Monday December 18, 2017
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Modi heads for Central Asia; energy, connectivity, anti-terror on agenda

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the five ‘stans” of Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — next week will see energy security high on the agenda plus talks on the North-South connectivity corridor that will give India access to the resource-rich region and beyond.

Forming a joint front against emerging extremist and terror threats would also figure high on the agenda for the talks, sources here said.

Modi, who is to visit the five Central Asian republics and Ufa in Russia for the BRICS and SCO summit, will be on an eight-day tour from July 6 to 13. He wiill visit Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan ahead of the July 8-10 back-to-back BRICS and SCO summits.

Modi’s visit would help in re-engagement with a resource-rich region that India has not really engaged with but where China has fast spread its reach through major infrastructure projects, like pipelines, and with unfolding plans like the ‘One Belt, One Road’ economic linkage project.

The five countries are part of the old Silk Road, the ancient trade route through which not only silks and spices were ferried but was also a pathway for exchange of ideas, art, architecture and spiritual beliefs.

The five land-locked countries, once part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, are very keen on Modi’s visit — as their envoys mentioned during a talk earlier this week.

Prime ministerial visits to the region have been few and far between, with the last visit being by Manmohan Singh who barely stopped over at Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 2011 while on way back from Sanya, China, where he attended the BRICS summit.

For the five republics, relations with India would prove to be a balancing factor, with both China and Russia pushing to gain more influence and firmer foothold.

Talks during Modi’s visit would also focus on terrorism, which is a common concern, and tackling the rising influence of the Islamic State terror group. Over 1,500 youth from the region are reported to have joined the jihadist organization and are fighting in Syria and Iraq. The five countries, which follow moderate Islam and are secular in nature, are concerned about the spread of the Islamic State’s influence among its youth.

In Kazakhstan, where Modi would visit July 7-8, talks would largely focus on energy cooperation and uranium mining. Modi’s visit to capital Almaty would coincide with the first drilling for oil in the Satpayev block, in which India has 25 percent stake. ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) — the overseas arm of state-run ONGC — had in 2011 picked up 25 percent stake in the Satpayev oil block in the North Caspian Sea.

Both sides are set to ink a major agreement for joint exploration and mining of uranium in Kazakhstan, which has the world’s largest uranium reserves. Cooperation in the field of expanding the country’s 15,000-km railways track is also on the anvil.

In Uzbekistan, where the prime minister visits first, the talks are expected to focus on joint ventures, besides boosting trade.

In Turkmenistan, the $10 billion TAPI gas pipeline project would top Modi’s agenda during his July 10-11 visit to Ashgabat.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, which is gathering speed after many years of no movement, is expected to bring Turkmen natural gas from its giant Dauletabad and Galkynysh gas fields to Pakistan and India.

The legal framework for the pipeline project would be finalized by September after which the consortiums are to be announced. The project is expected to take off in December, according to the country’s envoy here Parakhat H. Durdyev.

Fertilisers is another major area of cooperation between the two countries. India is to set up a urea manufacturing unit in Turkmenistan. Later, a potash manufacturing unit would also be set up in the country, Durdyev sad.

Both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are keen to have India on board the CASA 1000 project, under which the hydropower energy of the two countries can be tapped. Both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are rich in water sources cascading from the mountain ranges.

Both the countries are also keen to see the North South Transport Corridor kick off. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are members of the corridor project, a multi-modal corridor project which aims to connect Mumbai with St. Petersburg in Russia, while touching Iran’s Bandar Abbas port.

Kazakhstan is also a member of the corridor project, which has held two dry runs, including one last year.

The five countries are also looking for Iran’s Chabahar port to be upgraded fast by India and made operational, so that connectivity to their region could be boosted.

The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme — under which India carries out capacity building training programmes in recipient countries for their people — is also much sought after by the five Central Asian republics.

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Gujarat Elections: The Fight to the Finish between Congress and BJP

The counting of votes for the Gujarat elections will begin on December 18 at 8.00 AM

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The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Women on their way to the polling booths in Gujarat on December 9, VOA News

 

  • The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress into a close contest over the seats.
  • The exit polls predict a victory for BJP.
  • The counting of votes will begin at 8.00 A.M. on Monday, December 18.

The Gujarat elections, which were carried out in two phases on December 9 and December 14, will finally come to its culmination on Monday, December 18, as the counting of votes will commence from 8.00 A.M. The Gujarat polls, over which seasoned BJP politicians such as Narendra Modi and Amit Shah  have locked horns with the newly appointed president of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi, have been subjected to numerous speculations and predictions, ever since the two political parties have launched themselves into relentless campaigning for the various constituencies.

The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Rahul Gandhi kissing his mother after being elected as the President of Congress on December 16, 2017, VOA News

Congress vs. BJP: Who will Win the Gujarat Elections

The campaign for the Gujarat assembly elections has been a vehement one for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has extensively referred to the growth index and other statistical details while enumerating the virtues of the BJP government. His developmental policies, such as the Ujjwala Yojana through which free LPG gas facilities were provide to households below the Poverty Line, have made him immensely popular among the women of Gujarat. Modi’s appeal as the ‘son of the soil’ has earned him support in the urban and commercial hubs of Gujarat, in spite of the brewing discontent over demonetisation and the imposition of GST. The BJP has also succeeded in securing the support of the tribal people of Gujarat, who were previously considered as a stronghold of the Congress.
However, with the trio of Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani, Rahul Gandhi seems to have infused young blood into the Gujarat elections, and has thereby attracted a significant number of young voters. Hardik Patel, with his political acumen has become a potential threat for the BJP, as multiple scandalous tapes of him as well as his aides have not decreased his popularity. In North, Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch, people seem to be disappointed with the BJP government, since the much-applauded ‘Gujarat Model’ has failed to solve basic issues in their lives, such as shortage of water.

 

The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the voters at Kalol, in the outskirts of Ahmedabad on December 8, 2017, VOA News

Gujarat Elections: The Exit Polls

The Gujarat Polls of 2017 have often been hailed as one of the closest competitions faced by the BJP government during its 22 year long tenure as speculations are rife regarding who will win the Gujarat elections. However, in spite of the unyielding campaign by the Congress and Rahul Gandhi, the speculations hint towards another victory for the BJP in the state. An aggregate of nine exit polls in Gujarat show that the BJP is expected to secure 162 seats, while 65 seats may be secured by the Congress.

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Rise of PM Modi and roar of subversive forces

To counter PM Modi opposition leaders are desperately getting aligned with anti-India forces

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Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Wikimedia commons)

– By Salil Gewali

If your son makes friendship with the difficult and longtime enemies of your own family/clan then how do you describe him and how do you feel about your future? Will it not be likely to open the door to countless tragedies? But in India, such thing is now being openly celebrated. For past couple of years or more the political leaders of certain parties have been taking the wrong step forward in having closed-door meetings with the leaders of Pakistan/China. What transpires among themselves is obviously against the present government and the nation’s fundamental ethos. Those leaders have often been heard to be sympathetic towards the terrorists or those who “roar against the nation” or against its patriotic values. Yes, those leaders jump forward to defend them who wreak havoc with the “peaceful citizens”.   Some leaders are apologetic that certain NGOs/media/religious bodies should not be harassed in the name of fighting the terrorists and ISIS. This is how country’s leaders defend the dangerous postures of dangerous outfits. Will this trend not invite greater troubles to the nation in future?

One wonders how the apex judiciary of the country just allow the political parties to pour out their pent-up anger before the leaders of neighbouring countries who are always aggressively in the combative mood. Why is the Supreme Court silent on such blatant subversive activities?

Very recently, one senior leader of the national party even scoffed at Prime Minister Modi by calling him a depraved being “Neech”. What are the criteria for one being morally low? Has PM Modi fallen short any standards of the integrity since he works sincerely hard and formulates innovative plans and schemes for the greater welfare of the nation? Well, has he not been constitutionally elected by the people of this country? Why the media is less aggressive and more defensive for those “transgressors” who wield daggers behind the cloak.

Whatsoever be the political dispensation at the center, such open rebellion against the government will not augur well for the nation and its 1.25 billion citizens.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter Handle @SGewali

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Beatles, Apple, Facebook knew India more than Indians

Famous non-Indian celebrities know more about India and its past

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The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture.
The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture. Wikipedia

-By Salil Gewali

Facebook’s Chairman Mark Zuckerberg had dropped a bombshell on the “secularists” in India during PM Modi’s visit to his campus in California. It’s all about the Facebook connection with India. Initially, it was never a bed of roses for what is now a household name “FACEBOOK” across the world. This world-famous ‘social networking service company’ had its own share of bad times. Revealing for the first time in the meeting at the Facebook office upbeat Zuckerberg told PM Narendra Modi that Steve Jobs, the founder Chairman of Apple, had advised him to visit a certain temple in India for blessings. The revelation may have caused heartburn to many. More so in India where so-called secular and snooty folks have long acquired a proclivity to look down upon their own culture, religion, and values while being appreciative of any bizarre customs and styles of the West. Yes, heeding the advice of his mentor Steve Jobs the depressed Mark had visited the temple and toured around India for nearly a month.

Facebook's CEO tells about India.
Facebook’s CEO tells about India. wikipedia

Well, the American techno-wizard Steve Jobs had himself spent over six months in India in 1974. He was here in quest of the higher meaning of life and spiritual solace. As understood, from early age Steve was quite haunted by a good deal of unanswered questions. Of course, his encounter with a book “Be Here Now” by Richard Alpert, a Harvard Professor, had opened up a gateway to the spiritualism of the East. This book had also introduced him to a mystic Yogi ‘Neem Karoli Baba’. That later inspired Steve to set out the journey for the East. As soon as Steve and his friend Daniel Kottke arrived India they directly went to meet the Guru in Kainchi Dham Ashram in Nainital. But to their disappointment, they found the Baba had already passed away some months earlier. Nevertheless, the urge to dive deeper into the spiritualism did not die away. They shaved their heads and put on Indian clothes and undertook an extensive meditation and yogic practices.

The most significant impact that had made upon Steve’s life was a book “Autobiography of a Yogi”by Paramhansa Yogananda. It is on record that he would read this book too frequently, at least once every year until his death, 2011. This book had given him the practical insight into what exactly this world is about and how a layman can prepare himself to realize the Supreme knowledge. The first-hand account of a Yogi with empirical approaches to know oneself this book by Yogananda is a smash hit manual now among the seekers of the Eastern spiritualism.

Yes, by dint of hard work, intuition and innovation Steve stood out as one of the most successful techno-tycoons of the modern times. As much known, Jobs was hardly possessed by the luxury of riches and materialistic vanity. He just regarded his entrepreneurship as a tool to awaken his dormant potentialities. The chairman of Salesforce.com and famous philanthropist Marc Benioff says with conviction — “If you want to understand Steve, it’s a good idea to dig into ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’.” It is this book which Steve’s family had given to all the guests as a last gift at his memorial service.

Here we can’t afford to ignore the Beatle’s fascination for INDIA as well. The band members that were basking in the opulence of materialistic riches and glory visited India (Rishikesh) in search of inner peace. They met with Sri Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and learnt from him Transcendental meditation (TM) who laid bare methods to feel true bliss within. Sri Maharshi is a big name in the West having a huge following that includes celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, Russell Brand, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Aniston, Modern physicist Dr. John Hagelin, to name a few. The Beatle’s Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr often assist a Hollywood Director/actor David Lynch to organize the Transcendental meditation under ‘David Lynch Foundation’ across USA and the European countries. George Harrison later took refuge in Bhakti Yoga. The founder of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada showed him the pathway to the Supreme Consciousness.

What basically pulls the rational westerners to India is less known to Indians themselves. It’s shamefully paradoxical. From early 19th Century, the philosophical literary treasure troves and Yoga of India found more admirers in the foreign lands than at home. Indeed, the philosophy of the “laws of karma” and the presence of all-power-divinity within every being and everywhere — which any human being can realize irrespective of one’s caste, creed, nationality, and color, has intensely stirred the greatest of the great minds of the West. The ancient texts hold out a whole bunch of keys to unlock oneself and know his/her relationship with the Supreme Being which in fact seems very reasonable to the West. Further, the complex studies of world-view by Modern scientists are gradually arriving at the same conclusion what the ancient sages of India expounded over five thousands year back that ‘creation and creator are ONE’. Interconnection, inter-relation and interdependence among every individual particle/object, living or non-living, in the infinite universe — which is the fundamental tenets of the Eastern philosophy, provided a new light of wisdom to the the modern physicists like Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Julius Oppenheimer, Brain David Josephson, David Bohm, John Stewart Bell et al.

Well, Indian’s contribution to the western academia is immeasurable — though deliberately undermined or less discussed in India itself. It’s very worthwhile to recall a famous proclamation by our western master whom we hold in the highest esteem. TS Eliot, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, asserts: “Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys”.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.