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The scenario in the Middle East is changing fast and at the centre of it is neither the United States or the coalition of countries it leads nor Russia but Saudi Arabia, the Wahabi country which had so long acted as the source and ultimate prop of many Islamist activities in the Arab world. A Continuous crash of oil prices and the rise of the Islamic States (IS) have forced Riyadh to move away from the US sphere of influence and start charting out its own course.
Notwithstanding the recent execution of Sheikh Nimr-al-Nimr, the opposition Shiite cleric, it can be said with a fair amount of certainty that Riyadh is now trying to come out of its self-created cocoon.
Two recent developments point out that Saudi Arabia is prepared to give Russia space in Middle Eastern affairs. First, preparations are on for Saudi King Salman’s visit to Russia later this year. Secondly, the Saudi deputy crown prince and defence minister, Mohammed Bin Salman, visited Russia last June. Following closely on this, Turki-al-Faisal, the former intelligence chief, stated that Russian actions in Syria were more effective than those of the US and that Russia’s views merit attention and respect.
But it would be wrong to presume that Saudi Arabia is aligning with Russia on the Syrian question. Riyadh is worried about Iranian expansion in the Middle East and the US taking a soft line on the country after the nuclear agreement with Tehran. Saudi Arabia will now try to dominate the Middle East scenario on its own and in keeping with this line, Turkish President Recep Erdogan visited Saudi Arabia on December 30, 2015. Riyadh has also built up a strong coalition comprising the oil-rich Arab countries.
But, will Saudi Arabia be really able to dominate the Middle Eastern scenario? Objective conditions preclude such a possibility. There are unmistakable signs that willy-nilly it is tilting towards Russia although that may not be the wish of the Saudi Royal household. Two principal reasons for it are the military fatigue in Yemen and a resource crunch due to Syria. There will be a $100 billion deficit in Saudi Arabia’s budget for 2016. Last year, the budget deficit was 21.6 percent of the GDP and the country barely managed to survive by earlier petrodollar savings.
What will, however, affect the Middle East scenario the most is the decision by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency to withdraw $70 billion from foreign investment fund assets last summer. This will certainly cut down on siphoning off money to terror-related organizations through official channels. Moreover, the financial health of Saudi Arabia’s friends in the region is also not good. Reliable estimates put the budget deficits of Middle Eastern oil exporting countries in the next five years around $1 trillion.
It is difficult to predict how long Saudi Arabia can keep up the pressure in Yemen or Syria with such a shaky financial condition. It may not go bankrupt in the near future but the Saudi royal family must look for avenues to push up prices of oil, which came down to less than $50 a barrel last September, a sharp nose-dive from $103 in September 2014.
Here lies the raison d’ etre for Saudi overtures to Russia for cooperation. Riyadh is now looking for an “alliance for oil” partnership with Russia which will also give it a foothold in the Eurasian Economic Union. With this end in view, Prince Salman had talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Sochi Olympics in 2014. This was followed by the Russian energy minister’s talks with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Three consecutive IS attacks on Saudi mosques have reportedly convinced King Salman about the need for fashioning a new security strategy that puts a premium on choosing an independent course of action, away from US tutelage. Even on Yemen, Saudi Arabia is now open to negotiations. Although Riyadh still demands the removal of Bashr-al-Assad as a precondition for ushering in of peace in Syria, yet Brigadier General Ali Mamlouk, head of the Syrian National Security Bureau, was hosted in Riyadh by no less than the deputy crown prince last July.
Russian military intervention in the Middle East has induced a new type of assessment among all the stakeholders. The US-led coalition’s attack on the IS has undergone a qualitative change. The US attacks are now hitting the IS really hard. Meanwhile, to establish its credibility with international powers, King Salman has fired Prince Bandar, a former intelligence chief, who had his fingers in many CIA-orchestrated operations. Now, a secret Saudi Arabian document has surfaced which shows that the King Salman-led administration has instructed its Middle Eastern embassies not to fund Syrian rebels anymore.
Does this really portend a fundamental shift in terror-related Middle Eastern politics? (IANS, Amitava Mukherjee), (image courtesy: dawatmedia.com)
Maharashtra produces the most exquisite hand weave in the country. These sarees are considered the most treasured fabrics among all others, and to own one is a luxury. It was mainly propagated during the time of the Mughals and is something that still lives on.
The Paithani weave is known for its tight weave. Each saree uses nearly 500 grams of pure silk and 250 grams of silver thread. These two threads are woven together in such a way that the fabric has a lustre from the silver threads. It is usually decorated with peacocks, lotus, or vine motifs.
Aurangzeb, the last Mughal ruler of India, patronized the Paithani saree to the extent that he cut off the hands of the Jamdani weavers so that more people focused on weaving the Paithani saree. The name of the saree comes from the town of Paithan in Aurangabad.
An exhibition being held at Aurangabad, 2006, attended by eminent personalities, featured paithani sarees Image source: wikimedia commons
When the Industrial Revolution set in, the weavers were put out of business. The Peshwas took it upon themselves to carry on the art and settled in a town called Yeola, which is the centre of Paithani sarees today.
The traditional Maharashtrian bride always opts for a Paithani saree because of its richness and beauty. Paithani sarees are the only ones that are exactly identical on both sides. They do not lose their lustre at any time. Even the pallu of the saree is identical on both sides. Traditional sarees are available in basic colours obtained from vegetable dyes. These days, however, with the coming of the power loom, these sarees are not so much a work of art as they used to be. But those who can afford one, still invest in the hand-woven saree which is worn on festive occasions.
Keywords: Sarees, Paithani, Mughal, Weave, Handloom, Maharashtra
By Monika Manchanda
Eating fruits is one of the most satisfying ways to tackle sweet-tooth cravings while meeting your nutritional needs. Despite many studies and research on fruit consumption in diabetes, there are a lot of speculations on the right kind of fruit consumption and its relation to blood sugar levels.
Eating seasonal and locally available fruit has many health benefits ranging from reducing sugar and inflammation levels to fighting high blood pressure -- thanks to their abundant vitamins and mineral presence! They are a powerhouse of antioxidants like vitamins A, B, C, E, and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and fiber.
The fruits listed below are not just diabetic-friendly but are loaded with fiber and water content which can slow down the sugar spikes and sugar absorption rate. Apples are not just nutritious and filling; According to a study, they are significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes if consumed in moderation. Turns out there is a truth in the old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away", after all!
Apples are not just nutritious and filling; According to a study, they are significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes if consumed in moderation. | Photo by Pierpaolo Riondato on Unsplash
Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and more than 20 vitamins and minerals. They are high in fibers as well, and have been linked with lowering the risk of diabetes. Berries: Adding berries is one of the best ways to add a variety to your diabetes-friendly diet. You can choose from blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries because all of them are power-packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fibers. Papaya is rich in natural oxidants, which makes it a perfect pick for people with diabetes. It reduces the chances of future cell damage.
Star fruit: This sweet and sour fruit is rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C. It also positively impacts anti-inflammatory processes and can help repair cell damage, and it has minimal fruit sugars as well. Kiwi fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin E, K, and potassium, and they are low in fruit sugars as well, which makes it a perfect diabetic-friendly fruit.
Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and more than 20 vitamins and minerals. | Photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash
Melons (Musk melon and watermelon): Powerful hydrating fruits like cantaloupe and melons are recommended for people with diabetes, and people with the risk of developing diabetes. Eat-in moderation for multiple nutritional benefits like fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B, and C. Dragon fruit is full of dietary fibers, vital vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Pear are nutrient-rich, and they are known to fight inflammation and improve digestion.? Studies also suggest that consuming pears along with a healthy diet reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. Orange: This citrus fruit is full of fiber that helps slow down sugar absorption into the bloodstream, and its vitamin C component helps improve immunity levels.
Add fruit to your salads to enjoy their goodness with a sprinkle of cinnamon, it tastes better and reduces sugar spikes . | Photo by Jo Sonn on Unsplash
Add fruit to your salads to enjoy their goodness with a sprinkle of cinnamon, it tastes better and reduces sugar spikes . Add nuts like walnuts and almonds to complement your fruit snack. you can also add flaxseeds to balance the glycemic load in the body. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Diabetics, Apples, Star fruit, Pear, Melons, Kiwi fruit
By Nimerta C Sharan
Your monthly round up of the latest lifestyle launches, from luxury indulgences to artisanal creations, here's what you can look forward to :
Exciting news for all handbag lovers, luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton recently launched their limited edition handbags 'Artycapucines - Chapter 3'. Six internationally -- acclaimed artists have transformed the black canvas of the timeless Capucines bag into beautiful art pieces. Each bag will be available in a limited edition of 200 and will be released worldwide at the end of October 2021.
Exciting news for all handbag lovers, luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton recently launched their limited edition handbags. | Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash
Add To Cart
Looking for a quick festive fashion fix for you and your loved ones? E-commerce giant AJIO has announced it's hottest fashion sale starting September 30, 2021. The shopping platform has roped in stylista Sonam Kapoor as the face of the sale that will offer more than 2500 brands at discounted prices.
E-commerce giant AJIO has announced it's hottest fashion sale starting September 30, 2021. | Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash
The country's leading design house, Good Earth, in collaboration with textile designer Madeline Weinrib will present its collection of 'butah' motif dinnerware and home textiles at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New York. The 'Heirloom Project' that honours diverse Islamic design techniques will display curated products from across the globe.
The 'Heirloom Project' that honours diverse Islamic design techniques will display curated products from across the globe. | Photo by Jean Vella on Unsplash
Sweet dreams are made of this! Iconic French patisserie Laduree has opened its first Indian outpost at Delhi's upscale Khan Market. Spread over three floors, the bakery currently has twelve macaron flavours, their signature pastries and tea cakes and other brunch and high-tea items on the menu. Bon appetit.
Iconic French patisserie Laduree has opened its first Indian outpost at Delhi's upscale Khan Market. | Pixabay
Bright And Beautiful
Raw Mango's latest festive edit 'Moomal' goes live on their website on September 26, 2021. Inspired by the richness and diversity of Rajasthan, the collection consists of organza and silk saris and shararas, gota lehengas and kurtas and embroidered odhnis. The colours and silhouettes are just right for the upcoming festive season. (IANS/ MBI)
Raw Mango's latest festive edit 'Moomal' goes live on their website on September 26, 2021. | Photo by Souravi Sinha on Unsplash
Keywords: Lifestle, AJIO, sale, Deepika PAdukone, saris, Motifs, artisan, art