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After the recent release of over 80 hardcore Taliban prisoners, after the Loya Jirga assembled in Kabul gave the go-ahead for the release of the last of 400 Taliban prisoners, a temporary halt on the release of the remaining 320 prisoners is in effect, as a few more countries (France and Australia) shared the apprehensions of the Afghan government and public, that the prisoners in question had conducted serious violent attacks on Afghans and foreigners.
The release was part of a peace agreement signed between the Taliban and the US on February 29 this year to clear the last hurdle for the beginning of intra-Afghan talks, to give peace a chance in Afghanistan. A quick announcement of US withdrawal of another 4,000 troops, post-Loya Jirga’s decision, indicated US fulfillment of its obligations as per the deal. The US may commend its Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, the architect of the deal for allowing the US to withdraw its forces and end its longest-ever war, but the fact is that the Taliban controls more territory in Afghanistan now than at the time when the US entered the war, and the terror groups like al Qaeda, Islamic State (IS), Haqqani Network co-exist with Taliban, with an opportunity to bounce back, if not be adequately in control. The peace deal does not guarantee the success of intra-Afghan dialogue; hence all stakeholders have to wait and see its progress with hope, as well as apprehension.
Has the US created strategic space for others?
India, having made significant investments in Afghanistan, will always hope for an Afghan elected, Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process and a popular democratic government in Afghanistan. However, the Taliban continues to be a force to reckon with. The US-led invasion ousted the Taliban post-September 11, 2001 attacks. After losing 2,400 US soldiers, tens of thousands of Afghan troops, Taliban fighters and Afghan civilians and spending more than $1 trillion, war fatigue of 19 years for peace of another country, is enough reason to pull out. Besides, there was President Trump’s election promise to end the war. The Taliban’s assurance of not allowing the use of the Afghan soil for terrorism seems too good to be true; hence the US defense chief indicated that it will not hesitate to nullify the deal if the Taliban failed to hold its promises as per the deal.
The complete withdrawal of US forces will also amount to ceding the crucial strategic space to its competitors; hence the US has made adequate promise to help the Afghan government in combating the al-Qaeda/IS/Haqqani network to ensure that it does not become strong enough to strike its mainland again. The Afghan government had no choice but to go along with the deal due to lack of any leverage, as the Taliban refused to talk to them and the election results were not convincing enough to put them in the driver’s seat; hence the intra-Afghan dialogue, through this route, was the only workable option for them.
The Afghan National Security Forces still need much more capacity building to withstand inimical forces. It indirectly means that the US is considering some support to Afghan Forces, maybe little air support, and some troops, albeit in reduced strength to continue. Another compulsion of the US for such compromise could be to reduce some engagements of troops, as some more flashpoints are emerging for them in the dynamic international scenario post the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new peace spoilers
The Taliban and Pakistan’s promise to renounce support to al-Qaeda and fighting ISIS is unrealistic, because ISKP, AQIS, and Haqqani network is already active, with no visible disturbance from the Taliban and continued support from Pakistan. The Taliban will continue to use violence as leverage for a better bargaining position even in intra-Afghan talks. The recent attack by ISKP on the Afghan prison housing Taliban prisoners amongst many others, the earlier attack on a Sikh Gurdwara resulting in heavy casualties, and the new Pakistani leader from the Haqqani network joining ISKP, indicates close linkages of all the terrorist groups, including Pakistan-based terror groups. A weak Afghan government has resulted in the conglomeration of a variety of terror groups in Afghanistan who have their own agenda and, hence, can be spoilers of peace at any time. The Taliban will not sit quietly unless it gains power. Even if its leaders put up a facade of giving reasonable governance if brought into the power structure, its cadres are unlikely to settle down without Sharia rule.
The Pakistan-Afghanistan border clash earlier this month along the Durand Line, which is apparently being unilaterally fenced, in the light of a weak Afghan government, could be a quick gain for Pakistan but will remain a friction point in the long run as it divides Pashtuns. A strong Taliban suits Pakistan, as it helped in its survival and shrinks Indian space in Afghanistan. It may, however, have its own limitations as the Taliban did not make any concessions to Pakistan on the Durand Line, even when they were in power. The reconciliation of all factions within Afghanistan is also as difficult as change of behavior of the Taliban.
New concerns for India
The Chinese are keen to extend the BRI to Afghanistan to get an alternate axis to warm water in the Gulf should the CPEC face problems, besides exploiting the mineral wealth of Afghanistan. China has been actively involved with the Taliban during the peace process. Iran is economically weak and needs Chinese support. The China-Iran strategic partnership fructifying the $400 billion deal may be an impediment for Indian entry routes into Afghanistan through Chabahar and further connectivity to the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), although Iran has not given any signals of disruption of these projects. From the Indian point of view, it may not be a happy situation in light of its heavy investments. India is in touch with Russia, whose interests do converge with India’s in this region, being a stakeholder in INSTC for connectivity with CAR and Eurasia. INSTC, through Afghanistan, is the shortest route for CAR to warm water, hence they will prefer it over the Sino-Pakistan offer of connectivity through CPEC.
India has to be watchful of the Iran-Pakistan-China axis developing in the neighborhood of Afghanistan, with tentacles in the form of terror groups inside it. India has to be concerned about the growing strength and maneuvering space of ISKP and AQIS, who have an agenda to increase their influence in the Indian subcontinent, although the Taliban has shown willingness to work with India and doesn’t seem to have an anti-India agenda as of now. Since 2001, India has undertaken projects worth $3 billion in Afghanistan. Besides engaging with all stakeholders, including the Taliban, a watch on anti-India nexus of terror groups in Afghanistan is in India’s national interest.
India needs to exercise some smart diplomacy to convince the US that Indian engagement with Iran is as essential to prevent loss of crucial strategic space of Afghanistan to China, as much as the token presence of US troops there. The US is committed to withdrawing some troops, but it remains to be seen whether this peace deal will work, or the US pullback will leave behind a stronger Taliban, growing IS, emerging AQIS, suffering population of Afghanistan, and new challenges for India. (IANS)
By Siddhi Jain
The author who named the book after her twin sons -- Puhor and Niyor -- is a parent who has seen and heard the tales of ridicule and discrimination suffered by many in India and beyond. She says the book is an artistic illustration for kids that details how different families can live and coexist. Whether it's children with two dads or two moms, children with a single dad or single mom, and even multiracial family units, Borthakur's book teaches love, understanding, and compassion towards unconventional families.
Beyond race, gender, color, and ethnicity which have formed the bases for discrimination since the beginning of time, this book aims to bring to light a largely ignored issue. For so long, single parents have been treated like a taboo without any attempt to understand their situations; no one really cares how or why one's marriage ended but just wants to treat single parents as villains simply for choosing happiness and loving their children.
Homosexual parents, a relatively new family system, is another form that has suffered hate and discrimination for many years. Pritisha emphasizes the need to understand that diversity in people and family is what makes the world beautiful and colourful. 'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories' is a firm but compassionate statement against all forms of discrimination on the bases of sexual identity, gender, race, and even differences in background
'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories' is a firm but compassionate statement against all forms of discrimination on the bases of sexual identity, gender, race and even differences in background. | Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash
Written for a global audience, the book is targeted at kids between the ages of five and 10, the reason it is embellished with colourful images of families of different types is to appeal to children's sense of sight and drive home the message at the same time. Borthakur believes children are the best place to start because the ages between five and 10 are the most formative, where little ones pick up habits, beliefs and perceptions.
The Guwahati-born author says, "With this book, I'm not trying to take away the job of parents in forming habits, I simply want to do my part as a parent. It is important that we impart the right values in our kids in a bid to build a better, more inclusive and tolerant global society that is fair to everyone." The author's first attempt at a book was an Assamese poetry 'Anubhav', published in 2010.
Set to be published under the label of Author's Channel, the book is like an adventure; a journey into uncharted territories, untouched subjects and matters long ignored. In her words. "The book takes a critical stand in defense of people in society who have had to undergo severe emotional torture for no cause of theirs. It is a terrible conception to think such people any less of a human just for being different," says publisher Aruna Naidu. By September 30, this title, priced at Rs 299, will be available online and in offline bookstores. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Book, children, Guwahati, Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories, moral, story, kids, discrimination, equality
If you feel that clean and well-groomed hands are just an essential prerequisite for women, you might like to think twice. Men should equally pay attention to their hands because our hand houses 1,500 bacteria living on each square centimeter of its skin. You can easily assume what havoc it can create in our body because in India we have the culture of eating with our hands and spaces beneath nails can become breeding heaven for germs. Moreover, clean and maintained hands boost confidence in their daily life activities. Therefore, it's important to keep your hands clean irrespective of your gender by washing or sanitizing at regular intervals. And, to keep them groomed, you don't have to visit a salon.
Rajesh U Pandya, Managing Director, KAI India, gives easy and completely doable tips to follow at home:
* Refrain from harsh soaps: You should be mindful of the soap you are using to wash your hands. Your soap can have a moisturizing element in it like aloe vera or shea butter. Ensure that you're washing your hands with normal water as hot water can make your hand's skin dry and scaly.
You should be mindful of the soap you are using to wash your hands. | Photo by Aurélia Dubois on Unsplash
* Clip your nails regularly: Make use of your personal nail clipper to cut your nails. After cutting your nails at a comfortable length also file them using a nail filer. Never share your nail care clipper as the germs can get transferred to your loved ones. Also, don't forget to use grime remover to remove hidden germs in corners and beneath nails. Also, you may like to file your nails to have a smooth finish.
* Good quality Nail Clipper: Do not use a rusted or chromium coated nail clipper as it might be harmful to skin and might cause dangerous bacterial infections.
* Stop the habit of nail chewing: Sometimes anxiety or extreme boredom can lead to chewing of nails. This habit only makes your nails uneven and ugly. Sometimes, our unclean nail folds give rise to viral, bacterial or fungal infections, which in turn can make us sick if we chew our nails.
Make use of your personal nail clipper to cut your nails. | Pixabay
* Exfoliate your hands: Similar to the way you exfoliate your face; your hands also need it. It helps to keep the dry skin at bay and keep your hands soft. You can buy a scrub or make one at home using brown sugar and olive oil. After scrubbing, you need to massage your hands with moisturizer.
Similar to the way you exfoliate your face; your hands also need it. It helps to keep the dry skin at bay and keep your hands soft. | Wikipedia
* Don't use your nails as tools: Always keep in mind that your nails are like jewels. Never use them to pry things open such as pop cans, removing keys from the ring, opening letters, or scraping off labels. This results in unnecessary breakage of nails, making your hands look dirty.
Never use your nails to pry things open such as pop cans, removing keys from the ring, opening letters or scraping off labels. | Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash
* Be aware of nail or cuticle inflammation or redness: If there are any signs of infection, disinfect the skin as soon as possible with an anti-bacterial or anti-fungal ointment.
(Article originally written by N.Lothungbeni Humtsoe) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Nails, groom, hand, exfoliate, chew, nail clipper, bite, cuticle
Bitcoin has become an essential crypto asset in modern portfolios and investment funds. The confidence generated in this cryptocurrency will depend a lot on the diversification that companies make in their balance sheets in Bitcoin and the increase of institutional investors that allocate a percentage of their funds in this crypto. American fund manager Cathie Wood makes some interesting predictions, both in the rise that the Bitcoin price will experience in the next 5 years, suggesting these institutional investors allocate 5% of their funds; this will help leverage the Bitcoin market.
Bitcoin will grow by a tenfold
Bitcoin is projected to grow by 10 times its current value in five years, i.e., it could reach $500,000. Of course, this will require companies to invest in cryptocurrencies. This makes it necessary to increase the weight of Bitcoin on balance sheets through investments. One of the investment gurus who supports this prediction is Catherine Wood. Contrarily, Ray Dalio, despite being clear that relying on cash is not a good strategy, views Bitcoin with suspicion, although he calls for its investment. This behavior is due to the actions of governments against the cryptocurrency market.
If something is undoubted is the vertiginous increase that cryptocurrencies have had in general, they have risen more than 60% so far this year. So, even when some governments are trying to regulate cryptocurrencies, they will fail. This attempt to regulate will end up triggering even more cryptos, especially Bitcoin, which is the oldest and most solid of that market.
Bitcoin, is the oldest and most solid of the market. | Photo by Executium on Unsplash
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The current Bitcoin price means is time to buy:
The current price of bitcoin invites you to buy, and perhaps it would be foolhardy not to. In either case, bitcoin will always represent money. Maybe some external factors generate some misgivings, but if you refuse to invest in cryptocurrencies, you are basically denying the near future, it would be as if you didn't have a cell phone or internet.
In India, more and more people are becoming convinced of the benefits of holding some Bitcoin. This can be clearly seen in the rapid increase in the number of new accounts at crypto exchanges such as WazirX and CoinDCX.
ALSO READ: How can you trade in Bitcoin in India?
Bitcoin, despite its fluctuations, represents an excellent financial strategy. The support users give is significant. The same cannot be said of the FIAT currencies, which have lost value and support, showing how fragile they are, being subjected to a constant devaluation. As long as confidence in cryptos grows, the foundations will continue to be laid to maintain their rise and to be able to continue making transactions. We know this by previous experience, as has happened with Ether, thanks mainly to the growing activity of Defi and NFT, i.e. decentralized finance and non-fungible tokens.
Remember that when you invest in Bitcoin, you can do it by buying or trading. When you want to make these transactions do it in a secure Exchange, study your finances to invest, manage the risk, and learn to manage your portfolio efficiently.