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Taliban Blames India For The Afghan Mess; Assures No Support For Kashmir Movement

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After a senior Taliban leader called India’s role in Afghanistan as “negative”, the Afghan government responds by shunning the remarks and saying that India has “been cooperating in development” of the country.

Soon after Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, Taliban’s senior leader was quoted in an interview as calling India’s role in the region being ‘negative’, the Afghan government’s spokesperson for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gran Hewad has responded to the comments.

“India one of the biggest donor countries and has helped Afghanistan in development and reconstruction areas, we appreciate their cooperation. We expect India and other neighbouring counties [will] play a significant role in [the] Afghan peace process,” told the Afghan spokesperson at the US-backed Radio Azadi.

The Taliban chief negotiator had said in an interview with Hashim Wahdatyar, a former director at Institute of Current World Affairs that “India has always played a negative role in Afghanistan. India supported traitors in the country.”

Stanikzai who was once trained at India’s premier IMA Dehradun in the 1970s is currently serving as the head of its political office in Qatar. In the controversial interview, the Taliban leader also mentioned that India backs “those who are corrupt and have been put in power by foreigners and not elected by the Afghan people.”

Since 2002, India has been donating about $3 billion and has been one of the biggest regional donors to the war-torn country. Apart from building the new Afghan parliament, India has also provided assistance in building major hydroelectric projects like the Salma Dam and has also developed over 2,500 miles of roads and provided thousands of educational scholarships. Yet India has no military presence in Afghanistan.

The Pakistan Connection

While the Indian government has neither responded nor asked for an explanation on Taliban leader’s remarks, Pakistan’s government’s Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that “Indian involvement in Afghanistan is a serious threat to peace in Afghanistan, Mr Doval is habitual to pock nose in issues where otherwise India must stay out, Afghanistan is not Your business stay out of it n let peace be the destiny of people of Afghanistan.”

On the other hand, Sayed Khalid Sadat, a political analyst from Nangarhar in Afghanistan told Radio Azadi that “The other thing is that India and Pakistan are having historical enmity and Pakistan is playing a proxy role in Afghanistan, and Taliban are being accused of playing Pakistan’s proxy role in Afghanistan and are backed by Pakistan. I believe Taliban [are making] these assertions on Pakistan’s demand.”

Dr Barnett Richard Rubin, a political scientist and a leading expert on Afghanistan and South Asia told an Iranian newspaper in 2018 that “the main external support for the Taliban comes from Pakistan as it always has because of Pakistan’s concern about India’s presence in Afghanistan, Afghanistan’s claims on Pakistani territory, and its fear that the US troops in Afghanistan might seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.”

He continues that “Pakistan allows the Taliban to raise money, equip themselves, and travel freely, including across the border and does not arrest or harass them unless they threaten Pakistani interests by acting independently.

To escape pressure from Pakistan, the Taliban established their office in Qatar.” The office that’s been referred by Dr Rubin is Doha, the capital city of Qatar is the same office that is headed by Stanikzai.

Mohammad Taqi, a Pakistani-American columnist says that “The outdated Pakistani military concern that India seeks to cultivate a relationship with Afghanistan so that it can militarily trap Pakistan in the so-called nutcracker manoeuvre is belied by the three countries’ history.”

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Education

Jio Institute – Mukesh Ambani’s ‘Institute of Eminence’ To Revolutionize Indian Education System

Jio Institute, which will be located in Navi Mumbai was to hire university staff and complete the academic curriculum by October this year, however, experts believe that things might get delayed due to coronavirus

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Jio Insitute, Mukesh Ambani’s ambitious institute for reshaping the Indian education system is expected to commence operation in 2021. Will the ‘Institute of Eminence’ – Jio Institute get impacted by Covid-19 is uncertain for now.

Jio Institute – Overview

The Shailesh Kumar led Jio Insitute will start its academic session in 2021. Numerous undergraduate courses will on offer including courses in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, data sciences machine learning, digital media and marketing.

It is also expected that Mulhern of Northwestern University will be facilitating the Marketing Communication program while Kumar would teach Artificial Intelligence courses. The modern Jio Digital Library project will be headed by Keller from Stanford.

Jio Institute of Eminence

Jio institute has also set up a seven-member global advisory board. According to media reports, the board will consist of Jean-Lou Chameau, president emeritus of California Institute of Technology (Caltech); Michael Keller, vice provost of Stanford University; Rick Levin, former president of Yale University; Subra Suresh, president of Singapore’s Nanyang Technology University. Nadhmi A Al-Nasr, CEO of Saudi Arabia’s futuristic habitat project NEOM; Frank J Mulhem and Vinayak P Dravis of Northwestern University.

Mukesh Ambani, his wife Nita and daughter Isha will also be on the advisory board. The institute is one of the institutes in the country to be awarded the tag of ‘eminence’ by the Human Resource Ministry even before its completions.

Experts at EurAsian Times believe that the tag of ‘eminence’ was given due to the future prospects of the Institute. As of August 2019, ten institutions have been selected by the Institutes of Eminence, which includes Banaras Hindu Univesity, Indian Institute of Science, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Madras, University of Delhi, University of Hyderabad, Anna University and Jadavpur University.

Jio Institute Location & Key Details

Jio Institute, which will be located in Navi Mumbai was to hire university staff and complete the academic curriculum by October this year, however, experts believe that things might get delayed.

Students at Jio institute would not only get an opportunity to study at the sprawling 800 acres campus in Navi Mumbai but could also be taught by professors from prominent universities across the world.

The advance studies at the institute will also provide merit-based scholarships worth 38 crores during the first academic year.

Mukesh Ambani aims to make Jio University ranked in top 500 on Times Higher Education and QS World University Rankings. To achieve this feat Jio Institute is in talks universities like Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Stanford University, Northwestern University and Nanyang Technological University and aims to recruit expert faculty and mentors for the institute.

Reliance Jio and the Telecom Revolution

Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd popularly known as Jio in India is a mobile network operator owned by Reliance industries. Jio was the brainchild of Mukesh Ambani and was launched in 2015 in honour of the 83rd birth anniversary of Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of Reliance Industries.

Since its launch, the network has become immensely popular with Indians as it made internet accessible and affordable. The introduction of Jio revolutionised the telecom industry and made 4G data available pan-India at the lowest rate in the world. Jio Platforms compares with large global digital ecosystem platforms that are largely debt-free like Alphabet, Tencent and Alibaba.

Success at home has caught the eye of investors abroad. With 5 confirmed deals in May and another investment incoming, Jio is now valued at over $65 billion. The investors, all based in the US, include social media giant Facebook, private equity firm Silver Lake, Global investment company Vista, American private equity firm General Atlantic and US-based private equity company KKR.

Collectively, all the deals are worth $10.3 billion or Rs 78,562 crore, which RIL plans to use in order to pay off $44 billion worth of its debt.

Microsoft, the tech giant founded by Bill Gates, is also in talks with Jio to purchase a 2.5% stake at the cost of $2 billion. Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala, another investment company, is also in talks to invest about $1 billion in Jio platforms.

Within a short span, Mukesh Ambani and Jio have achieved what other companies have not been able to for decades. With the establishment of Jio Institute, India’s most influential businessman has ensured that the company he birthed would be looked after by Jio’s very own.

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Coronavirus In Tibet: Limited Impact Of COVID-19 In High Altitude Regions Like Tibet?

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Scientists are now investigating the link between COVID-19 and high altitude regions like Tibet after a study published in the journal Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology suggested that there is a decrease in prevalence and impact of COVID-19 in populations living at higher altitudes. 

The study takes into consideration the COVID-19 cases in Tibet and high-altitude regions of Bolivia and Ecuador in comparison to the low lying regions. It suggested that the population in Bolivia, Ecuador and Tibet living above 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) reported significantly lower levels of confirmed infections than their lowland counterparts.

In the plateau region of Tibet, Qinghai and part of Sichuan, with a population of 9 million, there are only 134 confirmed cases which are drastically low in comparison to the number of cases in rest of China.

Ecuador is one of the worst-hit countries by COVID-19 in South America with more than 40,000 confirmed cases and over 3,000 deaths. The centre of the virus is the Pacific port of Guayaquil. There are fewer infected cases in the capital Quito, which is about the same size but is 2,800 metres above sea level.

Similarly, Bolivia has over 10,000 positive cases with over 300 deaths. The cases are concentrated in Santa Cruz which is 400 metres above sea level. It is home to about 15% of the population of the country but accounts for two-thirds of the virus cases. Whereas, in La Paz and its surrounding area, which is a highland area in Bolivia, has about 500 positive cases.

The reason explored by the study includes environmental factors including dry mountain air, high levels of UV radiation and the possibility that lower atmospheric pressure reduces the virus’s ability to linger in the air.

“The reason for decreased severity of the global COVID-19 outbreak at high altitude could relate to both environmental and physiological factors,” states the study.

“At sea-level, when people get coronavirus and their lungs get destroyed, it is as if they are climbing Mount Everest in just a couple of days, without oxygen,” said Gustavo Zubieta-Calleja, one of the authors of the study published in the journal Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology. But “the low rate of infection in Bolivia’s high-altitude population is remarkable and clearly does not follow the often exponential infection rates reported in many countries”, concluded the scientists.

However, experts have questioned these factors. “The virus likes people. It doesn’t care about altitude,” says Peter Chin-Hong, who studies infectious diseases at the University of California at San Francisco. “But we’re still learning so much about this disease, and this does provide us with some good clues to try and understand its progression,” he added.

According to Clayton Cowl, a pulmonologist at the Mayo Clinic and a former president of the American College of Chest Physicians, that the trend might be related to acclimatization, the body’s ability to adjust temporarily to altitude, than to DNA.

Just three populations in the world have been found to have genetic adaptations to altitude: Himalayans, Ethiopian highlanders and Andeans. This is why the coronavirus is exploding on Peru’s Pacific coast, particularly Lima, where most residents descend from Andean ancestors, while the country’s mountain communities are thus far not greatly affected by the virus.

Andrew Luks, professor of medicine at the University of Washington, said that while the proposed link was “intriguing”, it “by no means establishes that high-altitude residence or high-altitude locations are protective against coronavirus”.

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Americas

Trump’s Mediation Offer ‘Naive’; US Actually Wants India To Challenge Chinese Dominance: Russian Experts

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As Trump’s offer to mediate the India-China border conflict has publically failed, experts argue that “Washington’s policy-makers, who seek to pit the Indians against the Chinese, maybe as naïve as Trump”.

The fierce military standoff between China and India that has been in the headlines for over a month now started in early May when clashes erupted between the troops of both the nuclear nations, that left scores of soldiers injured from both the sides driving a steady build-up of troops in the border region.

The US President, Donald Trump had recently offered to “mediate and arbitrate” the conflict, however, the offered was duly refused by both the involved countries.

Artyom Lukin, an associate professor of international relations at Far Eastern Federal University in Russia opines that Trump’s mediation offer “was perhaps inspired by his recent success in bringing about an OPEC+ deal that ended a brutal oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.”

In April this year, with Trump’s apparent mediation, the oil giants Saudi Arabia led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russia led by President Vladimir Putin with 21 other countries as a part of the OPEC+ agreement collectively agreed to reduce oil output by 9.7 million barrels per day between May and June, in an attempt to combat the drop in international demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pentagon on Trump’s offer

It is reported that Pentagon and experts in Washington do not share the same perspective as Trump’s on the issue of mediation. Lukin believes that “they understand that a rising and ambitious India is the only realistic counter-balance against China.

There are just no other candidates for this role. Russia is in cahoots with China. Japan is a declining and militarily weak power.”

It is widely understood that to maintain control over the whole Eurasian region, “the US needs to keep this super-continent divided against itself, which means never allowing a true rapprochement between Asia’s two biggest powers, India and China.”

Trump’s failure to mediate the Sino-Indian conflict

Lukin puts forward two primary reasons for Trump’s failure to intervene in the Sino-Indian conflict. “Firstly, it is difficult to be an effective mediator or arbiter in international politics if you don’t have leverage over the parties in question.”

He believes that in the case of India and China, “it is not clear what rewards or penalties the US has in reserve for China and India. Most likely there are none.”

Secondly, the scholar in international relations claims that “the best mediator is one that is perceived as unbiased and impartial. On this count, the White House has an obvious handicap, since the US views India as a crucial associate and friend, while China is considered a competitor and rival.”

The Blame on China

US’s rivalry with China has been taken into account by many international critics. Apart from the trade war and technology rivalry, Washington blamed Beijing for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and has also pointed at China for playing aggressively in the disputed Himalayan region.

It is reported that Alice Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, called China’s behaviour “aggression, the constant attempt to shift the norms, to shift what is the status quo, that has to be resisted whether it’s in the South China Sea… or whether it’s in India’s own backyard, both on land as well as in the Indian Ocean.”

On the flip side, Indian defence experts like Lt Gen H S Panag believes that China’s is ultimately protecting its own “status quo,” that is continuously been threatened by India’s strategic growth in the contested territories along the border.

Since New Delhi seeks to maximize its benefits from the partnerships that it shares with the US, it strategically refrains from being involved in American-led efforts to contain China. “In this sense, Washington’s policy-makers, who seek to pit the Indians against the Chinese, maybe as naive as Trump with his peace-making initiatives” concludes Lukin.

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