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JULY 2021

South Asia Times

CELEBRATiNG 18TH YEAR OF PUBLICATION

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VIEWPOINT

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Vol.18 I No. 11 I JUly 2021 I FREE

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Editor: Neeraj Nanda I M: 0421 677 082 I Add: PO Box 465, Brentford Square, Victoria 3131

IFFM 2021

Aug 12 - 21 (Cinemas) & Aug 15 - 30 (online AUSTRALIA WIDE)

Ajitesh Sharma’s ‘WOMB’ to unleash iconic festival with OVER 70 films in 20 languages

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EDITORIAl PAGE

South Asia Times

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SAT NEWS BUREAU/Australia (Melbourne) Neeraj Nanda

JULY 2021

Getting a Covid jab is safer than taking Aspirin

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By Professor Nathan Grills, University of Melbourne

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he risk of rare side effects from COVID-19 vaccines like AstraZeneca are greatly exaggerated as they are far safer than many medicines people are taking every day. For the family of the woman who recently died

from a very rare blood clot after her AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination, it’s no comfort that ‘only’ two people have died despite nearly four million doses of AstraZeneca in Australia. But this one-in-twomillion risk should reassure everyone else, including the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). After all, we are four times

more likely to get struck by lightning in 2021. I have also lost a friend due to AstraZeneca– not because he had the vaccination, but because he didn’t. He was 70 years old and listened to scaremongers and decided against vaccination, only to die from COVID-19 in India. Ironically, he was taking aspirin to prevent

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another heart attack, a medication which poses a significantly higher risk than AstraZeneca. Around 11 per cent of older Australians take daily aspirin to help prevent stroke and heart attack, but statistically, aspirin is two hundred times more dangerous than AstraZeneca – resulting in around one death per 10,000 people. CONTD. ON PG 3


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Getting a Covid jab is safer... CONTD. FROM PG 2 So why are so many of us unduly worried about this vaccine given that the severe side effects are exceedingly rare? One might even question ATAGI’s recent decision to only recommend AstraZeneca for those aged 60 and over. Perhaps it’s because the media – and anti-vaxxers – are very good at making rare side effects seem very common by focusing all the attention on those effects. This trick starts with a fact – like AstraZeneca can cause blood clots – from which risks are extrapolated and exaggerated, scaring vulnerable people. The fact is that all vaccines can cause very serious adverse events like anaphylaxis, cellulitis and even death. The obvious danger of writing this last sentence is actually the point of this article – someone claims, out of context, that public health physicians warn vaccines

cause serious conditions and death. But dangerous adverse events can result from just about any pharmaceutical or medical intervention. Take aspirin. If I list the known adverse events (and sneakily don’t mention their frequency) we are left with a frightening picture including pancreatitis, hematemesis, papillary necrosis, renal failure, aplastic anemia, thrombocytopenia, disseminated intravascular coagulation, Steven-Johnson syndrome, erythema nodosum, hepatitis, Reye’s syndrome, hepatic insufficiency, metabolic acidosis, , hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, cerebral edema, coma, intracranial hemorrhage, seizures, hearing loss, rhabdomyolysis, pulmonary edema, asthma and... the list goes on. But before you stop your aspirin (and the Medical Board deregisters me) you need to know that the

incidence of these side effects is exceedingly small. I just handpicked rare, catastrophic and dramatic adverse events. And this is what some media and social media coverage does. But, millions of Australians (including many who are currently refusing vaccinations) continue to take aspirin because the benefits of aspirin (or any appropriate medication) outweigh the risks, which are rare. And likewise many women draw the same conclusion about taking the contraceptive pill which can cause clots in five to 12 women in every 10,000. Of course, I’m not claiming that taking aspirin is the same as getting vaccinated. There are important differences. But the principle of weighing up the benefits against the risks applies equally. Let’s weigh up AstraZeneca. Nearly all the world’s immunologists, virologists, medical professionals and public health experts agree that COVID-19 vaccines, including Astra Zeneca, have minimal risk to recommended subgroups and significant benefit.

But vaccine opponents might argue that while aspirin is tried and tested, COVID-19 vaccines are new and we don’t know what the longer-term affects may be, in say, 20 years. Indeed, not until 2041 can we be certain that a vaccine doesn’t cause [add any disease name here]. But I’m glad we didn’t wait for 20 years of data before using vaccines to eradicate smallpox and control the devastating polio virus. Besides, even though COVID-19 vaccines are new we already know a lot. AstraZeneca and Pfizer use vaccine technology that’s been carefully developed over decades of research. They rely on stimulating the immune system – similar to the other 18 jabs that the average 18 year-old has already received. Furthermore, we already have large amounts of data on the current COVID-19 vaccines – worldwide, we recently passed the twobillion dose milestone. Severe adverse events, like blood clots, are being very closely monitored and have mostly been minor or exceedingly rare. However, conspiracy theorists claim governments are hiding the truth about

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these vaccines and their adverse effects. But this would, in effect, require nearly all the world’s 193 governments of all persuasions (fascist, communist, democratic, theocratic and monarchical) to conspire together – along with vaccine companies and the mainstream free media – to corrupt regulatory frameworks, hide data from independent monitoring agencies and manipulate trial data. Establishing and maintaining such a conspiracy is realistically beyond the realm of possibility. So why give credence to the few fringe health practitioners who post on YouTube about very rare adverse events, while also stoking other ill-founded fears of conspiracy? This misinformation kills. We regularly trust our doctor’s advice and take a host of medications and vaccines that come with serious, but exceedingly rare, side effects. Perhaps we should also trust the overwhelming majority of medical experts who advise us to take this safe vaccine? I just wish my friend had. Source: Pursuit. (Under Creative Commons Licence)


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IFFM 2021

South Asia Times

JULY 2021

Aug 12 - 21 (Cinemas) & Aug 15 - 30 (online australia wide)

Ajitesh Sharma’s ‘WOMB’ to unleash iconic festival with OVER 70 films in 20 languages By Neeraj Nanda

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ELBOURNE, 1 July 2021: The iconic Indian Film Festival of India (IFFM) 2021, is all set to hit the screens here and Australia-wide online August 12-21 and August 15-30 respectively. One of the world’s top festivals of Indian movies, the IFFM2021 will this year have over 70 movies including documentaries and short films in 20 languages. Successful last year as an online festival, the glittering festival this year will also celebrate the

75th anniversary of India’s Independence bringing cheer and recovery to postCOVID Melbourne. Festival locations will be Hoyts, Melbourne Central, Hoyts District Docklands, Hoyts Chadstone, Hoyts Highpoint, and the Federation Square, city. The virtual festival movies will be accessible to stream for free online at www.iffm. com.au Kicking off a diverse and dynamic program of more than 70 feature films, documentaries, and shorts – the largest festival of its kind in the southern hemisphere – is the 2021

IFFM Opening Night film, Ajitesh Sharma’s WOMB (Women of My Billion). The documentary has been the toast of the international film festival circuit, will be the opening film of bthe IFFM-2021 this year. A heart-wrenching and a heart-warming documentary about the dreams and the fight against all forms of violence that unify the women of India today, WOMB (Women of My Billion) follows one young woman, Srishti Bakshi, as she embarks on a monumental journey, walking nearly 4,000 kilometres over 240 days,

from Kanyakumari in South India to Kashmir in the North. Along the way, she meets and learns firsthand about the experiences of women from all corners of the country. The documentary can be seen on the big screen at 7 pm Thursday on August 12, 2021. Womb Director Srishti Bakshi says, “Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation. since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the world locking down to live within four walls, emerging data and reports from those on the frontlines have

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shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, have only intensified. In this documentary, we have celebrated ordinary women who’ve shown extraordinary courage to rise above their limitations and challenge deeply entrenched gender norms. We did this to unite the majority because what we discovered was that ‘gender-based violence is a crime perpetrated by the minority but perpetuated by the silence of the majority.” CONTD ON PG 5


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Ajitesh Sharma’s ‘WOMB’ to unleash iconic festival with 70... CONTD FROM PG 4 Producer Apoorva Bakshi says, “We take great pride in presenting our film at IFFM as the opening night gala presentation and look forward to sharing it with audiences worldwide. This documentary not only presents facts but also highlights possible solutions which can be implemented today.” In 2021, IFFM takes over five key venues in Melbourne’s CBD and suburbs, while an extended virtual season will see films stream for free via the festival’s website, iffm. com.au. IFFM has partnered with the Mental Health Foundation, and viewers will be encouraged to donate to the organization when they stream Festival films. Mitu Bhowmick Lange, IFFM Director says, “After the unprecedented challenges faced over the last 18 months, we are excited to bring the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne back to the big screen, while our digital platform will ensure viewers around Australia can access the festival too. In 2021, IFFM pays tribute to not only the best of Indian cinema, but to many of our COVID-19 heroes, offering vital community support, connection, and hope in these challenging Homes.”

“Film Victoria is proud to be the principal partner of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. For over a decade, this incredible celebration of Indian film and culture has given Victorians the opportunity to engage with diverse and compelling screen stories, and it’s wonderful that this year we can come together both in cinemas across Melbourne and online,” Caroline Pitcher, Film Victoria CEO asserts. The Indian Film Festival of Melbourne is the southern hemisphere’s greatest annual celebration of Indian cinema and films from the Indian subcontinent. Established in 2010, it is recognized as an important feature of the State’s cultural calendar. IFFM is proudly supported by the Victorian Government via Film Victoria – principal partner of the festival. The IFFM-2021 is supported and sponsored by the Victoria Government, Film Victoria, Commonwealth Bank, La Trobe University, City of Melbourne, Blackmagic Design, Hoyts, Mental Health Foundation Australia, SBS, Gday India, South Asia Times (SAT), Indusage, and Radio Haanji. Festival site – https://www.iffm.com.au/

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AUSTRALIA

South Asia Times

JULY 2021

View from The Hill COVID transition plan has bad news for returning travellers By Michelle Grattan*

The Prime Minister said national cabinet had agreed on a “mind-set change”.

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he plan to transition Australia from COVID-ascrisis to COVID-likeflu that Scott Morrison has announced is designed to send a positive message – and an exhortation – to a community jaded by lockdowns, aborted holidays and closed borders.

“Our mind-set on managing COVID-19 has to change once you move from pre-vaccination to post-vaccination. That’s the deal for Australians,” said Morrison, who is just out of quarantine after his overseas trip. The plan says measures in the second phase may include easing restrictions on vaccinated residents, such as lockdowns and border controls. There would be lockdowns only in extreme circumstances to prevent escalating hospitalisations and deaths.

But its most immediate and concrete measure is a negative. The caps on returning travellers coming on commercial flights will be halved, as the country deals with the highly infectious Delta strain. The reduced caps, which several states pressed for, are set to last into next year.

In this stage, inbound passenger caps would be restored at previous levels for unvaccinated returning travellers and there would be larger caps for vaccinated returning travellers.

Weekly arrivals will be cut to 3,035. Join 160,000 people who subscribe to free evidencebased news. The federal government will increase the number on its sponsored flights bringing people to the Howard Springs quarantine centre. But that won’t compensate for the slashed cap, in what will be a blow to many people already finding it hard to return home. On the more positive side, alternative quarantine options will be trialled, including home quarantine for returning vaccinated travellers, and there will be expanded commercial trials for limited entry of student and economic visas holders. Under huge political pressure over the slow vaccine rollout – jabs are currently around eight million – a major aim of Morrison’s four stage plan is to incentivise people to get vaccinated. At present the rollout is being held back not just by vaccine shortages and other problems but also by hesitancy – and in some cases complacency. The bad publicity around AstraZeneca has contributed to hesitancy.

Capped entry of student and economic visa holders would be allowed, subject to quarantine arrangements. New reduced quarantine arrangements would apply for vaccinated residents.

Cartoon- @DrPhore Under the plan, yet-tobe specified vaccination coverage will be the key to eventually managing COVID like other infectious diseases, notably the flu. But the “postvaccination” second stage of the plan won’t be reached until next year – and that’s assuming all goes well. A vaccination threshold for the easing, minimising or eschewing of restrictions, including lockdowns will be set on the basis of medical evidence and scientific modelling currently being done at Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute. Morrison said of the vaccination threshold:

“This will be a scientific number. It won’t be a political number, it won’t be an arbitrary number.” It could include targets for vulnerable populations such as the over-70s. Experts give a wide range of rates for the appropriate level of vaccination needed for adequate community immunity. Morrison announced the plan after national cabinet, at the end of a week that has seen brawling over his encouragement for younger people to take AstraZeneca, despite mixed health advice. He denied his Monday comments had been inconsistent with the official advice.

Under the plan, the country is presently in phase one – dubbed “vaccinate, prepare and pilot” – when the strategy is to “continue to suppress the virus for the purpose of minimising community transmission”. The plan has been agreed to “in principle” by the states and territories. But given they have the power over lockdowns and other restrictions, they won’t be bound by its specifics. Also the stages contain menus of measures rather than hard-and-fast commitments. The “post vaccination” second phase would “seek to minimise serious illness, hospitalisation and fatality” from COVID

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The third – “consolidation” – phase would see COVID-19 managed like the public health management of other infectious diseases. There would be no lockdowns and restrictions would be lifted for outbound travellers who were vaccinated. Stage four would bring a final loosening. There are not indicative timetables for the last two phases to start. The plan is largely a work-in-progress, as is the vexed rollout, but Morrison hopes it will help drive the jabs, and provide him with some political cover. *Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra Source- The Conversation, July 2, 2021 (Under Creative Commons Licence)


JULY 2021

community

South Asia Times

Sikh temple blends faith with protecting the environment By Neeraj Nanda

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ELBOURNE, 4 July 2021: With a massive cold breeze and the temperature down to seven, and an overcast sky, I reluctantly went with a friend to a Sikh temple in the ‘Officer’ suburb, thinking of a different spiritual Sunday weekend. Harpreet Singh, educationist by profession, welcomes us with hot ‘chai’ and ‘pakoras’ at the temple ‘langar’ (community kitchen), as the adjacent hall fills up with people listening to hymns from the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ (Sikh Holy book). The beautiful music seems to cut through the biting cold. A big surprise is in the offing.

We walk through big heavy moist grass towards a barricaded area with a ‘Mahindra’ tractor and compost bins nearby. Some sort of irrigation canal is visibly feeding this massive green patch. That’s what Harpreet wants us to see. The temple is massively involved in ‘organic farming’ using local resources. 650 square meters are dedicated to this style of farming fuelled by natures bounties. “it’s an experiment,” says Harpreet. The temple has a huge rainwater septic tank (95,000 litres) which feeds the Organic farm with necessary water and drip irrigation. No doubt most CONTD. ON PG 8

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South Asia Times

JULY 2021

Sikh temple blends faith with protecting the environment

CONTD. ON PG 8 of the devotees coming to the temple have a farming background back in Punjab, India and that makes things easy to get volunteers for this green experiment. This beautiful place seems in the no COVID zone, but Melbourne’s frequent lockdowns led it to its experiment with nature planting trees and growing organic stuff. The organic vegetables are cooked in the

community kitchen for the ‘langar’ amidst the ever mesmerising ‘shabads’. The Sikh community came to this place in 2018, since then there has been no looking back. Gurdwara Siri Guru Nanak Darbar Officer is situated in lush bushland adjacent to the Haunted Gully Creek. So, what all is produced. “Cabbage, Zucchini, Cucumber, Carrots to name a few vegetables. A thousand plus fruit trees have also been planted. No chemicals or fertilizer

is used”, says Harpreet Singh, who looks after the Sikh Temple. Much more is planned as the local council, Bunnings and advice from the Cardinia Food Movement. The Sikh temple has been active throughout the pandemic and distributing free groceries and food needs to venerable people. It’s faith in action for the people in need and protecting nature. The place has a new car park, and a new bigger community hall is planned,

says Harpreet. A bit of sun comes but the biting cold prevails. We shift inside the hall where the ‘Shabad Kirtan’ is in progress. The message of faith laced with love for nature reverberates the atmosphere. As I leave, I notice, three flags fluttering

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– the Australian flag, the ‘Nishan Sahib’ (Sikh flag) and the Aboriginal flag. A weekend well spent. Information about Gurdwara Siri Guru Nanak Darbar Officer can be found on the Facebook or visit www.sgnd.com.au


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JULY 2021

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Pew survey on religion shows Indians are hypocrites

The claim of Indians that they respect all religions does not square up with their attitudes towards religious communities to which they do not belong. By Ajaz Ashraf

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he presence of the word tolerant in the Washingtonbased Pew Research Centre’s report, Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation, is apt, for its extensive survey shows religious communities do not want to reside in close proximity to each other. And yet they allow each other to practice their faith. It is for this reason that 91% of the Pew survey’s 3,000 respondents affirm the existence of religious freedom in India, where tolerance is considering among its defining features. But tolerance is a negative term. It acquires the attribute of positivity only because of our realisation that we are capable of something even worse— for instance, harass or kill people because of their religious identity, as we periodically do. The Pew report shows a substantial number of Indians (45%) do not want as neighbours those who are adherents of a religion different from theirs. They are also adamantly opposed to inter-religion and inter-caste marriages. Non-Muslims think not consuming beef is more important than even believing in God. Likewise, Muslims believe not eating pork is more important than having faith in God. A large percentage of Hindus feel a person cannot be Hindu in case he or she celebrates Eid. Muslims, too, feel their brethren cannot be Muslim if he or she observes Diwali. Yet, at the same time, 84% of people believe “respect” for other religions is very important for being truly Indian. Another 80% think respect is vital for their own religious identity. The Pew report did not ask its respondents to define the term respect. It does seem the respondents have a very funny notion of respect, for they do not admire religious communities other than their own, as evident from their desire to live separately from communities to which they do not belong and in whose religious festivals they are opposed to participating. Forms of admiration constitute the very essence

of the word respect. It is possible we have been indoctrinated over time to say, parrot-like, that a true Indian is one who “respects” other religions. In reality, though, respect does not drive the interaction between religious communities. We certainly do not practice what we preach or profess to believe in. Indeed, the most appropriate term for those who do not practice what they preach is a hypocrite. The hypocrisy of Indians comes out starkly when granular details in the Pew report are examined. For instance, 85% of Hindus, 78% of Muslims, 78% of Christians, 81% of Sikhs, 84% of Buddhists and 83% of Jains believe respect for other religions is an essential attribute of being truly Indian. These figures would suggest that India is a land of communal harmony. Yet, as seen repeatedly over the years, we are susceptible to the politics of communal polarisation. We are susceptible because each religious community is acutely aware of its separateness from other communities. Look at these figures—66% of Hindus think Muslims are very different from them. And 64% of Muslims think the same about the Hindus. This feeling of separateness permeates all religious communities, which, in a way, have to be very different from each other because of their different belief systems. But what is striking is that normal impulses of humanity—for instance, camaraderie—fail to paper over the gap caused by the idea of separateness. Why else would Indians not want as neighbours those who do not belong to their religious communities?

However, responses vary from community to community—36% of Hindus do not want Muslims as their neighbour, but only 16% of Muslims do not want Hindus next door; 31% of Hindus do not want Christians living next to them, but only 11% of them feel the same regarding Hindus; 28% of Hindus do not want Sikhs in their neighbourhood, but only 18% of Sikhs would prefer to live without sharing a boundary wall with Hindus. It is easy to fathom why Muslims and Christians do not mind living with Hindus. The two religious minorities are largely poor. Those among them who have acquired a degree of prosperity would want to get out of community ghettos. This desire demands that Muslims and Christians negotiate their prejudices to reside in areas that, because of demography, are predominantly Hindu. That as many as 27% of Hindus do not want even Jains as neighbours is puzzling, more so as both communities are so alike in their food habits and economic status. Only 3% of Jains would not want Hindus next door. These comparative figures suggest Hindus prefer residential homogeneity. Not at all puzzling is the near-universal opposition to men and women marrying out of their religious communities, given the political controversy over inter-faith marriages in recent years. 67% of Hindus, a whopping 80% of Muslims, 59% of Sikhs, 46% of Buddhists and 66% of Jains are opposed to women of their communities marrying men of other faiths. More or less similar numbers oppose men marrying outside their communities. A lower percentage

of Christians (37%) are opposed to inter-faith marriages. As to why, the answer perhaps lies in the Pew finding that Christians who are urbane and have accessed higher education show “somewhat lower levels” of religious observance. On the other hand, a higher Muslim opposition to inter-religious marriages springs from the Islamic injunction that Muslim men can marry Jew and Christian women. However, Muslim women are proscribed from taking Jews and Christians as partners. A telling example of patriarchy! Muslim men and women cannot wed those who are neither Jew nor Christian without their partners undergoing conversion. Nevertheless, conversion, the Pew report shows, remains negligible for all communities. The hypocrisy of Indians scales incredible heights when it comes to gauging their sense of who is truly Hindu or Muslim. Thus, 72% of Hindus say a person cannot be Hindu if he or she eats beef; 63% of them say those Hindus who celebrate Eid cannot be Hindu. By contrast, only 49% says a person who does not believe in god cannot be Hindu. Likewise, 58% of Muslims say those among them who celebrate Diwali cannot be Muslim, and 77% of them say a person who eats pork cannot be Muslim. However, 60% of Muslims say an atheist cannot be Muslim. God is the pivot of all religions, although not necessarily of spiritualism. Yet, a higher proportion of Hindus and Muslims think beef and pork and celebrating festivals are far more important markers of their religiosity than having faith in god. This shows that the politics of our time has turned religion into an ideology, and the centrality of god in the belief system of communities will likely be subordinated to practices turned into hot-button issues of everyday politics. The Pew report helps plumb the Indian psyche on two other counts. Only 20% of Indians say there is caste-based discrimination in India, although 27% of Dalits think there is. More people in the South (30%)

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than in the North (22%) and the Central (13%) think discrimination on account of caste exists. In a country where people are killed for sporting twirled-up moustaches or riding a motorcycle or mare, the Pew findings regarding the low incidence of castebased discrimination are surprising. Add to this the fact that the National Crime Records Bureau has been consistently reporting a rise in the violence against Dalits over the years. Only the hegemony of caste ideology can explain the Pew findings—people think the discrimination they encounter is normal or justified. More people in the South than in the North or Central India affirmed discrimination exists. This is largely because the opposition to caste inequalities is stiffer in the South than anywhere else in India, thus making more people aware of discrimination. The most controversial aspect of the Pew report is its finding that 64% of Hindus think being Hindu is important to be truly Indian. Another 59% feel speaking Hindi defines the true Indian. These two types of Hindus are largely present in Central India (83% and 87%) and North India (69% and 71%) than in the South (42% and 27%). Nearly 30% of Hindus who voted the BJP (49% of all Hindus did in the 2019 elections) think being Hindu and speaking Hindi are both very important to be truly Indian. This finding ties up very neatly with the reluctance of religious communities, particularly Hindus, to live together, their opposition to celebrate religious festivals not theirs, their hostility to inter-religious and intercaste marriages, and their disdain for foods habits different from theirs. How do we then explain that an overwhelming number of people believe that respect for all religions is the essence of being truly Indian and truly religious? The explanation is: Our hypocrisy, which is common to all communities. The author is an independent journalist. The views are personal. Source- newsclick.in, 4 July, 2021.


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South Asia Times

JULY 2021

French judge opens investigation into alleged corruption in Rafale Deal: Report By Ron Bastian

the GOI”.

he Mediapart report has also revealed that the first MoU between Dassault and Anil Ambani’s company was signed on March 26, 2015, while PM Modi’s decision to scrap the earlier contract for 126 aircraft was made public in April 2015.

This is confirmed by the fact that in November 2015, Dassault CEO Trappier and Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani reportedly signed a “strategic partnership agreement”, which was a more detailed document than the previous March 26, 2015, MoU, for the establishment of a joint venture in India.

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A French judge has been tasked with investigating the alleged corruption and favouritism in the Rafale deal which involved sale of 36 fighter aircraft to India at around Rs 59,000 crore, French investigative portal Mediapart reported on July 2. The new development is expected to reignite demands for an independent probe in India into the controversial deal that took place in 2016. “The highly sensitive probe into the intergovernmental deal signed in 2016 was formally opened on June 14,” Mediapart said, and added the development was confirmed by the financial crimes branch of the French public prosecution services, PNF, on Friday. Notably, the website had published a series of investigative reports in April 2021 on alleged irregularities in the deal, that included the role of a middleman whose disclosures India’s Enforcement Directorate is reportedly aware of but has not bothered to investigate so far. One report noted that Rafale manufacturer Dassault had agreed to pay one million euros to an Indian middleman following the finalisation of the Rafale deal on September 23, 2016, revealed during an audit by the anti-corruption authorities, Agence Française Anticorruption.

branch of France’s public prosecution services, Éliane Houlette, shelved an investigation into alleged evidence of corruption in the Rafale jet deal despite the objection of colleagues in 2019. It said Houlette justified her decision to shelve the investigations as preserving “the interests of France, the workings of institutions”. Talking about the reopening of investigation, Yann Phillipin wrote in Mediapart, two years after Houlette’s decision, “her successor as head of the PNF, Jean-François Bohnert, has decided to support the opening of a probe, after the complaint was updated with details from Mediapart’s recent series of investigations.”

According to Mediapart, the PNF investigation will look into allegations of corruption, influence peddling, money laundering and favouritism during the deal, based on a complaint lodged by the French NGO Sherpa, which specialises in financial crime, with the tribunal of Paris.

As per reports, the criminal investigation will also “examine questions surrounding the actions of former French president François Hollande, who was in office when the Rafale deal was signed, and the current French president Emmanuel Macron, who was Holllande’s economy and finance minister at the time, as well as the then defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, now Macron’s minister for foreign affairs”.

Further, the French investigative portal had also claimed that the former head of the financial crimes

So far, Dassault Aviation has not responded to the allegations but had earlier stated that it has been

“compliant with the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and national laws”. With the investigation being opened, Anil Ambani’s Reliance group which was Dassault’s Indian partner for the deal is also likely to come under the scanner. Reportedly, NGO Sherpa in its earlier complaint had denounced the fact that Dassault chose Reliance Group as its Indian partner, whose proprietor Ambani is close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The deal was finalised in September 2016, with India ordering the jets as an emergency purchase through a government-to-government deal. Prior to that, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Dassault had been officially negotiating terms for purchase and manufacture of 126 aircraft since 2012. In April 2015, after PM Modi paid an official visit to France, the talks suddenly broke down and Reliance Group, which has no experience in aeronautics, replaced HAL and finalised a new contract for 36 jets. However, following the deal, the Opposition, led by the Congress, claimed that the price at which India is buying Rafale aircraft now is Rs 1,670 crore for each, three times the initial bid of Rs 526 crore by the company when

the UPA was trying to buy the aircraft. In a shocking revelation, the Mediapart report states that the first MoU between Dassault and Anil Ambani’s company was signed on March 26, 2015: “Documents seen by Mediapart show that Dassault and Reliance had in fact signed their first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) – a document setting out broad outlines of an agreement – on March 26th 2015. That was 15 days before Modi’s announcement of the turnaround, and the exclusion of HAL, and begs the question as to whether the two companies had been informed of it in advance.” This raises several questions as the new MoU does not mention any involvement with HAL, even though Dassault was still in talks with the governmentowned HAL for execution of the original contract for 126 aircraft. According to Mediapart, the confidential documents accessed by the journal reveal how Dassault had in fact no interest in forming a partnership with Reliance other than for political reasons. And its primary expectation from Reliance was “provision of production facilities and marketing for programs and services with

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This agreement, Mediapart reported, set out a project by the two so that, in the case of “subsequent sales” to India which would include local manufacturing activity, it would be the joint venture company that would be in charge of the “aircraft final assembly line”. Not only that, Dassault and Reliance also envisaged taking part in fighter jet development for which HAL was in charge. Just two months after the intergovernmental agreement finalising the sale of 36 Rafales was signed in 2016, Dassault and Reliance signed a “shareholders’ agreement” which set out their relationship in the future joint venture company. However, the sensitive financial details of this agreement, notes Mediapart, meant that “they did not figure in the contract, and instead were contained in a confidential “side letter” which was signed that same day”. This letter revealed that “Dassault had pledged to provide up to 159 million euros out of the total investment of 169 million euros, representing 94% of that total. Meanwhile, the contribution by Reliance, it was noted, “shall not exceed 10 million euros, all in equity”.” Meanwhile, at a press conference, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra played down the appointment of a judge in France to lead a judicial investigation into the alleged corruption and favouritism in the Rs 59,000 crore deal, saying the development was outcome of a complaint by an NGO and should not be seen as a matter of corruption. Source- newsclick.in, 3 July 2021.


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US and NATO withdraw from an Afghanistan still at war: What you need to know By Sandra Peteresmann

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n April 14, United States President Joe Biden told Americans when their country's longest war would finally end: "I'm now the fourth US president to preside over American troop presence in Afghanistan: two Republicans, two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth." Biden delivered his address in the White House Treaty Room. It was in this same room that George W. Bush had announced the US-led attack on Afghanistan on October 7, 2001: "On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations, and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime." Between these two statements lie 20 years of war and terror. Why did the US and its allies attack Afghanistan? The beginning was driven by retaliation. The US had determined that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network were responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington, DC, which killed 2,977 people. Bin Laden had been running al-Qaida from Afghanistan since the fundamentalist Taliban seized power in 1996. Just one day after the September 11 attacks, for the first time the NATO alliance invoked its mutual defense clause, according to which an attack on one member can be seen as an attack on all. On the same day, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1368, condemning the terrorist attacks and reaffirming the right to individual or collective self-defense. On October 7, 2001, the United States and United Kingdom conducted their first airstrikes in

Afghanistan. Why did US-led NATO forces stay in the country for two decades? The primary US goal was to hunt down Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. But there was never a clear exit strategy. The troops stayed when the US launched another war, in Iraq in 2003. They also stayed after US special forces had killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 — albeit that operation happened not in Afghanistan, but in neighboring Pakistan, where he had apparently lived for at least five years. "We delivered justice to bin Laden a decade ago, and we've stayed in Afghanistan for a decade since. Since then, our reasons for remaining in Afghanistan are becoming increasingly unclear, even as the terrorist threat we went to fight evolved," Biden said on April 14 in the Treaty Room. "American troops shouldn't be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries," the president added. The decision to pull out is also an admission of failure. In fact, US and NATO forces were sucked ever deeper into power dynamics that they had created themselves: To eliminate al-Qaida in Afghanistan, the Western coalition had partnered with warlords such as Mohammed Fahim and Abdul Rashid Dostum,

who have been accused of atrocities. Both men were appointed to terms as vice president during the decades that the US and NATO have been in Afghanistan. Afghanistan had already experienced more than two decades of continuous war before US jets dropped their first bombs in 2001. From 1979 to 1989, the occupying Soviet forces battled loosely allied US-backed resistance fighters, many of whom would seek competing fates for Afghanistan when the Kremlin pulled out its troops, giving way to the still-unresolved civil war. The warlords' brutal struggle with one another destroyed the capital, Kabul, and led to the Taliban's seizing of power. Despite the complex history off alliances, the Taliban's opponents were perceived to be NATO's partners. The West invested billions of dollars into the goal of building a democratic Afghanistan after the Taliban's swift fall in December 2001. The US flatly refused to negotiate with officials from the toppled Islamist regime, many of whom fled toward Pakistan. The seeds were sown for new violence, new terror and rampant corruption. NATO's deployment grew over the years, eventually involving close to 50 nations. The mission, which had been pitched as

one of reconstruction and peace, turned into a combat mission as the Taliban regrouped and rearmed to wage a full-blown insurgency. Afghanistan expert Ibraheem Bahiss, who also advises the International Crisis Group, sums it up in one sentence: "Once you have overthrown a force that was ruling over the country and replaced it with a disparate group of actors with diverging priorities and capabilities, seems like there really is very little choice other than to engage in some ways to keep the country from falling apart." But, after two decades, the US has now decided that Afghanistan, even if it disintegrates, does not pose enough of a global threat to keep boots on the ground. US security interests are focused primarily on an increasingly assertive China. How many victims have died in this war? According to the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, which has documented the number of civilian casualties since 2009, nearly 111,000 civilians had been killed or injured by the end of 2020. The Taliban and other extremist groups are responsible for most of the casualties. But international troops have also killed many innocent civilians — especially when attacking villages with fighter jets and drones.

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The US Army has lost 2,442 soldiers; the Bundeswehr, 59. It is unknown how many Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killed. That devastating figure has been kept secret for many years out of security concerns. In January 2019, however, President Ashraf Ghani made the surprise announcement at the World Economic Forum in Davos that more than 45,000 members of the Afghan security forces had lost their lives since he took office in 2014. There is also no reliable information on the number of Taliban fighters and other extremists killed in the conflict. According to calculations by the Costs of War Project at the prestigious Brown University in Rhode Island and judging by current media reports, a figure considerably higher than 50,000 seems very realistic. What is known about the cost of the war? Brown University's Costs of War Project has also estimated that the United States spent more than $2 trillion (€1.7 trillion) on the war in Afghanistan from October 2001 through April 2021. About half of this sum, $933 billion, was spent on the US Army. According to the White House, the US invested $144 billion in the reconstruction of Afghanistan during the same period. The bulk of this sum, more than $88 billion, went toward the Afghan security forces. Government sources indicated to DW that Germany spent more than 18 billion on the Afghanistan mission from 2002 through 2020. According to the Defense Ministry, by far the largest share, 12.5 billion, was spent on the Bundeswehr mission. The German Foreign Ministry has provided civilian support amounting to €2.4 billion since 2001, a spokeswoman told DW. The building of state institutions was supported with about €950 million from 2002 through 2019, she said. What has the international intervention achieved and where has it failed? CONTD. ON PG 12


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US and NATO withdraw from an Afghanistan still... CONTD. FROM PG 11

he said. "We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives. Bin Laden is dead, and al Qaeda is degraded in Iraq, in Afghanistan. And it's time to end the forever war."

When the intervention began in October 2001, Afghanistan was an isolated, devastated country where women were stoned to death and political opponents executed. Only three countries recognized the Taliban's fundamentalist emirate: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Today, Afghanistan is an Islamic republic with a Western-sponsored democratic constitution and an internationally recognized, elected government. Women sit in parliament, and girls attend school. "There is greater public knowledge about human rights, and a more vibrant discourse around human rights across Afghanistan," Shaharzad Akbar, the chairwoman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, told DW. She said that was a massive achievement. Younger Afghans have benefited greatly from new schools and universities and continue to display an incredible thirst for education. Access to health care has increased, as has the number of roads, cellphone towers, dams, bridges, power pylons and water pipes. But the country has not found peace and has deep social and economic divisions, as much of the aid has only reached the urban elites. More than half of the population continues to live in abject poverty. The contested areas in the south and east of the country — the heartland of the Taliban — are in particularly bad shape after bearing the brunt of Western firepower and then being left behind by the reconstruction effort. UN Special Envoy Deborah Lyons fears that

Bahiss said Western democracies should "try a bit of humility and learn more about the societies they plan to transform." He said Afghanistan was a particular example of how wrong it is "to see everything as a military problem."

escalating violence and the coronavirus pandemic could push the poverty rate from nearly 50% to over 70%. "I cannot stress enough my concern about the current situation in Afghanistan," she told the UN Security Council on June 22. Meanwhile, US intelligence agencies have concluded that the government could collapse within six months of the departure of the last international troops. The possible "slide toward some dire scenarios is undeniable," Lyons said in her video conference with the Security Council. Is there a chance for peace? Not anytime soon. After the regime disintegrated in the winter of 2001, the Taliban were in a position of weakness, but the US categorically rejected talks. This attitude has backfired, because today the group projects itself as the winner of its war against mighty NATO — especially since the signing of the Doha Agreement with the US in February 2020. With Pakistani support, the Taliban have achieved one of their main goals: the unconditional withdrawal of

international troops. Ignoring calls for a ceasefire or at least a reduction in violence, they are now on the offensive and advancing on urban centers. The Taliban reject the Afghan constitution and want to replace it with a "truly Islamic system." They have so far refused to share what this means exactly. The intra-Afghan peace talks, which began in the Qatari capital, Doha, in September 2020, have all but stalled. In the first three months of this year, the number of civilian casualties increased by almost 30% compared with the same period last year. Women make up a large number of those killed in a deadly campaign of targeted attacks on media workers, judges and civil society activists. "This escalation of violence means the Taliban are fighting to win," Human Rights Commissioner Akbar said. "They are fighting for a military takeover. They will resort to any means they think will help. " If the Islamists do in fact seize power militarily,

Afghanistan analyst Bahiss fears a return to the isolation of the 1990s: "It will be a pariah state with which the neighbors, including China, will only negotiate when and if they have to. Aid will dissipate. Pockets of resistance will continue." What lessons should Western democracies learn? At the beginning of President Barack Obama's tenure, the United States had briefly deployed about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. But "wars are not won simply because you throw more men and more money at the problem," Bahiss said. That's why the US finally entered official negotiations with the Taliban in July 2018 — without involving the elected Afghan government or NATO partners. "We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021," Biden said in the Treaty Room — in fact admitting that state-building by military means is not possible. "War in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multigenerational undertaking,"

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Akbar said a major issue was the lack of justice and accountability within NATO in Afghanistan. "The very fact that there was never a proper investigation into the credible allegations of abuse by international forces didn't help the credibility of international partners," she said. "Also, the fact that they worked with and empowered people despite the fact that there were credible allegations of war crimes against them in Afghanistan, didn't help them either." As is the case with the conflict in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan has created more terror, not less. AlQaida's presence in the country is diminished, but the threat has metastasized. The so-called Islamic State has emerged on the Afghan battlefield, too. The war has roiled a volatile region in which nuclear powers India and Pakistan are locked in a hostile stand-off while Iran, China and Russia are seeking greater influence, too. Afghanistan continues to be one of the three countries from which most refugees in Germany originate. Source- dw.com, June 30, 2021.


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Pakistan: Enforced disappearances jump to record high this year By Rehan Piracha

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AHORE: A total of 1142 cases of enforced disappearances have been reported to the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COIED) in the first six months of 2021, crossing the previous highest annual tally of 1098 cases in 2018. According to the data from the COIED, the number of reported cases this year (2021) has reached the highest annual tally on enforced disappearances as compared to the previous five years. In 2016, the COIED received 728 new cases of enforced disappearances while it received 868 cases in 2017. The number of new cases jumped to 1,098 in 2018. The new cases declined to 800 in 2019 while further reducing to 415 cases in 2020. The jump in numbers of enforced disappearances is surprising as activists and representatives of missing persons have previously told Voicepk.net that apparently the cases of enforced disappearances were witnessing a decline in the previous six months. Scores of missing persons have been reunited with their families in the same period. Activists have also spoken about how families are now less likely to report cases of enforced disappearances on assurances from authorities that their loved ones will be released sooner if the families don’t report them missing. In March, Prime Minister Imran Khan had told a delegation of families of missing persons that the military and the federal government are on the same page to resolve the issue of enforced disappearances that have plagued the country for over two decades. On June 7, Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari tabled a bill in the National Assembly to criminalise enforced disappearances in the country. The bill titled Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, states that a new section 52-B (enforced disappearance) should be inserted into PPC after section 52-A. “(The) term enforced disappearance relates to the arrest, detention, abduction, or any other form of deprivation of liberty by an agent of the

In March, Prime Minister Imran Khan had told a delegation of families of missing persons that the military and the federal government are on the same page to resolve the issue of enforced disappearances that have plagued the country for over two decades. On June 7, Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari tabled a bill in the National Assembly to criminalise enforced disappearances in the country. enforced disappearances The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has called for further debate and amendments to the bill. According to PPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar, enforced disappearances must be treated as a separate autonomous crime and a separate legal mechanism was needed for taking up complaints, holding perpetrators accountable, and providing for compensation to the aggrieved families. Record disposal of cases However, the commission was able to dispose of a record number of cases this year as compared to the previous five years. Till 30th June, the COIED disposed of 969 cases in the sixmonth period as compared to disposal of 433 cases in 2020. Similarly, the COIED disposed of 814 cases in 2019; 671 cases in 2018; 555 cases in 2017; and 899 cases in 2016. According to the data from the COIED, 45 new cases of enforced disappearances were reported to the commission state or by person or group of persons acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which places such a person outside the protection of the law,” according to the proposed section. The bill has been referred to the standing committee on the interior for vetting. PPP objections to bill on www.southasiatimes.com.au - 0421 677 082

in June. The commission disposed of 45 cases in the same month while the total number of pending cases stood at 2296 till 30th June. The COIED stated that out of 45 cases disposed of in the month, 36 missing persons were traced. Out of the 36 traced persons, 20 individuals were reunited with their families. Out of the remaining, 11 missing persons were confined in internment centres and 5 others were confined in jails. The commission rejected 9 cases for not being enforced disappearances. 2,296 pending cases Out of the total 2,296 pending cases with COIED, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has the highest pendency figure of 1436 cases. The number of pending missing person cases in Balochistan stands at 334, followed by Punjab with 277 cases. Sindh had 180 pending cases; Islamabad had 39 cases; Azad Kashmir had 17 cases, and Gilgit Baltistan had 3 cases. Source-voicepk.net, July 1, 2021.


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special article

JULY 2021

CPC Transforms China as World Class Power

It achieved twin goals of getting rid of poverty and standing up to bullying by foreigners by developing “socialism with Chinese characteristics” and realising that development, not ideology, is the hard truth. By M.K. Bhadrakumar

the English Revolution of the 1640s, the American, the French, and the 1917 Russian Revolution. Brinton concluded how revolutions followed a life-cycle from the Old Order to a moderate regime to a radical regime, to Thermidorian reaction.

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his is the season to re-read Edgar Snow’s Red Star Over China, the classic work on the birth of the communist movement in China. Alongside John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook the World, the gripping eyewitness account of the Bolshevik Revolution, Snow’s book was compulsive reading in the first flush of revolutionary enthusiasm as college students. Then, inevitably, time took its toll. There is a famous work The Anatomy of Revolution (1939) by the American historian of France Crane Brinton which outlines the uniformities of four major political revolutions —

Zhou Enlai (left) and Mao Zedong (second from left) at Chinese Communist capital of Yan’an, c.1936. Photo by Edgar Snow.

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He likened the dynamics of revolutionary movements to the progress of fever. Brinton’s book appeared a full decade before the Chinese revolution. However, although much water has flowed down the Yangtze since the “Thermidorian reaction” set in, there is still keen delight in the precarious notions the Revolution left behind in China, which are both dramatic and didactic and inspire animated discussion. CONTD. ON PG 15


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CPC Transforms China as... CONTD. FROM PG 14 Without doubt, the Communist Party of China (CPC), whose centennial falls on July 1, has a great deal to celebrate. It took almost three decades after the revolution (1949) for the CPC to realise that development, not ideology, is the hard truth. In Deng Xiaoping’s words, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice.” Those poignant words signalled that China was changing course and embarking on a radically new development path required to meet the country’s actual conditions at that point in time. Deng’s reform and opening up in 1978 unshackled China from the ideological straitjacket. When Mao died in 1976, China’s per capita GDP was more or less that of Bangladesh. Today, the United States feels greatly agitated that China is the world’s second largest economy already and well set to overtake it before the end of this decade. The World Bank estimates that the CPC lifted 800 million people out of absolute poverty in the four decades since 1978, a stupendous feat in human history. In 2012, Xi Jinping as the new General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee pledged that the 100 million people who were still below poverty line would move up the ladder by 2020. He redeemed that pledge last December as China became completely free of poverty. To spearhead the poverty alleviation programme, from 2013 to 2020, the CPC selected and dispatched as first Party secretaries and resident working team members to rural and remote areas to accurately identify each and every poor family and poor village, and implement targeted projects nationwide to comprehensively improve their lives and livelihood. It is precisely this unique Party-State system that explains China’s epochal rise. The CPC is omnipotent in China and has become synonymous with the nation, the society and its politics. Succinctly put, national development flows from the robust pursuit of long-term goals set by the CPC. The Party system is based on educated, competent functionaries who have risen

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivers an important speech at a ceremony marking the CPC's centennial at Tian'anmen Square in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua

to the top with grassroots experience in multiple provinces that moulded their national outlook, which makes the top leadership collegiate and helps consensus-building on major national issues. Indeed, it strengthens cohesion and ensures continuity in the party as it transits from one generation to another. The annual conclave at the seaside resort of Beidahe testifies to the continuity and change in orderly transition — something which no other communist party in the world could emulate. The CPC’s centennial marks a historic breakthrough for China by far exceeding the predictions of most foreign observers. In a nutshell, the CPC has achieved the twin collective goals of getting rid of poverty and standing up to bullying by foreigners. The CPC could do it only by shunning the ideological dogmatism of Marxism-Leninism and developing “socialism with Chinese characteristics” through a continuous process of experimenting, innovating, and correcting and overcoming mistakes. No doubt, the CPC drew appropriate lessons out of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The CPC realised that its political legitimacy ultimately lies in building a strong economy and constantly raising people’s living standards in a climate of stability and predictability. Today, the nation brims with hope for a still better

tomorrow. The CPC cannot be simply categorised nor compared to any other political party in history. In addition to its wide membership (95 million), the party is also unique in its attributes. Apart from being a a super political force, it also defines China’s institutional form and state form. Unlike in the West where a political part may maintain the balance of political power for a while, the CPC undertook the mission of leading the Chinese people generation by generation. Evidently, the Party clearly exceeds the cognitive framework provided by Western political knowledge and experience.” In a stirring editorial today, the People’s Daily wrote, “In the most critical moments of modern times, Chinese Communists turned to Marxism-Leninism. Adapting the theories to China’s actual conditions, Chinese Communists invigorated the great civilization created by the nation over thousands of years with the power of the truths of Marxism. The Chinese civilization again shined with tremendous spiritual strength. One hundred years on, Marxism has profoundly changed China, while China has also greatly enriched Marxism. The CPC upholds the unity of emancipating the mind and seeking truth, as well as the unity of the consolidation of tradition and innovation, and has constantly opened new horizons for Marxism.” However, China is not prescriptive. The CPC’s

Beijing does not present the CPC as a model for the rest of the world. On the contrary, the CPC’s explorations are carried out on the Chinese soil and the Party draws inspiration out of its own experience of modernisation and from the resources of China’s own civilisation.

path is defined by China’s civilisation foundation of thousands of years, which instils deep into the collective consciousness the special meaning of a unified political system, prevents destructive competition and regional divisions, and maintains national security to the Chinese society. The great inclusiveness of Chinese society the CPC represents has no parallel.

purchasing power parity.

That is why it is a delusional thought that through Western political experience, China can be forcibly transformed. The West is in denial mode as regards the validity of China’s exploration of its own development path. Beijing does not present the CPC as a model for the rest of the world. On the contrary, the CPC’s explorations are carried out on the Chinese soil and the Party draws inspiration out of its own experience of modernisation and from the resources of China’s own civilisation.

Quintessentially, what the US faces is a selfinvited predicament. The wasteful wars and military interventions have drained trillions of dollars worth resources, which could have been diverted to the restoration and renewal of the country’s dilapidated economic infrastructure and redressal of accumulated social contradictions ranging from deep-rooted racism, violence, inequities in wealth and economic disparities, apart from a dysfunctional political system with hopelessly outdated electoral laws that hamper people’s empowerment.

So, what is this IndoPacific ‘itch’ about? Plainly put, it is the manifestation of a seething rivalry borne partly out of the obsessive US exceptionalism but largely due to the growing sense of envy and unease that another country is fast closing ranks and that might spell the doom for America’s global hegemony. Despite all bravado, the point is the US is hard put to compete with China’s dynamic, innovative and rapidly growing economy that is already world’s number one in terms of

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Professor Stephen Watt at Harvard Kennedy School tweeted today, “A lot of US foreign policy experts are worried about China’s rise. Me too. But how many of these experts have reflected on the fact that China hasn’t been fighting wars in lots of places, while steadily gaining greater wealth, power and influence?”

From President Xi’s address in Beijing on Thursday, it is clear that China is determined not to capitulate to the US bullying. As he put it, the Chinese nation carries no aggressive or hegemonic traits in its genes but will never allow foreign bullying or attempts at suppression or subjugation. In sum, the “founding spirit” of the CPC developed by the pioneers of Communism in China will be a force to reckon with in world politics. Source: newsclick.com, 02 Jul 2021 (Indian Punchline)


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JULY 2021

Recalling 'common bonds' between India and United States, dating back to 18th century By Dr Mike Ghouse*

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uly 4 bonds the United States with India and Muslims. Indeed, India is a part of the American heritage from the very beginning. Upon declaration of our Independence on July 4, 1776, one of the first three heads of the states who recognized the sovereignty of the United States was Nederland, Morocco, and the kingdom of Mysore (now Karnataka), India. Morocco was the first country to recognize the Independence of the United States of America and signed the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship, the first of its kind. Friesland, one of the seven United Provinces of the Dutch Republic were the next to recognize, and Tipu Sultan, the King of Mysore State, was the third. Today, we celebrate our Independence and democracy. Indians and Americans have a shared heritage. America is the oldest democracy in the world, and India is the largest democracy. Both George Washington and Tipu Sultan fought our common enemy Lord Cornwallis – Washington chased him out of America, and Tipu Sultan defeated him in one of three wars but lost to him in the 4th war of Mysore. Cornwallis bribed Tipu's confidant Mir Sadiq to get information about Tipu's whereabouts and hit him from the back. Had Mir Sadiq not betrayed Tipu Sultan, India would have achieved her freedom in 1799, right behind America in 1776. Tipu Sultan also sent a congratulatory message to George Washington, which I believe is in the National Library of France. Both George Washington and Tipu Sultan died in the same year, 1799, Washington on December 14, and Sultan on May 4. Dr. Chik Range Gowda, an authority on Tipu Sultan in Bangalore, whom I met several times, believes that Tipu Sultan funded George Washington's Army, however, it is not verified yet. Dr Gowda also presented me with a brass bust of Tipu Sultan made on the Bi-centenary of the Tipu's

death in 1999, and is one of my cherished possessions. I had let go of many of my collections to choose to live a minimalist life, but I have kept Tipu's bust. So, I may have to present this to the Smithsonian to preserve it. The Mysorean Rocket was Tipu Sultan's invention. He also invented the Torpedo, known as Bangalore Torpedo, which is considered the precursor for American rockets that went to the Moon. Thomas Jefferson wrote the immortal Declaration of our Independence on July 4, 1776: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar also made an immortal declaration about India's Preamble on January 22, 1947: "It was, indeed, a way of life, which recognizes liberty, equality, and fraternity as the principles of life and which cannot be divorced from each other: Liberty cannot be divorced from equality; equality cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity. Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the

many. Equality without liberty would kill individual initiative. Without fraternity, liberty and equality could not become a natural course of things." Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution says that all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one's own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures, or any other mode. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances", said the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Both India and America have identical Human Rights – the right to equality, right to freedom, rights against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, and constitutional remedies. Indeed, the objectives stated by the Preamble are to secure justice, liberty, equality for all citizens and promote fraternity to maintain unity and integrity of the nation. The above declarations

"We hold these truths to be selfevident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

nasty things about Indians. He did not believe Indians can handle democracy, and they have proven him wrong repeatedly. Indians are inherently democratic in their views. Until 2014, India was a stable democracy and was on track to become a great nation as a non-aligned leader. However, India is going through a turbulent time now, and we pray for her recovery. Prime Minister Modi has failed the Indians on the economy, social cohesion, human rights, and democracy, his ratings have dwindled to 22% , and may be voted out in the 2024 elections. Indians believe in freedom, and fascism is anathema to them. Indian democracy is resilient.

resonate with Muslims as well. Prophet Muhamad (pbuh) made a similar announcement on March 6, 632 AD, Eleven hundred forty-four (1144) years before Jefferson's declaration. "All mankind is from Adam and Eve; an Arab has no superiority over a nonArab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action."

India and the United States will continue to have a strong relationship to bring peace and security to the world. Indian Americans, and Muslim Americans, we uphold, protect, defend, and celebrate the values enshrined in the U.S. constitution. We believe in the creed of "One Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all." --*Founder-president of the Center for Pluralism, Washington DC

When Mahatma Gandhi was seeking Independence from the British, Churchill had said

Source- counterview.net, July 4, 2021.

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WHO global report on AI in health presents governments, providers, and communities with opportunities and challenges By Suresh Nellikode*

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eneva: Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds great promise for improving the delivery of healthcare and medicine worldwide, but only if ethics and human rights are put at the heart of its design, deployment, and use, according to new WHO guidance published today. The report, Ethics and governance of artificial intelligence for health, is the result of 2 years of consultations held by a panel of international experts appointed by WHO. “Like all new technology, artificial intelligence holds enormous potential for improving the health of millions of people around the world, but like all technology it can also be misused and cause harm,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This important new report provides a valuable guide for countries on how to maximize the benefits of AI, while minimizing its risks and avoiding its pitfalls.” Artificial intelligence can be, and in some wealthy countries is already being used to improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis and screening for diseases; to assist with clinical care; strengthen health research and drug development, and support diverse public health interventions, such as disease surveillance, outbreak response, and health systems management. AI could also empower patients to take greater control of their own health care and better understand their evolving needs. It could also enable resourcepoor countries and rural communities, where patients often have restricted access to health-care workers or medical professionals, to bridge gaps in access to health services. However, WHO’s new report cautions against overestimating the benefits of AI for health, especially when this occurs at the expense

of core investments and strategies required to achieve universal health coverage. It also points out that opportunities are linked to challenges and risks, including unethical collection and use of health data; biases encoded in algorithms, and risks of AI to patient safety, cybersecurity, and the environment. For example, while private and public sector investment in the development and deployment of AI is critical, the unregulated use of AI could subordinate the rights and interests of patients and communities to the powerful commercial interests of technology companies or the interests of governments in surveillance and social control. The report also emphasizes that systems trained primarily on data collected from individuals in highincome countries may not perform well for individuals in low- and middle-income settings. AI systems should therefore be carefully designed to reflect the diversity of socio-economic and health-care settings. They should be accompanied by training in digital skills, community engagement and awareness-raising, especially

for millions of healthcare workers who will require digital literacy or retraining if their roles and functions are automated, and who must contend with machines that could challenge the decisionmaking and autonomy of providers and patients. Ultimately, guided by existing laws and human rights obligations, and new laws and policies that enshrine ethical principles, governments, providers, and designers must work together to address ethics and human rights concerns at every stage of an AI technology’s design, development, and deployment. Six principles to ensure AI works for the public interest in all countries To limit the risks and maximize the opportunities intrinsic to the use of AI for health, WHO provides the following principles as the basis for AI regulation and governance: Protecting human autonomy: In the context of health care, this means that humans should remain in control of health-care systems and medical decisions; privacy and confidentiality should be protected, and patients must give valid informed consent through

appropriate legal frameworks for data protection. Promoting human wellbeing and safety and the public interest. The designers of AI technologies should satisfy regulatory requirements for safety, accuracy and efficacy for well-defined use cases or indications. Measures of quality control in practice and quality improvement in the use of AI must be available. Ensuring transparency, explainability and intelligibility. Transparency requires that sufficient information be published or documented before the design or deployment of an AI technology. Such information must be easily accessible and facilitate meaningful public consultation and debate on how the technology is designed and how it should or should not be used. Fostering responsibility and accountability. Although AI technologies perform specific tasks, it is the responsibility of stakeholders to ensure that they are used under appropriate conditions and by appropriately trained people. Effective mechanisms should be available for questioning and for redress for individuals and groups that are adversely affected by decisions based on

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algorithms. Ensuring inclusiveness and equity. Inclusiveness requires that AI for health be designed to encourage the widest possible equitable use and access, irrespective of age, sex, gender, income, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability or other characteristics protected under human rights codes. Promoting AI that is responsive and sustainable. Designers, developers and users should continuously and transparently assess AI applications during actual use to determine whether AI responds adequately and appropriately to expectations and requirements. AI systems should also be designed to minimize their environmental consequences and increase energy efficiency. Governments and companies should address anticipated disruptions in the workplace, including training for healthcare workers to adapt to the use of AI systems, and potential job losses due to use of automated systems. These principles will guide future WHO work to support efforts to ensure that the full potential of AI for healthcare and public health will be used for the benefits of all. Source- WHO, June 28, 2021.


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South Asia Times

JULY 2021

What’s a ghost kitchen? A food industry expert explains

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hile the phrase “ghost kitchen” may conjure up images of haunted houses, the reality is a bit more mundane. Ghost kitchens are food prep operations with no waiters, no dining room and no parking lot – really, no public presence whatsoever. But on food delivery apps, they’re alive and well. In short, ghost kitchens are physical spaces for operators to create food for off-premises consumption. And on apps like Grubhub and DoorDash, listings for restaurants operating out of ghost kitchens usually don’t look any different than those for brick-andmortar operations. For example, where I live in northern Colorado, there’s a restaurant called Rocco’s Ravioli that appears on the apps. But Rocco’s doesn’t have a storefront. It’s a food delivery service that makes food in a ghost kitchen. One trend I’m seeing is the formation of central,

commissary-style ghost kitchens with multiple restaurants or brands working out of the same physical space. These are often located in industrial parks on the outskirts of cities, since there’s no need to pay downtown rents

when there’s no front-ofhouse operation. Why ghost kitchens matter While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the first ghost kitchen opened, it was the COVID-19

pandemic that accelerated their growth. By March 2020, most U.S. jurisdictions had forced restaurants to close their dining rooms to limit the spread of the coronavirus. While some restaurants closed never to reopen,

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others pivoted to a delivery or carry-out model with varying levels of success. [Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.] Some small food operators used ghost kitchens to get a foothold in the market during a time when opening a standard restaurant with a dining room would have been unthinkable. As long as the high fees charged by the major delivery services could be mitigated or built into the price, food delivery outfits working out ghost kitchens could find a way to make a living. Even national chains like Chili’s and Applebee’s used ghost kitchens to keep cash flowing and test new menu items using different brand names in case the ideas flopped. With customers adapting to the trend quickly and easily, it’s likely that ghost kitchens are here to stay. Source- The Conversation (US), July 1, 2021

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