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Xi’s message on Friday to Prime Minister Narendra Modi extending Beijing’s support to counter the second Covid wave in India is a major step, marking the first direct communication between the two leaders following the Chennai informal summit in 2019.
Interestingly, Xi reached out to the Prime Minister, after US President Joe Biden and the Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken to Modi, and followed up their conversation with the dispatch of planeloads of essential medical supplies to counter the second vicious wave of Covid-19.
It is likely that China, which now prides itself as a “responsible global power,” did not want to be left out when key members of the UN Security Council, including Britain and France, apart from the US and Russia had reached out to New Delhi.
Yet, Xi’s outreach is significant, as Beijing now would surely be testing an Indian response. For India, the game of smoke and mirrors has already begun. New Delhi’s response must be measured and proportionate and should test out whether, behind Xi’s statement, there is a Chinese intent to dial down the frictions between the two countries.
For starters, does President Xi want to reduce tensions along the borders, which have not abated since the pullbacks from the Pangong Tso in Eastern Ladakh? Further withdrawals are likely to take place once the key strategic concerns of India and China are met. From an Indian perspective, the possibility of a two-front war involving China and Pakistan is a serious security concern.
From a Chinese perspective, India must not pose a threat to Aksai Chin, the area which provides a strategic link between Tibet and Xinjiang. If the Chinese are serious about normalizing, Xi’s message should be followed up with an offer for talks between the Special Representative of the two countries–National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and China’s State Councillor Wang Yi. Only if genuine progress on the borders is made by China, only then may India look at de-hyphenating the security and economic tracks between the two countries, which were fused in June last year, following the bitter Galwan valley clash between the two militaries.
Significantly, the Chinese have been sending feelers of their inclination to reach out to India only this week. After the Americans and Russian had taken to lead to bond with India to counter the second Covid wave. On Wednesday, Chinese ambassador to India, Sun Weidong tweeted that “Chinese medical suppliers are working overtime on orders from India, at least 25000 orders for oxygen concentrators in recent days. Cargo planes are under the plan for medical supplies. Chinese customs will facilitate the relevant process.”
The reference to “cargo planes” was apparently meant to bury the “scandal” of Sichuan Airlines refusing to fly its cargo planes directly to India with essential supplies, citing fears of contracting the virus. On Thursday, Chinese state councilor and foreign minister Wang Yi also got into the act of perception management. In a letter to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Wang assured his counterpart that, “anti-pandemic materials produced in China are entering India at a faster pace to help India fight the epidemic”. He further added that “The Chinese side will continue to do its utmost to provide support and help according to the needs of India.”
Earlier on Monday the logistics arm under Sichuan Airlines decided to resume cargo services to India. “We are re-evaluating the original plan of suspending cargo services to India, and actively discussing a new plan to guarantee cargo services to the region,” the company said in a reply sent to the Global Times on Monday.
Ambassador Sun also sought to create the impression that there has been no interruption in Chinese supplies to India. Without mentioning any specific dates, he tweeted on Thursday that, “Since this April, #China has supplied more than 5000 ventilators, 21569 oxygen generators, over 21.48 million masks & around 3800 tons of medicines to #India, according to statistics of the General Administration of Customs of China.” (IANS/JC)
The Centre will launch a pilot project on the use of indigenously manufactured drones for delivering medicines in the undulating landscape of Jammu and surrounding areas from Saturday with a focus on vaccines delivery initially. "This is going to be a pilot project for the area. The drone is developed and manufactured entirely by our scientists," Union Minister for Science & Technology, Dr Jitendra Singh told mediapersons. Singh said he himself will be launching the project at Jammu.
The drone is developed by the scientists at Bengaluru's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a constituent of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an autonomous Society that is headed by the Prime Minister. For now, the delivery would be limited to Covid vaccines and once successful, it would be expanded to be used for regular delivery of medicines in the remote, hilly areas.
The drone is developed by the scientists at Bengaluru's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL). | Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash
Jammu and surrounding areas are sensitive in terms of the strategic importance. Some months ago, there was an attack on an Army installation using drones. Will the 'drones for vaccines' be permitted in such a case? Allaying fears, a top official from the Ministry of S&T said, "The drones would be deployed by authorised agencies such as hospitals, not anybody can use it, nor would any random person be permitted to use it."
NAL has called the drone as 'Octacopter' and it can fly at an operational altitude of 500 m AGL and at maximum flying speed of 36 kmph. It can be used for a variety of BVLOS applications for last mile delivery like medicines, vaccines, food, postal packets, Human organs (such as heart for heart transplantation) etc. NAL Octacopter is integrated with a powerful on-board embedded computer and latest generation sensors for versatile applications like agricultural pesticide spraying, crop monitoring, mining survey, magnetic geo survey mapping etc., S&T officials had said. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Jammu, Vaccines, Medicines, Deliver, Drones, Centre
Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan shares how he feels when people compare him with his father Amitabh Bachchan on the singing reality show 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa'. He also requests contestant Rajshree Bag to sing a track 'Bahon Mein Chale Aao' featuring his mother Jaya Bachchan.
Abhishek said after looking at the performance of Rajshree, who is often compared with Lata Mangeshkar on the show, that she reminds him of being compared with his father. "Rajshree, whenever I have got the chance to watch the show, I've seen people compare you to Lata didi. It actually reminded me about how people compare me with my father and ask me how I feel about it."
According to him Amitabh Bachchan is a great actor in the industry and this is what he says to everyone making these comparisons. "My answer to them is that there's no greater actor in this film industry than Amitabh Bachchan and if I'm being compared to him, I am sure I must have done something good."
"Similarly, your voice has a different kind of magic like Lata ji and that's why people are comparing your voice with her. I feel you should always take this as a compliment," he concluded. 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa' airs on Saturday and Sunday on Zee TV. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, reality show, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Rajshree Bag
Winters in India have always beckoned for that hot, steaming bowl of tomato and pepper rasam or the mellow, millet based Raab. Certain dishes like sarson ka saag, undhiyu, nimona pulao are winter specialites in the country. Seasonal food has always been an Indian speciality -- we switch our choice in fruits, vegetables, sometimes even grains with the onset of different season. The preference of using specific ingredients during certain climates is visible in our sweets as well. It's common to find local and traditional delicacies made of jaggery, instead of sugar during the winters. Case in point -- the Nolen Gur Rasgulla, a speciality made in Odisha and West Bengal between November to February.
Celebrity chef, Sanjeev Kapoor, strongly advocates this need of eating seasonal produce. He says, "The beauty of our food is in our seasonal usage of fruits and vegetables. If you realise, Gajar ka halwa is made aplenty during winters as this is the season when beautiful red carrots hit the market or mango pickle is made during summer, thanks to its availability. Despite people and sometimes, even me, suggesting that we should eat fresh as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables, we do not know what chemicals are sprayed on them to keep them safe while they are growing. When this produce hits the market, there isn't a certifying agency like the FSSAI that will help people understand what vegetables and fruits are free of pesticides and germs and which ones don't. Hence, the onus lies on us to make them safe for consumption. ITC's Nimwash is a good solution."
When it comes to winters, the Chef recommends eating these fruit and vegetables:
* Purple Mogri -- Mogri or Radish pods are not a common sight throughout the country. But you can spot them during the winters in local markets in northern India where women pick them up to make raitas, curries and stir fries. Rich in magnesium, calcium and copper, the vegetable is known to aid people from digestive problems.
Mogri or Radish pods are not a common sight throughout the country, but you can spot them during the winters | Pixabay
* Sweet Potato -- A re-discovered favourite, Sweet potatoes have created a space for itself in the millennial kitchen. With its diverse addition in burgers, chips and even chat, the root vegetable is filled with nutrients such as fibres and vitamins.
Sweet potatoes have created a space for itself in the millennial kitchen. | Wikimedia Commons
* Avarekalu -- Called Hyacinth beans in English, Avarekalu is a winter speciality in the south that is added to sambhar, saagu, rotis, etc. Bangalore is famed for its Averakalu mela during the winter months, where you can find these beans in dosas, Pani puri and even Jalebis! Thronged by crowds from all over the city, the food fest is a gourmand's delight.
Called Hyacinth beans in English, Avarekalu is a winter speciality in the south that is added to sambhar, saagu, rotis, etc. | Wikimedia Commons
* Amla -- The Indian gooseberry is a common winter fruit found through the country. High in Vitamin C, it is known to be immunity building and extremely beneficial for the skin and hair. There are multiple ways to eat Amla -- it is pickled, made into a fruit preserve called as Murraba or even eaten by sprinkling salt over it.
The Indian gooseberry is a common winter fruit found through the country. | Pixabay
(Article originally published on IANSlife) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: winter, Sanjeev Kapoor, chef, Indian gooseberry, Sweet Potato, Radish pods