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Trump strategy involves regional approach to stabilize Afghanistan

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Donald Trump

Iran can play a key role in stabilizing Afghanistan stability when the security situation in Afghanistan is precarious as Taliban insurgents have increased the number of Afghan districts under its control. Iran has been providing road links to Afghanistan through Chabahar that will link Afghanistan and the Central Asian Caucuses to India and other South Asian nations, bypassing Pakistan. United State is worried over increasing role of Russia in Afghanistan and President Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster said that Pakistan needs to change its policy towards terror groups if Islamabad wants to play a role in Afghanistan’s stability. “This is Pakistan in particular that we want to really see a change in–and a reduction of their support–for–these groups,” he said. “I mean, this is– of course, you know, a very paradoxical situation, right, where Pakistan is taking great losses.”

President Trump has not announced a comprehensive strategy on winning the war in Afghanistan but has made “a number of decisions” on the military approach there.

Trump’s Afghan strategy has more role for regional countries including India to stabilize Afghanistan  but Trump should take into account Iran’s role as Tehran can help stabilize Kabul in a significant way.In the past as well, Iran has been instrumental in defeating Taliban in Kabul since the days of Ahmad Shah Massud, who was a powerful military commander who fought Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the ’80s but was assassinated on September 9, 2001 by suicide bombers posing as journalists.

According to a report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan released on Tuesday, the Taliban controls about 40 percent of the country’s territory.The Taliban controls 11 districts and influences 34 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts (11 percent), while the Afghan government controls 97 districts and influences 146 (60 percent). Twenty-nine percent of Afghanistan’s districts remain contested. Taliban control of Afghan districts has increased one percent, while Afghan control has increased by 2.5 percent, according to SIGAR. SIGAR’s assessment is based on data provided by US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and Resolute Support, NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.

Moreover, Iran had hosted millions of refugees from Afghanistan. The Donald Trump administration is studying a new strategy for US forces in the war-ravaged country, while NATO recently asked member countries to increase their troop contingents in Afghanistan to support the military mission. NATO continues to have about 13,000 troops on the ground as part of its Resolute Support mission to provide training to Afghan security forces, and the US has about 8,400 to assist the Kabul government with anti-terrorism operation.The President has already authorized the Pentagon to take decisions on a number of military decisions as Trump has placed no restrictions on the military that undermine the ability to win battles in combat.

US and Iran share common strategic interest like countering drug trafficking and development of Afghanistan and also Tehran has influence among Afghanistan’s political leaders and exerts soft power among the Shia, Hazara and Dari-speaking communities.

arti bali

By : Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

Analysis

India’s growing rich-poor divide: Richest 1% gross 73% wealth in 2017

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India’s richest, just 1 per cent of its 1.3 billion people, grossed 73 per cent of the wealth generated in 2017 while the wealth of the poorest half of Indians — some 67 crore — rose by only one per cent, according to a report by Oxfam.

The report, launched on Monday ahead of the gathering of some of the world’s richest at the World Economic Forum here, said the wealth of India’s elite went up last year by Rs 20,913 billion — an amount equivalent to the government’s total budget in 2017-18.

The Davos event is being attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Oxfam India has urged him to ensure that the “economy works for everyone and not just the fortunate few” in line with the government’s ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ slogan.

“It is alarming that the benefits of economic growth in India continue to concentrate in fewer hands. The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” said Nisha Agrawal, CEO of Oxfam India.

“Those working hard, growing food for the country, building infrastructure, working in factories are struggling to fund their child’s education, buy medicines for family members and manage two meals a day. The growing divide undermines democracy and promotes corruption and cronyism.”

The report, ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’, has also found that India’s top 10 per cent of population have 73 per cent of the total wealth in the country.

“Indian billionaires’ wealth increased by Rs 4,891 billion – from Rs 15,778 billion to over Rs 20,676 billion,” it said, adding the amount of Rs 4,891 billion was sufficient to finance 85 per cent of the budget on health and education in all Indian states.

It said India added 17 new billionaires last year, raising the number to 101. But 37 per cent of the these billionaires inherited the wealth from their families.

It said 51 billionaires out of the total 101 were aged 65 or above.

“If we assume that in the next 20 years, at least Rs 10,544 billion will be passed on to the inheritors and on that if 30 per cent inheritance tax is imposed, the government can earn at least Rs 3,176 billion.”

This will be sufficient to finance six crucial services — medical and public health, family welfare, water and sanitation, housing, urban development and labour and labour welfare in the country.

The report said at least one in every two workers in the garment sector in India were paid below the minimum wage. By those standards, the report said, “it will take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment firm earns in a year”.

Oxfam called upon the government to promote “inclusive growth by ensuring that the income of the bottom 40 per cent of the population grows faster than of the top 10 per cent” to close the income gap.

“This can be done by encouraging labour-intensive sectors that will create more jobs; investing in agriculture; and effectively implementing the social protection schemes that exist.”

It said the government must also seal the leaking wealth bucket by taking stringent measures against tax evasion and avoidance.

The income gap can also be reduced by “taxing the super-rich by re-introducing inheritance tax, increasing wealth tax, reducing and eventually do away with corporate tax breaks and creating a more equal opportunity country by increasing public expenditure on health and education”, it said.

The charity said the government must also bring data transparency, produce and make available high quality data on income and wealth and regularly monitor the measures it takes to tackle the issue of rising inequality.

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Delhi Assembly to get a dose of patriotism on Republic Day

“We have not talked anything about money. If they give us something, we will take it. We do not do it for money,” “We just want people to remember the martyrs.”

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Delhi Legislative Assembly

On a January afternoon, O.P. Sharma, 62, and two others were busy nailing a framed painting of a young man with twirled moustache on a white wall, which forms one side of the long corridor that runs along the Delhi Assembly building. It was a portrait of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

Along with Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Tipu Sultan and Rani Chennamma are among the 70 famous freedom movement leaders and historical personalities whose portraits — one for each Delhi Assembly constituency — are set to adorn the Assembly walls. These will be inaugurated on January 26.

Each portrait, one-and-a-half feet wide and two-and-a-half feet long and framed in black, are of martyrs who fought for the country from 1760 to 1947.

Guru Darshan Singh Binkal, the artist behind the paintings, told IANS that for the past 27 years he has been painting portraits of martyrs for one reason: “Martyrs should live on.

“I have been painting many martyrs who are unknown to most people,” said the 52-year-old, who uses oil colours and canvas as his medium.

Binkal said he takes around three days to complete one portrait, but he does not take money for it, except for what is needed to buy colours and canvas.

“I do other work to earn a living,” said Binkal, who has been painting since his school days.

Sharma and Binkal belong to the Shaheed Smriti Chetna Samiti, an organisation working to spread awareness about martyrs who gave their lives for the country’s freedom.

“We have only one goal — to instil patriotism in the minds of people,” Prem Kumar Shukla, General Secretary of the organisation, told IANS.

At a corner of SSCS’ office, about 30 km from the Assembly and up a narrow staircase, was a metre-long metal box.

One of the helpers opened the box to reveal dozens of other paintings, many of which were of lesser-known freedom fighters.

“People are forgetting the freedom fighters and their sacrifice. They only know the fake heroes,” Shukla said.

He said that children should know about them so that they will be “inspired to do something like that for the nation”.

The organisation, started by retired schoolteacher Ravi Chandra Gupta in 1997, conducts exhibitions of paintings of martyrs across the country.

“Even the Indian government does not have as much data as we have on martyrs,” Shukla said.

He said that through exhibitions and other means, they have reached about 10 million people across the country.

At the Assembly, Sharma and others were busy with their work again: Under each portrait, a short biography of the martyr was being nailed to the wall.

“We have not talked anything about money. If they give us something, we will take it. We do not do it for money,” Sharma said about their work at the Assembly. “We just want people to remember the martyrs.”

By : Nikhil M. Babu

(Nikhil M. Babu can be reached at [email protected] )

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The strange trio of Sex, Science and the State — and its consequences

Though her thesis is not brought out very exhaustively, she makes a fair enough case and that is enough to make this a must read — especially for ministers.

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Sex and Gender

An Indian minister has made himself notorious all over social media for his comments questioning Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, but can we take this to show that the two worlds — of politics and science — are exclusive or even antagonistic? Not at all, and scientific disciplines that apparently seem farthest placed from human affairs may be the most influential.

For science has done more for setting the course of nations and their governance and economy than we can suspect — beyond its part in helping develop powerful weapons or technologies.

While this alliance of politics and science is a far more recent development than we think, it owes its genesis to botany, and two 18th century natural scientists who furthered this combination, as Patricia Fara shows in this book, part of a special set chronicling key turning points in science.

And this — in the last three decades or so of the 18th century — qualifies well enough for it shows how science progressed beyond the pastime or patronage of rich, idle noblemen to become institutionalised with government support.

And as Fara, from the History and Philosophy of Science department at Cambridge University, shows it not only saw the rather incongruous trio of the “Three Ss” — sex, science and the state — coming together with so many consequences, but also brought the subject of sex out into the public discourse, though against much opposition.

It also set in train a process — in Britain initially — that would lead a few decades later to Darwin boarding HMS Beagle to make the observations that enabled him to formulate his theory of man’s origin and development — a theory which has stood the test of time despite what some misguided or willfully ignorant politicians may think.

At the heart of this development, shows Fara’s account, were two naturalists, not as famous as Issac Newton or Darwin but contributing to science’s progress at a time “science started to become established and gain prestige”.

And both of Carl Linnaeus and Joseph Banks, along with the other Enlightenment contemporaries, “fought hard to establish that scientific knowledge was valid and valuable”.

Linnaeus was a gifted but eccentric and self-propagandising Swede whose classification system for all living organism still rules today, but raised hackles of his conservative society by using sexual parts to order flowers and using human terminology for the purpose.

Banks was his British “disciple” -turned-science administrator — and no less self-propagandising — but also managed to make “science work for the state — and the state to pay for science”. A key cameo is played by that intrepid explorer, Captain James Cook.

And in telling their story, Fara ranges over small Swedish towns and the country’s unforgiving terrain, the mansions and the seats of power of Georgian England as well as its lush countryside, hazardous voyages over uncharted oceans, encounters with uninhibited, pre-industrial societies in South Pacific islands, ambition and professional jealousy, to show how the underlying root was something more heartlessly mercenary.

For, as she contends, “scientific exploration in the Age of Reason was driven by an imperialist agenda to own, to conquer and to exploit”. But apart from the above spin-offs, there were some other positive benefits too, as she brings out. Say the way, men, especially white Europeans, began to see rest of humanity and themselves in the world, or what women could be allowed to study or not — though it would still take time before all these would be tangibly realised for all.

Along with her lucid and telling discourse on the birth of modern botany with Linnaeus and Banks — almost concurrently with its economic uses, Fara also enlivens it with a colourful account of their explorations in various climes and encounters with exotic races and, above all, the contemporary public reactions to their discoveries and doings. And this could have a thing or two to teach protesters today.

Though her thesis is not brought out very exhaustively, she makes a fair enough case and that is enough to make this a must read — especially for ministers.

By : Vikas Datta

(Vikas Datta can be contacted at [email protected]

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