20, the actor had shared a short film he made, on his unverified Facebook account. Titled “The Cut”, the effort has been described by the actor as: “A film about the psychological effects of the isolation due to the lockdown on a person living alone.”

Another poem shared by the actor on Facebook on June 8, reads:

“I breathed through you,

I lived through you,

I felt what you felt,

I dreamt what you dreamt

I forgot where I ended

I forgot where you began

I was who you were

But didn’t know who you are

And I didn’t see it coming

I just saw you going.”

Many similar poems written in Hindi and English, with pain and heartbreak as themes, can be found in his social media accounts.

Samir Sharma used to stay in a rented apartment in Malad West, which he had reportedly moved in during February this year. A social media post he shared in the first week of June indicates that he was looking for another change of residence, and was keen to move into a shared apartment.

“Looking for a shared apartment, with independent room in Malad West or Goregaon West, if anyone has a place, and is interested, pls DM me…. Thanks,” posted the actor on Facebook on June 2.

The post raises question if he was facing monetary crisis.

Dr Singh also shared that over the past few months of lockdown, “cases of depression and anxiety among people have increased and that is not only because of confinement but due to several other factors like uncertainty of the future and lack of support which is testing our coping skills”, he said, adding: “Some people are facing economic problems, too.”

Samir Sharma was a popular face on television. He has featured in daily soaps like “Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi”, “Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii”, “Left Right Left”, “Woh Rehne Waali Mehlon Ki” and several others. He last featured in the ongoing daily soap “Yeh Rishtey Hain Pyaar Ke”.

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5 things to know as Hiroshima marks 75th A-bomb anniversary

The city of Hiroshima in western Japan is marking the 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing

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The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima

HIROSHIMA, Japan — The city of Hiroshima in western Japan marks the 75th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear attack on Thursday.

Three days after its Aug. 6, 1945, bombing of Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, ending World War II and, more broadly, its aggression toward Asian neighbors that had lasted nearly half a century.

Here’s a look at that day in Hiroshima 75 years ago.

Q. Why was Hiroshima chosen as a target?

A. Hiroshima was a major Japanese military hub with factories, military bases and ammunition facilities. Historians say the United States picked it as a suitable target because of its size and landscape, and carefully avoided fire bombing the city ahead of time so American officials could accurately assess the impact of the atomic attack. The United States said the bombings hastened Japan’s surrender and prevented the need for a U.S. invasion of Japan. Some historians today say Japan was already close to surrendering, but there is still debate in the U.S.

Q. What happened in the attack?

A. At 8:15 a.m., the U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped a 4-ton “Little Boy” uranium bomb from a height of 9,600 meters (31,500 feet) on the city center, targeting the Aioi Bridge. The bomb exploded 43 seconds later, 600 meters (2,000 feet) above the ground. Seconds after the detonation, the estimated temperature was 3,000-4,000 degrees Celsius (5,400-7,200 degrees Fahrenheit) at ground zero. Almost everything within 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of ground zero was destroyed by the blast and heat rays. Within one hour, a “black rain” of highly radioactive particles started falling on the city, causing additional radiation exposure.

Q. How many people were killed?

A. An estimated 140,000 people, including those with radiation-related injuries and illnesses, died through Dec. 31, 1945. That was 40% of Hiroshima’s population of 350,000 before the attack. Everyone within a radius of 500 meters (1,600 feet) from ground zero died that day. To date, the total death toll, including those who died from radiation-related cancers, is about 300,000. Hiroshima today has 1.2 million residents.

Q. What effect did radiation have?

A. Many people exposed to radiation developed symptoms such as vomiting and hair loss. Most of those with severe radiation symptoms died within three to six weeks. Others who lived beyond that developed health problems related to burns and radiation-induced cancers and other illnesses. Survivors have a higher risk of developing cataracts and cancer. About 136,700 people certified as “hibakusha,” as victims are called, under a government support program are still alive and entitled to regular free health checkups and treatment. Health monitoring of second-generation hibakusha began recently. Japan’s government provided no support for victims until a law was finally enacted in 1957 under pressure from them.

Q. What are those colorful folded paper cranes for?

A. “Origami” paper cranes can be seen throughout the city. They became a symbol of peace because of a 12-year-old bomb survivor, Sadako Sasaki, who, while battling leukemia, folded paper cranes using medicine wrappers after hearing an old Japanese story that those who fold a thousand cranes are granted one wish. Sadako developed leukemia 10 years after her exposure to radiation at age 2, and died three months after she started the project. Former U.S. President Barack Obama brought four paper cranes that he folded himself when he visited Hiroshima in May 2016, becoming the first serving American leader to visit. Obama’s cranes are now displayed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

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Rithambara hails Bhumi Pujan, recalls Ram temple movement

When asked about L K Advani and M M Joshi who have now taken a back seat, Rithambara said, “They lit the spark to carry the movement forward.”

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Sadhvi Rithambara

Ayodhya, Aug 4 : A day before the Bhumi Pujan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Ram temple in Ayodhya on Wednesday, firebrand Hindu leader Sadhvi Rithambara expressed happiness over the event. During the Ram temple movement, her riveting speeches had a deep impact on thousands of Ram devotees. They also gave a boost to the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

In a telephonic interview with IANS Rithambara said that she could not exress her happiness over the once in a lifetime event like the Bhumi Pujan in mere words. Rithambara is elated about the resurgence of self-respect for Indian culture that has come to the fore after nearly 500 years of struggle and shared that she is brimming with pride and boundless joy.

Asked how she got involved with the Ram temple movement, she said, “The attempt by foreign invaders to destroy our culture made me angry and I joined the movement. However, my role in this movement remained small just like a squirrel. Though I was involved in the movement with utmost devotion, Ram Lalla took me towards Ayodhya and I took a resolute stand by the banks of the sacred Saryu river. I spent my youth for Ram Janmabhoomi and the Hindu culture only with the blessings of Lord Ram. I was groomed under the able leadership of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader the late Ashok Singhal.”

Responding to a question, the Sadhvi said, “When the Ram temple movement was at its peak, there were various obstacles in the way. I spent most of my time in jungles, caves and among beggars. People were scared of sheltering us in their homes. We suffered a lot when we were struggling underground. But all the pain is forgotten on the achievement of our objective to build the Ram temple.”

Rithambara said during the Ram temple movement her speeches were recorded secretly. At that time there was such enthusiasm among the people that the Ram Mandir movement became a mass movement, it was not because of any institution or organisation and now the outcome will be witnessed on August 5.

When asked about L K Advani and M M Joshi who have now taken a back seat, Rithambara said, “They lit the spark to carry the movement forward.”

On the question of women being excluded from the Temple Trust, she said it is immaterial. “The Lord wanted us to get it done. There is no gender distinction here. The temple of God is being built, that’s what matters.”

On the question of the ‘mahurat’, she said Lord Ram’s work is always auspicious. Ramji himself has chosen his ‘mahurat’. The whole world is pleased with the construction of Lord Ram’s temple. Festivities are taking place in every house.

On the alleged caste discrimination, the Sadhvi dismissed it as a figment of the imagination, saying that a seer has no caste. A limited number of people have been invited for the Bhumi Pujan due to the corona pandemic, so it should not be taken otherwise, she added.

In response to another question, she said she did not know who all were invited. Those who are not able to be at the Bhumi Pujan, can go there any time as per their convenience.

On a Pakistani minister’s acerbic reaction to the Bhumi Pujan, she said that Pakistan should respect the sentiments of crores of Indians. This will promote harmony.

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