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JeM top commander killed in encounter in Kashmir

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Pakistani Terrorists of JeM

Two Pakistani terrorists including the chief of Jaish-E-Mohammad, the charitable group in Pakistan which launched attacks on Indian Parliament in New Delhi in 2001, have been killed in two separate encounter with Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir, India.

Masood Azhar, who was released by India in exchange for Indian and International passengers of hijacked IC 814, was sent back home to Pakistan. In no less than two months he formed the group Jaish-e-Mohammad. There very first attack was on Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in 2001 just after two years of the plane hijacking, which left 40 people killed in the name of religion. There bravest (according to them) attack which made them hero and very popular back home in Pakistan was the attack on the Parliament of World’s largest democracy on 13th Dec, 2001 in New Delhi. After Mumbai attack in 2008, Indian intelligence agencies had pin pointed the location of Azhar, but Pakistan denied it and then had safely shifted him to the guest house of Pakistan’s Army Cantonment in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. His safety is very crucial for Pakistan as through him Pakistan is able to launch various illegal operations in India.

Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorist group is also known as Tehreek-e-Khuddam-ul-Islam, which collects funds and campaigns as Al Rehmat Trust. The fund money is used to recruit and train new terrorists and to plan and launch attack on India.

The death of the Top Commander of JeM is a big achievement for Indian forces at the time when various Pakistani charity/terrorists group are looking to attack on Cricket World Cup stadiums in India and ban India also from ICC game hosting sites just like Pakistan was banned few years back when a group of terrorists attacked Sri Lankan Cricket team after they lost the match. The Border Security Force also found in its road-opening party a powerful IED planted by militants at village Haigam on Sopore-Kupwara highway on Thursday morning. Though according to the sources it was later defused.

At the time when Indian forces are celebrating, the news has caused concerns and change in strategy of Pakistan. Intelligence bureau of India has already alerted the coastal states about Pakistan’s use of sea route once again to attack cricket stadiums. The attack may be on par with Mumbai 2008 attack. According to the bureau many have entered India and few are yet to arrive. Indian agencies would never have thought hosting cricket can become so tough and risky.

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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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India

Iran’s Chabahar Port: How India, Afghanistan, and Iran Gain From it

Manak Suri

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November 11, 2017 was a significant day diplomatically and geopolitically for Iran, India, and Afghanistan. A trilateral cooperation between the three countries saw Afghanistan receive its first shipment of wheat from India which was set in motion by India’s minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj on October 29 along with her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani. The shipment was the first among a series as part of India’s commitment to supply 1.1 million tons of wheat to the people of the country suffering from decades of war and instability. At the center of this achievement lies Iran’s Chabahar port and the trilateral International Transport and Transit Corridor Agreement between the three countries.

The Iranian port in Chabahar: why it is so important

The Iranian port is located in the country’s southernmost city of Chabahar, and has periodically found itself making headlines especially as the Asian powerhouses in India and China compete for influence in the seas to establish trade relationships across Asia, Europe, and Africa. As China pumps more and more investment into its mammoth Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a modern take on the Silk Route to connect 60 countries across the three continents through land and sea routes, the port of Chabahar has over a period of time found its suitors in prime opponents of the BRI such as India and Japan with the former already investing around USD 500 million in the port. While the idea for the port’s development was first proposed in 1979, it is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2018.

It would be rather unrealistic to assume that the Chabahar port will challenge China’s BRI as a whole to a direct geopolitical contest. However, once fully operational, the port is expected to connect the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean with St. Petersburg in Russia and further ahead with Europe through the International North South Transport Corridor or the INSTC. India, Afghanistan, and Iran stand to gain in different ways both collectively and individually through this development in trade routes.

A win-win-win situation

The development of the Chabahar port presents the key for India to reforge an oil based relationship with Iran and to forge trade relations beyond Afghanistan with countries in Central Asia. Once the port is fully developed, it is expected to also carry a larger variety of cargo, including heavy engineering goods and electronics. With a much shorter route to Europe, the time taken to transport goods from ports in India to countries in Europe is expected to be reduced by more than half from the 45 days it currently takes for the cargo to reach its destination. It is also estimated the cost of the deliveries will be reduced by about 30-40%. Moreover, it seems extremely unlikely that India will be a part of the Chinese proposed BRI, given that an integral component of the initiative is the China Pakistan Economic Corrdior (CPEC) that runs through the Kashmir region whose ownership is hotly contested by both India and Pakistan. In that regard, the Chabahar port offers India the opportunity to challenge China at least in some capacity in their ever expanding contest for trade and influence across the globe, by connecting it to rail networks of different countries in Central Asia.

For a landlocked Afghanistan which has no direct access to the seas, the development of the Chabahar port and its agreement with India and Iran coming to fruition holds great significance. The port opens up the country to the world, and provides it with better access to trade, vastly reducing its dependency on its neighbour Pakistan and enabling it to forge even closer ties with India. Pakistan has in the past disallowed India to access the land route to Afghanistan for the provision of aid to the country. Now an alternate route through Chabahar allows for the same to reach the country first from the port to Zaranj, which is adjacent to Afghanistan’s border with Iran, and then further 218 km ahead into the country via the Zarang-Delaram highway.

For Iran, a fully functional seaport in Chabahar appears to be strategically important since it is located away from the historically contested waters of the Arabian Gulf. Recovering now from easing sanctions, Iran looks to climb the geopolitical ladder and reestablish itself in the coming decades. Amid worsening ties with the United States, it has caught the attention of China, Russia, and other countries in Europe and also looks to gain from its relation with India. The Chabahar port may just be the key to put an end to its economic isolation. Even with the United States and India recognising each other as allies, Iran has not yet found any opposition from the US against India’s cooperation with Iran on the port, and that is because the US recognises the benefit that Afghanistan is able to attain from India’s efforts through the Chabahar port.

India, Iran, and Afghanistan share historical civilisational ties and similarities and the same was referenced by Indian minister of external affairs Sushma Swaraj. “This shows the convergence between the ancient civilisations of India, Afghanistan and Iran to spur unhindered flow of commerce and trade throughout the region,” said Swaraj as she flagged off the first shipment of wheat to Afghanistan on October 29.

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Environment

A Choking City: What the Ongoing Toxic Week in Delhi Means for its People

Manak Suri

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flickr/pamnani

A joke on the morbidity of New Delhi is circulating among Delhiites (people from Delhi) that while the lives of the citizens were disrupted in November last year due to ‘note-bandi’ (ban on currency), November of this year presents an even tougher test for the people with ‘saans-bandi’, a ban on breathing. The receding autumn or advent of winter was a once beloved season of a good number of people in the city who welcomed the change with a complete revamp of their wardrobes with colourful woollens. It is now characterized with bleak skies, an air of gloom and a little bit of grey in everything you see outside of your house.

For the past three days, I have been acutely aware of the air I am breathing, felt unproductive and apprehensive in spells for no good reason, and felt the need to confine myself to my house for as long as possible. These are some of the less apparent effects of the thick blanket of smog that has engulfed the national capital region. As a number of people donned with different types of masks on the roads and on Snapchat serve as a constant visual reminder of how the city is choking, a flurry of articles and news updates have presided over my feed. One of them included a horrifying viral video recording of vehicles ramming into each other due to poor visibility on the Noida-Agra Expressway as people scrambled to get themselves and their children out of the way, while some other articles argued about how currently breathing in Delhi for a day is the equivalent of smoking twenty cigarettes.

A sudden state of emergency

Less than two days ago, when the air quality in Delhi visibly worsened, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal likened the city to a ‘gas chamber’. The PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels in different parts of the capital have rocketed above the levels that are considered safe, and the Safar (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research) has declared the air quality as ‘severe’ for at least the next three days after which the level may drop to a not so safe either ‘very poor’ level. In some parts of the city, the AQI (air quality index) was detected on monitors at 999, the highest possible reading, which suggests that the level might be even higher. The visibility during the early hours has also dropped to very low levels. Among the different reasons for the observed level of pollution in Delhi, slow winds at this time of the year have been identified as the prime contributor along with stubble burning by farmers in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana. Combined with the dust particles present in the air, omissions from vehicles that plague the roads in the region throughout the day, and those from factories and construction activities, these factors dictate a recipe for creating uninhabitable conditions.

Making amends: A scramble for order

The Indian Medical Association on 7th November declared Delhi to be in a state of public health emergency, urging the Delhi government and other bodies to take adequate steps to ensure minimum risk to citizens, especially young children and the elderly, who are most likely to suffer from the effects of pollution. After a worsening situation, the government has ordered all schools in the capital to remain shut till Sunday, and has rolled out plans to implement the odd-even scheme for vehicles in the city from next week. Parking fee throughout the city has also been increased fourfold and the prices for travel by the metro have been substantially reduced for the time being to promote the use of public transport. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also banned all construction and industrial activities till November 14 in a bid to provide the citizens of Delhi a breath of better quality air. Mr. Kejriwal has also approached his counterparts from Punjab and Haryana over the issue of stubble burning by the farmers but it remains to be seen how the move plays out in the coming days.

As the government battles against the situation, the public is taking measures to protect themselves in whatever way they can. An increasing number of doctors and specialists on the matter have advised people not to go out for morning walks or outdoor activities so as to not inhale excessive quantities of toxic pollutants. Some doctors have even advised their patients to leave the city for the time being if possible. Air purifiers for houses and masks for travelling outside have seen a huge rise in sales as nearly everyone has become an expert on the subject of filters and N95 and N99 have become trending words from pharmacies to WhatsApp conversations.

A year ago, while New Delhi wrestled with more or less the same conditions, UNICEF had called on the rest of the world to consider the situation as a wake up call. “It is a wake up call that very clearly tells us: unless decisive actions are taken to reduce air pollution, the events we are witnessing in Delhi over the past week are likely to be increasingly common”, it had said in a statement. If we are doing better than last year, it is still not enough, and all one needs is less than a minute in the open to be convinced of that. As the world battles with the effects of climate change, India’s bid to have a major global footprint in the coming decades is bound to take a serious hit if so many of its cities, and especially its capital follow a trend of being unlivable for a chunk of time at the end of every year.

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India

At Attention! Is the National Anthem the New Test of Patriotism?

Manak Suri

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colin-kaepernick-anthem

Source: www.baas.ac.uk

A fundamental question on patriotism has been plunged into the limelight during the course of the past few weeks: what role does the national anthem play for a country today? These few weeks have seen the populations of the larger countries of the world struggle with controversies surrounding their respective national anthems and the question has arisen in the midst of two unrelated incidents in the two largest democracies in the world. The result of these incidents has been an increasing divide between the masses in both the countries on what is acceptable in the name of your country’s anthem and where do we draw the line after which patriotism become an imposition. Let’s have a look at each one by one.

Kneeling for the American dream

During the previous season of the NFL, former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick created a ripple across the United States when he knelt during the national anthem to protest against the racism and police brutality constantly faced by people of colour in the country. The act was adopted by a number of players to signal that ‘Black Lives Matter’ and spread through the season and into the ongoing one. More recently, while a number of teams and players have decided not to follow suit, the act has been propagated by yet more players, and the phenomenon has caught the scorn of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence who have, among a good section of Americans, condemned the kneeling to be disrespectful towards the anthem, the flag, the troops that sacrificed their lives so their citizens could live the American dream, and to the country itself.

The President has also tried, although unsuccessfully, to push the league to get the players to stand for the anthem and also to fire the ones who don’t comply. “We’re proud of our country. We respect our flag,” said Trump at a campaign event in September. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!'”

Earlier in October, Vice President Mike Pence left the game between Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers after players from the latter chose to kneel in protest yet again. “I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence later tweeted of the game.

It doesn’t take a second read to notice that the issue has been blown out of proportion by Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence, and they are not alone in this. A poll conducted by CBS shows that 65% of white respondents felt that kneeling during the national anthem is wrong, while 75% of black respondents approved of the act. The report also suggests that many Americans are not likely to be in support of the act unless they are told what its goals are. “No player is disrespecting our Country or our Flag. As thousands have shown in the past, it takes bravery and courage to speak and confront these issues as our players have, especially when it is unpopular with some”,  executive director of the NFL Players Association DeMaurice Smith said, giving voice to the true motive of the movement. The issue was never about patriotism, about the anthem or about the flag, much less about disrespecting them. It was always about racism, and more people need to know that. Moreover, the NAACP has argued that if a player were to be dropped out of a game due to the act, it would be a violation of his constitutional right to free speech. However, in light of such arguments, one may wonder where one must draw the line on what is acceptable in the name of the national anthem.

Wear your nationalism on your sleeve

In November 2016, the Supreme Court of India made it mandatory for all cinema halls in the country to play the national anthem before the screening of films sighting that “it would instill the feeling within one, a sense (of) committed patriotism and nationalism.” The issue garnered a lot of attention back then, with the central government backing the decision made by the apex court. The population, however, was strongly split. The episode has come back into the fold as a little more than a week ago the Supreme Court again hinted at a modification in its order, passing the responsibility of making the final decision on the matter to the government. The court has now expressed that while every citizen has a duty to respect the national anthem and the flag, the judiciary need not step in to make it compulsory, effectively going back on its mandate from eleven months ago. The court also turned down a plea by the government to not make any changes to its previous order, and the government has found a huge number of its loyalists among the masses standing by its side on the matter, creating such a huge division among the masses. However, in addition to completely botching up an issue that could have been avoided, the Supreme Court has thrown the debate on whether the national anthem should be played in cinema halls and other events in the open once again.

As many supporters of the move and the government have been quick to play the ‘anti-national’ card on the opposition, asking them why they cannot spare 52 seconds of their time to stand proudly for their country, it becomes important to ask why one has to show their patriotism by standing for the national anthem when they are out to watch a movie and more importantly, why patriotism needs to be forced on citizens.

“Why do we have to wear patriotism on our sleeves? People go to the cinema for undiluted entertainment and to ease out”, said Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, one of the judges on the bench who has been against the move since the beginning. “Why do you think that one who does not sing the national anthem is not patriotic? You do not have to sing the national anthem to prove your patriotism. Values are inculcated in a broad social and political culture and patriotism cannot be inculcated among people by the Supreme Court order making it mandatory for playing the national anthem in cinema halls,” he said.

When the president of the second largest democracy in the world, backed by millions of his supporters, calls a protest against racism by kneeling during the national anthem disrespectful towards the country, it doesn’t make us patriotic. Likewise, when a huge fraction of the population of the world’s largest democracy voices its support on the imposition of the national anthem (and by extension nationalism) on the people, it doesn’t make us patriotic either. In fact, it makes us seem quite the opposite: it makes us seem insecure of our patriotism.

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