WITH TALIBAN AT KANDAHAR GATES AND CHINA CHECKING IN ON KABUL, INDIA TO REORIENT ITS AFGHAN POLICY - The Daily Guardian
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WITH TALIBAN AT KANDAHAR GATES AND CHINA CHECKING IN ON KABUL, INDIA TO REORIENT ITS AFGHAN POLICY

Utpal Kumar

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When India decided to pull out around 50 diplomats and security personnel from its consulate in Kandahar in Afghanistan on Saturday, in view of the Taliban gaining ground in new areas around the southern Afghan city, India once again found itself at a crossroads in what is believed to be the “graveyard of empires”. What has added to the already complex scenario is the eagerness of China to jump into the Afghan melee once the last of the Americans pack their bags on 11 September 2021.

The presence of the Dragon has made the situation more alarming in Afghanistan. A senior MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) official said that New Delhi has to reorient its Afghan policies. “We just can’t afford to sit back and let the situation slip away to the advantage of the forces inimical to us. Sensing an opportunity in the Afghanistan crisis, China has become super active in the region. Its close ally Pakistan too must be elated with the development.”

There’s a serious churn going on in the MEA on how to bite the Afghan bullet, especially on the issue of the Taliban. There was a time when a section of the Indian establishment wasn’t too averse to talking to the Taliban, but the Kandahar hijacking episode in 2001 changed all that. New Delhi just couldn’t be seen dealing with the Taliban. But now with the Dragon in the Afghan picture, and Taliban knocking on the Kabul doors, the consensus seems to be building up in India about the inevitability of talking to the Taliban. “Just that we should not be seen as too desperate for talks,” advised an official in the know of the situation. “Taliban know very well that India’s nod is necessary for their legitimacy in Afghanistan and have therefore in recent times made several overtures to Delhi through third-party contacts,” he added.

As per media reports, the Taliban have reached out to India at least two dozen times and even tried to come clean on their Pakistan connections. In fact, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen went to the extent of saying that his organisation never took part in the Kashmir jihad!

Sources say that there has also been softening in Delhi’s stand vis-à-vis Taliban. In 2018, India, for instance, sent a “non-official” delegation comprising two retired diplomats to the Moscow peace conference on Afghanistan. Two years later, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar himself participated in the intra-Afghan talks in Doha where he said in no uncertain terms that the peace process must be “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled”. He also emphasised that no part of Afghanistan is “untouched” by India’s “400-plus development projects” in that country.

No doubt, India has been a big part of the Afghanistan development story, with investments worth $3 billion. It may not be the biggest investment, but each project undertaken by India, including the construction of the parliament building, the Salma dam and the Zaranj-Delaram highway project, has won goodwill among the public in that country. As Jaishankar himself had said while speaking at the Raisina Dialogue, “In the last 20 years, we have demonstrated, through our actions and projects on the ground, what our real feelings are for Afghanistan… I think, in all the 34 Afghan provinces, we have development projects of some kind.”

It is because of these investments and stakes that India can’t leave Afghanistan. This is also the reason why Indians stationed in Afghanistan find themselves in the line of jihadi fire. No wonder, about a week before the Kandahar evacuation, the Indian embassy in Afghanistan had issued a strongly-worded advisory for Indian nationals, asking them to exercise “strict vigilance and caution” with regard to security at workplace, place of residence and also during movement in the city. The advisory said that the security situation in Afghanistan is “highly volatile, unpredictable and dangerous”.

So, what should India do to deal with the Afghan quagmire? Unlike the US, it just can’t pack its bags and vanish, being in the immediate neighbourhood, and with Pakistan and China trying to turn it into their strategic depth vis-à-vis India. “India needs to follow a very fine diplomatic line,” said a senior MEA official, adding that Delhi must keep on supporting President Ashraf Ghani and yet should not be averse to talking to the Taliban. “The Taliban are a reality. The US has accepted it, and the sooner we accept it, the better placed we would be in dealing with the Afghan challenge. But this doesn’t mean we should give up on President Ghani. In fact, India’s active diplomatic role may hold the key to democratic forces retaining some of their hold in the Afghan administration,” he said.

Now that’s where the crux of India’s new Afghan policy lies. Delhi may not have a military presence in Kabul, but it has a strong hold over the hearts and minds of people there. India’s active role in rebuilding Afghanistan has given people there a semblance of normalcy amid violence and killings. This explains why the Taliban have been reaching out to India. This also explains why India is being invited to diplomatic high tables while discussing the fate of Afghanistan.

This doesn’t mean that the Taliban have cut their ties with Al Qaeda or even the mother of all terrorism—Pakistan. If anything the links have become deeper and would turn even more menacing, especially in the wake of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan which many in the Islamist world would see as an affirmation of jihadi victory. The real problem, however, is on the eastern side of the Durand Line in Pakistan, which just refuses to give up on its terror aspirations. With Taliban in power, Pakistan would achieve, in Steve Coll’s words in Ghost Wars, General Zia-ul-Haq’s dream: “A loyal, Pashtun-led Islamist government in Kabul.”

India’s—and for that matter world’s—problem resides in Pakistan, which called for “guns rather than butter” weeks after its independence. Where every general, liberal or otherwise, “believed in the jihadists, not from personal Islamic conviction, in most cases, but because the jihadists had proved themselves over many years as the one force able to frighten, flummox, and bog down the Hindu-dominated Indian Army”, as Coll writes again. In Pakistan, jihad is not a calling for the otherwise liberal generals, but a professional imperative. “It was something he (general) did at the office. At quitting time he packed up his briefcase. Straightened the braid on his uniform and went home to his normal life.”

The Americans would have saved themselves from this embarrassment of leaving Afghanistan like a loser had their President listened to former CIA operative Bruce Riedel, who had told President Barack Obama right at the beginning of his first term to shift focus from Afghanistan to Pakistan, for the latter has a “convoluted relationship with terrorists in which it was the patron, the victim and the safe haven—all at the same time”, as former Ambassador Rajeev Dogra recalls in his book, Where Borders Bleed.

The Americans failed to act, despite knowing the real force behind the Taliban surge in Afghanistan. Maybe they fell under the trap of Pakistan being a nuclear weapons state, an argument which the Pakistanis would use generously vis-à-vis India till Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the bluff after the Balakot air strikes in 2019!

Be that as it may, India will have to play the Great Game, with or without the US. For, its stakes have risen further with the Dragon all set to play the Afghan tango with Pakistani generals and Taliban leaders. With Taliban at Kandahar gates and China checking in on Kabul, it’s time India reoriented its Afghanistan policy.

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Tushar Mehra & Mallika Puri, Co-Founders, Talentopedia on digitizing India’s freelance economy

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In an exclusive conversation, as a part of NewsX India A-List, Tushar Mehra and Mallika Puri, Co-Founders of Talentopedia spoke about their venture and the importance of focusing on digitizing India’s freelance economy.

In his inaugural comments, Tushar Mehra said, “At Talentopedia, our aim is to digitize the Indian freelance economy and we are doing that by giving an app to freelancers to help them better manage and grow their businesses. There are about 20 million freelancers in India, despite that big number most of freelancing happens offline. The best way to grow your business is not to sell your services on online markets, the best way to do it is to get work through first degree networks.”

Joining the conversation, Mallika said, “I have been a freelancer myself, I’ve worked in the industry for 5-6 years. I have personal experience with respect to being a freelancer and the challenges that we ourselves faced. I have tried to generate business as a single army through online platforms like freelancer.com, fiveearth and I could never generate any business because I would spend my prime hours of working on online platforms just to generate business.”

“I realised these platforms are not build for freelancers and people like myself, they are built for buyers where they come on board, generate as many leads, whereas, the freelancers are just on the platform to bid for those leads that are coming on board. But we are constantly cost-cut, facing a lot of challenges with various different freelancers who are verified by the platform. Thus, we land up with zero work. So, we’d rather switch to offline channels through first degree networks to get our own business and manage work. That’s how Talentopedia was born. So, that we could cater to the freelancers first, make them our focus, focus on their challenges and then cater to the buyers,” said Mallika.

Commenting on how Talentopedia is set apart to help freelancers apart from helping and creating a market place, she added,“Freelancers are our prime focus, they are our customers. We look at providing them business-management tools through our application that helps them to manage their business, generate leads and also grow their business.”

Explaining how Talentopedia works, Tushar stated, “We have an application on the google play store. We have a portfolio to upload projects freelancers have done, list their skills and services they sell. You can even input reviews you get from Facebook and other platforms. You can use our payment links to get easy payments like UPI (Unified Payments Interface). If you are working, getting clients offline through your first degrees, use our tool, manage those clients.”

Recalling their journey so far and future plans for Talentopedia, Puri said, “The journey has been absolutely amazing, we have around 100,000 freelancers on our Android app. In next five years, we want to see 10 million freelancers on our app. We want to create job opportunities for people who are looking at freelancing as their source of income in the pandemic.”

Towards the end, Tushar added, “If you’re a freelancer, this is the perfect time to join our platform and start growing because with the pandemic, a lot of start-ups have recently started to hire freelancers as they have realised the power of freelance.”

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“Got a lot of opportunities from global companies after Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative”: Raj Chodankar, Chairman & CEO, Rrps4e Innovation Pvt Ltd

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Raj Chodankar

NewsX was recently joined by Raj Chodankar, Chairman & CEO, Rrps4e Innovation Pvt Ltd for a candid conversation with in its special series, NewsX India A-List.

Raj kickstarted the conversation by sharing insights from his experience in the electro-optics and healthcare industry. He said, “Our journey actually commenced in the year, 1990, that’s when we first ventured into doing some sort of business in India, but, the real assignment that we took up was in 2001 when we built up a very unique nano-machining facility, one of its kind in India, which catered specifically to the nuclear fraternity. So, that was the platform which took us into electro-optics because most of the optical elements that go into an electro-optics need the nano-machining setup and that’s where our journey began in 2010-12.”

He further added, “2014 was when we did a really good job for the Indian army as an outside partner with an Israeli company where we built all the optical elements for thermal imaging fire control system which gets mounted on a tank that is where we started getting recognition and our journey then progressed into trying to offer complete products rather than only components because there was a lot of value addition in the products.”

Throwing some light on their journey further, Raj expressed, “We got very prominent in 2018-19 and we were recognised well. 2020 was the time when we diversified into healthcare and it was only because of the challenges that the entire world was facing due to the pandemic. Because we had this thermal core technology which was the base, we used that thermal core technology to build thermal scanners for fever detection and then we use this thermal camera jointly with a Japanese company.”

Further talking about their collaborative projects in India and PM’s Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, he said, “The era of making India Atmanirbhar is something that has always encouraged us and it continues to encourage us, or else life was very difficult for any entrepreneur to display his skills or innovation because at the end of the day we have to remember that if we are going into some niche technologies or products that go into Indian army, it is very important that these products go through some extensive trials and these trials by default can be anything between 1.5 to 3 years. The use of the Atmanirbhar plan under Make In India plan allowed us to buy technologies from global companies which made the buyers life much more simpler because  it was a proven technology, and, we could then display our skills because the global technology provider will allow us to build 50 per cent of those modules or components in India which we call as the indigenously designed, developed and manufactured in India, the IDDM category.”

Towards the end of conversation, Raj shared about their global tie-ups. He stated, “After this Atmanirbhar setup, we got a lot of opportunities from global companies that wanted to partner with somebody who is already a part of the ongoing technologies and which is where we got an upper hand over the others. Not that we are of corporate level, we are just getting into corporate zones. We are doing really well, our growth pattern is going into constant jumps.”

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“We want everyone who follows and wears the brand to be love generation”: Founders of LoveGen

Founders of LoveGen, Bhavana Pandey, Nandita Mahtani and Dolly Sidhwani joined us on our special series and shared with us the idea behind the brand and their experiences.

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In an exclusive interview with NewsX India Alist, Founders of LoveGen, Bhavana Pandey, Nandita Mahtani and Dolly Sidhwani joined us on our special series. LoveGen is a brand that is uniquely tailored to meet the taste of an adventurous young generation who love to enjoy life and are interested in fashion, music and social media. LoveGen allows both young men and women to express themselves through clothes at every occasion.

Bhavana shared with us the idea behind the brand and said “All three of us have been friends for almost 20 years now. Fashion and marketing was something that was common between the three of us now, Nandita has been a designer for many years and Dolly had a brand and comes from an export background. I had a bit of marketing experience in fashion. Over many of our conversations, we realized that we don’t have fast fashion Indian brands which can be spread over all age groups and something comfortable.”

“That’s how the idea came about, and three of us were pretty much on the same page with it and we just decided to go for it and finally execution happened quite quickly,” added Bhavana.

Nandita Mahtani shared with us about the coming of the brand together and said “This is something that we all individually wanted to do and it was just about finding the right people to do it with because to start a new brand on this level is not an easy job. The three of us connected and our synergy was great and there was no turning back.”

Dolly Sidhwani talked to us about the thought behind the brand’s name and how LoveGen wants everyone to be loved. “We wanted to create a community about love, and there was a lot of hate around the world right now. We want everyone to be about love and everyone who follows us and wears the brand to be love generation,” said Dolly.

With so much prior experiences in the world of fashion and design, the founders elaborated on the USP of the brand and what sets it apart from others in the market. “Right now we are very focused on denims and what is really different about our brand is that it is very relaxed and at the same time it’s very glamorous and simple and interesting and it’s very cool and this is what sets it apart. A lot of our design elements come into play from our travels and whatever we carry back from our travels,” explained Dolly.

Renowned fashion designer Nandita shared her experiences working on that brand and said “LoveGen is a very affordable brand for everyone and it was very exciting to design. We have a lot more styles for every season and it’s more sort of interesting for the younger generations.” “We wanted more mass appeal so there was a lot of more scope,” added Nandita.

Throwing light on the journey of the brand in the wake of the pandemic and turbulent times, Bhavana told us “The last one and a half years, people have been through so much. We were fortunate because we have got partners who’ve invested in the brand. They were really supportive with us and the three of us been like very strong about it. We made sure to keep that our employees, our people are loved as much as we could. And we’ve kind of waded through this whole time together.”

Adding on how they are looking at the positive side, Bhavana further added “Our store in Malad, which is the Inorbit Mall has opened again and two more stores in Indore. We’re looking at opening more stores this year. We have started our brand online as well so we’re getting a lot of eyeballs on LoveGen.com.”

Talking about the emergence of digital marketing and sales, Dolly added “Social media is a huge part of our world but somehow I think there’s always going to be a balance between brick and mortar and digital. It is going to be a lot digital going forward but we are also planning to open 30 to 50 stores in the next two years.”

On an ending note, the founders of the brand advised their fans and viewers to never give up on dreams and follow their dreams and do what they love.

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I never thought that I would ever going to be part of Hungama 2: Meezaan

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After making his debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Malaal, Actor Meezaan is all set to carve a space for himself in the hearts of audiences with Hungama 2 on Disney + Hotstar. The young hearthrob recently joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation as part of NewsX India A-List and spilled the beans on ‘behind-the-scenes’ hungama.

Reminiscing memories from the release of earlier ‘Hungama’, Meezan said, “I was actually 8 years old when the movie had come out in 2003. I remember going to Globus theatre in Bandra and watching it with a friend of mine and his mother. Ever since, even when the film comes on TV, we watch it till date. Sometimes while scrolling through the channels, suddenly we see Hungama, we always stop by for those iconic scenes. I never thought that i would ever going to be part of Hungama 2 about 18-19 years later. It has been a surreal experience for me. I am just grateful for this opportunity that has come and working with the people who are working on this film.”

On his full-fleged entry into the comedy genre, a genre in which his family has made a huge mark and their reaction to the script, Meezaan said, “The funny thing is that there was no script. There was just a name. I got a call saying, ‘Will you do a Priyadarshan film?’, and I said, ‘Ofcourse, yes’, without any hesitation because it is Priyan sir and it is honestly an honour to be working with him in my career. It is my second film and i am thrilled to get this opportunity and it has turned out to be amazing. I can’t wait for people to finally see the movie.”

Speaking about his experience of working with Filmmaker Priyadarshan and Actor Shilpa Shetty, Meezaan expressed, “It was a surreal feeling because there are too many things that are working in favour of this film, in terms of putting the film together. There is Priyadarshan coming back after a long time. There is the title, ‘Hungama’, which is a big franchise. The producers- Venus, Ratan ji had launched Shilpa Shetty and had done movies like Khiladi, Baazigar and so many other iconic films. You have the starcast, including Paresh ji, Rajpal sir, Johhny Lever, Ashutosh Rana- so many veteran actors. They are amazing at what they do. At the same time, there is Shilpa Shetty as well, who is making her comeback. There is also this song, ‘Chura Ke Dil Mera’, which is an iconic song and she is in the original song. I am with her in this remake. It’s too much that is going on. There is a lot of Hungama happening as it is. I am very happy. It has turned out to be wonderful.

“I am glad i made so many friends, including Shilpa ma’am. She is a wonderful person, full of life. I think she is aging in reverse. She is looking wonderful in the song. She has absolutely killed it. Till date, she has maintained the same energy, same dedication, same work ethic. I’m actually inspired by her and it was a lot of fun working with so many people, ” he added.

Sharing the response he has received for the song, ‘Chura Ke Dil Mera’, Meezaan said, “It has been great. People have loved it. They showered their love, whether through social media, YouTube and stuff like that. It has been great. I have no complaints and it is still going on. There is a lot of Hungama still to be done. We’re taking it one step at a time. There is one more song that came out after, which is called, ‘Chintan’. That song also has received a lot of love from people everywhere. Now we have other song coming out, which is the Hungama title track. It is going to be wonderful and i am excited for everyone to see the whole film as it is.”

Check out the entire interview on NewsX YouTube: 

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Naxals using drones for recce on security forces

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Nagpur: Naxals are using small drones for surveillance of security forces near the Chhattisgarh borders, said Maharashtra Police on Friday.

Speaking to ANI, Sandip Patil, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Gadchiroli said, “Naxals are using small drones for surveillance of our posts near the Chhattisgarh border. In the last 4-5 months we have reported 7-8 incidents. Considering all the possibilities we are taking anti-drone measures.” “These small drones are generally used in wedding ceremonies for photography. They use these drones to check the locations of police parties and security parties from the mountains,” said Patil.

He said considering the drone incident that happened in Jammu, the Maharshtra Police has increased the vigilance and been adopting anti-drone measures. Asked about if there is any coordination with Chattishgarh, the DIG said, “Drones were used in Chattishgarh 7-8 months back. We are working in coordination with IG Bastar and SPs and CRPF. We have made a counter-drone strategy with coordination with them.”

Patil further said that the prima facie information suggests that Naxals procured the drones from Hyderabad.

ANI

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STUDENTS REACT AS CBSE DECLARES CLASS 12 BOARD EXAM RESULTS

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As the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) released the much-awaited class 12 results on Friday, mixed reactions were received from students. This year, the pass percentage stands at 99.37 per cent.

Some expressed their happiness calling the decision perfect while the others felt the entire year along with their preparations was wasted. Speaking to ANI, Vanshikha Gupta, a Commerce student said, “Did not expect to get 98.4 per cent, I’m very happy. Keeping pandemic and safety of students in mind, the government took a good decision,” Vanshikha Gupta, a Commerce student.

Abhishek Chaudhary, another student from Delhi said, “Results were not what we were expecting. I was expecting over 80 per cent score but I am disappointed. I wanted to get into a government college but it seems difficult now.”

“I’m extremely happy, was not expecting to score over 90 per cent,” said Khushi, a humanities student in Ludhiana.

The exam was scheduled to be held in May but was cancelled due to a surge in Covid-19 cases. This year, the CBSE 12th results have been prepared in an alternative way as board exams could not be held this year due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The board had adopted an alternative assessment scheme to finalise the result.

WITH ANI INPUTS

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